Wagan 12V 14 Liter Personal Fridge/Warmer Review
Cons: Small interior, not great insulation, oddly shaped inside
Compare to Similar Products
Wagan 12V 14 Liter Personal Fridge/Warmer
$99.95 at Amazon
$299.99 at Amazon
$319.99 at Amazon
|$190 List||$50 List|
$49.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Decent temperature control, easily portable, ergonomic shape, convenient size||Very energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, impressive minimum temperature, surprisingly lightweight, long cord||Good energy options, solid insulation, relatively lightweight, inexpensive||Easy to use, has wheels, cool cord storage, energy efficient, relatively inexpensive||Super portable, very quiet, can be cold or hot, pretty low energy usage|
|Cons||Small interior, not great insulation, oddly shaped inside||Not durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loud||Not great temperature control, baskets aren't great, internal shape is challenging||Short cords, doesn’t reach very cold/hot temperatures, still need to use ice||Can't control temperature, not the best seal, USB can't be used in computer, plastic hinges, unknown longevity|
|Bottom Line||A small cooler that heats and cools, with a handy shape to be an armrest and convenient strap to tote it around||If you're on a tighter budget but still want mid-level performance, we recommend this model||An inexpensive option that's tall and slender with good insulation but unimpressive minimum temperatures||Handy to use, but it doesn’t eliminate your dependency on ice||Quiet and tiny, this is a decent personal cooler, though with several limitations|
|Rating Categories||Wagan 12V 14 Liter...||Costway 54||Alpicool CF45||Knox Gear 48 Quart||Cooluli Mini Fridge|
|Temperature Control (25%)|
|Energy Consumption (20%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Wagan 12V 14 Liter...||Costway 54||Alpicool CF45||Knox Gear 48 Quart||Cooluli Mini Fridge|
|Minimum Temperature Achieved (F)||36.45ºF below ambient||-8.9ºF||6.4ºF||27.2ºF below ambient||32.4ºF below ambient|
|Temperature Increase in 36 Hours Unplugged (F)||30.6ºF||27.9ºF||14.9ºF||11.5ºF||26.6ºF|
|Power Draw in Watts (cooling)||56.8 W||50.0 W
38.9 W (eco)
38.6 W (eco)
|46.1 W||33.9 W|
|Power Draw in Watts (steady)||N/A||1.0 W||0.8 W||N/A||N/A|
|Power Draw in Watts (heating)||45.6 W||N/A||N/A||39.0 W||29.7 W|
|Voltage Use (cooling)||13.26 V||13.47 V||13.25 V||11.90 V||13.84 V|
|Amperage Use (cooling)||4.34 A||3.72 A||4.01 A||3.88 A||2.45 A|
|Hours to Cool (measured)||28.5 hrs||9.5 hrs||23 hrs||>12 hrs||20.5 hrs|
|Maximum Temperature Achieved (F)||137.3ºF||N/A||N/A||103.1ºF||136.0ºF|
|Temperature Accuracy (diff btwn display and actual)||N/A||+/- 3.8ºF||+/- 3.4ºF||N/A||N/A|
|Weight||8.4 lb||34 lb||30.0 lb||14.4 lb||3.7 lb|
|Claimed Capacity (volume)||14 L
|Measured Capacity (volume)||14 L
|Capacity (cans)||16 cans||72 cans||62 cans||57 cans||6 cans|
|Method of Cooling||Thermoelectric||12V compressor||12V compressor||Thermoelectric||Thermoelectric|
|Advertised Achievable Temperature Range (F)||32ºF to 36ºF below ambient and up to 140ºF||-4ºF to 50ºF||-4ºF to 50ºF||40ºF to 130ºF||40ºF below ambient to 149ºF|
|Acceptable Ambient Temperature Range (F)||Not specified||50ºF to 109ºF||Not specified||Not specified||Not specified|
|Exterior Dimensions (D x W x H)||19" x 10.5" x 11.6"||21" x 27.5" x 14"||27.5" x 13.5" x 17.8"||15" x 22" x 16"||10" x 7.25" x 10.5”|
|Interior Dimensions (D x W x H)||12" x 8.5" x 6.6"||10.4" x 12.75"/6.4" x 17.25"/10.6"||10.25" x 14.5"/8" x 12.5"/6.25"||12" x 17.75" x 12"||5.75" x 5.25" x 8"|
|DC Cord Length (feet)||8' 11"||7' 9.75"||7' 10"||4' 10"||6' 3.5"|
|AC Cord Length (feet)||(none included)||6' 4.25" (AC adapter only)
14' 7" (DC and AC adapter)
|6' 8"||3' 11"||5' 8"|
|Comes With||DC cord, extra fuse||DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord||AC cord, DC cord||AC cord, DC cord (both permanently attached inside lid)||AC cord, DC cord, USB cord (3' 1")|
|Features||Cord storage, heating ability, cup holders||Eco power-saving function, internal light||Internal light, removable baskets, C/F display||Cord storage, drain/plug, wheels and pull handle, heating ability||Top handle, heating ability, USB power cord|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Wagan 12V 14 Liter is a thermoelectric cooler with a capacity of 14L. Its advertised temperature range is 32° - 36°F below ambient and up to 140°F. It comes with just a DC plug and a replacement fuse.
