Whether your car doesn’t have an air conditioner or you need better cooling, a portable unit can make long drives much more bearable. Rather than suffering through long rides filled with dry heat, you can set up one of these top-of-the-line air conditioners to keep your car frosty throughout summer.
The best portable car air conditioner is the Ontel Arctic Ultra Evaporative. This unit significantly reduces the internal temperature of your vehicle while adding humidity to the air. All you have to do is add water to the reservoir, turn it on, and enjoy the trip in your cooled car.
There are a few instances where the Ontel Arctic Ultra Evaporative isn’t the best choice:
- You want quick cooling. Get the Batlofty Portable Air Conditioner (Amazon.com).
- You want a high-quality fan. Buy the NTMY Portable Air Conditioner Fan (Amazon.com).
- You’re looking for something small and portable. Get the Portable Air Conditioner Fan by BlitzWolf
- Best for Low Maintenance: Evapolar evaCHILL Personal Evaporative Air Conditioner (Amazon.com).
- Best for a Large Water Tank: Portable Air Conditioner Fan by RAINBEAN (Amazon.com).
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about the best portable air conditioners for cars:
- What you should keep an eye out for when you’re getting a new unit
- The best air conditioners for your car
- Tips to use the AC for the best results
What to Look For When Getting a Portable A/C for a Car
Before you buy the first portable air conditioner unit that you can get your hands on, it’s important that you know what to analyze. There are far too many options to pick at random. Here are three essential factors that you should consider when making a decision:
- Remember to get the correct size.
- Check the square footage capabilities of the air conditioner.
- Review whether it uses a 12V plug, USB cables, batteries, or another power source.
Without further ado, I’ll dive into the details below.
Perhaps the most notable feature when you’re considering portability would be the size of the air conditioner. There are all sorts of shapes and sizes to choose. It’s no secret that you won’t have a ton of room in your vehicle, so make sure that you can fit it on your seat or the floor. The placement needs to be safe from sliding around.
Many of the units on this list are smaller than 12 inches across, whereas others are a bit larger. The best way to know what size you need is to measure the space in your car where you intend to use it. For example, if you’re using a compact car, try setting the air conditioner unit in the middle seat of the back row.
Whatever you do, don’t place it on the dashboard or anywhere where it’s not secure. Not only will you be risking an electrical shock, but a bit of bumpy driving can tip it over and spill the water everywhere. Note that every portable air conditioner needs a few inches to optimize the air flow of the unit.
What’s the Square Footage?
The size of the air conditioner is only a fraction of the equation. You also need to know the square footage. Fortunately, most cars have similar sq. ft., which means that you don’t have to worry too much about choosing the wrong size. If anything, it’s more of a decision to make sure that you don’t get something too big.
Energy.gov states that the average vehicle has a square footage of 45 to 53. Fortunately, I’ve found that every portable air conditioner on the list fits that range. You’ll be able to tuck it in the back row or on the passenger seat to keep it flowing throughout the drive. There’s no need for a powerful, loud car air conditioner when you have one of these models.
There are three scenarios that I’ve come across when looking for a new portable air conditioner, which I’ll explain via the table below.
|Air Conditioner Sq. Ft.||Vehicle Square Footage||Results|
|30 square feet||40 square feet||Not enough cooling; Causes warm humidity|
|45 square feet||45 square feet||Great combination of cool, low-humidity air|
|65 square feet||55 square feet||Too much humidity, possibly a good choice if it comes with multiple settings/levels|
Note: Although there are many more portable air conditioners with more or less square footage, this range seems to be average. If you’re concerned with the BTUs of your air conditioner, The Spruce explains that you can multiply the length x width x 25 to get the required total. The good news is that the products on the list below calculate the square footage for you.
How is It Powered?
Knowing the power source will allow you to decide whether or not the air conditioner is worth the money for your car. Every vehicle has different components, so it’s important that you find out if yours has AC, DC, and/or USB outlets. If you don’t have any of them, you’re not out of luck.
Here are the four major power sources for portable car air conditioners:
- DC power. You can use an AC/DC adapter in your vehicle to power the air conditioner. They’re fairly inexpensive and highly effective. Make sure you choose a product that comes with the required safety certifications.
- AC power. Again, you can find an adapter to plug the air conditioner into your car. They’re similar to regular wall outlets in your home.
- USB power. Although they’re few and far between, USB-powered air conditioner units are becoming more popular. A lot of modern cars are made with USB ports to charge smartphones and tablets, but you can also use them for the air conditioner.
