If you are looking for the best heater for car camping and have limited time, our overall winner is Mr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts/Canada-approved Portable Propane Heater.
Despite the chilly winter weather, you can still brave the nights and enjoy a remarkable car camping trip as most people do. But that requires that you have a reliable car camping heater.
Furthermore, the safety and efficiency of the space heater separate the standard from premium models. You don’t have to bet on unknown brands. A heater failing on a chilly night spoils even the best car camping trip.
Below are our best picks that have earned impressive feedback from past users. Whether you are looking for an electric or propane-powered car heater for winter, we’ve got you covered.
Our Picks for the Best Heater for Car Camping
Having conducted extensive research, here is a quick summary of our picks for the best heater for car camping:
Mr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts/Canada-approved Portable Propane Heater for Car Camping
Dreo Space Heater for Car Camping, Atom One Portable Heater with 70°Oscillation
Best for Compact Space
Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTUIndoor Safe Propane Heater
Best for Easy Use
Portable Electric Space Heater for Car Camping | Indoor Use
Portable Electric Space Heater for Car with Thermostat, 1500W/750W
Space Heater for Indoor Use, 1500W PTC Ceramic Heater with Thermostat, Small Space Heater 2S Rapid Heating, 3 Modes, Electric Portable Heater with Safety Protection for Bedroom, Quiet Office
Best Mini Heater
Metkiio Space Car Camping Heater – Portable Mini Heater for Home and Office
What Makes a Heater Safe for Car Camping Heating?
Besides making the room warmer, the car camping heating device should guarantee safety. On that note, here are the vital features that make a car space heater safe:
- It should not have an open flame;
- Its heating element should be behind high gauge grates/grills;
- Automatic shut-off function in case the unit tips off or overheats;
- Automatic sensor and shut off feature when oxygen level goes down.
Types of Car Camping Heaters
The most common car camping heaters include the following types:
As the name implies, the heaters use propane gas to produce heat. Although some models have an open flame, other superior brands hide the flame. Hidden flame types are ideal for car camping or other closed-tent camping. Usually, propane heaters run on portable 1 lb canisters.
Ceramic (Electric) Heaters
These heaters have ceramic plates. To produce heat, alternating current flows through the PTC ceramic elements. Such heating devices thus need a cord and produce no open flame.
Fan (Electric) Heaters
In fan-electric heaters, alternating current flows through a metal coil and thus produces electricity. A fan then helps to spread out the heat in the air.
Oil heaters are also known as oil-filled heaters. At a glance, they have metal columns ( like in a radiator) filled with oil. An electric current flows through an element and thus heats the oil indirectly.
Reviews of the 7 Best Heaters for Car Camping
1. Best Overall: Mr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts/Canada-approved Portable Propane Heater for Car Camping
If you don't want to deplete your car battery, a gas-powered heater for car camping becomes the better option. And that's where Mr. Heater MH9BX plays a vital role. It uses the standard 1 lb propane tank.
However, the car heater has a swivel-type regulator, meaning you can buy a hose and adaptor and hook the unit to a bigger tank or gas outlet. When you hook it to a 1 lb gas tank and set it to a low heat level, Mr. Heater MH9BX delivers 5.6 hours of run time.
Its 8.8 lbs weight and size of 13.4 x 15 x 8.3 inches make it very stable. The portable car camping heater gives out a maximum of 9000 BTU every hour. And owing to its size and efficiency, the heater is suitable for heating a space of 225 sq feet.
Specifications: Item Weight: 8.8 lbs | Power Source: Gas Powered | Heats up to 225 sq Feet | Run Time: 5.6 Hours | BTU: 9000 | Warranty: 1 Year
- Low oxygen sensor and shut down
- Fold down handle
- Multiple heat settings
- Simple to start and use
- No open flame
- Depletes the 1 lb tank pretty fast
2. Most Famous: Portable Electric Space Heater for Car with Thermostat, 1500W/750W
Even when under a limited budget, you can still get an affordable car heater for the winter months. You can use its maximum heat setting of 1500 watts during chilly nights. But if you need to conserve your car battery power, the medium power level of 750 watts will do. Otherwise, during warmer days, use the cool air fan-only setting.
