Can I Put A Portable Heater In My Car?

If you own a car without an HVAC system, you might want to know whether it’s safe to use a portable heater in your vehicle. By reading this article, you’ll learn how secure it is to put a portable heater in a car.

You can put a portable heater in a car, but the portable heater must have certain safety features, and you must also abide by some safety rules every time you put a portable heater in your car. However, people do not recommend this method because the battery will drain out relatively quickly.

Right now, you may be eager to know the safety features and practices we are referring to. As you read on, you’ll see these features and techniques. We will explain the right way to use a portable heater in your car. Read on to know the usage explanation, some portable heaters that we recommended, and more.

Can I Put A Portable Heater In My Car?

If you consider the number of flammable materials in a car, you may conclude that all kinds of heaters would cause a fire outbreak when you put them in the car. However, you can safely use portable heaters in a vehicle as long as you follow some safety rules.

We recommend that you use a portable heater that is specifically designed for cars. Portable heaters that are not supposed to be used in vehicles will also work in the car, but you may have to use inverters.

The portable heaters designed for cars are of a different type. While some can operate from a cigarette lighter outlet, others need to be connected directly to the battery. 

It would be best to consider the power that a portable heater will consume before you start using it in your car. If your car battery and alternator’s capacities are low, you should get heaters with low wattage.

Although low wattage means that the heater won’t produce much heat, the slight heat generated would be enough to keep the car warm after the heater has been on for some time.

Not to mention, the car battery that has 600 watts of power will only last for about 3 hours before you would need to charge it up once more. This essentially means that the battery in itself will only last up to 50 charges until it is no longer feasible.

You should also check the safety features of a portable heater before you start using it in your car. Don’t use a heater in your vehicle if it doesn’t have an Underwriter’s Laboratory label.

Any portable heater that lacks a tip-over safety switch also isn’t ideal for cars. A portable heater can tip over while a vehicle is moving, which is why the tip-over safety switch is essential.

Overheat protection is another safety feature that a portable heater should have before using it in your car. If the portable heater lacks the overheat protection feature, it can set nearby items on fire after the heater has been on for a long time.

How To Use A Portable Heater As A Car Heater

The way to use a portable heater in a car isn’t so different from using it in a room. However, you need to be more careful when using a portable heater in a car because of the cars’ limited space. We recommend that you position the portable heater on the dashboard.

You need to know other things aside from the position when considering keeping a portable heater in your car. Those things include ventilation and the proper way to install the portable heater.


Ventilation matters because it affects the time it takes for your car to warm up or cool down when you start using the portable heater in your vehicle.

On a frigid day, you might want to wind up all the car windows so that the entire heat that the heater generates will remain.

However, you should note that using a portable heater in a stuffy car is not appropriate. It would help if you allowed air to flow freely in your vehicle, no matter how desperate you are to retain warm air in your car.

Cigarette Lighter Or Battery

Some portable heaters require particular installation, but you can plug some directly into the car cigarette lighter. If the portable heater’s wattage exceeds 180 watts and requires 12V, you will have to connect it directly to the battery’s terminals instead of using the car cigarette lighter. This is necessary because the car cigarette lighter can’t deliver more than 180 watts.

Once all the things mentioned above are in place, you can start to use the portable heater, but only when you are in the car. We don’t advise you to leave the portable heater switched on when you are not in the vehicle. 

How To Use A Space Heater As An Electric Car Heater

You can convert a space heater into an electric car heater if you have a car inverter. Most of the space heaters that you will find around require 120v to operate, which is why you need an inverter to raise the 12v in your car to 120v that space heaters require. 

You should select a space heater with a tip-over safety switch, overheat protection, and low power consumption. It would be best to exercise more caution when using space heaters instead of the standard car heaters because they aren’t designed primarily for cars, so it’s your responsibility to note possible dangers and avoid them.

We recommend that you use a space heater as an electric car heater only when the engine is running so that the heater won’t draw too much power from the battery.

It’s best to wire the inverter directly to the battery terminals instead of the car cigarette lighter because even a low wattage space heater may require up to 200 watts, which is above the power that the cigarette lighter can deliver.

Battery Operated Portable Car Heaters 

If you don’t want the heater to draw energy from your car battery or alternator, you should get a portable car heater that operates using its battery.

This kind of car heater is ideal for car owners who can’t afford to add additional load to their battery or alternator due to one reason or the other.

When choosing a battery-powered portable car heater, you should still consider all the safety features that we mentioned earlier. Luckily, many battery-powered car heaters have the safety features that we mentioned earlier in this article.

Best Portable Car Heater

You’ll find the best portable car heaters here. We have recommended two different portable heaters. The first one recommended is the best overall portable car heater, and the second one is the best mobile car heater for the budget.

Best Overall: Drtulz Portable Car Heater

We recommend the Drtulz portable car heater because of its ability to warm a car quickly, even before the engine warms up. This portable car heater can keep the inside of your car warm and defrost the windscreen and window.

The Drtulz portable car heater will still serve you well in the summer because it has a switch that allows you to activate its cooling fan.

This heater draws power from the car’s cigarette lighter socket, so you don’t need any particular installation to use it in your vehicle. This portable heater features automatic overheat protection and power-off protection, and it doesn’t require much energy to operate.

The compact size of this heater allows you to install it in almost any location in your car. It has a rotatory holder for adjusting the heater to various angles.

The Drtulz portable car heater is ideal for various car and truck sizes. As long as your car has a 12v cigarette lighter, you can use the Drtulz portable car heater inside it. The Drtulz portable car heater costs only $22.99 on Amazon.

Budget-friendly Option: 150W Portable Car Heater

If you are on a tight budget, you should buy the Leaflai 150W Portable Car Heater. We recommend the Leaflai 150W Portable Car Heater because it offers excellent value at a low cost.

This portable heater features both heating and cooling fans. It can raise or reduce the temperature inside your car in less than a minute. The portable heater was designed with durable ABS material, which won’t stay hot even while the heater warms up the surrounding. This means that the heater won’t burn the surface it rests on while it heats the car. 

You can safely use this portable heater even when your car is in motion. This heater can defrost the windshield while you drive on a snowy day. You can rotate the heater easily to focus the heat in any desired direction.

This portable heater draws energy from the 12v cigarette lighter socket, so it doesn’t require any particular installation. You can place the heater on the dashboard or floor while using it. The Leaflai 150W Portable Car Heater costs only $14.88 on Amazon.

Final Word

It is okay to use a portable heater for your car. However, it is always important to note that if you choose to go down this route, you’ll need to get safety features for your heater and may drain the battery.

The primary way to avoid battery issues is by getting a battery-operated system. Overall, your car will no longer be cold during the winter, but you can reap the benefits of having a car that heats reasonably quickly!


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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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