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At a time when we’re relying on our mobile devices for pretty much everything, it’s no surprise that they’re getting more in-car use than ever before.
Google Maps, Waze, and several other good navigation apps help get you where you’re going. Spotify or Apple Music lets you stream your favorite tunes. A tablet for the kids to watch their favorite games and movies can be the difference between an easy trip and very high blood pressure.
With all of that, however, comes a problem: keeping everything charged. On a long trip, even the biggest phone batteries will drain hours before you arrive at your destination.
That’s where car chargers come in. Available in a wide range of wired and wireless versions, with extra features that let you do everything from jump-start your vehicle to charge your laptop, there’s a car charger out there for every need, budget, and trip.
One size doesn’t fit all, however, and it’s worth thinking about the needs of both your devices and passengers before deciding what to spend your money on. Whether you’re driving across the country or just across the city, these are 11 of the best car chargers you can buy right now.
- Best for Flat Batteries of All Kinds: JUMTOP Jump Starter and Power Bank
- Best for Charging Everything: BESTEK Car Inverter with Dual 110v and USB
- Best Wireless Vent Mount: Anker PowerWave
- Best Wireless Dashboard Mount: CHOETECH Wireless Car Charger
- Best for Fast Wireless Charging: CNSL 15W Wireless Car Charger
USB Car Chargers
Whether you’re on a budget or traveling with a large group, want the fastest possible charging speeds or want to make sure the kids can power up their iPads in the back seat, there’s a very wide range of USB car chargers out there.
Here’s how to choose between them.
Best on a Budget: Anker PowerDrive 2
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cheap USB car chargers out there that all do much the same thing for about the same price. In this range, we look for a few different things: two ports that can quickly charge phones and tablets, small size, low price, and a known brand with good support,
Anker’s PowerDrive 2 ticks all of the boxes. This compact, inexpensive charger has a pair of USB-A ports that can both put out up to 2.4 amps of power (4.8 amps total.) Anker is regularly our top pick for electronic accessories of all kinds, and offers an 18-month warranty even on budget models like this.
This car charger is suitable for iPhones and iPads, most Android devices, and many other USB gadgets. It’s not QC 3.0-compatible, so you won’t always get the absolute fastest charging speeds, but it’ll still charge your smartphone or tablet pretty quickly regardless.
If you’re just after a simple, low-cost car charger from a reliable brand, this is the one to go for.
Best With Integrated Cables: SDBAUX Car Charger
Don’t want to buy extra charging cables to keep in the car, or have to remember to take your usual ones with you on every trip? This SDBAUX charger has you covered, with a pair of cables for USB-C, Lightning, and micro-USB sockets built directly into the device.
Each cable extends a little over two feet when in use, and retracts back inside to stay out of the way the rest of the time. The micro-USB plug converts to a Lightning cable as needed, thanks to a little adapter on the end. There’s also a standard USB-A socket on one side, so you can plug in the cable for any other USB gadget you want to charge.
You’ll get up to 2.1 amps out of either of the inbuilt cables, and up to 3.1 amps out of the USB port. The maximum output of the charger is only 15W, however, so don’t expect to fast-charge multiple devices at once.
If you travel with a bunch of different types of device, or often have friends in the car who use a different type of phone or tablet, this is the ideal all-in-one charging solution.
Best for Fast Charging: Anker PowerDrive Speed 2
Whether you’re using your phone for navigation, or the kids are endlessly watching their favorite shows on the iPad, road trips can drain your devices’ battery surprisingly fast. If you don’t want to wait several hours for them to get back to 100%, the power output of your car charger is important.
There’s a confusing mess of specifications out there, which means the best fast car charger for your needs depends on the device(s) you own. Fortunately, a few models (like our pick, the Anker PowerDrive Speed 2) combine a couple of different standards to give you the highest chance of charging whatever device you’re using at maximum speed.
The charger can put out up to 39W of power from its two USB-A ports, using either Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 or Anker’s own PowerIQ. There are a few devices out where that won’t fast-charge using either standard, but even those will still charge at normal speed.