Once you have set a particular heat level, it self-regulates and maintains the air to be warm. For convenience, the GiveBest heater has a thermostat that adjusts from 0 to a maximum of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
GiveBest blends ceramic heating technology, 12 heating plates, and a fan. The combination helps the car camping heater maximize heat production.
As a result, it forces heat waves over a 200 square inches area. As for safety, the GiveBest car camping heater doesn't lag. First, the device uses flame-retardant materials. Also, it has a safe and automatic shutdown provision in case of overheating or tipping over.
Specifications: Item Weight: 2.99 lbs | Power Source: Alternating Current | Heats up to: 200 sq Feet | BTU: 1500 Watts | Low Noise 45 dB
- Runs quietly below 45db
- Heats a wide area of 200 sq inches
- Compact size that takes up very minimal space
- Fast heat response
- A few cases of tip-over switch failing
3. Best Value: Dreo Space Heater for Car Camping, Atom One Portable Heater with 70°Oscillation
Talk of a simple and reliable car camping heating device, and the Dreo space heater makes a run for your cash. The unit taps on a dependable AC, remote control, and LED display unit. Adjusting heat level is thus straightforward.
For convenience, Dreo offers you five heating modes. That includes the high, medium, low, eco mode, and fan-only settings. In addition, you can adjust the heating level from 41 to 95 degrees and the convenience of a 1-degree increment. Besides quick heating, the Dreo car camping heater is safe and convenient.
Its construction is ETL-certified and employs flame-retardant materials. Further, the unit automatically shuts off when it overheats or trips over.
By using nine aerodynamic blades and a dc brushless motor, the equipment runs quietly at 37.5 dB. Surprisingly Dreo space heater heats up to 200 sq inches area. So, if you need the best heater for car camping, it counts among the top contenders.
Specifications: Item Weight: 3.8 lbs | Power Source: Alternating Current (900 to 1500 Watts) | Heats up to: 200 sq Feet | Run Time: Adjustable (1 to 12 Hours) | BTU: 95 Degrees Fahrenheit | Warranty: 12 Months | Noise Level: 37.5 dB
- Provides efficient and fast heating results
- It runs quietly and doesn't disturb your sleep
- Easy to adjust heat settings through remote
- Has enhanced safety features
- Washable filter
- 70 degrees oscillation
- You cannot set it to switch on automatically
4. Budget Option: Space Heater for Indoor Use, 1500W PTC Ceramic Heater for Car Camping
When space is limited, you need a compact and portable heater. The Oprunsy measures 6.3 x 4.73 x 8.66 inches, weighs 2.4 lbs, and thus, requires minimal space. Though it's of a space-saving size, Oprunsy registers quick heating within 2 seconds.
But despite its small size, Oprunsy is a portable heater for car camping that you shouldn't underestimate. It consumes a maximum of 1500 watts and gives out 5115 BTU every hour. The corded space heater for the car has three heating modes to fit different settings. That includes high, low, and natural wind settings.
Using a combination of advanced ceramic heating technology (PTC) and forced air, the space heater makes camping enjoyable. Since safety matters, the device provides triple protection. If the unit tips over or overheats, the power automatically shuts off. Further, the entire Oprunsy car camping heater is of flame-retardant material.
Specifications: Item Weight: 2.4 lbs | Power Source: Alternating Current (900 to 1500 Watts) | Run Time: Adjustable | BTU: 5115 | Noise Level: 37.5 dB
- Very light and portable
- Has enhanced safety features
- ETL certified quality
- Delivers quick results in 2 seconds
- Low noise operation
- It doesn't have a remote control
5. Best for Compact Space: Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTUIndoor Safe Propane Heater
When electricity isn't within reach, Mr. Heater becomes the best heater for car camping. The camping heater measures 11 x 11 x 11 inches and uses a 1 lb propane canister. Despite its portability, Little Buddy is powerful and gives out 3800 BTU of heat every hour.
