Jump-starting cars has always been a bit of a hair-raising experience. Whenever I do it, I’m a nervous wreck, paralyzed with fear that I’ll booger up the connection somehow and blow up both cars in the process.
That’s never happened, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that electricity is a scary thing. Then there are the logistical challenges: jump-starting can be a tricky proposition in tight quarters, or a drawn-out ordeal if you have to find someone to give you a jump in East Zombieville at two in the morning.
Of course, there are better solutions. The best portable jump starters you can buy these days are years beyond those past heavy contraptions that looked suspiciously like, well, car batteries. They’re now sleek, computer-regulated lithium-ion gadgets that can fit discreetly in your trunk (or even your glove box, in some cases). They can even be used in a pinch to charge your mobile electronics.
Though dead batteries feel like increasingly rare occurrences with modern cars, they do still happen. Even if it’s not your car that goes terminals-up at a freeway rest-stop, it’s always worth carrying a portable jump starter so you can be the Good Samaritan someday.
With that in mind, we sought out the best portable jump-starters, listed below. Keep in mind when considering one that the battery’s ability to start a car is dependent upon many factors, including the size of the engine, the state of the vehicle’s battery, whether the car’s starter is a more recent and therefore more efficient model — and, lastly, the amperage of the jumper battery itself.
Terms to Know
Amperage rating ranges between 150 to 450 cold cranking amps (CCA), though that number isn’t always available in the product’s specifications. Instead, the number might just be delivered as “peak amps” or just “cranking amps,” and the company will state how large of an engine it should be able to start.
The battery’s capacity, measured in mAh, merely reflects how many times it can be used before needing a recharge, not its inherent ability to start the engine in the first place. Capacity is actually more useful if you plan on using the battery for other things, like operating electronics or charging mobile devices.
Another quality to look for is reverse-polarity protection, which will provide visual and possibly acoustic alerts if you accidentally place the clamps on the wrong terminals — and they won’t provide the power until you do.
Finally, make sure you know why your battery drained in the first place. If it’s because you left the lights on all night or otherwise drained the battery in an obvious, known fashion, the car’s alternator should be able to restore charge to the battery once you get going. But if you’re unsure why the battery died, have your mechanic take a look at your car to make sure the battery is being correctly charged — or can retain its charge normally.
The Best Portable Jump Starters
Uncharted Supply Co.'s new, compact car jump starter may be snug enough to fit in your hand, but it packs enough punch to light up a 6.0-liter engine — not just once, but up to 15 times on a single charge. It's also waterproof, shockproof, dustproof — and even packs a built-in LED flashlight for those late-night jump-starts.
Mophie Powerstation Go Rugged Compact
Mophie is well-known for their innovative, reliable power packs for cell phones, tablets and computers, but they also make external lithium-ion power aids for automobiles. The Powerstation Go Rugged Compact is, as the name suggests, small and tough — and it looks way better than most portable jump starters.
Weego is the go-to brand for portable power, consistently scoring highly in both professional and customer reviews. Its lineup ranges from the basic Weego 6 to the deluxe Weego 66, the latter of which will start 10-liter diesel engines if that’s your jam. While all of the batteries will start the average car and include reverse-polarity protection, the differences rest primarily in how large of an engine it will jump and the additional capabilities, like flashlights or the ability to power 12v accessories.
We recommend the Weego 22, which includes a 14-hour flashlight, a USB port and a lanyard you can use to hang it as a work or camp light.
NOCO GB 40
This is one of the top-selling jump starters on Amazon. Interestingly, the company argues that joules are a more appropriate power measure than peak amps, since it often takes several seconds for a car to turn over. This one is rated at 7,035 joules (and 1,000 peak amps, for good measure). It’ll jump a car 20 times on a single charge, and hold that charge for a year. (In general, you want to make sure you top off your charge about every six months to be safe.)
Antigravity Batteries Micro-Start Sport
Another key player in the automotive battery world, Antigravity Batteries, produces products ranging from heavy-duty commercial starters to consumer products. The Micro-Start is their entry-level product and includes everything the average driver will need, including reverse-polarity protection and adapters for charging a variety of devices. It’s compact, too, and includes mini-clamps that attach to battery terminals.
Imazing Portable Car Jump Starter
This economical starter also happens to be one of the best-rated on Amazon, in terms of customer reviews. It’s got all the protections — reverse polarity, overload protection, over-charge protection — along with dual USB chargers and an LED flashlight.
Plus, it’s ruggedized, has sealed ports and includes a digital readout showing the battery’s precise current charge.