10 Best Car Power Inverters
Whether you are driving to work, camping out, or otherwise outside of a working electrical grid, the need for many of life’s technological conveniences does not change. Of course, figuring out how to power these devices can be a challenge since they often require alternating current, or AC, electricity.
This is where power inverters come in handy. By taking the electricity from a DC source, like a car battery, the inverter changes direct current (DC) to alternating current.
Still, it can be difficult figuring out which product is the best car power inverter for you. That is why we have put together a list of the 20 best automotive power inverters, so you can find an inverter that suits your needs.
Table of contents
1. Best power inverters in
1.1 150W category
1.2 300W category
1.3 600W category
1.4 1000W category
1.5 2000W category (opens in new window)
1.6 3000W category (opens in new window)
2. Modified Sine or Pure Sine Power Inverter?
3. What size inverter do I need?
4. Chart of Estimated Watts Used by Common Appliances and Tools
The bottom line:
This is a fairly expensive power inverter for its RMS wattage. Still, it is exceptionally quiet and maintains low heat due to the fact that the vents will not easily be covered and it produces a pure sine wave.
Samlex is a fairly new company, all things considered, but it has quickly made its mark in the power inverter market. However, this brand actually specializes in a wide range of energy conversion products and has even made it a point to cater to the continuously developing green energy industry. With their power inverter, the PST 120 packs a powerful punch in a bite size.
This power inverter may be fairly expensive, but it can produce incredibly clean current with very pure sine waves. This allows you to power radio and microprocessor managed products without having to worry about the interference associated with cheaper modified sine wave inverters. However, this inverter actually runs at eighty eight percent peak efficiency, which is impressive even in the pure sine wave inverter category.
The PST 120 is also exceptionally small, allowing you to often set it right in your dash console. However, this small profile does not limit its durability nor does it increase its heat generation. In fact, due to the side vents and temperature controlled cooling fan, the PST 120 is one of the quieter inverters of this size. Though, this product is not without its flaws.
The bad thing about the PST 120 is that its AC outlet is only two-pronged. This can limit the types of devices you can power with this inverter, though its RMS wattage is not high enough for that to be too terrible of an issue. The fact that it provides 120w RMS instead of 150w should not be the problem, because power inverters can draw only exact 120w through cigarette charger in the car. For more, you need to connect directly to a battery.
The bottom line:
If all you need to do is charge your phone or tablet, the Duracell modified sine wave inverter is a good product at a nice price. Its ability to maintain lower temperatures and quieter fan operations compared to other products in its market category is easily worth the tradeoff of an underpowered AC outlet.
Not much has to be said about the copper top battery brand. Started in 1924, the company originally made mercury batteries for the military and continued to innovate through to the 1980s, even being the originator of the AAA battery. Still, many people may not know the brand for its auxiliary products which is likely due to how few of them are made.
In that vein, it makes sense that Duracell would opt to manufacture a modified sine wave inverter rather than a superior, as well as more complex and expensive, pure sine wave inverter. Regardless, one of the worst qualities about this inverter has less to do with what it makes and more to do with what it takes.
The ports and outlets are not use activated and draw a steady, full charge so long as the inverter remains active. This ultimately means that the Duracell consumes a whopping 3.5 watts when idle. Depending on where you are using it, that may not be appropriate and could drain a car’s battery quicker than expected.
Still, the 2.1A USB port is powerful and able to accommodate most smart devices, even the more power hungry. It also includes a three-pronged AC outlet, rather than a two-pronged AC outlet. Unfortunately, the outlet has been known to come loose from the casing, making it either frustrating to use or unusable altogether.
Arguably the best quality of the Duracell automobile inverter is the fact that it remains mostly quiet and does not get that hot–something that can be an issue for smaller modified sine wave inverters.
Realistically, Samlex PST-15S-12A is a 150w pure sine wave inverter that is almost as good as the other Samlex in this category. There are a couple downsides with this one though. First, it does not have a USB outlet, which is almost the point for a low powered inverter. Also is significantly larger than the PST 120.
As far as modified sine wave inverters go, you could do worse than the Bapdas 150W Inverter. It features a three-pronged AC outlet as well as two USB outlets, one at 2.1 amps and the other at 1.0 amps. However, this is a fairly loud inverter and the actual wattage delivered has been known to drop well below 100w.
While BESTEK 150W with 3.1A Dual USB Charging Ports does a number of things right like numerous outlets and an incredibly compact size, it still has a few issues. For instance, even among modified sine wave inverters, this one uses a square sine wave which is a far more limiting wave than even the graduated modified sine waves.
