Best Portable Car Jump Starters: Our Top Picks to Get you Back on the Road
A dead car battery is not a pleasant surprise, but it happens even to the best of us!
Maybe you forgot the headlights on or maybe the newly installed player transformed into an energy vampire that drained your car battery overnight. Regardless, it’s best to be prepared for such an event, since you never know when or where it may happen.
The best jump starters are quite affordable and provide a safe way out of a difficult situation (when there’s no other vehicle around to give you a boost). Even more, most jump starters can be used to charge other electronic devices via USB or other ports, which increases their overall usefulness.
If you are on your first try purchasing a portable car jump starter, we created a detailed buying guide to help with the features that matter the most. We know things can get confusing with so many options, so we kept everything simple and clear.
Also, if you’re looking to get one of the best portable car jump starters for your vehicle’s needs, make sure to read our reviews (created based on the features mentioned in the buying guide).
The Gooloo jump starter is the perfect travel companion since it is small in size, has a lot of features, and comes in an elegant case that holds all the accessories.
In terms of power, the device develops 800 PA, features a lithium battery of 18000mAh, and can be used on most 12V electric systems. When it comes to car batteries, this is the perfect formula for resuscitating both gas (up to 7.0L) and Diesel (up to 5.5L) engines. This means you can use it on your motorcycle, yacht, truck, or regular personal vehicle.
This is the perfect jump starter for beginners as it comes with 5 advanced safety technologies (over-current protection, overload protection, over-voltage protection, over-charge protection, and high temperature protection). This makes it one of the safest starters on the market.
Even more, if you go camping or hiking and the phone/tablet battery dies, the Gooloo is equipped with one regular USB charging port and one fast-charging USB port. It also has a 10A output port that allows you to power up a car refrigerator or a tire inflator (to avoid a flat tire, check out our guide to the best all-season tires).
Finally, there is a built-in LED flashlight that supports 3 modes (lash light, Strobe light, and SOS light).
Rated at 4000 Amps, the NOCO Boost Pro is a compact and powerful jump starter that can be used in almost any situation.
While it looks small (it fits in your glove compartment), this device can resuscitate engines (on both Diesel and gas) up to 10L in size. The cables are rather short, so you can’t use it from the ground, but they are thick and sturdy, meaning that it won’t take long for the car battery to return from the dead.
Even more, the device is ultra-safe to use due to the mistake-proof design with reverse polarity protection and spark-proof technology. And, when you’re not using it on car batteries, the NOCO Boost Pro lithium starter is great for recharging smartphones, laptops, and tablets (or any other devices that use a USB connection for charging).
Since this is a 12V system (it has a built-in voltmeter for added safety), you can use it to power other 12V devices such as inverters, pumps, lights, and more.
Finally, the starter comes equipped with an ultra-bright LED flashlight that features seven light modes (including SOS) and can support the signal for about 6 hours.
Overall, NOCO is the starter you want to have when you own a wide range of vehicles (personal cars, trucks, boats, and so on) and you don’t want to be caught off-guard by a flat battery. It’s also compact, comes with a pouch for easy storage, and is ready to use out of the box.
With 600A peak current and 18000mAh capacity, this starter can be used on both gas (up to 6.5L) and Diesel (up to 5.2L) engines. This includes a wide array of vehicle, which means you’ll be able to keep your engines running and save people who haven’t been as clever as you.
The new DBPower starter supports about 20 jump starts per charge, but it’s best to make sure it’s always full and ready to use. For this, it comes with a wall and cigarette lighter adapter, so you can charge it anytime you want.
Just like the models discussed above, this starter comes with two USB ports for your devices (phone, tablet, Kindle, photo camera), and one output port that can be used for a wide array of devices. As a novelty, the DBPower comes with an 8-in-1 laptop adapter that lets users hook up their laptops and keep them charged on the go.
There are two other new features, that are missing from the other models we reviewed: a compass and an LCD screen. While the compass is a nice addition but it’s nothing to swoon over, the LCD screen lets you know useful information such as the output voltage or the remaining power.
We think now is a good time to mention that users can switch the output voltage between 12V, 16V, and 19V. So, you’re not limited to a 12V system anymore.
And, just like the other models, there is a bright LED flashlight with 3 modes, but there’s also a red emergency light (separate from the flashlight) which can be used to signal various dangers.
Do I Really Need a Jump Starter?
Many vehicle owners still consider the jump starter an option and not a must-have. After all, you can ask for help from other drivers if you have some high-quality jumper cables in your trunk.
