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When it comes to picnics, camping, road trips and tailgating parties, an electric cooler is a must. The best ones can keep your food and beverages cold for a lot longer than standard coolers. They can keep you from having to run to the store to buy ice every few hours.

Not only are these coolers functional, but they also come in different sizes and designs to suit anyone. Some even have distinct features that are sure to make your next outing even better.

How they work

While classic coolers use ice to keep food and drinks at the ideal temperature, an electric cooler is similar to a refrigerator in that it uses electricity. The power source depends on the model, but most have one of the following:

  • Cord: This can be plugged into a wall or a car’s cigarette lighter. It’s convenient for overnight or all-day outings, such as tailgating parties or camping.
  • Power bank: This keeps the cooler running while on the go without needing to use a cord. It’s commonly found in smaller models and great for picnics or road trips.

Besides this, there are two main types of electric coolers:

  • Compressor coolers: Some electric coolers have an internal compressor that provides efficient cooling throughout. These can keep the items inside ice cold.
  • Thermoelectric coolers: Other coolers come with a Peltier plate that provides ambient cooling. These are efficient, but they don’t keep food as cold as compressor coolers.


Most electric coolers are measured in liters or quarts. Some manufacturers list the capacity as “cans,” referring to how many soda cans can fit inside. The larger the capacity, the heavier the cooler but the more it can hold.

There’s no one standard size or capacity for these devices, though they tend to range from around 15 to 45 liters. When looking for a cooler, consider the following things:

  • Frequency of moving the cooler.
  • Available storage space.
  • Items you want to store in the cooler.
  • Whether you also want to use ice.

If you need something for a short trip that involves only a few people, go with a cooler that’s around 15 to 25 liters. However, if you’re planning a bigger outing, choose one that’s at least 25 to 45 liters.


The design of an electric cooler can affect its overall durability and how well it maintains its internal temperature.

Most have a sturdy outer shell that consists of ABS plastic, a type of thermoplastic polymer that’s strong, safe for food and abrasion- and impact-resistant. Many also use metal for added strength and durability. They also usually have a tight seal that regulates the internal temperature and keeps heat from entering, reducing energy costs.

Inside, these containers often have shelves or baskets to separate foods and beverages. This is particularly useful for storing items that could otherwise tip over and spill. Some have built-in cup holders too.

Temperature control

Since they’re electric, many of these coolers come with some form of temperature control, such as buttons you can press to raise or lower the temperature. More advanced models have an app that’s compatible with a smart device. Through the app, you can make any needed adjustments from anywhere.

Temperature range

Electric coolers can range from around minus 10 degrees and up, though most hover around 32 degrees. Not all foods should be stored at the same temperature, so you should have yours at the appropriate setting. Here are some common food items with the corresponding temperature:

  • Ice cream: Minus 10 degrees or lower.
  • Other frozen items: Around 0 degrees.
  • Perishable goods, such as milk or raw meat: 32 to 40 degrees.

Some coolers are designed to keep food warm as well. These can go up to around 130 degrees and are good for storing already-cooked hot foods.


Electric coolers are usually heavier than standard ones because of their internal components. They can also become very heavy based on what you’re carrying. Even so, they are designed to be portable and usually have a sturdy handle or thick strap. Some even come with wheels for extra ease of transport.

7 best electric coolers

Kohree Portable Refrigerator

Kohree Portable Refrigerator

Available in 25- to 50-liter capacities, this sleek cooler has a temperature range of about minus 7 to 50 degrees. It is highly efficient and has a touchscreen control panel that makes it easy to adjust the temperature as needed. It’s perfect for road trips and camping.

Sold by Amazon

Iceco JP42 Pro Portable Freezer Cooler

Iceco JP42 Pro Portable Freezer Cooler

This rugged electric cooler reaches anywhere from 0 to 50 degrees without ice. It features a cup holder, storage basket and convenient carrying handles. It also comes with a five-year warranty for the compressor and a one-year warranty for any other components.

Sold by Amazon

Ivation Electric Cooler and Warmer with Wheels and Handle

Ivation Electric Cooler and Warmer with Wheels and Handle

This 48-quart capacity device can easily keep foods and drinks warm or cold. It has a classic design with an integrated handle and wheels. It can be used either at home or with a vehicle charger.

Sold by Amazon and Wayfair

Vevor Electric Compressor Cooler

VEVOR 12 Volt Refrigerator 16 Qt, Portable Mini Car Fridge

Ranging from minus 4 to 68 degrees, this modern cooler comes with convenient app control and Bluetooth connectivity. It is designed to run on nearly any power source, from a standard outlet to a boat or RV port. It is efficient and has a handy display that indicates the current temperature.

Sold by Amazon and Wayfair

Apexcool 19-Quart Compressor Electric Cooler

Apexcool 19-Quart Compressor Electric Cooler

Capable of keeping everything from ice cream to thawed meats or eggs at the right temperature, this reliable cooler can hold up to 19 quarts. It’s quiet, efficient and durable. Plus, it has a convenient control panel and a strong sealing strip to keep the internal temperature consistent.

Sold by Amazon

Mobicool MT35W Portable Thermoelectric Warming and Cooling Cooler

Mobicool MT35W Portable Thermoelectric Warming and Cooling Cooler

This midsized cooler is perfect for traveling around. It can hold up to one and a half times as much as a standard cooler of a similar size. It runs on either house or vehicle power options. As a thermoelectric cooler, it also has ambient temperatures to keep items cool.

Sold by Amazon

Joytutus 12-Volt Portable Freezer

Joytutus 12-Volt Portable Freezer

Capable of running on any vehicle, including recreational vehicles and boats, this cooler has a temperature range of negative 4 to 50 degrees. It’s efficient, sturdy and large enough to hold whatever you need for camping, road trips or tailgating parties.

Sold by Amazon

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