Remember the good old days? You’d spend an hour shoveling out your car the morning after a heavy snow storm, get in, turn the key and… nothing would happen. Just a pathetic little clicking sound. At that point you’d go inside to the telephone and dial up the local tow truck operator. He’d then put you on his list and a couple of hours later he’d jump start your car for a hundred bucks. Where have those good old days gone? Right? Wrong!
In hindsight those good old days sucked and if we never see the tow truck driver and his fat roll of C-notes again we’ll die happy. Today we have jump starter kits that can be stowed in the trunk and easily put into service in an emergency. In just a matter of minutes the car can be humming along and you get to keep that 100 bucks to spend on your upcoming ski trip.
Below we’ve brought together the 10 best jump starters of 2020.
1. Tacklife T8 800A Peak 18000mAh Car Jump Starter
The Tacklife T8 typifies what the contemporary jump starter is all about. It weighs a mere 1.2 pounds, can jump start gasoline engines up to 6.2L and diesel engines up to 5L and you get a robust 800 peak amps. With built in accessories like a powerful LED flashlight, USB charging ports and 18000 mAh of capacity it’s ready to keep you safe and keep all your digital devices charged and ready.
In fact you can even run your car vacuum or air compressors directly off this versatile power pack. The shell of this jump starter is fire resistant and there are other neat safety features too, like a wrong polarity siren and automatic overcharge protection. The icing on the cake is the 12 month standby time. So you won’t have to keep dragging it out of the trunk to recharge it.
2. Beatit BT-D11 Portable Car Jump Starter
The BT-D11 Portable Car Jump Starter from Beatit will jump start a gasoline engine up to 7.5L and a diesel engine up to 5L. That’s powerful enough to handle most pickups and ambulances. The BT-D11 has a capacity of 18000 mAh which means it will not only jump start your car it will recharge every smartphone, tablet or laptop in the car as well.
There are 2 USB ports that provide 2.1A fast charging, a built in flashlight and spark-proof clamps. There’s also an indicator that keeps you up to date on the battery charge and reverse polarity protection (1) for the device itself and anything that might be attached to it. Light, powerful and feature rich it might be the best car-related purchase you make this year.
3. Gooloo 500A Jump Starter
Gooloo tosses their hat into the jump starter ring with this 500A Jump Starter. This is ideal for small to mid-sized cars with engines up to 4.5L. And it’s great to have around if the battery on your motorcycle, jetski, ATV or other vehicle suddenly goes on vacation.
There’s an array of accessories built right in, including an LED flashlight with 3 modes (strong, strobe and SOS), dual quick charger inputs and an LED indicator light that lets you keep up to date on the amount of juice left in the device. It weighs less than 2 pounds, the jumper cables can be easily detached so you can take advantage of the flashlight feature and it comes with a 12 month warranty. A real value winner for the price.
4. Aickar 800A Car Jump Starter Kit
The Aickar 800A Jump Starter Kit is what modern convenience is all about. It’s powerful enough to bring your car back to life on those frigid mornings and just small enough to slip into the pocket of your cargo pants. It will jump start your car 30 times before it needs to be recharged. And, with 19800 mAh of capacity, it will also allow you to charge your smartphone, tablet and laptop while you’re driving to work.
It will jump start any gas engine up to 7.5L or any diesel engine up to 5L. There’s also an array of accessories built right in. Including dual fast charging ports, reverse polarity protection, a powerful LED flashlight with SOS capability and overload and overcharge protection. With a fully charged Aickar Jump Starter in your trunk you’re ready for just about anything.
5. Noco Boost Plus GB40 Jump Starter
Here’s another ultra-convenient, pocket-sized jump starter that will ensure you never have to call the tow truck or flag down a stranger for help again. The Noco Boost Plus GB40 slips into its nifty carry sack and then slips easily into your glove compartment or the pocket of your tactical pants. When fully juiced it will provide up to 20 jump starts of your 6L gas engine or 3L diesel engine. But it’s benefits don’t stop there.
It also provides an integrated LED flashlight with up to 6 hours of continuous run time and 7 modes including SOS and strobe. And there’s a USB charging port for your smartphone, table or camera. There’s also an indicator light to keep you up to date on the amount of available juice so you’re not taken by surprise.
6. Stanley J5C09 Power Station Jump Starter
Somehow you knew Stanley was going to make an appearance on this list. Their J5C09 Power Station is a workhorse that’s perfect to have in your pickup, flatbed, ambulance or any other mid-sized to large vehicle that needs to stay on the road at all times. Buttressing that argument is the built in 120 psi air compressor that lets you inflate those tires that went soft during the night or top up the spare after you install it.
