Car Power Inverter Buying Guide: Choosing the Best One for Camping

If you’re like millions of other Americans, you have the intention of going camping this summer. If so, you’ll want to make sure that the experience is as comfortable and fun as possible. Families with nothing but a tent are going to have some trouble. You need power! After all, you’ll want to charge your electronics and keep yourself cool during the hot heat. This is why you should invest in a good power inverter. Below, you’re going to learn how to buy a car power inverter for camping purposes.

What It Does

First and foremost, you should learn exactly what a power inverter does. There are two types of power, DC and AC. A car battery delivers DC power to your automobile. The power is usually right around by 12 or 24 volts. Inside of your house, you have AC power. That power is used to power your television, refrigerator and more. The inverter connects to the battery in one way or another and converts the battery’s power from DC to AC. That makes it possible for you to use your car’s battery to power your devices.

Connection Types

Now, you should begin learning about the different types of inverters and how they connect to your automobile’s battery. There are three ways that inverters can connect to batteries. Some may be capable of connecting various ways. Usually, the cheaper and weaker models will plug directly into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter slot. This is definitely the most convenient. It may also be possible to use cables, which resemble jumper cables, to connect the inverter to the battery.

With the larger inverters, you’ll most likely need to hardwire it into the battery. There is really no wrong option here. As long as you know what type you’ve got, you’ll have no trouble getting it hooked up and running.

Comparing Modified Sine Wave And Pure Sine Wave Inverters

There are two different types of inverters to choose from. You can select a pure sine inverter or a modified sine wave inverter.

About Pure Sine Wave Inverters

Pure Sine Wave models are going to provide you with the same performance as generators. Pretty much everything that you use at home has been designed for this specific type. A pure sine inverter will give your devices that ability to work flawlessly. Some specific appliances will not operate on anything expect for a Pure Sine inverter.

Other appliances will work better with this type. This includes microwaves. Unless you’re going to be powering one specific device, you’ll most likely be better off with a pure sine wave inverter. When use one of these inverters, you’ll experience less noise from your appliances and they’ll last much longer. The risk of errors will also be decreased. You also need to understand the true sine wave and pure sine wave are one in the same.

About Modified Sine Wave Inverters

These inverters can be used for many purposes. However, they’re not going to work well with some equipment. If you use certain appliances and electronics with a modified sine inverter for a long period of time, it could actually destroy the device. If the device contains a microprocessor controller, it could overheat and it may make a noise. Suffice to say, modified sine wave inverters are not going to work well for computers, radios, printers, and more.

The only real perk associated with this specific type of inverter is the fact that it is going to be much less expensive. Since they’re so inexpensive, they’re actually more popular than the alternative. So, which one is the best? It really depends on your needs. If you’re going to be using an inverter infrequently, you might be better off saving money and buying the modified sine wave inverter. If you want to run many different appliances and devices, go with the pure wine wave inverter.


Now, it is time to being learning about the different traits that make a good car power inverter for camping. First and foremost, you should check out the size or wattage. To find out how much power you’re going to need, you need to check your appliances. Be sure to check their surge power and their usual power. The surge power is the specific amount of power needed to start to device. After that, the equipment will require less energy. The surge power is always much higher than the usual power.

Air conditioners, refrigerators and many other appliances require an immense amount of surge power. Once you’ve figured out how much power you need, you’ll want to choose an inverter that is capable of delivering that power. When looking at the inverters, you will see that they are given a wattage factor. Small inverters will have a lower wattage with the smallest being roughly 50 watts. More expensive and bigger inverters can have as much as 50,000 watts. In most cases, 2,000 watts should be sufficient for most campers.

Surge Rating

Inverters will always have a surge rating too. This helps you determine how long the inverter will be able to support an overload of wattages. Each unit will be different even if it is made by the same brand. So, you’ll need to be pay close attention to this one. A surge rating of 3 will be sufficient for some. However, you may want to look for a unit that has a surge rating of 25 seconds. This should be a good option for most of your appliances.


When trying to invest in the best inverter for camping, you want to make sure that your money has been spent well. You don’t want to get out in the campground and lose your power. This is why you’ll want to choose a unit with a long warranty. You’ll also need to make sure that the company that makes the product is actually worth your time and energy. If they’re not, you can guarantee that you’re going to have problems getting your unit repaired.


