Best Car Charger of 2021
The Nekteck USB Type C impressed us with its fast charging speeds and high wattage output, making it a great option for those with modern smartphones, tablets, and laptops. It has a combined output of 57 watts: 12 watts through the USB-A port and 45 watts through the USB-C port. This allows for simultaneous, fast charging of both a smartphone and a larger device like a tablet or laptop. Or, use the USB-C port to quickly charge a modern smartphone with a quick charging platform. Few other car chargers on the market allow for such fast charging of a wide variety of devices. The product also comes with a C-to-C USB cable, adding value to your purchase. This charger feels sturdy and like it's built to last, and did not present any durability issues during our test period. The unit is easy to insert and remove from standard DC outlets and is independently safety tested and certified to prevent power surges and overheating.
One of the downsides of the Nekteck is that it has only one USB-A port, so if your devices are older and can't be charged with USB-C, then you'll have only one useful port. Also, the charger head is a bit bulky compared to other two-port chargers. These minor drawbacks do not detract from this product's excellent performance.
The Anker PowerWave 7.5 is a wireless charger that supports the highest charging speeds for smartphones and devices that are enabled with wireless charging technology. It comes with a sturdy phone charging stand with easy-to-release arms to keep your phone in place while driving, and also includes the excellent two-port Anker Quick Charge 3.0 plug. This plug provides an additional USB-A port for charging another device, in addition to the port that is used by the wireless charger.
In general, wireless chargers are not as fast as wired chargers because they cannot operate at the same high wattage levels. However, wireless charging technology is progressing rapidly, and we won't be surprised if it catches up to wired charging speeds within a few years. That said, if you are looking for the fastest charging speeds for your modern device, check out a product that uses a wired USB-C charging system. Also, the mounted phone platform is relatively bulky, and the arms that hold your phone in place are larger than other wireless charger designs on the market. This bulk leads to a less stylish appearance, and since wireless chargers are usually front-and-center in the interior of the car, appearances matter a bit more in the wireless charger category.
The Anker PowerDrive 2 is a simple car charger that provides average charging speeds in a reliable and affordable package. It features two USB-A ports that each provide 12 watts of current, plenty to charge most smartphones in a timely manner. The two ports are useful for a variety of small devices, but 12 watts is not enough current to effectively charge larger devices like laptops, tablets, and high-capacity travel batteries. The design is relatively sleek and low-profile, blending into the interior of most cars rather than popping out.
During our testing period, we did not run into any durability issues with the PowerDrive 2. However, there are a number of online reviews that report a short product lifespan. In isolated cases, users have reported that the product overheated and melted the plastic casing, releasing smoke into the interior of their car. This issue seems to be exceedingly rare, but it is concerning nonetheless. Anker does not use a third-party safety certification, which would help ensure consumers that their product is unquestionably safe. Overall, negative durability reviews for this product are rare, and for the price, this product provides excellent charging capabilities.
The Anker PowerDrive Speed 2 charges a wide variety of devices with remarkable speed. From older smartphones to the newest technology and any random gadgets in between, our testers found themselves reaching for this product when they needed reliable, fast charging. It features two USB-A ports with a combined output of 29 watts, including compatibility with Qualcomm Quick Charge enabled smartphones and devices. The product is easy to handle and doesn't stick out too much from the DC outlet, but its bulk is more noticeable than other chargers in our review. It is solid and well-built, and we didn't have any durability issues during our test period.
One downside is that Qualcomm Quick Charge technology has not been widely adopted by smartphone manufacturers. This is changing, but in the short term, your phone or device might not benefit from this charger's speed. Furthermore, this product is not independently tested for electrical safety. Overall, we like this charger because it provides fast charging and good versatility. If you need two USB-A ports that are fast, this is the charger for you.
If you need a charger that can handle up to six devices simultaneously, then the AI Aikenuo Multiport QC 3.0 is for you. This charger has six USB-A type ports, four of which feature Qualcomm Quick Charge technology, and the other two each offer 12 watts of current for traditional charging speeds. The result is a tremendously versatile charger that enables a car full of people to charge their power-hungry devices all at the same time. In the rare case that multiple large devices like tablets and laptops are connected at the same time as multiple Quick Charge-enabled smartphones, you might start to see a dip in charging speeds. But otherwise, this charger provides all the charging a family or rideshare would ever need.
With so many ports, the Multiport is understandably bulky. The charger block measures 3x4 inches and is about one inch thick. It connects to a DC outlet with an included 39-inch cord, so the charger itself doesn't have to be near the outlet, allowing you to place it in a convenient location that all passengers can access. There is also a sleeve bracket that can be mounted with an included patch of double-sided tape. The charger block slides easily in and out of the mounted bracket, in the event that you want to take the charger with you to a different vehicle. This device can also be turned on and off with the push of a button, preventing the unit from drawing too much power from the vehicle's battery if the engine is turned off. All in all, we think the Multiport is a great value, considering the number of ports and total wattage that it provides.