So why make the investment in a device that’s not exactly cheap?
Well, the final decision is completely yours, but a jump starter can be extremely useful in a wide array of situations. For instance, what happens if your car battery dies in the middle of nowhere, in a cold winter night and you don’t have any phone signal?
Of course, this is an extreme situation, but it’s a nice mental exercise. Now, even when you’re surrounded by other drivers, you can’t be sure people will want to offer their help. Jump starting a battery using another vehicle is a messy job and requires some effort from the both drivers. So, depending on your location, people may be less than enthused to help you out.
Even more, as you can see from our reviews, the best car jump starters have extra features such as incorporated flashlight (that’s useful in the scenario above) and signal lights so other motorists can see you from a distance.
In summary, if you want to be fully prepared in the event of a dead car battery, you need to purchase a jump starter device.
Buying Guide: Features to Keep in Mind
Since not all vehicles are equal in power and energy demands, you must make sure that the device you buy is strong enough to get the battery going.
You also want a device that will hold the charge for a long period of time and includes built-in safety protection that prevents any vehicle damage if the jump starter is not functioning properly. After all, you don’t want to damage the sensitive electronics in your vehicle while trying to bring the battery back to life.
As such, it’s important to understand some of the features that go into the high-end products, in order to choose one that works best for you.
Cranking Amps (CA)
Cranking Amps and Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) give you an idea about the amount of power the device can discharge in a short interval of time. So, if you want to compare performances, these are the most important measurements.
Both let you know what to expect from a battery in the worst starting conditions (the tests for measuring CCA and CA are performed in a cold environment). This means that you can easily jump start a compact car or small sedan with 150 CCA, while a truck or SUV will need about 450 CCA. In fact, a jump starter that can develop around 500 CCA can resuscitate almost any vehicle.
You should also keep in mind that large engines and old vehicles usually need more amps. So, if you inherited your dad’s old Chevy, you may want to consider a more powerful starter.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to get a jump starter that’s a bit more powerful than your current needs. After all, you may want to use it for other vehicles and/or devices on the way.
In plain terms, the voltage is what drives the current from the jump starter through the cables and into the car battery (here you can read a more detailed explanation of voltage). So, the higher the voltage, the more current your battery and other electrical systems will receive in a short amount of time.
Voltage can be compared to the way water pressure builds up in a system of pipes. If the pressure is high, the resulting flow of water will be strong and can swipe everything in its way. This is why it’s crucial that you match the voltage of the battery with the voltage developed by the jump starter!
For instance, if you want to jump start a 12-volt battery, then you must use a 12-volt mechanism. Otherwise, if the voltage is higher, you risk seriously damaging the electronics on your vehicle. On the other hand, if it’s lower, it won’t get the job done.
Cable Length & Gauge
The length of the cables is not of crucial importance, but it helps to know that most vehicle owners prefer a device with at least 12 feet of cable. At this length, you can comfortably place the jump starter on the ground surface and connect the cables to the battery’s terminals.
Still, when it comes to the gauge of the wires inside the cables, you should pay more attention. As a rule of thumb, a thin wire can’t deliver large amounts of power in a short amount of time (the thinner the wire, the longer it takes).
Our recommendation is to go for either 8- or 6-Gauge wires, and if you have the budget for a more expensive device, a 2-Gauge is ideal.
Size & Quality
A portable jump starter must be compact, lightweight, and easy to move around. Luckily, modern lithium technology bestowed us with smaller jump starters that can fit in the glove box container.
Of course, if you have a larger vehicle, you’ll need a bigger starter, but most personal cars don’t need that much.
On the topic of quality, you want a device that operates in a wide temperature range. This means that it will hold its charge in both cold and hot climates. Even more, make sure the build is solid, so it can handle a fall or two.
Reverse Polarity Protection
If you’re not a master in jump starting car batteries, we highly recommend getting a device with reverse polarity protection (at least). This feature won’t release the current unless both the clamps are positioned correctly. Also, if something is not right, you’ll be notified by a warning sound.
The reverse polarity protection makes sure that both you and the vehicle will remain safe after using the starter to revive the car’s battery.
Modern jump starters are intelligent devices that provide extra safety (especially on long trips) and a better way to deal with a flat car battery. Moreover, they also come with added functionalities (USB ports, compass, fast charging for other devices, and more) which can make life on the road more pleasant.
Not to mention that the devices we reviewed feature a compact and easy to store design, so you don’t have to worry about making room in the trunk. As such, there’s no excuse you can use for ignoring your safety and comfort!