It is already the height of summer and you’re lounging around enjoying the season. You reach out for your drink and check your cooler bags only to realize that none of your drinks are still cool enough to quench your thirst. Oh, the agony, especially with beer and other fizzy drinks! In situations like these, only 12V vehicle refrigerators and coolers would be able to help you!

Coolers are very useful during the spring and fall seasons when the weather outside is still cool but these might not be able to do their job properly during the hot summer months. Vehicle refrigerators and coolers, on the other hand, can keep food and beverages cool at temperatures below ambient to ensure that your bottle of beer is indeed still nice and cold when you want it.

Now, how would you know which one to get?

We’ll help you out with a list of 6 of the best 12V refrigerators on the market!

Comparison of the Top-Rated 12V Refrigerators & Coolers

ARB 10800472Whynter FM-45GEngel MR040F-U1BLACK+DECKER TC212BKoolatron P75
50 Quart45 Quart40 Quart12 Can (2.3 Gallon)36 Quart
Rating: 4.6Rating: 4.4Rating: 4.3Rating: 4.0Rating: 4.1

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ARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer- 50 Quart

ARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer- 50 Quart

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Best suited for off-road adventures on your 4×4, the ARB fridge freezer is one of the top 12-volt refrigerators on the market. The ARB fridge has two power cords which you can use to plug in – one for home use and the other for use in the car. It is also solar panel compatible to chill your food without the need for a power source in hot days!

This new 50-quart model is able to maintain an interior temperature of sub-freezing temperatures with minimal power, hence, it is definitely a good camping refrigerator. The ARB also comes with a 3-year warranty and is equipped with a separate fruit and dairy compartment for both your food and drinks. One thing to watch out for would be that the power cords get hot after extended usage.

Whynter FM-45G 45-Quart Portable Refrigerator

Whynter FM-45G 45-Quart Portable Refrigerator

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A portable refrigerator for all your traveling needs, this high quality 12-volt refrigerator is perfect for all kinds of uses regardless if it’s a day trip or a long journey that spans days. Not to be confused with regular coolers, this Whynter is great for car trips and has consistently received good customer reviews online which further inspires confidence in this product.

This cooler has an LCD display which shows the temperature, allowing easy control and adjustment. Also, the Whynter has removable wire baskets and side handles for ease of use for anyone. Its solid outer casing also ensures that the cooler survives all sorts of terrain where you might set up camp.

The only thing against this top-rated 12V fridge freezer is that it needs to be opened from the top and it cannot be placed on its side. In the guide that comes with the cooler, the manufacturer also warns that the refrigerator or freezer must remain within 15 degrees of the horizontal.

Engel MR040F-U1 Marine Fridge Freezer

Engel MR040F-U1 Marine Fridge Freezer

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Engel is a mid-sized portable refrigerator that is highly recommended for marine use and is definitely small enough to travel with. Compatible with multiple power voltages, the Engel is able to auto-switch easily between home and car voltages. It also comes with the ability to use solar energy which is great for camping as you can leave the freezer under the sun or in the front of the RV as you go on your road trip.

With the new Engel-swing compressor needing only 40% of conventional compressors, the Engel is highly efficient and is made with durable materials to last a longer time in comparison to its other competitors.

Its only drawback as a 12v ice chest and marine refrigerator is that it does not come with a ruler on the side to quickly tell you if your catches of the day can be kept in the fridge or should it be thrown back into the water.

BLACK+DECKER TC212B Small Portable 12V DC Travel Cooler

BLACK+DECKER TC212B Portable 12V DC Travel Cooler

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This travel cooler is highly affordable and can even take up to 12 cans in it. Plugging directly into the DC outlets of all commercial vehicles, the Black + Decker is a great electric cooler for cars use. This one of the top 12-volt coolers also has a dual can or cup holder at the top of the cooler, making it a great car refrigerator that allows you to cool down over a cup of cold lemonade while driving.

This good quality cooler also has a shoulder strap included for easy transportation and is one of the lower cost options available in the market. Extremely energy efficient, the Black + Decker shuts down at low voltage to prevent battery damage and rests easily on vehicle seats, tailgate, hatch or floors for ease of use in camp sites. A stable and broad base allows for easy transportation for trucks and cars of all kinds.

However, a quick scan of the reviews by customers shows that the cup holders are a standard size and cannot hold anything that’s bigger than the normal plastic cups and it does not keep drinks chilled for very long.

