Best car cooler boxes

  • Are you taking the family for days out?
  • Then you'll need a car cooler box
  • Read our handy guide to what's the best out there

In-car cooler box - what's the best?

Off out for a picnic or bring-your-own BBQ? You need a cooler box to keep your beer, cheese, and sandwiches cool and fresh.

The British weather doesn’t always go according to plan – and those rain clouds normally come out just as you head off for a picnic at the beach. However, with a car cooler box, you can guarantee to arrive with fresh sandwiches and chilled drinks, whatever the weather decides to do. Or even turn up with hot drinks in chillier weather. Pass the scotch eggs, please.

Car cooler boxes come in all shapes and sizes. Actually, that’s not entirely true – all are basically square-shaped, but sizes do vary widely. Some will only swallow a few drink cans, others can cater for a family holiday.

But which car cooler box should I buy?

The traditional car cooler box is simply a spacious and well insulated container – we’ve featured one in the list below. Mainly, though, we have focused on plug-in boxes, which offer more effective heating/cooling and a greater temperature range.

These plug into your car’s cigarette lighter (or the mains, in many cases) and draw a modest amount of power. You can also bolster their effectiveness with ice packs. Choosing the right cooler depends primarily on how much space you need and your budget. But there are other factors to consider, such as portability and weight.

So, why do you need a car cooler box?

A cooler box means you can enjoy food and drinks on the move. They’re perfect for picnics, brilliant for barbecues and also ideal on long car journeys. The cries of 'Are we there yet?' from the back seat will be less frequent if a chilled drink is to hand.

Cooler boxes are also great for preserving foodstuffs – keeping milk or cheese fresh, for example. Your investment could soon pay for itself if it prevents you throwing out old food.

Read on for our pick of the best car cooler boxes available, plus a buying guide at the end of the article.

Best for overall performance and utility

Auto Companion Coolbox Hot Cold Portable Electric Cool Box 32L 240V AC & 12V

By Auto Companion

£69.99

The (cooler) box of delights

Frankly, this is all the cooler box you're likely to need. It holds a useful 32 litres and has a sturdy carrying handle. The 12v connector plugs into your car's cigarette lighter, or there is a longer lead with a three-pin plug – handy in hotel rooms or when hosting a barbecue at home. The Auto Companion box features a slider switch for temperature control, which ranges from 10 deg C (slightly warmer than a typical fridge) up to 60 deg C (the ideal temperature for a cup of tea). The only downside? It's rather heavy, at 5.6kg – and that's before you fill it with drinks.

Best for value for money

All Ride 871848900054 3676

by All Ride

£35.99 & FREE Delivery

An affordable way to keep food and drink cool

If your cooler will only see occasional use, this All Ride box gets our vote. It's impressive value for money and carries up to 22 litres. Even with a few freezer blocks inside, that's plenty of space for a picnic. At just 2.3kg, it's also easy to carry. On the minus side, you can't plug this box into the mains (it only has a 12v car connector) and it doesn't offer variable temperature control – so can't be used to keep food warm. It also feels less robust than the pricier products here.

Best for frozen food

Dometic CDF-11 10.5 Litre Portable Compressor Fridge Freezer, 12 V/24 V

by Dometic

£309.99
FREE Delivery in the UK.

Keep food fresh with fridge and freezer functions

Sometimes being cool isn't enough. If you want your drinks ice-cold, or your food frozen, only a portable car fridge/freezer box will do. The Dometic CoolFreeze CDF 11 holds a modest 10.5 litres, although five larger sizes are available, up to a maximum of 39 litres. Its main compartment is beneath a flip-up lid, with two drinks holders at the front. Internal temperature is adjusted via a touchpad and ranges from 10 deg C to a chilly -18 deg C. It's not cheap – and you'll need to buy a separate mains adaptor if needed – but this is a cool (sorry, cold) way to eat out.

Best for cold drinks on the go

AEG Automotive 97253 On-board bar BK 6, thermoelectric cooler and heat box, 6 liters, 12 V and 230 V

by AEG Automotive

£82.58
FREE Delivery in the UK.

Easy to carry and great for workouts

The compact AEG Automotive 97253 is described as an 'on-board bar'. And while we don't condone drinking and driving, it's perfect for a chilled lemonade or hot coffee in the comfort of your car. The main compartment holds six litres – enough for four 500ml bottles – and there are two additional bottle/can holders outside. The light 2.8kg weight and shoulder carrying strap make it well suited to adventures in the great outdoors, too. There's even a compass on top, in case you get lost. AEG says it cools up to 20 deg C below ambient temperature and heats up to 65 deg C. Both 12v (car) and 230v (home) connectors are supplied.

Best for a family feast

Mobicool MT48W AC/DC - 48 L Thermoelectric Coolbox, Metallic Blue – 12/230 V A++

By Mobicool

£125.65  + £9.99 delivery

Pull-out handle and wheels are ideal for big lunches

Do you have a big family? Or enjoy a really big lunch? Then the Mobicool MT48W is for you. It swallows a banquet-sized 48 litres and has two wheels and a chunky fold-away handle, so you can pull it along like an aircraft flight case. The lid opens in two sections to minimise cooling loss, plus there are two removable dividers inside. Maximum chill is quoted at 16 deg C below ambient temperature. The box operates via a 12v car socket or the mains, and weighs a hefty 10kg. Best make use of those wheels.

Best for a wild picnic

Makluce Cooler Box,10L Outdoor Portable Cooler Warmer Box,Storage Box for Camping,Fishing,Caravans, Picnics applied

by Makluce

Currently unavailable on Amazon.

Well-insulated, but can’t be plugged in

This box is just that: a container for food and drinks. It can't be plugged in for additional cooling or heating, but thick polyurethane foam insulation means it keeps contents at a constant temperature for six to eight hours. If you won't have access to electricity, the 10-litre Makluce box is effective at keeping baby milk cool, for example, and big enough (with careful packing) for a picnic. It's beautifully made and comes in pink or blue.

Best for style lovers

Cool Box Car Refrigerator, 24 Liter Portable Compressor Refrigerator Freezer Cooler DC 12V AC 220V

£175.38 & FREE Delivery

Versatility with designer looks

The LYN car refrigerator looks like something you might see in a designer kitchen, albeit on a smaller scale. Pricey but cool, it stands upright like a regular fridge, while the glassy black front panel and LED display resemble a smartphone. Touch controls allow you to adjust the temperature one degree at a time or select an Eco mode to save energy. The interior holds 24 litres and comes with two divider panels. You can plug the LYN into your car dashboard or a mains socket.

What to consider when choosing a car cooler box

How much space do you need?

Car cooler boxes range from miniscule to massive. The smallest hold around five litres: enough for a couple of drinks and a pack of sandwiches. The largest will swallow about 40 litres: spacious enough for a big picnic.

Do you want to plug it in?

The simplest car coolers are just insulated boxes. Use ice packs and they can be pretty effective. However, a plug-in cooler – which uses your car’s cigarette lighter or the mains – is better still, especially for anything longer than day trips.

Do you only want cooling – or heating as well?

Some plug-in coolers also have variable temperature control to keep food or drinks warm. However, they’re certainly not ovens – so don’t expect to cook with them!

Does the cooler need to be easily portable?

Size is obviously a factor in how portable any cooler is. A smaller item could slot between passengers on the back seat. Larger boxes are rather bulky. Weight is a factor, too – especially if your picnic involves a hike first. Check this before you buy.

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