Even though it is a modified sine wave inverter, the EasyFocus 150W is still fairly convenient. This is the only 150w 12v to 110v inverter for a car we saw that has a cylindrical design intended to be placed in a center console cup holder. The two 4.8 amp USB ports and three-pronged AC outlet makes this a decent charging inverter.
The bottom line:
This product is high-efficiency DC-AC inverter with clean sine wave output, commercial-grade design suitable for heavy duty loads, long periods of continuous operation & for emergency back up. However, the absence of a USB port pretty much limits its ability to service a number of smart devices without having to include additional adapters as well.
You should probably get used to seeing Samlex as the Editor’s choice, because this is not even the last time it appears in that spot on our list. Of course, when the circuitry of the power inverter can handle voltage spikes often more than a full volt over the competition or voltage drops of similar intensity, you cannot ignore that kind of consistency.
Of course, that quality level of circuitry is not cheap and neither is the PST 300. Though, if you want to get the full 300w from the PST 300, you will likely have to purchase additional cables as the ones provided are a bit too small of a gauge. Of course, this still does not prevent the PST 300 from producing clean energy at a startlingly wide range of voltages before overloading. Even better, the pure energy produced from the PST 300 reduces not only the heat generated in whatever device it is powering but in the power inverter itself. As such, the fan will rarely turn on, even when the power inverter is running at full capacity.
Still, this is a pure sine wave power inverter with 300w RMS, so you should not have any issue with microprocessor powered appliances. Even a number of decent hand power tools can run smoothly and cleanly on this inverter. A fair bit of that is due to the peak surge wattage of 500w which should also be good to allow you to run this inverter a full capacity assuming you do not choose a final spiking item.
The PST 300 comes with dual GFCI certified AC outlets, a certification that is not often found on cheaper inverters. Unfortunately, the PST 300 does not include a USB port which seems like an oversight considering that many of the highest end laptops will more than blow through the 120w RMS power provided by the PST 120.
The bottom line:
The fact that the fan does not shut off can get a bit annoying, though modified sine wave inverters are inherently hotter than pure sine wave inverters. As such, the fan is liable to stay on even if it were temperature controlled. Despite that, the BESTEK still gets some of the best car power inverter reviews from customers.
BESTEK has a bit of an interesting profile as a brand. Originally, it started as a wholesale and OEM manufacturer of numerous electronic appliances and pieces of equipment–though many of these related to regulating electric power be it from surge protectors, power strips, or power inverters.
In fact, the brand is so successful it has allowed the company to pivot towards networking solutions and transition out of manufacturing altogether. Furthermore, the BESTEK power inverter line has spawned a number of virtual clones, a couple of which actually appear in our list of competitors. Altogether, this can be seen as a success story where a cheaper Chinese product performs just as well as stateside brands.
That being said this is still a modified sine wave inverter, so some caution and limitations in terms of its use remain. Also, this inverter features a cooling fan that stays on continuously. While the fan is not excessively loud, it is a persistent noise you will simply have to accept as part of the deal. Of course, it is not a bad deal at all.
For one, the BESTEK can easily reach its peak operating capacity with a truly impressive 750w peak surge wattage. This is almost unheard of for a 300w RMS power inverter and is actually found in power inverters with double the RMS wattage. Combine that with a bevy of outputs, including two AC outlets and two USB ports rated for 2.1A each, and you have a solid product at a reasonable cost.
Though a modified sine wave inverter, the Quesvow 300W is not too shabby. It provides two 2.4 amp USB ports and dual three-pronged AC outlets. While this inverter requires replaceable 40 amp fuses, that does prevent it from blowing the fuses in your car. Still, you will have to purchase a separate adapter to connect to the battery.
The Foval 200W is small, portable designed power inverter with smart cooling fan that operates depending on temperature and load. Unfortunately, this inverter has a significantly lower peak surge wattage than the BESTEK, so be sure that your device can power on if you plan to use it for more than charging.
When you purchase a pure sine wave inverter, you expect it to be magnitudes more expensive than modified sine wave models. While the VirKech 300W still more expensive than a modified sine wave inverter, it is actually fairly inexpensive for a pure sine wave model. The only real issue are the few ports and outlets.
The Go Power! 300W is more in line with what you expect to pay for a pure sine wave inverter and is actually a bit more on the expensive side. That being said, it does feature 20A outlets which is ideal if you intend to power more energy-hungry devices. Unfortunately, it does not feature any USB ports.