Though any thermoelectric model can only cool a certain amount compared to the ambient temperature (as opposed to compressor-powered coolers that can be set to a specific temperature just like your fridge at home), among the many we tested, the Wagan stands out as an effective model. Filled with cans, it maintained temperatures just over 36°F below ambient. When the temperature control switch is reversed, and the Wagan becomes a small heater, it reached nearly 140°F — one of the warmest actual temperatures we've recorded throughout all our testing.
Though the walls appear thick, the Wagan didn't perform very well in our insulation testing. In a room temperature setting, the contents inside gained over 30°F during the course of 36 hours — nearly matching the ambient temperature. We also consider construction materials and durability as they pertain to the insulation and overall effectiveness of the cooler. We couldn't find any specifics about the composition of the Wagan, but it appears to be entirely lightweight plastic. It's not nearly as substantial and rugged-feeling as many of the larger models we tested, and numerous components are a bit worrying. In particular, the hinges are rather narrow and the cord sticks out of the front of the cooler in a way that seems to be just begging to be knocked out of place.
Despite being a small cooler, the Wagan does take a fair bit of energy. When cooling, it draws around 56.8 Watts and takes roughly 45.6 Watts while heating. Compared to the rest of the models we tested, these figures are slightly above average, but not by too much. The manufacturer claims that this unit's maximum power draw is just 48 Watts, though based on our testing we think that seems a little low. We also noticed that in either setting, cooling or warming, the unit runs at significantly higher levels (closer to 66 Watts cooling and 58 Watts warming) for several minutes before "calming down" to run at the lower levels we measured.
Ease of Use
The Wagan has several features that we love to use, like the shoulder strap and two cup holders on the front, yet it falls short in this metric because of the details it lacks. While the lid opens very wide for loading, the opening is smaller than the body of the cooler. A good-sized chunk of the back of the cooler is covered completely by the plastic of the body. You can slide a normal-sized soda can underneath, but it stops you from being able to fill it with taller cans or oddly shaped items. The bottom of the lid is very indented, to fit taller objects, but not being able to slide them all the way to the back because of that inconvenient ledge means that they're just in the way of getting to whatever is in the back of your cooler. It's also not a quiet cooler. It sounds like a small fan that's constantly on — which isn't a dealbreaker if you're used to tuning out consistent noises like that.
Even beyond its small size, the Wagan is quite portable. It weighs just 8.4 pounds when empty. A shoulder strap is semi-permanently affixed to the front and back of the body of this unit, making it simple to carry it pretty much anywhere. It doesn't have an exaggerated handle on the back of the unit, but even fully loaded, we never found ourselves missing it.
The Wagan has no internal organization, but the two cupholders and single rectangular "cubby" on the front are rather handy. The whole thing is shaped rather conveniently to fit between two back seats and even be used as an armrest. Though it doesn't come with an AC cord (or an AC adapter, like most other thermoelectric coolers), it does include a replacement fuse.
This portable model is one of the least expensive options we tested. It's not about to make the cut for a weekend of camping, but for certain uses, it may just be worth it — like keeping drinks cool for the whole family on a long road trip.
The Wagan 12V 14 Liter is a uniquely shaped thermoelectric cooler/heater that's built to be portable. It's not our favorite shape inside for things other than 12 ounce cans, but it's the perfect shape on the outside to become a staple in your car to keep beverages cooler all summer long.
— Maggie Nichols
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