The Bestek 300W AC Inverter is a fully-featured mobile charging device for remote professionals. It has two 120V plugs for charging larger devices like laptops, drones, and camera batteries, and it also has two USB plugs for more conventional mobile devices like tablets and phones. The high wattage provides plenty of charging capability for multiple high-powered devices at the same time, and is very useful for photographers and videographers who need to charge multiple batteries from their vehicle in remote locations. It features a cooling fan to ensure safe handling and also comes with a fixed 24-inch cord with a DC (cigarette lighter) plug at the end. It even has an on/off switch to ensure that the charger is not drawing from your vehicle's battery when not in use. All components are well-constructed and seem built to last, and we have not had any issues with durability during our 6-month test period.
The two USB-A outlets can dish out up to 12 watts each, meaning that most devices see average charging times. It lacks the fast-charging capabilities of USB-C and Quick Charge Devices. If you'll only be charging your modern smartphone or tablet in your vehicle, this charger is probably overkill, and you should check out some of the other small and fast chargers in our review. The body of this product is the size of a small brick, measuring 5 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 2 inches thick, taking up much more real estate than the smaller car chargers which barely protrude from the outlet. Compared to the comparatively sleek and unnoticeable two-port chargers on the market, this one certainly has a footprint, but for the right individuals, it can't be beaten.
The Maxboost with SmartUSB Port is another great option for those seeking an inexpensive and high-performing car charger and who don't need quick-charging capabilities. This device features two 12-watt USB-A ports that accommodate any device that normally charges from a USB plug. It delivers power to devices as fast as any of the chargers that do not feature an augmented fast-charging technology. Whenever we needed a simple charge, we could reliably reach for this product to deliver a fast charge. Furthermore, it is easy to handle with a boxy head design and studded plastic headshell. We have no reason to doubt its durability.
If you are looking for a charger with fast-charging technology or high wattage to power larger devices like laptops and tablets, you'll have to look elsewhere. And while the Maxboost is easy to handle, its boxy design isn't the most aesthetic. That said, this charger is a great value for a fast and reliable USB car charger, and we would recommend it if you don't like the aesthetics of the Anker PowerDrive 2.0.
The nonda Zus Smart Car Charger is a relatively simple device with average charging capacity, and it also comes with a supplementary phone application. The app allows you to store the location of your car after parking it, which is helpful for finding your car in large outdoor lots at shopping centers or sporting events. The app also allows you to share your car's location with others, track your car's battery life, and track your remaining time on a parking meter. Some of our testers liked to use the app, and others thought it wasn't useful, but all agreed that it is a cool idea. Otherwise, the charger looks good and provides average charging services.
On the downside, if you aren't interested in the app, then this product feels overpriced. Other products on the market provide the same charging capabilities for a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, the charger is not compatible with modern quick-charging devices. The primary feature differentiating this model from the competition is its intelligent capabilities. If this interests you, then this is the best smart charger we've found. If you don't care about the app, you can save plenty of money by checking out other options.
The Ainope Mini is a great option for users who prefer a low-profile, unnoticeable, and sleek car charger that won't stick out much from the socket. This minimalist design also makes it a great travel charger, fitting easily into a pocket or carry-on bag for use on the airplane or in a rental car at your final destination. It has two USB-A ports with up to 12 watts of current delivered to each port, which is plenty to charge older devices at their maximum speed, but it will feel a bit underpowered if trying to charge modern devices with quick-charging technologies. The charger is relatively inexpensive, which corresponds to its lackluster performance, but there are even less expensive options on the market that provide better performance.
Our testers liked the non-intrusive design of the Ainope Mini but were sometimes frustrated by how difficult the charger was to remove from DC power sockets. For those with dexterous hands, it's not a problem, but for those who might have trouble with fine motor skills, or if the charger is pushed a little too tightly into the socket, it can be hard to remove. Furthermore, we found that if both ports are being used at the same time, charging speeds are slightly diminished. Also, the product is not independently tested for safety.
Why You Should Trust Us
For this review, we recruited a full-time road warrior, mountain guide, writer, and traveler to lead the test team. Jeff Dobronyi travels the country and the world, jumping from one place to the next as a leader of climbing and skiing adventures. Along the way, he writes about his experiences and is constantly charging devices and gadgets in his car, from headlamps and beard trimmers to smartphones, laptops, and boot dryers. His passenger seat often looks like a tangle of wires and electronics. With quick turnarounds between trips, Jeff needs chargers that can quickly restore his devices to full power and that won't break or wear out from life on the road. Over time, he has learned the ins and outs of car chargers and can keenly make distinctions between seemingly similar options.
We began our review process by sorting through 50 of the most commonly used chargers on the market and then whittled down our selection to the top 9. We made sure to include chargers with fast, modern charging technologies, older wattage capacities that work with a majority of gadgets, wireless phone chargers, and multi-port chargers. We purchased these chargers for our rigorous hands-on testing process, which included multiple timed charges to take the same iPhone from 10% battery to 100%, researching the maximum wattage delivered in each port, and reading through hundreds of personal assessments online to get a feel for long-term durability. We treated the chargers roughly, pulling on them in different directions with charging cords and dropping them repeatedly. We also asked our testers to comment on the ergonomics and aesthetics of each charger in different vehicles.
