It's never pleasant to walk outside and realize that your car's battery is dead -- especially if you're in a remote area or can't find someone to give you a jump. Fortunately, with a portable jump starter, being stranded by a dead battery will be a thing of the past.
Unlike traditional jumper cables, portable jump starters come with a built-in battery to give your car a boost without connecting to another power source. Even better? Most jump starters come with a few extra features, including flashlights, phone charging ports, and even air compressors.
When you purchase a portable jump starter, you're really investing in your safety and comfort while you're on the road. Keep reading to learn more about the best portable jump starters to keep in your car, including how much they cost, how much power they produce, and where to buy them.
Here are ZDNet's top picks for the best portable jump starter kits.
Amps: 1000 Capacity: 19 000mAh | Weight: 20lbs
Weighing nearly 20lbs, the STANLEY J5C09 isn't the smallest jump starter on this list -- but it's one of the most powerful. With an impressive 500 starting amps and 1000 peak amps, this portable jump starter can start trucks and other large vehicles.
Aside from powerful output, the STANLEY J5C09 also has a few other helpful features that could come in handy. The most notable one is the built-in air compressor, which can be used to pump air into your tires, bicycle, or other sports equipment. There's also a backlight gauge and pivoting LED flashlight, which is great for jumping your car in the dark, as well as charging ports (USB and 12-volt DC) to keep your devices charged on the go.
With all of this functionality, it's somewhat surprising to find out that this product costs just under $100. If you're looking for some extra bells and whistles with your portable jump starter (and you have enough room in your car), the STANLEY J5C09 could be a great option.
High starting and peak amps
It comes with built-in air compressor
Includes USB and DC charging ports
Recharging is recommended after each use
More expensive than some other portable jump starters
Amps: 1700 | Capacity: 18 000mAh | Weight: 18lbs
If you're shopping for a powerful portable jump starter that's built to last, make sure that the Clore Automotive Jump-N-Carry JNC660 is on your list. You'll get 425 cranking amps and 1700 peak amps, which is plenty of power to jump your passenger or light commercial vehicle.
The JNC660 comes with an easy-to-read voltmeter, so you can quickly understand how much battery life you have left. The internal battery is removable, so if you start to notice that it isn't holding a charge as well as it used to, you can order a replacement from the manufacturer. It's a great perk to help you get more long-term value from your jump starter.
On the back of the jump starter, you'll find a 12-volt DC power outlet to charge your smartphone or other devices. Other than that, the JNC660 doesn't include as many bonus features as its competitors -- but it's not much of an issue. Simply put, this product is designed for jumping dead car batteries, and it excels in that regard.
Durable and powerful enough for professional use
Built-in charging cable
Easy to carry and transport
Removable battery can wear down if used frequently
No USB ports
More power than the average car owner might need
Amps: 1000 | Capacity: 12000 mAh | Weight: 2.4lbs
We'll cut to the chase here: the NOCO Boost Plus GB40 1000 is a fantastic option if you're looking for a portable jump starter to use on rare occasions when your battery dies. It's small enough to hide in your glove compartment or trunk, but it has enough power for 20 jump starts on one charge. This particular model can generate 1000 peak amps, but NOCO also sells several other versions with higher outputs.
If you've never used a portable jump starter before, this device could be a smart choice. That's because it comes with NOCO's UltraSafe technology, which will alert you if the clamps aren't connected correctly. We think it's a great safety feature -- especially for newer drivers or people who aren't comfortable using traditional jumper cables.
You can expect to pay around $100 for the 1000 unit, which works with gasoline and diesel vehicles. In addition to the jump starter capabilities, you'll also get a USB charging port and LED flashlight with several different light settings, including an SOS option.
Lightweight, compact design
Safety features including UltraSafe and emergency strobe lighting
Rubberized and water-resistant casings to prevent damage
Not as powerful as other portable jump starters
USB charging output could be stronger
Short cable lengths could make it hard for some people to use
Amps: 800 | Capacity: 18000mAh | Weight: 1.21lbs
Most of the products in this review come in around the $100 mark, but we wanted to include a more affordable option as well. With 800 peak amps, the Tacklife T8 has a smaller output than the other portable jump starters on this list but still has the functionality you need to get your car started.
According to Tacklife, the T8 can provide 30 jump starts before it needs a recharge. In between uses, you can manually turn off the device to help it retain a charge for up to 12 months. (To see how much battery is left, check the LCD display on the front of the device.) Be aware that recharging can take up to 4.5 hours.
In terms of extras, the T8 has most of the same modern features as its competitors. There's a flashlight (with emergency signals), two USB charging ports, and a 12-volt DC port, as well as a compass, which is ideal for camping and hiking.