Also, its heating effect reaches out to a 95 square feet area. Under a low heat setting, the 1 lb propane tank lasts 5.6 hours. The Little Buddy car camping heater has a simple on/off button and a reliable piezo ignition system.
Place it over the propane cylinder at 45 degrees, and Mr. Heater's 8-inch-wide base boosts its stability. When there's a low oxygen level in the car's interior or the unit falls over, the power automatically switches off. That way, it cares about your safety. However, for comfortable use, you need to leave a ventilation of about 4 inches.
Specifications: Item Weight: 5 lbs | Power Source: Gas Powered | Heats up to: 95 Feet Square | Run Time: 5.6 Hours | BTU: 3800 | Warranty: 1 Year on Limited Parts
- Lightweight and very portable
- It has a heavy-duty grill
- It has an automatic safety shut-off mechanism
- Produces plenty of heat for small interiors
- Challenging to light in a windy environment
6. Best Mini Heater: Metkiio Space Car Camping Heater – Portable Mini Heater for Home and Office
Metkiio combines three admirable features. Its compact size of 7.7 x 4.4 x 5 inches fits small spaces. On the other hand, the overland heating equipment presents a retro-style image that blends with varied car interior décor. Looking at its angled legs, you'll realize they give the heater unparalleled stability.
Besides being viable as an electric heater for car camping, Metkiio finds similar uses in small spaces such as RV trailers and offices. Whether in extra cold temperatures or warm summer months, the heater is always valuable. You simply choose from its four heating modes: high(900w), low (400), and fan-only setting.
Considering its noise level is 45 dB, the Metkiio won't distract your sleep. Besides, it has no visually disturbing light. Its first heat response is admirable as Metkiio achieves 70 degrees Fahrenheit in three seconds. And once the temperature reaches 167 degrees Fahrenheit, the heater switches off and saves the car battery.
If you need an electric heater for car camping in the winter, the Metkiio makes a viable choice.
Specifications: Item Weight: 1.59 lbs | Power Source: Alternating Current | Heats up to: 100 sq Feet | BTU: 900 Watts
- Automatic power turns off
- Vintage retro style that suits different room décor
- Quiet and has no distracting light
- Ideal for small camp tents or spaces
- Few complaints about the top or sides getting too hot to touch
7. Best for Easy Use: Portable Electric Space Heater for Car Camping | Indoor Use
Its compact size and ETL-certified quality make Selanto an ideal space heater for a car camping experience. It measures 6.2" X 8.3" x 4.74" and consumes a maximum of 1500 watts. Although it's a corded heater, Selanto has a 6 feet long cord. From the box, the compact space heater requires no assembly.
Once you plug it in the socket, the car camping heating device takes only seconds before you realize its heating effect. Even though it consumes a max of 1500 watts, Selanto has four operation modes and an adjustable thermostat. Thus, when looking for the best heater for car camping, Selanto stands out as easy to use.
You can set the heater to high, low, Eco, or fan-only modes. By blending ceramic heating technology and forced convection, the portable can heater for camping gives an optimum heating effect. When you need to move it from one point to the next, the built-in handle offers valuable help.
Specifications: Item Weight: 2.42 lbs | Power Source: Corded Electric, Maximum 1500 Watts | Heats up to: 200 sq Feet
- Rapid heating mechanism
- Added safety features
- ETL certified
- Compact and portable size
- No marked temperature graduations
How to Choose the Right Heater for Car Camping
The best heater for car camping is simple, safe, and efficient to use. When shopping for such a space heater for a car, check on the following essential features:
The source of power for the car heater is of utmost importance. Usually, car camping heaters use either electricity or propane gas. However, few models power directly from the 12v dc socket.
Therefore, know the power source that suits your needs. You can use the electric camping heater if you have a reliable car battery and a dc to ac adapter. Otherwise, propane-powered types are the next best options. But remember, gas car heaters require refilling upon depletion.