- Battery-operated units. Whether they’re powered by AA, AAA, or D-cell batteries, there are plenty of air conditioners fall in this category. It should be noted that they’re more portable and less powerful than AC and DC air conditioners.
Best Overall: Ontel Arctic Ultra Evaporative Portable Air Conditioner
If you want the best all-round air conditioner, then you’ll probably enjoy the Ontel Arctic Air Conditioner. This as-seen-on-TV product continues to back the claims of instant cooling and portability. It’s super easy to use and you’ll be able to control almost every aspect of this high-quality a/c.
It’s compact enough to store almost anywhere in your vehicle. The back vent is designed to pull warm air through the cooling tank, pushing it out of the front at a drastically lower temperature. Furthermore, the air has a light mist in it to increase the relative humidity. In other words, you’ll be able to have a personal a/c that doubles as a fan.
Another excellent feature of this portable car air conditioner is that it comes with an adjustable vent on the front. You can have the air push through the bottom of your vehicle, forcing hot air to move up and out of the windows. The water tank is easily accessible by removing the lid. Pour in the amount of water that you need, close the lid, and click the ‘On’ button.
Bottom Line: The Ontel Air Conditioner is a unique as-seen-on-TV model that lives up to the hype. I’ve found that thousands of customers are satisfied with the compact design that fits in cars, bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and more.
|Dimensions||10.15 x 11.1 x 12.9 inches|
|Square Footage Capability||45 square feet|
|Power Source||120V AC|
|Run Time||8 hours|
- The long run time allows you to use it throughout the day. If you’re going on a road trip, then nothing beats 8 hours of continuous air conditioning.
- There’s a manufacturer warranty. Don’t worry about having to deal with a bad lemon; The company will send a replacement.
- It comes in a compact design. It’s super lightweight and small, so you can put it almost anywhere in your vehicle.
- Compatibility is at the top of their list of concerns. As long as you have access to an AC adapter, you can use it in your vehicle.
- The square footage is ideal for any car, truck, SUV, or van. Sitting at 45 sq. ft., it’s right in the middle of the aforementioned average.
- There aren’t very many settings. You’ll have to deal with high-powered fan noise whenever you use it.
- Although there are adapters, you’ll have to spend a bit more money to find one. It’s not as convenient as a USB or battery-powered unit.
Best for Quick Cooling: Batlofty Portable Air Conditioner
It’s no secret that people want to cool off the second they turn on their air conditioner, especially when they’re burning up in a hot car. Fortunately, the Batlofty Portable Air Conditioner offers a great solution to the problem: A wide-bladed, long-lasting, high-powered fan. The coolant source is water, just as it is with most other portable air conditioner units.
A unique feature of this top-notch fan is that it oscillates 120 degrees in both directions. If you have an open back seat, you can set this air conditioner there and let it cool down the whole vehicle. Choose from multiple speed settings to determine how cold you want your car to be.
The long-lasting batteries charge in about 3 to 4 hours, which isn’t too bad considering the fact that you can use them for up to 9 hours. You’ll have no problem staying relaxed and cool during the duration of your drive. Whether you’re using it for long-distance trips or short-term commutes, it’s a decent choice.
Bottom Line: The Batlofty Air Conditioner gets you what you’re looking for in a portable model: Nearly instant cooling with multiple settings. It has a massive face that outshines similar fans with a small design. I’ve found it to be the quickest-cooling portable air conditioner for your car.
|Dimensions||9.8 x 6.6 x 6.2 inches|
|Square Footage Capability||50 square feet|
|Power Source||Lithium ion batteries|
|Run Time||9 hours|
- It’s one of the most powerful portable air conditioners. You can use it anywhere around your home or vehicle to cool it down quickly.
- Despite its powerful capabilities, it’s lighter in weight than most compact air conditioners. Carry it with you without an issue.
- The batteries are included. No need to spend more money after getting this semi-pricey portable unit.
- It runs longer than most competitors. At 9 hours per water tank, you can expect a whole lot of usage.
- There are three cooling levels. You don’t have to suffer through super cold temperatures or low fan settings. Find the perfect fit for every occasion.
- The handle is cheaply-made. Don’t depend on it when the tank is full of water; It might break and spill everywhere.
- You’ll eventually have to replace the batteries. Lithium ion is known to last for a while, but it’s something that you should consider when thinking about the overall price.
Best for the Fan: NTMY Portable Air Conditioner Fan
We all know that the fan is the driving force behind most air conditioner units. Portable models have water as the only coolant, though some of them use antifreeze. The NTMY Portable Air Conditioner makes good use of the fan, keeping you cooled down without needing any toxic coolants or chemicals.
