Jun 25, 2023

Best Portable Jump Starters, Picked by Experts

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The Gear Team put some of the top-rated jump starters on the market through testing and evaluation to help you make the right choice.

Being stranded due to a dead car battery is both inconvenient and potentially hazardous, so having a reliable jump starter on hand is pretty much essential. These portable powerhouses provide the means to jump-start your vehicle without the need for another vehicle's assistance. Whether you're embarking on a long road trip, facing extreme weather conditions, or simply seeking peace of mind, finding the best jump starter can be a game changer.

There are tons of jump starters on the market that suit a variety of needs, and some that are just plain no good. So the Gear Team took on the task of testing some of the most popular jumpers on the market to aid you in determining the most suitable option for your needs.

Power Station vs. Jump Starter:

A jump starter is a compact device designed specifically to start a vehicle with a dead or drained battery. A power station is a versatile device that provides electrical power for various applications beyond jump-starting a vehicle.

Power stations typically include multiple outlets and ports to charge various devices and feature a larger battery capacity than jump starters which are designed to provide short bursts of high current.

With their larger battery capacities, power stations are typically bigger and heavier than the more portable jump starters.

Peak Amperage (Current):

Manufacturers often highlight peak amperage, but bigger isn't always better. Higher peak amperage means greater initial power for jump starters, particularly those with lead-acid batteries. Such devices provide a jolt for a short duration, followed by sustained amperage like Cranking Amps (CA) or Cold Cranking Amps (CCA).

However, portable jump starters with lithium-ion batteries can't sustain high amperage due to thermal runaway risk. They deliver it briefly, around two to five seconds, followed by a power cut.

During testing, the Gear Team reached out to the experts at Batteries Plus who mentioned that jump starters list the approximate number of starts till recharge. Half-charged units deliver consistent power but fewer starts than fully charged.

Cranking Amps (CA) and Cold Cranking Amps (CCA):

CA and CCA rate the ability to produce continuous power over 30 seconds. CA at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and CCA at zero degrees F are vital, especially in cold climates. Choose a jump starter with CA and CCA matching your batteries, ideally 400–500 for regular cars. If it can't sustain high amps for 30 seconds, "Starting Amps" is used. Knowing these specs aids in selecting the right jump starter.


Ensure that the jump starter is compatible with the type and size of the battery in your vehicle. Some jump starters are designed for specific battery types, such as lead-acid or lithium-ion.

Battery Capacity and Power Output:

Look for a jump starter with sufficient battery capacity and peak amperage to start your vehicle's engine. Different vehicles require different power levels, so choose a jump starter that matches your vehicle's specifications.

Charging Options:

Check how the jump starter can be charged. Some can be charged using a regular AC outlet, while others can also be charged via a car's cigarette lighter socket or even solar panels.

Price and Warranty:

Balance your budget with the features you need. Consider the jump starter's price in relation to its capabilities. Also, check if the product comes with a warranty for added peace of mind.

The top pick for Best Overall portable jump starter is the Jump-N-Carry JNC325. Its 24.0-inch cable length, user-friendly design, and solid specifications impressed testers. Featuring power and override buttons, it easily started vehicles during the jump test. The included soft carrying case holds cables, the jump starter, and cords. With ample power and a compact size, it's perfect for on-the-go vehicle jumps, making it the best portable jump starter choice.

Additional features:

When purchasing a jump starter, portability matters greatly, and the NOCO Boost Plus GB40 excels here. At a mere two pounds, it's the smallest in this test.

It features decent power, an override button, a user-friendly interface, and dual work lights. Though its capacity dropped after one jump, it effectively started the test vehicle when using the override. Due to its compact size, power storage is limited to 30 Wh, the lowest among the test group. However, NOCO offers more capable units with up to three times the energy. Anticipate one or two jumps per charge.

While its leads are short and clamps somewhat challenging to grip, if space is a concern, this is the go-to portable jump starter.

Additional features:

The DeWalt DXAEJ14 power station, lighter than other large models, includes a 120-psi air compressor. It performed well in stability and clamp quality during testing. However, the persistent and annoying beeping was a major drawback. If beeping is not an issue, it's a reliable option.

Additional features:

For shops or garages with multiple cars, the Clore JNC770R portable power station is ideal. Its simplicity lies in its focus on jump-starting, not tire inflation. Notably, it excelled in jump-starting with extended leads and curved clamps. The spill-proof lead-acid battery stores ample power and its 410 Wh recharging capacity stood out. Though costly and heavy, it's a robust choice for reliable high-powered jump starts.