If you’ve never used an inverter before, you might get yourself into a little bit of trouble. You might accidentally or unknowingly overload the unit. In return, that could tear it up pretty quickly. The good news is that some inverters are actually designed to protect against such problems. They may be able to protect against other issues too. Look for an inverter that has thermal, overload, under voltage, over voltage, and low voltage protection. This will decrease the likelihood that you’ll experience problems.


Before choosing an inverter, you want to figure out how much convenience you want. It is true that no inverter is going to be difficult to install. However, some are indeed tougher than others. After all, the bigger units have to be hardwired directly to the battery. This is something that you might not want to deal with. Heck, you might not even want to use jumper cables. If that is the case, you should stick with the cigarette plug inverters. They’re much more convenient after all.

Solar Operating

If you’re interested in traveling into the wilderness even further, you’ll definitely want to think about setting up your inverter with a solar panel and power bank. This is a great way to ensure that you do not have to use your car’s battery all the time. With this combination, you’ll be able to keep your electronics running from pretty much anywhere in the world.

Installation Kit

Each type of power inverter installs in a different way. However, some models are designed to offer installation versatility, as they will come with battery clips, positive and negative lugs, cigarette light and 4-gage wire for direct installation. Whatever the case may be, it will be in your best interest to only invest in a model that includes an installation kit. This will prevent you from needing to make an additional investment and safe a little bit of money.


Car power inverters can weigh anywhere from two pounds up to 25 pounds or more. Of course, the models with the lower wattage rating will generally weigh less than models with a higher wattage rating. Depending on your planned applications, you may be forced to invest in a model that weighs more. Small devices, such as mobile phones, iPods and tablets, can be efficiently be powered on models with a wattage rating of 300 or less. Large appliances will require a model with a wattage rating of at least a 1000-watt.

Cooling System

Just like any other device that generates power, the car inverter will produce heat. With this said, manufacturers utilize some type of component, most often a small fan, to keep the inverter from overheating. The cooling system will keep the unit a comfortable, safe temperature at all times.

Compact Design

If you are in need of a car power inverter compact in size, you are in luck. There are many models on the market that offer space-saving benefits. If you have very little space in your vehicle for an additional item, such as an inverter, you will definitely appreciate this design. There are even some models that are about the same size as an iPhone. So, you will not have any issues finding an inverter that will suit your space needs and preferences. Smaller models are ideal for powering mobile devices only, because they typically do not generate enough power to run small appliances, let alone appliances with a continuous load rating.

500-Watt And Higher Power Inverters Require Better Battery

Car power inverters rated below 500-watt work great with the standard car battery. Models over 500-watt will require better batteries, such as the 12-volt deep cycle battery. This type of battery will provide tons of discharge and complete charge cycles. They are also designed to endure repeated draining and recharging, offering a much longer service life than low-tier car batteries.

If you are powering the inverter with your car startup battery, you will need to start the engine and leave it running. If you do not, you will drain your battery and not be able to get your vehicle restarted without a boost. When operating an appliance with a continuous load rating for extended periods, it should be powered with a deep cycle battery. Of course, some people will utilize their power inverter to run refrigerators with continuous load rating. This application works okay as long as you leave their engine running.

Never place two batteries side by side. If you are going to install a deep cycle battery in your vehicle, be sure to place an isolator in the center to prevent them from making contact.

Cigarette Lighters Are Limited

When you are shopping for a new auto power inverter, it is crucial to read the specifications of each potential brand carefully. The models powered by cigarette lighters are typically not capable of generating more than 400 watts of power. So, if you are in need to a car power inverter capable of powering large appliances, it will be best to only consider models that connect directly to a battery. These models can generate up to 500 watts of power and sometimes more, making it more suitable for running appliances and other high-power devices.

If you need more power, you’re going to want to invest in something different than a cigarette lighter model.

USB Port And Outlets

Another factor that must be considered is how many devices you will be running. In general, most smaller car power inverters only have two outlets. Some of the 3000-watt models have four or more. If you are planning to utilize the inverter to power your mobile devices, you will need to invest in a model with one or two USB ports. This will leave the available outlets open for appliances and etc.

You may need to invest in multiple car inverters, so you will have enough outlets for all of your applications. In this case, it is better to have too much than not enough, especially if you are trying to power your devices during primitive camping.