Affordable price point
The small design makes it easy to transport
Built-in safety alert when used incorrectly
Doesn't provide as much power as other portable jump starters
Long recharge time
Not suitable for large vehicles
Amps: 2000 | Capacity: 19 800mAh | Weight: 1.39lbs
Like NOCO, the GOOLOO GP2000 is another compact portable jump starter that's easy to carry around. It produces 2000 peak amps, which is enough to start a 9-litre gasoline engine or a 7-litre diesel engine. Plus, when you aren't using the jumper cables, you can take advantage of the three USB ports to make sure that your devices are always charged.
To make it easier to jump-start your car in the dark, the GP2000 includes a built-in flashlight. And if you're stranded or need urgent help, you can switch the light to SOS or strobe mode. It might seem like a small feature, but it can add extra peace of mind when you're in an emergency situation.
As you might expect on a jump starter of this size, the cables on the GP2000 are somewhat short, so it's probably not the best option if you have a bigger car. We think it's a safe bet for people with average-sized cars who also want to use the device to charge their phones, tablets, or other electronics.
Sleek and portable design
Reverse polarity detection to prevent damage and injuries
Available in two colors (yellow and red)
The small size means it might not work for bigger vehicles
Cheaper options are available if you don't need USB charging functionality
It doesn't include a cigarette lighter adaptor for charging
Amps: 2000 | Capacity: 20 000mAh | Weight: 2lbs
If you're going to use your portable jump starter to charge your smartphone or other devices, you might want to consider the HULKMAN Alpha85. Despite its high power output (2,000 peak amps), Alpha85 only takes 1.5 hours to recharge, which is faster than many other products we've reviewed. This can make a big difference if you're constantly on the go and need a quick top-up on your phone or car battery.
It also has an impressive battery life. According to the manufacturer, Alpha85 can perform 60 jump starts on a single charge, supporting gas vehicles up to 8.5 liters and diesel vehicles up to 6 liters. We think this is fantastic value for your money.
As an extra bonus, we think that this product is one of the best-designed portable jump starters on this list. It uses an LED screen that displays battery percentage, device status, charging speed, error alerts, and more -- so you can quickly see if your charger is working properly.
Sleek, easy-to-use design
Includes USB-A, USB-C, and 12-volt DC ports
Durable drop-resistant construction that also protects against water and dust
Shorter jumper cables than some other products
Does not include protective case or bag
Not as well-known as big-name brands
How did we choose these products?
With this review, our goal was to provide an option for everybody -- no matter what type of car you drive or which add-on features you want with your portable jump starter. To compile this list, we researched the top brands and products across the industry, narrowing it down to this short, well-rounded list. Every portable jump starter featured here has its own unique set of benefits, but they're all united by exceptional quality, outstanding customer reviews, and compelling bonus features.
Which one is right for you?
To figure out the best portable jump starter for your needs, you'll need to consider two things: what type of car you have and how you plan on using your jump starter. In our review, we've outlined the types of vehicles that will work with each of the portable jump starters on our list.
Once you've discovered a few products that are compatible with your car, you should think about what you need from your jump starter. Consider key factors like how often you'll use it, which features you'd like, and how much you're willing to spend.
For example, if you have an unreliable car battery that needs frequent jumping, you might prefer a model with a high power output that you can use over and over before it needs recharging. In that case, the quick-charging HULKMAN Alpha85 could be the right product for you.
If you won't be using your jump starter on your car battery on a regular basis, you could opt for a product that performs double-duty as a smartphone charger. For that use case, you could consider the GOOLOO GP2000, which has three USB ports.
Are portable jump starters the same as jumper cables?
No. Portable jump starters are standalone devices with a rechargeable power source and cables, allowing you to start your car independently. That's in comparison to traditional jumper cables (also known as booster cables), which transfer power from an external source (like another car or battery).
Why would you need a portable jump starter?
There are several reasons to consider investing in a portable jump starter. For example, if you live or plan to travel to a remote area, you'll want to have a backup plan if your car battery dies and you can't get help. Also, some car owners prefer portable jump starters over traditional cables because they're quick and don't require you to ask someone else for a jump. Finally, many portable starters come with USB and DC charging ports, so you can ensure that your mobile phone is always charged when you're on the go.
How do you use a portable jump starter?
When using your jump starter, you should refer to your manufacturer's instruction manual, but here's a general overview of the process.
Make sure that your car and your jump starter are turned off.
Open the hood and identify the battery, taking note of the positive and negative terminals.
Attach the positive clamp (red) to the positive battery terminal.
Attach the negative clamp (black) to a metal surface -- typically on your car's engine or body -- so it's grounded.
Lay the jump starter flat and turn it on.
Start your car.
Turn off the jump starter.
Remove the negative clamp, followed by the positive clamp.
Are there alternatives worth considering?
In this review of the best portable jump starters to keep in your car, we looked at products that are designed for average-sized passenger cars. But if you need something more heavy-duty, check out the following options.