As with all Anker gear, you’ll get an 18-month warranty and easy replacement if something goes wrong. Note that if you need a charge a USB-C device in your vehicle, you may want to look at Anker’s PowerDrive Speed+ 2 (below) instead.
Best for Big Groups: Aikenuo 6 Port Car Adapter
It’s easy to find car chargers with one or two USB ports. With a bit more effort, it’s not hard to find them with three or four ports either. When you’re traveling with a whole bunch of gadgets, however, even four ports won’t be enough to keep everything charging at the same time.
That’s where this Aikenuo charger comes in, with its 96W output and six separate USB sockets. Four of those sockets are QC 3.0-compatible, so if your devices use that standard, you can fast-charge them all. The other two sockets put out up to 2.4 amps each, which is still enough to quickly charge many phones.
The 55″ cable is long enough to extend the charger into the back seat, making it easier for several passengers to use it at once. Simple and well-priced, it’s worth picking up one of these before going to pick up all your passengers.
Best for Backseat Drivers: Belkin Road Rockstar
While some new vehicles are starting to come with USB sockets in the back, they’re still relatively rare. If your car doesn’t have them, or you want to guarantee you can keep the backseat drivers quiet in your rental vehicle, take a look at the Belkin Road Rockstar.
The Rockstar (as we’ll call it) has a pair of USB sockets for use by the driver and passenger, and a small box with another two sockets for those in the back seat. A six-foot cable runs between them, more than long enough for most cars, and the box can clip onto a seat pocket to keep it secure and out of the way.
The front two ports share 2.4 amps of power between them, while the rear ports have 2.4 amps each. That’s enough to charge three tablets or four phones at the same time, albeit not always at maximum speed.
Best USB-C Car Charger: Anker PowerDrive Speed+ 2
While it’s easy enough to charge a USB-C phone from any old USB port as long as you’ve got the right cable, there are definite advantages to having a proper USB-C car charger like the Anker PowerDrive Speed+ 2.
This charger supports the USB-C Power Delivery (PD) specification, a jumble of acronyms which means the USB-C port will deliver as much power as your device requests. This allows it to charge most devices at high speed up to around 80% capacity, where it will then slow down to reduce wear and tear on the battery.
The 30W maximum output of the USB-C port is more than most, and means you can charge smartphones, tablets, and even some small laptops like the 12″ Macbook at full speed. There’s also a standard USB-A port with up to 19.5W of power for charging other devices, separately or at the same time.
This flexibility, coupled with safety features like surge protection and the reliability of a major manufacturer, make this our top USB-C car charger pick.
Note that if you’re looking to fast-charge your iPhone from this charger, that’s possible as well. You’ll just need to pick up a high-quality USB-C to Lightning cable to do it with.
Multi-Purpose Car Chargers
Who said a car charger was only any good for topping up your phone or tablet?
These two chargers can do that and more, letting you jump-start a flat vehicle or power anything from a laptop to an air compressor.
Best for Flat Batteries of All Kinds: JUMTOP Car Jump Starter and Power Bank
Having a flat battery on your phone can be a big problem, but having a flat battery in your car is an even bigger one. Even though it’s a different kind of “car charger” to the others on this list, the Jumtop combination power bank deserves a mention simply because it deals with both of the above problems.
The 20800mAh capacity and 2500A max output means the Jumtop is rated to turn over anything up to an eight liter gas/petrol engine, or 6.5 liter diesel, up to 50 times.
The unit hooks onto the vehicle battery via a pair of detachable alligator clips. A small screen shows the battery voltage and alerts of other problems like reverse polarity or overloading: a nice extra. From there, you simply turn the key or press the ignition switch, and all going well, you’re up and running in a few seconds.
The unit also has a pair of standard USB-A ports, one that’s Quick Charge 3.0-compatible, and another that outputs at up to 2.1 amps. There’s also a USB-C port that can be used for charging other devices or the power bank itself.
The unit ships with a carry case, along with a wall charger and USB-C cable Usefully, there’s also a flashlight, and a DC output with cigarette lighter attachment that lets you power other gadgets like an air compressor (flat tire, anyone?) or car fridge as needed.