There’s also an ultra-bright LED emergency light so you’re never caught out in the dark. And for your safety a reverse polarity alarm that sounds if you’ve attached the clamps to the wrong terminal. It’s heavier than most of the other jump starters on our list but it’s a must for your heavy duty commercial vehicles.
7. DBPower Ultra Compact 300A
With the 300A DBPower Ultra Compact Jump Starter we return to the land of lithium-ion compact starters. This one weighs a scant 1.5 pounds and is ideal for your small car. It will provide 10 jumps to a 2.5L engine while at the same time pulling double duty as a power pack for your smartphone, tablet, laptop, digital camera and more. With 8000 mAh capacity there’s always plenty of juice available even after you’ve jumped the car.
There’s also a high powered LED light with its SOS, strobe and standard modes so you’re not invisible if you’re stranded at the roadside. For safety’s sake the unit features overcharge, overheating and short circuit protection. And there’s a reverse polarity alarm to protect the device and your car. Recharges from empty in a very reasonable 5 hours.
8. Keenpower Portable 12V Car Jump Starter
The Keenpower Portable 12V Car Jump Starter features a sleek but durable outer shell. 600 amps of power, 12000 mAh of capacity and weighs only 2.5 pounds. It will jump start your 5L gas engine in seconds and keep all your digital hardware fully juiced to boot via the USB charging port.
There’s an integrated emergency light with SOS, strobe and flashlight modes, reverse polarity protection, overload protection and it will hold a charge for up to 3 months. Take it along in your car to the campground. Then put it into your backpack so that your electronic devices don’t die on you while you’re in the woods.
9. Vetomile Car Jump Starter 800A
There’s nothing like a jump starter that fits into your pocket and the Vetomile is one of the best examples of that. This is a powerful but extremely compact device that has 800A of power and 21000 mAh of capacity. That means it will jump start your SUV or light truck, your friend’s SUV or light truck and then charge up your smartphone, tablet, laptop or whatever portable devices you have.
And it will still have plenty of juice in reserve to power your lights, radio and other devices around the campsite. There are 2 USB fast charging ports, an emergency flashlight, a battery indicator, reverse polarity alarm and it recharges from empty in about 6 hours.
10. Schumacher SJ1328 12V Jump Starter
The final item on our list is the Schumacher SJ1328 12V Jump Starter. The SJ1328 is a powerful, versatile ally to have in your trunk in case of emergency. With 1,200 peak amps it’s powerful enough to start SUVs, pickups and more. And with its built in air compressor you’ll never be sidelined by soft tires.
The cables are fashioned from heavy duty 6 gauge copper that stay flexible no matter how low the mercury dips. The clamps are compatible with both top mount and side mount batteries and the device recharges quickly. The convenient built in handle at the top also makes it easy to tote around.
Are Jump Starters Just Jumper Cables?
Jump starters essentially fulfill the role of the tow truck we mentioned at the start. That is, they provide the power your battery needs to activate the ignition and get the car started. While jump starter kits include a form of jumper cables these cables only have those big hungry copper jaws at one end. Because the other end is either integrated into the starter device or has a plug that plugs directly into the starter. Early jump starters used lead-acid battery technology. But that came with its own issues. Namely that they were heavy and you had to make sure you had the correct terminal polarity (2). Just like you would with another vehicle.
Today’s jump starters (the best ones anyway) feature a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. This provides a significant convenience edge over lead-acid starters in that they’re much smaller and lighter. Most also have a range of other accessories built in (and we’ll get to those in a minute). Something you almost never found with cumbersome lead-acid starters.
What are the Different Kinds of Jump Starters?
There are two kinds of jump starters that make up the bulk of units sold today. They are the plug-in variety and the fully portable variety.
- Plug in starters – The plug in starter is just what it sounds like. Its a unit that you plug into a wall socket and then connect to your battery using the standard copper claws. This type of jump starter has its fans but we’re not quite sure why. If you find yourself in a freezing cold parking lot at the mall and you need a jump you’re completely out of luck. So what’s the point of having it? The whole idea of the jump starter is to save you from having to call the tow truck driver and pad his bank roll. But if you have a plug-in jump starter you’ll likely find yourself dialing up the tow truck anyway.
- Portable starters – This is the kind that makes the most sense. And with the advances in lithium-ion battery technology in recent years there’s really no excuse to use anything else. Sure, you’ll need to plug it in now and then to make sure it’s charged. But that’s small potatoes compared to how grateful you’ll be to have it on hand if your battery dies in one of those gi-normous mall parking lots a mile from the nearest outlet.