Analysis and Test Results
In order to provide a thorough analysis and objective assessment, we broke down the performance of each product into five categories: charging speed, versatility, ergonomics, durability, and aesthetics.
The most important characteristic of a car charger is its charging speed. We need chargers that will quickly and efficiently juice our batteries from empty to full so that we can continue to use them, especially if we just have a short car ride from one destination to another. This metric is so important that many consumers might not care about any other characteristic. Modern developments in quick-charging technology have allowed some chargers to excel beyond the pack, but this also requires devices that are enabled with quick-charging compatibility.
Our testing showed the Nekteck USB Type C to provide the fastest charging times of any car charger in our test. This charger delivers 12 watts of power through its USB-A port, and an amazing 45 watts of current through its USB-C port. This is enough to charge any modern smartphone, tablet, or laptop very quickly. We were also impressed by the charging times of the Anker PowerDrive Speed 2 and the AI Aikenuo Multiport, both of which feature multiple ports with Qualcomm Quick Charge technology. This charging system allows compatible devices to be charged up to 3 times faster than conventional 12-watt chargers. The Bestek 300W AC Inverter provides fast charging times through its two AC power outlets as well. On the flip side, the Ainope Mini proved to be the slowest charger in our test, featuring 12 watts per USB port, and its charging speeds slowed when both ports were in use.
Our testers value chargers that can both be used with a multitude of devices and that offer enough ports to charge multiple devices at the same time. We took stock of how many ports each charger had, each charger's total wattage, any safety certifications that the model possesses, and quick-charge technology capabilities. We also noted the types of ports on each charger.
Two products in our review stand out above the rest for versatility. The first is the Bestek 300W AC Inverter, which enables a standard 12 volt DC outlet to power two USB ports and two standard AC power outlets. This allows users to charge devices in their cars that don't come with a standard USB charging method, like older laptops and some camera batteries. This wide range of compatible devices makes the charger extremely versatile. We also like the versatility of the AI Aikenuo Multiport, which features six USB ports and a total of 96 watts. Not only can this device charge up to six devices at once, but it can also charge four of those with high-wattage, Qualcomm Quick Charge technology. If you have a large family or drive for a rideshare service, this is the device for you. On the other hand, the wireless charger that we tested, the Anker PowerWave 7.5, can only charge wireless charging-enabled modern smartphones and tablets, which are becoming more prevalent but are still less frequently used than wired chargers.
This metric speaks to how easy a product is to handle, including how easily it accepts cords, how easily it is inserted and removed, and how well it sits in the DC outlets of a variety of cars. While this metric is not as important as the first two, it still can become annoying over time if the charger is hard to manipulate, or if it gets in the way in your car's cockpit.
The Anker PowerDrive 2 is the most ergonomic car charger in our review. It features a relatively sleek and low-profile design, yet remains easy to plug in and remove from DC power outlets. It doesn't stick out too far into the cockpit, but is still easy to locate and to insert cords. We also like the ergonomics of the Anker PowerDrive Speed 2. It has a wide but short charger head that is easy to manipulate without sticking out too much. The Maxboost charger features an ergonomic boxy charger head with small studs on the plastic shell, making it very easy to grasp.
While car chargers usually spend their whole lives inserted into the same DC power outlet, you occasionally need to move them from car to car or take them with you while traveling. Additionally, electronics wear out over time, so we made sure to put these chargers through the wringer. We dropped them, pulled on them in different directions with charging cords, and inspected them for manufacturing flaws upon arrival and at the conclusion of our test period. We also did plenty of research and read through countless online assessments from other consumers to seek out durability trends.
The solid construction and impeccable track record of the Bestek 300V AC Inverter earn this charger top marks in the durability category. In our testing, we could not get this charger to break or even to show a scratch during normal use. We also like the durability of the Nekteck USB Type C, which continued running strong through everything we threw at it. The Anker products survived our test period with little difficulty; other user reviews mention some long-term issues with charging speed reductions, but also call attention to excellent customer service and replacement products being issued without delay.
To some, car chargers are simply a tool that they never notice. But to others, they complement the design of the dash and can make or break the aesthetics of a vehicle's cockpit. Many drivers feel less stressed in traffic or on the highway in an uncluttered and stylish environment. Wireless chargers still need to be connected to the vehicle's DC outlets by cord, and the wireless charging platform itself is usually front and center on the dash. Since aesthetics is a subjective judgment, we polled many users to get an overall assessment of each product's looks.
In general, our testers preferred products with lower profiles, like the Ainope Mini, which has a metallic finish and fits flush against the end of most DC outlets.
After putting the top nine car chargers on the market through a rigorous testing process, our expert testers are confident that they have assembled a truly comprehensive review of this category. From basic chargers that get the job done to wireless technology to multi-port chargers for life on the road, we looked at a wide range of chargers and separated the best from the rest. We hope that this review helps you sort through the options and to select the best charger for your needs. Thanks for reading.
— Jeff Dobronyi