The bottom line:
You get what you pay for, as the saying goes. If you want to ensure that your inverter will not suffer from the various shorts and overloads that some cheaper manufacturers suffer, you are going to have to shell out the investment to do so. This becomes more and more important as the RMS wattage of the inverter climbs, and that is what you pay for with the PST 600.
Taking another spot as our Editor’s Pick, this time in the 500w-600w category, Samlex looks to bring more of the same quality that the PST 120 and PST 300 did. However, this means that it also brings with it some of the faults. The terminators not being universal is a minor annoyance. The biggest gripe in this regard will be the continued absence of a USB port, but this inverter is clearly meant for more powerful applications.
While most USB powered devices do not require a significant number of watts to power them, Samlex’s lack of USB ports on any of their pure sine wave inverters rated above their lowest wattage category is frustrating. That being said, the PST 600 at least provides the requisite dual GFCI certified AC outlets as opposed to just one.
Moreover, the PST 600 provides a true 600w of RMS power, rather than 500w like many in this category. Even better, the PST 600 also manages to keep ahead of the pack by offering a cool 1000w peak surge wattage to prevent overloads when you begin to reach maximum consumption. Still, this is one of the more expensive 600w pure sine wave inverters.
Though, that is likely due to the generally superior circuitry that sets Samlex apart from most other brands. With a harmonic distortion below three percent and a peak efficiency at eighty five percent, this inverter produces a clean electrical wave without an excessive amount of heat. This latter quality is also what helps the PST 600 avoid being as noisy as some of its competitors.
The bottom line:
Modified sine wave inverters may not be ideal, but when they provide as many outputs as this one does for the price, you should definitely be tempted. If you need a power inverter to run a brushed motor tool, this is arguably your best bet. The fact you can simultaneously charge your phone is just icing.
UFire is a bit of an odd brand on our list, primarily because it does not seem to have a specialty at all–whether with power inverters or otherwise. In fact, this brand offers products as diverse as TSA approved liquid containers to automatic wine bottle openers to a heated hair brush straightener. As such, it is understandable if you have some misgivings about their power inverter.
That being said, this is arguably one of the few Chinese brands that manages to do pretty much everything right. While it is not without minor faults, it can be excused for providing a relatively good product at a rock bottom price. Granted, the price is so low in a large part because it produces a modified sine wave rather than a pure sine wave. Still, it is not a square wave, instead relying on a more graduated modified sine wave.
Regardless, the true star of the show for this inverter are its outputs. Aside from the two AC outlets, you would pretty much expect to come standard with an inverter this size, the UFire also provides a whopping 4 USB ports of 2.4A each. Altogether, there are few inverters–modified sine wave or pure–that can match this number of outputs and even fewer that can surpass it.
Of course, all is not ideal with the UFire. For one, it only produces 500w of total RMS power, but even worse is that it only has a peak surge wattage of 750w. Ultimately, this means that you are unlikely to get the most wattage out of this inverter before it overloads and shuts down–depending on what devices you use.
At this price, you would generally expect to receive a pure sine wave inverter that can deliver half the power this one does. Moreover, this AIMS Power 600 Watt inverter provides two AC outlets as well as a USB port. Sadly, the circuitry quality control is not the best sometimes leading to misaligned ports and smoking when charging.
Xantrex is one of the most trusted names in power inverters–a reputation that is well earned. Unfortunately, that means the brand can also upcharge based on that recognition. Still, the Xantrex PROwatt 600W does come with a number of nice design features like a raised mount and numerous vents to keep it cool.
Even though ENERGIZER 500W is a modified sine wave inverter, it still offers plenty of value in a couple ways. For one, the four 2.4A USB ports is practically unheard of at this wattage. Moreover, the 1000w peak surge wattage is a pleasant surprise. However, this is only a 500w maximum RMS wattage unit, not a 600w
When competing with the Energizer as a quality modified sine wave inverter, the iRULU definitely comes up a bit short. It only features two USB ports, and they are a touch less powerful at only 2.1A instead of 2.4. Still, the iRULU 500W is a bit less expensive and more compact with identical RMS and peak wattages
The bottom line:
The Xantrex is one of the most expensive products we reviewed, but it is also one of the most reliable. The AC energy put out by the Xantrex has very smooth and clean sine waves as noted by power inverter reviews. Overall It is a great product with the compact, easy-to-use and easy-to-install design ideal for use in car, work truck, RV, and marine applications.