Best for Charging Everything: BESTEK Car Inverter with Dual 110v and USB
Being able to charge your phone and tablet is great, but what about all your other gear? If you’re looking for a car charger for your laptop or most other 110v equipment that usually needs a wall socket, you’ll need an inverter to do it with.
This Bestek model does the job cheaply and well, sporting a pair of earthed 110v North American sockets that can handle anything up to 300W of continuous power, and 700W peak.
There’s also a pair of USB sockets for charging smaller gadgets, each one rated up to 2.4 amps. Of course, if your device needs more power than that to fast-charge, you can just plug its wall charger into one of the 110v outlets instead.
Relatively light and compact for what it offers, it’s a useful addition for anyone whose road-trip power needs extend well beyond their smartphone.
Wireless Car Chargers
Even though they can’t charge as fast as a good wired version, wireless car chargers are still very popular. A hands-free mount that also charges your phone is much more convenient than having to mess around with cables every time you get in or out of the vehicle.
Not all smartphones support the latest (or any) wireless charging standards, however, and some will struggle to keep up with power-hungry demands like navigation and music streaming.
Check the specifications of both phone and charger before purchase, since anything under 7.5 watts of power could be a problem. All of the chargers below put out at least 10W.
Best for Vent Mounting: Anker PowerWave Wireless Car Charger
The Anker PowerWave costs more than many other wireless car chargers, but that’s for good reason: the price includes one of the company’s two-port QC 3.0 chargers to plug into the cigarette lighter port.
This guarantees that as long as your device supports it, you’ll get the full 10W of power available from this Qi-compatible wireless charger. The second USB port remains available for charging other devices as needed.
The mount itself attaches firmly to the vent, and can be rotated through 360 degrees. A pair of legs on the vent side of the mount gives your phone extra support, and provides more stability than most other vent mounts. It works with the majority of vent designs, and through phone cases up to 5mm thick.
The main limitation of the Powerwave is only being able to mount it on your vehicle’s air vents. If you need a wireless dashboard or windscreen mount instead, check out the Choetech version below.
Best for Dashboard Mounting: CHOETECH Wireless Car Charger
If the vent design or position in your vehicle makes it difficult to mount a wireless charger on them, go for the windscreen or dashboard instead. This Choetech model attaches easily to a wide range of flat or slightly curved surfaces, and can be moved around as needed. A quick wash of the suction cup restores the sticky surface if it gets dirty.
This Qi wireless car charger can output up to 10W of power, as long as it’s connected to a QuickCharge 3.0 USB car charger. It doesn’t ship with one, so be sure to pick one up if you don’t already have it. Usefully, the USB-A to USB-C cable that ships with the Choetech can be removed and used to charge other devices as needed.
Well-priced and using a simple, stable design, the Choetech wireless car charger works with phone cases up to 4mm thick.
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Best for Fast Charging: CNSL 15W Wireless Car Charger
The Qi wireless standard supports up to 15W of power output, but most smartphones don’t try to hit that limit. Wireless charging on the latest iPhones maxes out at 10W, while earlier iPhones and many others are limited to 7.5W or less.
Still, if you have one of the few phones that supports 15W charging, you’ll want a wireless charger that can charge it at top speed. This CNSL model does exactly that, and can be mounted on either the air vent, dash, or windscreen for maximum flexibility.
The stand is highly adjustable. You can move it through a 270-degree arc, change the length via the telescoping pole, and adjust the bottom section of the mounting tray to accommodate phones of all sizes. The tray also fully rotates, letting you switch quickly between portrait and landscape mode.
The charger will auto-detect how much power the phone can handle, and charge it at the maximum available speed. The clamp automatically closes when a phone is placed inside it, and releases at the tap of a button on the side.
Like the Choetech version above, it doesn’t ship with a cigarette lighter to USB adapter. If you don’t already have one that can output at 15W, you’ll need to pick up something like this as well.
Title image via Skitterphoto, other images via respective manufacturers