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Buying Guide for a Car Power Inverter

During extended road trips, the inconvenience of our phones or laptops running out of battery due to having only a standard charger on hand can be frustrating. The majority of vehicles lack an AC 110v/220v power supply, compounding the issue. However, a practical solution to avert such situations is to use a car power inverter.

This device functions alongside the car’s power system to convert 12v DC into standard 110v (or 120v, 220v, 230v, 240v) AC power, facilitating the operation of common household gadgets. Nonetheless, using a car inverter demands careful consideration of factors that might not be familiar. To address this gap in knowledge, Power1986 has prepared a comprehensive buying guide, aiding you in the selection of an appropriate car power inverter.

Irrespective of the car’s cost or brand, a universal feature is the presence of one or more 12v power outlets. Typically employed for functionalities like cigarette lighters, tachographs, or various devices, these 12v DC power sources offer relatively low voltage. Given their DC nature, they remain unsuitable for powering standard household appliances requiring 110v/220v (120v, 230v, 240v) AC power, such as laptops, hair dryers, and phone chargers. To address this disparity, a straightforward solution is to purchase a car power inverter. This device enables the utilization of 12v cigarette lighter power outlets to energize the mentioned appliances efficiently.

car power inverter

Select a Right Car Power Inverter

A multitude of power inverter brands can be found in automotive parts districts, electronic retail establishments, and online marketplaces, spanning a price range from tens to hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. These inverters offer power capacities ranging from tens to hundreds of watts, and even extending to thousands of watts (kilowatts). Navigating this diversity, how do we determine the optimal power inverter for our vehicles? Below are several guidelines to steer our selection process.

For typical household users, opting for a car inverter with a maximum power threshold below 200 watts is entirely adequate. This choice aligns with the fact that the majority of standard family car 12v power supplies are designed to accommodate currents of 20A or lower. This equates to a maximum permissible wattage of around 230 watts. In certain cases, older vehicles might only support secure currents as low as 10A. Consequently, there’s no need to invest in a high-capacity power inverter for your car. At present, most car inverters that connect to the 12v cigarette lighter are intended for electrical devices consuming under 150 watts.

Certain individuals engaged in outdoor professions or requiring the utilization of high-powered electrical devices can opt for battery-direct connected power inverters. These specific car inverters are capable of delivering 500 watts of power or even higher, enabling them to operate small motors and devices demanding 1000 watts or more.

When considering car power inverters, beyond variations in traditional materials and brands, their performance exhibits significant disparities. Presently, the market features two primary types of car inverters: pure sine wave inverters and quasi-sine wave inverters. Among these, the pure sine wave inverter commands a higher price, typically ranging from $100 to several thousands of dollars. Its performance is notably superior, delivering output electricity of superior quality that often surpasses that of the standard AC grid power (110v, 120v, 220v, 230v, 240v).

On the other hand, the quasi-sine wave or modified sine wave inverter comes at a lower cost and falls under the category of square wave inverters. While it may not match the absolute excellence of the pure sine wave inverter, it generally maintains stability. As such, it represents a cost-effective choice for consumers seeking a car power inverter.

car power inverter

Usage and Precaution of a Car Power Inverter

The fuse within the 12v DC power supply of automobiles is not built to withstand high currents. However, there isn’t a standardized value; in many instances, cars are engineered to accommodate a maximum allowable current of 15A or 20A. Some vehicles, particularly older models, might employ 10A fuses. Consequently, it’s imperative to be aware of the 12v DC power supply’s fuse rating for maximum allowable current when employing a car power inverter. Blindly selecting a high-powered inverter or utilizing high-energy electrical devices can lead to the undesirable outcome of burning the car’s fuse, incurring additional costs with no corresponding benefits.

In our everyday routines, various digital gadgets—such as cell phones, xBox 360, cameras, laptops, tablet computers, and shavers—draw minimal power during the charging process, often as low as 100 watts or even less. However, contrasting this, heating appliances like hair dryers, heaters, and electric hot water bottles can consume significantly higher wattages, reaching 1000 watts or more. It’s crucial to recognize that these high-power devices are unsuitable for connection to a car power inverter.

Be Cautious about Wrong Use

Certain individuals might have concerns regarding the potential consequences of excessive current while using a car power inverter. Apart from the car inverter itself and the 12v fuse, there might be worries about the impact on other appliances. Theoretically, all devices within the car operate within a parallel circuit arrangement. Consequently, if the fuse burns out, it primarily influences the utilization of the 12v DC power supply and doesn’t extend to affecting other appliances.

Read the Specification

At present, the market offers budget-friendly car inverters that, owing to material cost constraints, provide output in the form of modified square wave or quasi-sine wave rather than a pure sine wave for 110v (120v, 220v, 230v, 240v) AC power. However, this configuration can have adverse consequences, particularly in terms of charging and discharging nickel-cadmium batteries. Devices like shavers, rechargeable flashlights, and portable battery packs, which commonly feature nickel-cadmium batteries, are particularly susceptible to this impact.

car power inverter

A common occurrence exists among many “older” vehicles: their automotive 12v cigarette lighter power supply does not shut off automatically after the car is parked. Given that a power inverter functions as a consumer of electricity, in situations where the car’s 12v power supply remains active, the power inverter will continue drawing power from the batteries, even in the absence of any appliance being connected to it.

Now, what steps can we take regarding high-power electrical appliances? In reality, it’s a straightforward process. When using high-power electrical appliances (typically exceeding 150 watts), we can directly link the power inverter to the car batteries. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the battery capacity to prevent excessive depletion, which could lead to difficulties in igniting the car.


The power inverter isn’t a commonly utilized vehicle device and isn’t widely recognized by car owners. Some individuals simply purchase an economical car power inverter and connect various appliances to it, which introduces numerous concealed safety hazards. In reality, typical family car users seldom require power inverters in their daily routines, given that phones can usually be charged directly through the 12v car power supply. Power inverters typically emerge as “emergency electricity converters” during long-distance car travel or specific occasions. However, due to their infrequent use, certain individuals might not successfully obtain emergency electricity and instead risk blowing the fuse. Power1986 aspires for this buying guide and tips to help you to select the right car power inverters and enable their proper functionality.

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