What About Battery Chargers?
Good question. The battery charger sounds like a good idea. And if you’re home for the weekend and are aware your battery is getting low, it might come in handy. But it’s not going to help you out too much if you are stuck in that mall parking lot because, like the plug-in charger, it needs to be plugged in. If you have a portable jump starter you can get the car started and then the very act of driving around will charge the battery. Most of the time (3). So the battery charger has a role to play. But it’s a pretty limited one.
What Features Should I Look for in a Jump Starter?
The modern jump starter is more than just a pair of cables you hook up to the tow truck battery on cold days. They are self-contained power packs that provide the battery with the jolt of juice it needs to get the car going. And because most utilize the latest in lithium-ion battery technology they often provide an array of useful accessories as well. Here are some of the things to look for in a jump starter.
- Cables – It’s an understatement to say the cables are important to a jump starter kit. Without them you have no way to connect the starter to the battery. It might seem like cables are cables, and in a certain sense that’s true. But some cables provide greater dependability and versatility than others. That’s because they may be longer (say 30 feet instead of 10 feet). Or the gauge of the wire may be thicker. As a general rule the thicker the wire the more electricity it will conduct (4). And if you’re trying to jumpstart a truck you’re going to need to deliver as much power as possible. So you may need a 4 or 6 gauge cable for that.
- Emergency lights – All too often batteries die in the worst possible places at the worst possible time. And because the days are shorter in the winter that often means you find yourself with a dead battery when it’s dark out. This is especially troubling if you find yourself at the side of the road. In such cases it can be extremely helpful if your jump starter has a nice bright emergency light so that oncoming cars can see you. In some cases the emergency light can be physically detached from the jump starter and placed off to the side, like you would do with a flare. Other starters have built in flashlights that help you see what you’re doing and also provide a bit of light for other drivers to see.
- Inverter – The inverter converts the stater’s native DC current into AC current (5). You can then use that to charge your other devices like your smartphone or tablet. This really comes in handy if you’ve got a dead battery and a dead phone. So even if the battery is DOA and simply refuses to respond to the starter (6) you can still charge up your phone and call for help. Even if you don’t need to jump start the car it’s still nice to have an inverter with you on camping trips and such.
- Emergency radio – There are a few jump starters on the market today that have built in emergency radios. This can come in very handy in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Or if, say, a hurricane is bearing down on your location. You’ll be able to keep up with the latest emergency bulletins, evacuation notices and more.
- Air compressor – Believe it or not some jump starter kits come with an air compressor as well. This is a great thing to have in the car at all times no matter what the condition of the battery or what else is going on. The air compressor allows you to pump up a soft tire in the event you run over a nail or some such thing and your tire begins to slowly lose air. Keep in mind that the air compressor is going to use some of the charge. So if you wind up using this feature you’ll need to plug the jump starter in after you get home and top it back up before returning it to the car. If you can swing the extra expense we’d highly recommend having an air compressor on board. Someday, you’ll be glad you do.
You’ll also want to know the amperage of the device. In essence, the more amps your jump starter can deliver the faster the car, pickup or truck is likely to start (7). You’ll also see this designation – mAh – in relations to jump starters. What that stands for is “milli ampere hour” (8). That’s a measure of the starter’s storage capacity. The higher this number the more jump starts you’re likely to get from your device before it absolutely needs to be recharged.
Are There Other Considerations?
When it comes to choosing the right jump starter you’ll want to keep the following in mind as well.
- Safety – Today’s best jump starters are endowed with all the latest safety features. Manufacturers are keenly aware that a malfunctioning device could present a significant danger. Most include copious internal monitoring features run by a central processing unit. This allows the device to shut itself down if it detects a malfunction. In other cases you may well hear an alarm if you attach the wrong cable to the wrong post.
- Warranty – While the best jump starters are extremely well engineered and should provide you years of service they are nonetheless complex pieces of technology. As such it only makes sense to make sure your jump starter comes with a robust warranty. The terms and conditions of the warranty, as well as the length, will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and from device to device. So make sure you read the fine print carefully before you decide to spend your hard earned money on one of these. You’ll probably never need the warranty but it’s nice to know it’s there in case you do.
The Bottom Line
The days of waiting on the tow truck are over thanks to today’s lightweight, compact and powerful jump starters. Any of the items we profiled above will serve you well and enable you to have that extra degree of peace of mind any time you venture away from home. Keep one in your trunk, in the RV, on the boat or anywhere you roam where the potential for dead batteries exist. And keep those C-notes in your pocket where they belong.