Additional features:

For jump-starting and tire inflation, the Stanley J5C09D power station is recommended. While less portable than a simple jump starter, it's great for the garage and for multiple jumps. It excelled in the Gear Team's jump test, featuring an easy-to-read panel, good clamps, and adjustable light. Additionally, the included 120 psi air compressor is useful for various inflatables. With almost three times the energy of the Best Overall portable jump starter in this test, it's a versatile garage powerhouse.

Additional features:

Impressive specs like high peak amperage and energy storage define the AvaPow A28. However, it faced issues in jump testing. It immediately illuminated a standby light, which hindered power delivery to the battery. Bypassing this with a known good battery allowed the car to start. Real-world usability concerns place the AvaPow toward the bottom of this list.

Additional features:

The Nexpow G17's slim and lightweight design is appealing, but it struggled with its intended function. When connected to the test vehicle, it triggered a "reverse polarity" light despite the correct hookup. It failed to start the vehicle, likely due to not recognizing a severely low battery. Coupled with short leads, narrow clamps, and a bulky case, the Gear Team couldn't recommend this option.

Additional features:

To conduct thorough jump starter testing, the Gear Team searched for a vehicle with a completely dead battery. A 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, which hadn't been started in months, was sourced. The car's battery was so depleted that a voltmeter showed its charge drop during testing. This saved the Gear Team from needing manual discharge after each jump. After full battery discharge, they connected and tested each unit.

However, the car battery's repeated drainage caused some portable jump starters to detect a "reverse polarity" error, despite a correct connection. This highlighted an issue with certain small, portable jump starters: Those lacking a manual-override button wouldn't recognize a connection and therefore wouldn't send power to the battery, rendering them ineffective.

Along with checking if each jump starter successfully started the car, the Gear Team also tested:

After measuring all of these factors, including additional features like tire inflators, the testers used their notes to determine which portable jump starter was the best of the bunch.

Jump starters are designed to work with various types of vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and boats. However, it's important to ensure that the jump starter's specifications match the requirements of your vehicle's battery and engine size.

In most cases, a jump starter can be used on a dead battery. However, extremely drained batteries might require a longer charging time or multiple attempts to start the vehicle.

Some jump starters are designed for use on hybrid or electric vehicles, but it's important to check the manufacturer's recommendations and compatibility before attempting to jump-start such vehicles.

Absolutely, particularly with the smaller lithium-ion battery portable jump starters—that's their intended purpose. Store it conveniently in your glovebox, under a seat, or in the trunk—wherever space allows. Keep in mind that extremely cold temperatures can impact effectiveness, so it's wise to recharge it every six months or so as a precaution.

Deputy Editor Jon Langston contributed testing to this article. Jon heads up commerce at Hearst Autos and oversees all the Gear Team's content. The original test, which this article is based on, was written by Associate Editor Collin Morgan, who leads the Hearst Autos Gear Team based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Road & Track and its sibling publications at Hearst Autos represent three of the most influential automotive publications in the world. We rely on decades of experience in the automotive and gear spaces to help readers make informed purchasing choices. Read more about our testing process here.

With the legacies of Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track behind us, the Hearst Autos Gear Team is more concerned with the trust our readers have in us than our bottom line. We won't tell you to buy something if we wouldn't buy it ourselves or recommend it to our friends, and we'll never claim to have used or tested something if we haven't. We've evaluated dozens of products, from Dash Cams and Radar Detectors to Tire Pressure Gauges. Our picks and recommendations of products and gear are based on testing and knowledge, not hype.

The Assistant Commerce Editor for Hearst Autos, Justin Helton is an enthusiast with a passion for heavily depreciated autos and a penchant for philosophical debate. As a lifelong Manhattanite, he has mastered the ins and outs of classic car ownership in one of the least car-friendly cities in the world.

Jon Langston is an avid motorcyclist and gear collector whose work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Cycle World, The Drive, Rider, Iron & Air, Motorcyclist, and more.

Collin Morgan is an Associate Commerce Editor at Hearst Autos, where the former Rust Belt mechanic and gadget enthusiast presents the best gear for your automotive endeavors.

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Power Station vs. Jump Starter:Peak Amperage (Current):Cranking Amps (CA) and Cold Cranking Amps (CCA):Compatibility:Battery Capacity and Power Output:Charging Options:Price and Warranty:Jump-N-Carry JNC325NOCO Boost Plus GB40DeWalt DXAEJ14 Clore JNC770RStanley J5C09DAvaPow A28Nexpow G17Hearst Autos Gear Team