The best power inverter for your car depends on wattage ratings, how power transfer works, and matching your preferences for size and outlet. Below are some of the benchmarks we believe you should consider.
What Is A Power Inverter?
A car battery outputs a direct electrical current (DC), whereas most personal electronics require alternating electrical current (AC). A power inverter takes in DC power and outputs AC power (side note: a device that takes in AC power and converts it to DC power is called a “power rectifier”).
Many modern vehicles have USB ports able to charge cell phones, but few have an outlet similar to the wall socket in your home. If you want to charge larger electronics like laptops and game systems in the car, you’ll need a power inverter. These typically connect to your car’s 12.0-V outlet (cigarette lighter) and have multiple output ports for simultaneous charging.
Power Inverter Wattage
The appliances you plan on using should dictate the wattage of your power inverter. If you’re looking to charge your phone, laptop, or multiple small electronic devices, a 250.0-W to 300.0-W inverter should pack enough power.
If you’re planning on a road trip and want to use more heavy-duty appliances such as power tools or a coffee maker, you’ll want to pick something in the 1,000.0-W range or above to avoid a short circuit of your car or overheating the device.
The best power inverters for cars work by turning direct current into alternating current. Some power inverters advertise the tech as utilizing pure sine waves or using modified sine waves. This is more of a standard for energy efficiency instead of energy quality.
Modified sine waves refer to deviations in the amount of energy in the power source, creating sometimes what’s called a square wave. Modified weaves can run devices efficiently but negatively impact performance over time.
Pure sine waves are uninterrupted power from the car battery, meaning the voltage going into the electronic device stays constant. Because of the stable power flow, pure sine wave power inverters are better options for devices that require higher wattage.
Power Inverter Vs. Converter
You may be familiar with the term “power converter,” which is a different device than a power inverter. A power inverter converts direct current into alternating current. A power converter does the opposite, meaning it turns alternating current to DC power.
This is important because home appliances such as drills, toasters, and printers work best on AC power.