The reason that this air conditioner excels is that it separates the water from the fan. While most other units pull air through the water tank, this one blows the ambient air through the fan, misting it along the way. The result is a much more powerful fan that uses water efficiently to lengthen the run time.
You’ll have multiple misters along the top edge of this air conditioner. Choose the setting and watch as it lowers the internal temperature of your vehicle. If you’re tired of the dry heat, then the humidity offered by this unit will be more than welcome.
Bottom Line: This portable fan cooling air conditioner is often overlooked due to the lack of airflow that filters through the water tank. By separating the two essential components, the company managed to maximize the ventilation while adding a nice, refreshing mist.
|Dimensions||10.94 x 8.58 x 3.94 inches|
|Square Footage Capability||45 square feet|
|Power Source||10W USB cable|
|Run Time||2.5 to 12 hours|
- It comes with multiple LED lights. These lights make the air conditioner a bit more entertaining, but it also illuminates the unit in dark spaces.
- You can plug it into any USB adapter. Whether you’re using your phone charger’s power block or your car’s USB port, it’s more than compatible.
- The run time is as long as it gets. 12 hours is quite impressive!
- You can adjust the spray distance and the fan’s power. Choose to lengthen the run time or maximize the air conditioner’s effectiveness.
- It’s incredibly energy-efficient. 10 watts per hour is just about as low as you’ll find in any air conditioner.
- If you want to get the most out of the air conditioner, it only lasts about 2.5 hours.
- The mist can be a bit overwhelming, especially since it’s the only cooling source.
Best for Portability: Portable Air Conditioner Fan by BlitzWolf
If you want an air conditioner that you can pick up and move with you wherever you go, then you’re in luck. This BlitzWolf Portable Air Conditioner is one of my favorite choices on the market because it’s compact and it comes with a durable handle. The handle sits flush with the design, keeping it out of the direction of airflow.
This illuminated air conditioner has multiple lights that keep it bright throughout the night. You can charge the 2000mAh battery quickly and run it for several hours. One of the main reasons that I found it to be the most portable option is that it’s only 1.92 pounds. Combined with the compact dimensions, you can fit it almost anywhere.
There are three settings on this stylish portable car air conditioner. Choose between low, medium, and high. The three levels affect the power of the fan, how much water it consumes, and how long the battery life can last. Needless to say, turning it on high will cut the battery power drastically.
Bottom Line: When you’re looking for a portable car air conditioner, the BlitzWolf a/c unit would be one of the top choices you’d come across. It’s small, easy to move around, and ultra-lightweight. What’s not to love?
|Dimensions||6.69 x 5.91 x 7.09 inches|
|Square Footage Capability||45 square feet|
|Power Source||Rechargeable mAh batteries|
|Run Time||2 to 7.5 hours|
- It’s as compact as it gets. If you’re looking for a small, lightweight a/c for your car, look no further.
- You can choose a setting to determine the power. Run a high fan for a couple of hours or a low, cooling mist for many more hours.
- Recharge it and get back to cooling your vehicle. Don’t worry about plugs and replacing batteries.
- The atmospheric light adds a nice touch. Although it doesn’t enhance the function of the air conditioner, it creates a relaxed environment.
- The handle and shell are tough. This durable a/c unit is durable and long-lasting, despite the budget-friendly price.
- The run time is much shorter than I’d like. If you want to use it at the highest setting, you’ll only get about two hours out of it.
- The front face isn’t big enough to cool a wide area. You might have to wait for a few minutes to lower the ambient temperature of your car.
Best for Low Maintenance: Evapolar evaCHILL Personal Evaporative Air Conditioner
If you don’t want to make too many adjustments or repairs, the durable Evapolar evaCHILL Personal Air Conditioner should be the way to go for your car. It’s won numerous awards from well-known and trusted sources, such as Forbes and Business Insider. They praise the compact size, cool air, and optimal airflow.
Although it gets a lot of credit for those three traits, not enough is said about the lack of maintenance. You don’t need to change filters too often or worry about rust inside of the unit. All you have to do is add water whenever it’s empty and turn it on. If you want a hassle-free solution, you’re already there.
The unique design of this portable air conditioner has a thin vent that maximizes the amount of air that can flow through. Since the tank sits on the back instead of the middle, it has a longer time to cool the air. There are also multiple light settings to brighten up the area for a relaxing effect.
