When you’re on the road on long-haul, and you can’t afford to stop every now and then for a food break, it’s best to have a portable refrigerator with you. You can keep your drinks or food cold in the fridge so that you can have them within easy reach while driving.
Portable fridges are particularly popular among truck drivers. They’re a handy appliance to have for stocking perishable food items. They function like a real refrigerator, only smaller and compact so that you can cool your drinks and freeze food without even using ice.
There are many types of small or portable models in the market, but not everything is ideal for a truck. Thermo-electric models are best for smaller vehicles, like a car on a short trip because they’re essentially low-level coolers. For a long-hauler truck though, experts recommend getting a 12-volt compressor refrigerator.
That’s because its compressor cooling system makes it flexible enough so that it can be used as a fridge or a freezer, much like a standard home refrigerator. And because it only uses 12 volts, it won’t drain much of the rig’s power.
More importantly, compressor refrigerators can take rough or inclined terrain. That’s why some RV owners prefer this type when traveling off-road or overland because they still operate smoothly even when driving through 30-degree off-level roads.
The downside is, they tend to be expensive. But the benefits outweigh the price range. They’re a game-changer for overlanding or car and truck camping.
For instance, they’re very energy efficient. Most popular brands will only consume an average of 1 Amp/hr once they reach operating temperature. And you can even plug them into 110V power when available. This makes them portable enough to move into a campsite or cottage easily.
They’re also very effective in cooling to below-freezing temp, even during high ambient temperatures. Some will even have dual-zone temperature features. There are also some models that can keep food hot too.
The best ones though are those that are easy to use, durable enough for all types of road conditions, and have great battery protection. And because this type is usually quite an investment, you need to pick one that’s built for long-term use. In this article, I’ve picked out the best ones that will keep food and drinks cold for 24 hours or even longer.
Here are my top 4 best portable refrigerators for trucks.
Best Portable Refrigerators
- Dometic CF110 12v Electric Powered Cooler
- Alpicool C15 Portable Refrigerator
- Whynter FMC-350XP 34 Quart Compact Portable Refrigerator
- ARB 10802692 ZERO Portable Fridge Freezer
1. Dometic CF110 12v Electric Powered Cooler
This is a compact fridge that’s about two-thirds the size of a traditional cooler so that it won’t take up much space in your truck. It can refrigerate or freeze, with settings ranging from 0 degrees to 50 degrees. No need for ice on this thing.
It can store about 32 quarts and easily converts from AC to DC power. With its low power consumption, it can be hooked up to a solar grid or other off-grid application which makes it very useful for travel.
Features include a Quick Chill Function that runs the compressor at a high capacity to quickly reach the desired temperature, a Memory Feature that saves pre-sets when turned off, and a Low-Voltage Shut-Off function to protect it against dead batteries. Its control panel is equipped with a digital temperature display, removable carrying handles, and a coated metal basket.
This comes with a 2-year warranty.
- Easy to use
- Great for off-grid traveling
- Not for storing ice
- Some users reported issues with customer service
2. Alpicool C15 Portable Refrigerator
Made from strong but lightweight plastic, this portable ref has thick and high-density foam insulation to help maintain its cold temperatures. It can function as a freezer or a fridge and is less noisy than most portable refs.
It fits about 20 cans of Cola and can be powered by solar batteries. Its rated power is 45W and it can run on 12V/24V (DC).
Features include a simple LCD display, a temperature memory function, 3 levels of battery protection (low, medium, and high), and anti-shake proofing for when traveling on rough roads. The manufacturer says it can keep running in slopes under 45 degrees.
This product comes with a 1-year warranty.
- Functions smoothly even on 45-degree angled roads
- Doesn’t work on vehicles where outlets switch off with the ignition
3. Whynter FMC-350XP 34 Quart Compact Portable Refrigerator
This compact refrigerator is not only ideal for trucks but also for smaller vehicles like a car or campervan. It runs on 12/24V DC and 110V AC power and can even be plugged into both at the same time.
Its features range from an LED temperature display, adjustable temperatures (-8°F to 50°F) with a Fast Freeze mode, a low power indicator, a USB port outlet, interior LED lighting, and a Door Open Alarm.
It has a tough and solid plastic outer casing with stainless steel side handles. It will function even when tilted at 30°. It also has a drain plug for easy cleaning, and a non-slip rubber mat to prevent spilling of the contents.
ETL approved, this appliance includes an 8-foot AC power cord and 10-foot DC power cord, and two removable wire baskets. It comes with a standard 1-year warranty.
- Dual voltage
- Fast freezing mode
- Not for use with lithium batteries
- Some concerns with slow customer service
4. ARB 10802692 ZERO Portable Fridge Freezer
The largest in terms of capacity on this list, this unit has an internal freezer compartment that’s removable to increase storage space. This is a dual-zone model, with both zones featuring independent settings for freezing, cooling, and shutting off.
It uses a highly efficient, variable-speed compressor that handles rapid cool-down pretty well according to users. There’s also anti-condensation technology, as well.
Features include Bluetooth-enabled wireless monitoring and control, LED interior lights, and a USB five-volt, 3,000mA outlet for charging phones and similar devices. It also has a dual DC power inlet at each end for customized installations and a front AC power inlet for a quick home connection.
It’s designed with a removable internal basket system that can accommodate tall bottles, a side-opening, reversible quick-release lid recessed carry handles, and full height corner moldings for greater protection.
This product comes with a 3-year warranty.
- Dual-zone with independent settings
- Bluetooth enabled
- The most expensive on this list.
Buyers Guide to Picking the Best Portable Refrigerator
Consider your capacity needs and the available space inside the vehicle when picking a portable refrigerator. In general, the sizes of portable refs range from a small 45-liter to really large 100+ liter models. Experts recommend, however, that the ideal size should be around 60 liters. It’s enough to pack enough food for a weekend camping with the family or store about 5-days' worth of food supplies on the road.
The best model is one that has battery run-down protection. This means that it will automatically ramp down or deactivate if it detects an excessive drain on your battery. One reviewer recommends having a solar-powered battery trickle charger on standby in case the fridge fully drains the battery.
The lower the power consumption, the better. Most high-quality portable fridges are energy-efficient so it’s a matter of comparing their numbers. The best choice is one that draws less than 1 amp/hour at 12 volts DC power.
Choose the best cooling setting that fits your needs. Some fridges have only one setting; they can be set as a fridge or a freezer. Others come with dual-zone temperature settings; they can function both as a fridge and a freezer. These types often come with split compartments which is a useful feature if you’ve got lots of food that require a range of temperatures for storage.
Some models can be operated using a Bluetooth connection. This is useful for remote temperature monitoring. There are also models with offer USB outlets for charging small gadgets.
Others have unique design innovations that make it easier to use, like a removable lid, compartmentalized shelves, or interior LED lights. Some will be weather-resistant so that the ref can be exposed outdoors.
Whatever you choose, bear in mind that these features are meant to be add-ons and will therefore make the appliance more expensive than most. Pick the most useful and not the frivolous so that you’ll justify the cost of the fridge.
Pay attention to the fine print on the warranty. The most important parts are the length of the parts coverage and whether or not labor costs are covered.
The standard for products like these is one year for parts and six months to a year for labor. Experts recommend though that you should also check what voids these warranties. For instance, some portable ref warranties don’t cover non-residential installations. This can be a problem when you’re a trucker and you’re using one in your vehicle. If it malfunctions within the prescribed timeframe, you might not be able to get a replacement.
Pick one that also has reliable and fast customer service. This will save you time and a lot of hassle in case you do need to have it replaced.