Weight and Size
Next, consider the available space in your car. Settle for a car heating device that won’t rob much space from your car. In addition, it should have a handle and be lightweight. That way moving it from one point to the next is trouble-free. Ensure it has a base design that can give it much stability also.
Camping heaters differ in the size of the areas they can heat up to. Hence know the approximate size of the room you need to warm. Only then can you choose the right car camping heating equipment that effectively warms the entire car interior.
Design and construction also matter. For example, it should have buttons and a control panel that is within reach and trouble-free to use.
Remember to check on the shape regarding the stability of the unit. The best car heater for winter should send heat waves to all areas of the room. Therefore, some devices oscillate or are set at an angle to help distribute heat effectively. Adjusting the heat level from the unit should be simple.
Safety and Durability
The buttons, switches, grill, and body material should all suggest sturdiness. Many portable car heaters from reputable companies employ sturdy heat-retardant materials.
In addition, settle on a unit that has automatic safety functions. That way, if the unit topples over, senses a low oxygen level, or overheats, it automatically shuts off. Doing so saves the campers from unforeseen accidents. You need a camping heater that can withstand accidental drops.
Safety Tips on Using a Car Camping Heater
When using a heater for car camping, here are some of the vital safety tips to put in place:
- Have a CO detector backup alarm to avoid gas poisoning
- Use the heater when you are awake only
- Don’t use any heater with an open flame in a car
FAQs on Car Camping Heating
1. Can You Use a Portable Heater in the Car?
You can use certain portable heaters in a car, which means heaters with safety provisions such as tip-over and overheating protections. In addition, the portable heaters should have a low oxygen sensor and automatic shut-off feature.
2. Do You Need a Heater for Winter Car Camping?
A heater makes winter car camping more enjoyable. In winter, the temperature goes low. Without a heater, camping in such a setting won’t be comfortable. Therefore, instead of letting the engine run all the time to keep you warm, heaters become ideal.
3. Can You Run Out of Oxygen Sleeping in a Car?
It’s not easy to run out of oxygen when sleeping in a car if you have the best heater for car camping. Such a high-quality heater has built low oxygen level sensors. Hence, the heater automatically shuts off when the oxygen level goes down to an unsafe level.
4. Is it Colder to Sleep in a Car or a Tent?
Sleeping in a tent is colder compared to sleeping in a car. Most tents have thin canvas or nylon walls. As a result, a car’s metal chassis provides superior heat insulation. Moreover, a car’s body has been constructed purposefully to offer heat insulation.
5. Can You Use a Heater Off a 12V Battery?
You can run a heater off a 12-volt battery via an adapter. The adapter converts 12v dc to an alternating current of 120 or 220 volts. The standard electric car camping heater accepts an alternating current input.
However, leaving the setup running for a long time can deplete your car battery and leave you stranded in an unsafe location.
6. Will Diesel Heaters Need Electricity?
Some diesel heaters use electricity, and others do not. Modern diesel heaters have a thermostat, sensors, and automatic shutdown controls that require electricity.
7. Can You Sleep in the Car with the Heater on Throughout the Night?
It isn’t safe to sleep in the car and let the heater run till morning. Electric heaters consume a considerable amount of power and thus need the engine to be on. Leaving the engine running till morning can drain your battery.
On the other hand, leaving propane heaters unattended isn’t wise, even for those with safety features. And if the freezing night and snow block the car’s exhaust, the fumes may flow back into the car and poison you.
Therefore, What’s the Best Heater for Car Camping?
All the heaters mentioned in the post register admirable performance. Each model fits a particular setup. Nevertheless, our overall winner for the best heater for car camping goes to Mr. Heater MH9BX-Massachusetts.
The Mr. Heater space heater for car camping has no open flame and thus is relatively safe. It generates 9000 BTU of heat every hour and heats up to an area of 225 square feet. Besides, it features multiple safety features.
However, take time to reflect on your immediate car camping need and choose the heater that satisfies your craving. You can also click on the links to have a view of what previous customers say about the heater.