Koolatron 36 qt. Kool Kaddy 12v Cooler

Koolatron 36 qt Kool Kaddy Cooler

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This electric refrigerator is able to both cool and warm food placed in it. With no need for the addition of ice, this cooler is one of the brands on the market to choose from. Able to fit up to 57 cans, the Koolatron cooler is ideal for parties where state-of-the-art thermoelectric cooling technology is used to keep food cool for a longer duration of time.

One of its main features is the ability to be used upright like a fridge as well as sideways for a more convenient usage. The Koolatron also has 2 power cords that allow it to plug into a 12V voltage and home use, giving it great portability across both home and travel.

This thermoelectric cooler is best used when filled with pre-chilled food so watch out for those that might be too warm when placed into the cooler.

Dometic TC-35US Portable Thermo Electric Cooler

Dometic TC-35US Portable Thermo Electric Cooler

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This good 12V cooler is a great portable electric cooler which has 7 stage temperature regulation for both cooling and heating. One of the best brands of electric coolers, the Domestic Electric Cooler comes with an LCD temperature display that is easy to read and control.

The cooler to purchase, the Domestic also comes with a wear-free fan to keep the air around it moving. With a detachable lid and a magnetic lock, this electric cooler has a good rating for the stability of its movable pieces.

The most common complaint reviewers have for this cooler which should be something to think about before buying it is that this one does not stop drawing power from the outlet. This might result in overheating and eventual melting of the outlets.

Types of 12 Volt refrigerators

Even with the six different refrigerators or coolers reviewed above, which are then the best coolers you should be considering for yourself? There are 4 different types of 12V coolers, some of which might better suit your budget or needs.

Compressor / 2-way fridge

These are the most common types of 12V refrigerators and they work the same way as conventional fridges at home, except that they are battery operated – meaning that they can chill food and drinks over a wider range of temperatures.

Absorption / 3-way fridge

The oldest type of 12V fridges, they are highly efficient on gas and are your best price options in the current market. These fridges are ideal if you are traveling for long without any power source but these require a dual battery option as they are more power hungry when using a 12V DC plug-in.

Eutectic fridge

These types of fridges are almost the same as the compressor fridges but they differ in that the fridge uses power to cool the eutectic pods while the vehicle is in motion. Once frozen, the pods are then used to cool the food or drinks in the fridge and no additional power is drawn until the need to re-freeze the pods. This option saves the most energy and is best if the power supply is a concern.

Thermoelectric fridge

These fridges use electricity to transfer heat out of the fridge but are not very effective. These fridges should be used only for short distances such as bringing your groceries home or watching a quick match at school. If you want a cheap 12V fridge, this might be your answer.

What You Need To Know About Portable 12v Fridge/Freezers

A quick myth-buster about some misconceptions people might have about 12v fridges are:

Fridges do not need THAT much power and will certainly not kill your battery

Each brand of coolers and fridges have a different power need but they do not run constantly. Most brands of portable freezes can now last for about 60 hours when the engine is turned off, with the worst fridge coming in at a decent 16 hours. The best part of this is that your fridge does not need to constantly run to keep the food inside consistently chilled so you will have your food and drinks cold for the duration of your travels or parties.

Fridges are easy to put in and take out

Portable fridges are popular for their ease of use and there’s no easier way to use a mini fridge that being able to plug it into your trunk and start loading it up with food for later. Despite its weight, these refrigerators can be used on their own or if you want to you can make a custom box so that it does not shift while you are driving.

Fridges are better than what they were in the past

Compared to as recent as 5 years ago, today’s fridges have digital LCD displays that show the temperature vs. the older dial systems that were popular in older models. These dial systems did not allow for specific temperature setting and they usually only have a range of 1-5, of which you choose the range of how cold you wanted your cooler to be. Of course, 5 is the coldest setting. Now, fridges give you the luxury of specifying exactly at what temperature you want your food to be chilled at.

Fridges are a convenience

Want an ice-cream on the way home from work? Need to grab meats for tonight’s dinner party? We always have a situation which we will have a use for these fridges.

Massive difference between fridge and powered chiller

A powered chiller allows cooling at only 40 degrees F below ambient temperature – something which will not help your melting ice-cream – while a fridge maintains temperatures much lower than that to allow your ice-cream to stay frozen.