Having long been considered one of the standards as the best inverter for cars, it should not come as much of a surprise that the Xantrex is our pick for the Editor’s choice in the 1000w category. That being said, this is a fairly inauspicious inverter that may not make too big a splash in terms of features. Of course, if an inverter does not have much said about it, it usually means that it is better than not.
In terms of features, the PROwatt offers some nice qualities, but it is not really going to blow you away. For one, this inverter is actually not a 1000w. Instead, it actually caps out at 900w before overloading and shutting down. However, it does still have a nice 2000w peak surge capacity. Still, the name is a bit misleading and that may rub some people the wrong way.
Still, the PROwatt does offer two GFCI certified AC outlets to ensure that your devices are protected. Moreover, this is a pure sine wave inverter, so you do not have to worry about any issues with “dirty energy” that can accompany modified sine wave inverters.
While it might seem a bit odd to suggest, arguably one of the more convenient things about the Xantrex is that you can purchase many replacement parts directly from the brand. This is nice because rather than having to mail your inverter in to be fixed–which can be fairly expensive, both with shipping and maintenance fees–you can simply fix it yourself from the comfort of your own home and at a greatly reduced cost
The bottom line:
This is easily one of the top rated car power inverters available on the market. Aside from the fact that it can handle numerous connections to various types of plugs, it also provides a solid amount of power–both RMS wattage and peak surge wattage. Combine that with a price that is closer to a modified sine wave inverter, and you have a winner.
Power TechON is a lesser known brand in the power inverter market, but they are liable to quickly make a name for themselves. This brand specializes in power inverters and cable accessories for power inverters. This focus ensures that they manufacture a quality product while their lower profile prevents them from being able to compete with more well-known brands in price.
When comparing this 1000w inverter to the Editor’s Choice Xantrex, one thing in particular should leap out in front you: the price. This inverter is less than half the cost of the Xantrex. In fact, the Power TechON is priced much closer to a modified sine wave inverter. It is only about twenty five to fifty percent more expensive than the average modified sine wave inverter, but the Power TechON is actually a pure sine wave inverter.
This makes it a much better value than potentially any other product we reviewed. Even better, the comparison between the Power TechON and the Xantrex generally come out as a wash. Both inverters can provide up to 1000w RMS wattage and can handle a 2000w peak surge wattage. Moreover, both inverters feature a decent number of outputs and the same ones at that: two AC outlets and a USB port.
Still, some other advantages of the Power TechON include a remote that comes with it–as opposed to the Xantrex which must be purchased separately. Also, the included cable rings are actually a decent gauge, though they are a bit on the short side which will make a clean hardwire more difficult.
Of course, both the Power TechON and the Xantrex are fairly large inverters, which is to be expected at this wattage. Still, that will make a permanent hardwire into a vehicle trickier–even with the screw nooks to make holding it place sturdier.
Considering how well the Samlex brand performs and even found its way as an editor pick for two of our categories, its designation as simply part of the “competition” may be a bit surprising. However, make no mistake that its place here has anything to do with quality. Samlex Solar PST-1000 is simply an exceedingly expensive option.
The Cobra CPI1090 is so close to being an excellent modified sine wave inverter, but the modified sine wave is square, not graduated. That alone kind of dismisses it at this high wattage level due to the potential for interference and overheating while in use. That said, the 1000w RMS and 2000w peak surge are decent.
For a modified sine wave inverter, the KRIËGER 1100W is actually fairly impressive. First, it actually delivers 1100W RMS and 2200W peak surge. However, it is the included ANL fuse kit that and remote control that sets this inverter apart from the pack. Moreover, the digital display is one of the more informative.
The Power Bright 1100W is a decent modified sine wave inverter, but when compared to the KRIËGER, it just does not excite. There is no USB port, and the display only provides wattage or voltage output. While the 1100w RMS and 2200w peak surge are nice, they are not anything special compared to the KRIËGER.
Blu-Ray, DVD Player
Cell Phone Charger
iPad / Tablet
20″ LCD monitor
55″ LED TV
55″ OLED TV
Xbox360 / PS4
50 – 75
150 – 200
50 – 120
50 – 200
400 – 600
300 – 700
500 – 750
500 – 960
- Samlex America
- Xantrex Technology
- AIMS Power
- BESTEK Group
- Duracell Inc.
- Tripp Lite
- Shenzhen Bapdas Trading
- Go Power!
- Power Tech-On
- Cobra Electronics Corporation
by Paul Ertel January 5, 2018