Bottom Line: The Evapolar Air Conditioner lives up to the aforementioned awards and record sales. Customers love the compact design that makes it more portable than anything I’ve come across during my research. Fill the tank, turn it on, and cool down a vehicle of any size.
|Dimensions||6.5 x 6.5 x 6.5 inches|
|Square Footage Capability||45 square feet|
|Power Source||7.5W USB cable|
|Run Time||9 hours|
- It comes with filter cartridges to remove dust from the air. You don’t have to breathe toxic, unhealthy air from this unit.
- It’s been awarded by Business Insider, Forbes, the Guardian, and TNW for its efficiency and power.
- Despite the compact size, it boasts fast airflow and a long run time of 9 hours per charge. Use a USB cable to refuel it for a few hours.
- You can tilt the vents. There’s no need to move the whole unit when the vents are multidirectional.
- It uses a soft LED light to promote sleepiness in a bedroom or an optional bright light to stay awake and energetic.
- Since so many companies shout it out, the price of this unit is much higher than others. It’s far from budget-friendly, but you get what you pay for.
- You’ll have to replace the filter cartridges every so often; Otherwise, there will be tons of mold flowing through the system.
Best for a Large Water Tank: Portable Air Conditioner Fan by RAINBEAN
Refilling the water tank usually isn’t too big of a deal, unless you’re riding on a long road trip. Nobody wants to pack extra water for the a/c, which is why I put the large-tanked RAINBEAN Air Conditioner on the list. Despite the fact that it’s low on the list, it shouldn’t be overlooked by potential buyers.
It has an 800ml tank that attaches to the side of the air conditioner. It’s transparent, which means you’ll know when it’s time to refill it. Compared to the other air conditioners that have been 50 to 650ml, this unit is a powerhouse. The fan is equally as impressive.
Bottom Line: If the tank size is worth the convenience, then I believe that the RAINBEAN a/c unit would be the most worthwhile expense. It’s ideal for people who are planning long road trips and those who don’t want to have to refill it with water at every rest stop. The fan is big enough to cool down the whole vehicle, too.
|Dimensions||6.1 x 7.8 x 6.9 inches|
|Square Footage Capability||45 square feet|
|Power Source||5V USB cable|
|Run Time||7.5 hours|
- You can choose between two different fan settings. Choose a low, long-lasting breeze or a powerful gust of airflow.
- It comes with a removable 800ml tank. The size has already been discussed, but the fact that you can remove the tank adds a layer of convenience.
- USB compatibility is worth mentioning. Plug it into a power brick or a USB port for instant power.
- It doesn’t produce a lot of noise. At 36dB, it’s one of the quietest portable air conditioners on the market.
- The water tank isn’t very secure. People have complained about it falling off of the unit when they move it around.
- It adds a lot of moisture to the air. If you live in a humid climate, that might be a bit overwhelming.
As you can see, portable air conditioners can make a massive difference in the internal temperature of your car. You don’t have to sit through countless hours of overwhelming heat. Adjust the humidity, increase the temperature, and apply a comfortable breeze with one of the units mentioned in the list above.
Although I’ve found the Ontel Arctic Air Conditioner to be the best all-around option, you could also consider the products below for different situations.
- For better cooling, choose the Batlofty Air Conditioner.
- If you want a high-powered fan, get the NTMY Air Conditioner.
- Anyone who wants the best portability should consider the Blitzwold Air Conditioner.
- To reduce maintenance costs and repair time, try the Evapolar Air Conditioner.
- Finally, if you want a large tank for a big vehicle, grab the RAINBEAN Air Conditioner.
Additional Portable Air Conditioner Resources
For more useful information about portable air conditioners, you can check out our other articles on portable A/C units:
- How Long Do Portable Air Conditioners Last?
- Do Portable Air Conditioners Need to Be Drained?
- Are Portable Air Conditioners Energy-Efficient?
- Will Rain Damage a Portable Air Conditioner?
- 6 Best Portable Car Air Conditioners
- 3 Best Portable Air Conditioners for Dorm Rooms
- 6 Best Portable Air Conditioners for Basement Windows
- Portable Air Conditioner Not Very Cold? 5 Reasons Why
- Portable Air Conditioner Not Cooling? 9 Causes + How to Fix
- Portable Air Conditioner Making A Loud Noise? 7 Common Causes
- Portable Air Conditioner Not Blowing Cold Air? 8 Ways to Fix
- 6 Reasons LG Portable Air Conditioner Isn’t Cooling (+ Fixes)
- Black + Decker BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner Review