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4 Portable Car Heaters to Have On Hand for Emergencies

If your car's heater isn't meeting your needs, or you want to be prepared for emergencies, a portable car heater is the solution.

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4 Portable Car Heaters Ft Via Merchantvia merchant

Most cars generate enough heat under normal operation to keep occupants warm and defrost the windshield. However, in some locations or emergency situations, it’s just too cold for the engine to do the job. If that’s the case, be prepared with one of the best car accessories during emergencies: a portable car heater.

Buying a Portable Car Heater

When choosing the best portable car heater for you, consider:

  • What size is your vehicle? A heater that’s too big will cook you in a sedan, and one not big enough won’t provide relief in an SUV.

  • What do you need it for? A heater to defrost the windshield quicker can be a lot smaller than one you depend on to keep you alive.

  • How is it powered? Some smaller heaters take a standard 12V car plug. Others need more wattage and require a direct line to the battery. There are also heaters that run off propane instead of electricity.

Healthmate Velour 12v Seat Cushion With Lumbar Support Ecomm Via Amazonvia merchant

Best Portable Heater for Seats

If your car lacks heated seats, add them with the HealthMate Velour 12V Heated Seat Cushion. You’ll never again experience the sensation of being blasted with hot air while your back freezes against cold cloth or leather. This product fits most standard car seats.


  • Easily removable;
  • Powered by 12V DC outlet;
  • High/low/off temperature control
  • Max temperature of 114 F;
  • Soft and durable velour;
  • Lumbar support.


  • Seat cover can shift;
  • Doesn’t include adapter for home/office.

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Caframo 920 Car Heater Ecomm Via Walmartvia merchant

Best Portable Heater for Vans or RVs

The Caframo Limited True North Space Heater is more like a standard space heater, useful in large vans and RVs. It’s mountable and takes a standard 120v AC jack so it’s easy to set up.

Unlike many portable heaters, it offers a range of temperatures instead of just two or three. It puts out enough heat to temporarily replace a broken heater, which can be a lifesaver in the right circumstances.


  • Mountable with a standard 120V AC jack;
  • Automatic thermostat maintains selected temperature;
  • Automated anti-freeze setting;
  • Dual overheat protection;
  • Five-year warranty.


  • Requires a lot of power;
  • Too powerful for small vehicles.

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Mr Heater Golf Cart Propane Heater Ecomm Via Homedepotvia merchant

Best Portable Heater for Defrosting

Don’t let the name Golf Cart Heater fool you. This heater works well in cars, especially for frozen windshields. It features an oxygen depletion system, porcelain coated reflector and a pilot wind guard. The ergonomic design fits into any standard cup holder. It delivers 4,000 British thermal units (Btus) for up to five-and-a-half-hours on one propane tank.


  • Quickly defrosts frozen car windows and doors;
  • Heats up to 95 square feet;
  • Easy on and off button;
  • Safety switch shuts off the unit if it tips over.


  • Requires propane.

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Mr Heater Buddy Ecomm Via Amazonvia merchant

Best Propane-Powered Portable Heater

The propane-powered Mr. Heater Buddy is an excellent choice for those who need auxiliary heat but lack access to 120v power. It can heat up to 225 square feet, more than enough for large vans and RVs.

One drawback: It should only be used where it can be securely placed. It runs off one-pound propane tanks and can be modified with an adapter for larger tanks.


  • Produces 4,000 to 9,000 Btus to heat spaces up to 225 square feet;
  • Clean burning with nearly 100 percent efficiency;
  • Auto shut-off when tipped over.
  • Fold-down handle and swivel-out regulator for easy carrying/hooking up to propane tank.


  • Unwieldy;
  • Can be difficult to set up properly.

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Brittany Vincent
As Tech Editor at Large at Family Handyman, Brittany is an expert in smart devices, gaming consoles, and home tech with 14 years of experience in the industry. She’s been tinkering with tech since she was a young girl building PCs with her father.