The best cooler boxes for your car

Keep food and drink cool on the move, perfect for those hot summer nights.

A man loads a cooler box into the boot of his Volvo

by Ryan Gilmore |

What is that giant yellow orb in the sky and why is the world suddenly full of shirtless men, wasps and the need for extra fans? It must be summer and that means months of picnics, barbeques and desperately trying to keep your food and drinks cold.

The humble cooler box has come a long way from those cheap plastic tubs you used to buy at the seaside for a fiver. Modern examples can be electronically configured, offer screens, heating and even cup holders.

We've found the best examples for several budgets and requirements, making it perfect for your next picnic.

The best cooler boxes for your car

Thermos Cool Box

Best simple cooler
Thermos Cool Box
Amazon

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Thermos may be better known for keeping your coffee warm on long car journeys, but did you know that they're equally good at keeping things cool? This cooler offers 32 litres of cold storage in a simple, lightweight design that includes a handle and locking lid. We especially like how the design allows for a two-litre bottle of pop to stay stood up with the lid in place. Slightly less impressive is that you'll need to sacrifice some space for ice packs to keep everything cool for longer.

All Ride Cooler

A smaller sized cooler
All Ride Cooler
Amazon

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If space is a premium then this smaller 22-litre cooler box makes excellent use of room, offering proper electric cooling thanks to a 12V car plug for extra-long chilling. The electronic elements of the cooler are neatly hidden in the lid of the cooler and so don't eat into valuable storage space. This unit also weighs just 2.3 kg making it really easy to take with you on a picnic.

DOMETIC CoolFreeze CDF 26 Portabe Compressor Cooler and Freezer

Freeze as well as chill
DOMETIC CoolFreeze CDF 26 Portabe Compressor Cooler and Freezer
Amazon

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Sometimes a simple cooler will not do and you need your food and drink frozen (for example if you have ice cream). In this case, a proper car freezer is in order like this one from Dometic. It's a pretty hefty unit, even in 21-litre guise thanks to the heavy-duty cooling system it features. It can be programmed to what temperature you want, from 10 deg C to a very cold -18 deg C. It even features two external cup-holders, perfect for keeping open drinks chilled without having to place them in the cold compartment. Pity it costs so much though.

Volkswagen 26 Litre Cool Box on Wheels

The coolest looking cooler
Volkswagen 26 Litre Cool Box on Wheels with Handle- Steel Roller Cooler Box - Official VW Camper Van Indoor & Outdoor Ice Chest for Camping, Picnics, Beach
Amazon

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Most coolers have the style appeal of a fridge because, well, that's what they are. Not this funky looking option though, this is a blend of VW T1, a trailer and a cooler in one awesome novelty option for your next picnic. It offers 26 litres of storage and those chunky tyres mean you'll be able to haul it across a multitude of surfaces.

AEG Automotive On-board Bar

Portable cooling and heating
AEG Automotive 97253 On-board bar BK 6, thermoelectric cooler and heat box, 6 liters, 12 V and 230 V
Amazon

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Want something that cools and heats while being decently portable? Then the AEG On-board Bar is a very clever option. Able to chill food and drink p to 20 deg C below ambient temperature and heats up to 65 deg C, ideal for cold or hot foods. While it may only offer a paltry six-litres of storage, it is exceptionally well packaged and even comes with a shoulder strap, perfect for carrying it to your next picnic.

Mobicool Coolbox

The big option
Mobicool Coolbox
Amazon

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Have enough lemonade/beer/water to fill a bathtub and need to keep it cool? This XXL offering from Mobicool can easily swallow 48-litres of product and keep it cool at up to 16 deg C below the ambient temperature. Empty it weighs a hefty 10 kg so the pull-handle and wheels are a welcome addition if you're a fan of your back working properly.

What you need to know about car cooler boxes:

How big should it be?

Think about how much space you have in your car and how many people you're packing food for. A large 30+ litre cooler will just eat up space if you're only packing two bottles of water and may not fit in a small city car.

Also bear in mind that scenarios change, so it may be worth getting one on the bigger size (within reason) so you can carry more in the future.

Should it be electric?

Electric cooler boxes are clearly a good bit more expensive than a traditional cooler box, but that shouldn't necessarily put you off splurging for one. Traditional cooler boxes will need ice packs to keep cool and will need restocking after a while which limits them to day-time trips. Electric ones can be run off your car's 12V socket and can keep food chilled (and heated if you want) for longer.

How portable should it be?

This depends on what you intend to do. If you're staying right next to your car then this isn't so much of a problem. You only need to load and unload it when you don't need it anymore. If however, you're going off exploring away from your car it may be a good idea to look for a lighter example that either comes with wheels or a shoulder strap.

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