When the sun starts to warm up the UK, picnic and barbeque fever quickly break out which can only mean one thing. It's time to get your hands on a cooler box and enjoy some chilled food and drink wherever you may be.
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 touch screens, heating and even cup holders.
The best cooler boxes at a glance
Editor's choice: YETI Roadie 24 Cooler - Buy now from Amazon
The best budget cooler box: Thermos Classic Cool Box - Buy now from Amazon
The best cooler for portability: Bellroy Cooler Caddy - Buy now from Bellroy
If you're needing to keep your drinks nice and child for a road trip this summer, pick up one of these excellent cooler boxes and enjoy a summer of crisp lemonades and correctly stored barbecue meats. We've even got you covered for all budgets and requirements.
The best cooler boxes for your car
There are cooler boxes and there are cool cooler boxes. YETI offer a range of excellent coolers,
- Top-drawer quality
- Clever ergonomic design
- Not the most capacious
The best budget cooler box
Thermos is better known for keeping your coffee warm on long car journeys, but did you know that
- Good value
- Decent size
- Only eight hours of chilling
The best cooler for portability
This six-litre cooler bag may not offer the capacity or hard construction of a cooler box, but it
- Very portable
- Excellent construction
- Not the biggest option
The best small cooler box
The famed maker of almost indestructible, insulated flasks since 1913, Stanley invented the
- Good cooling abilities
- Smaller size
The best large cooler box
There are many scenarios that demand lots of cool space. If one applies to you, we suggest
- Excellent build
- You'll need two people to carry it
The coolest looking cooler box
Most coolers have the style appeal of a fridge because, well, that's what they are. Not this
- Looks amazing
- The wheels make it portable
- Style over substance
The best portable fridge-freezer
Sometimes a simple cooler will not do and you need your food or drink frozen (for example if you
- Super chilled
- Full of useful features
- Needs power to work
Best cooled and heated cooler
Want something that cools and heats while being decently portable? Then the AEG On-board Bar is an
- Heating and cooling
- Smaller volume
What you need to know about cooler boxes
How big should it be?
Think about how much space you have in your car and what you tend to put in your cooler. Five to 15 litres is good for two to four people. Upwards of 30 litres is best for big get-togethers with many people involved or camping holidays. If you have the available luggage space in your car, more volume in a cooler is generally better than not enough.
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. Traditional cooler boxes will need ice packs to keep cool and will need restocking after a while which limits most of them to day trips.
Electric ones can be run off your car's 12V socket and can keep food chilled (and heated if you want) for longer. This can certainly be helpful on a camping trip.
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. It could even remain in the boot. If 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.
Ryan Gilmore is the Deputy Autos and Tools Editor for CAR, specialising in car cleaning and hand tools. With an MA in Automotive Journalism, when he's not testing buckets he can be found looking at old Porsches.