Between the invention of the self starter and the end of the 20th Century, the best portable car jump starters weren’t things you carried with you. They were heavy lead-acid automotive batteries that only garages and tow truck drivers used. Everyone else carried (and still should) jumper cables, which require two cars and enough knowledge not to short them out. If you had a dead or weak battery and you were on your own, you had to get to a phone or flag down another motorist to have a chance of getting going again.

There are a lot of reasons to end up with a dead battery. Even if you do everything right, they don’t last forever: You should expect to have to replace one every five to seven years, depending on where you live and how you use your car. Even in new cars and trucks, charging systems can fail, or a battery drain can slowly siphon power away while sitting. And of course, almost everyone has left a dome light or the headlights on, or an accessory plugged into an always-on 12V power port.

Fortunately, you can now buy one of the best portable car jump starters, charge it up, and forget about it for six months or more (they do need topping up occasionally, especially if they get very cold or very hot repeatedly). Almost all of them have USB ports as well, and we often use one in the AutoGuide Garage as an oversized battery bank to charge phones, so they’re useful in all sorts of emergencies.

Jump Starters vs. Jumper Cables

Portable jump starters are much safer and easier to use than jumper cables, although most of them can’t provide as much power. You just clamp them directly onto your battery terminals, turn it on, and after a few seconds, try to start your car. Most of them have overheat protection, so after a few tries you’ll have to wait for them to cool down, but they also have enough power for multiple starts. They also have reverse polarity protection, and won’t do anything bad if you connect them the wrong way around.

Lithium Ion vs. Traditional Jump Starters

If you have a V-8 or diesel engine, have to start heavy equipment (or a lot of old cars), or live in an area with very cold weather, you’re going to need a much larger jump starter than our top recommendations. High-wattage lithium-ion boosters are very expensive, so you might want to look at the conventional old-style battery jumper packs on our list. Most lithium-ion jump starters can only be used above about 15°F, and are only good for three attempts before they need to cool down. Lead-acid jumper packs can be used repeatedly and are capable of cranking for much longer. They also have long cables with heavy-duty clamps.

For more information on the best portable car jump starters, refer to our Table of Contents.

1. Editor's Pick: NOCO Boost Plus GB40

noco boost GB40 jump starter

The NOCO Boost Plus GB40 is the most compact and best made jump starter we tested. Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus /

After using about a dozen jump starters in the AutoGuide Garage, we think the NOCO Boost Plus GB40 is the best jump starter for most people. It’s priced about the same as competing models, but is smaller and better built than any other jump starter of the size that we tested. The clamps, in particular, are great, even better than the GooLoo’s—weak clamps that don’t open wide enough can make it impossible to clamp onto a hard-to-reach battery terminal. They also use the same universal connector common across other NOCO products, so you could mix and match if you needed to, although you’d drop the amps with longer cables.

What Makes the NOCO Boost Plus Stand Out

There are other little details that make the NOCO easier to use than other jump starters. It turns on with a single short press to the power button, as does the flashlight, which cycles through multiple on and emergency flashing cycles. Other units require assorted long and confusing sequences of presses, which might protect against turning on accidentally, but is a hassle when you actually need to use it. Like every other lithium jump starter we’ve tested, it has reverse polarity detection, alerting you if you connect the clamps to the wrong battery terminals. 

NOCO Boost Plus Specifications and Uses

NOCO says this 1,000A jump starter will give you 20 attempts, but they won’t be all at once, and that’s under ideal circumstances. The company also claims it’ll turn over gasoline engines up to six liters and diesel engines up to three liters, but we’d also say that’s optimistic. If you have a high-compression engine, or something larger than a 3.5-liter V-6, we’d recommend going at least to the next 1,500 amp size up, if not the 2,000 amp model. The GB40 is IP65 water resistant, weighs just under 1.5 pounds, and is about seven inches long, three wide, and an inch-and-a-half thick.

We really wish the NOCO Boost Plus GB40 used USC-C in/out, rather than 2.1 amp Micro-USB charging and a 2.1 and USB-A output, but it does come with a car 12V adaptor and USB cable, in case you threw yours away three years ago. Those really aren’t big drawbacks, and the size, price, convenience, and otherwise great design should put it in every car.

Promoted Product: NOCO Boost X GBX45

The NOCO Boost X GBX45 1250A 12V Portable Jump Starter is an extremely powerful, versatile, and reliable tool that can jump start a wide range of vehicles.

It can be easily stored in a car trunk and is always readily available when needed. The high peak current of 1250A means it can jump start even large vehicles with ease (6.5-Liter Gas and 4.0-Liter Diesel Engines). It also has a built-in safety system that prevents overcharging, overheating, and reverse polarity, providing added protection for both the device and the vehicle.

NOCO has turbo charged it’s charging ability to fully charge in 48 minutes or get a jump start out of it in just 5 minutes. Other features include a built-in LED flashlight and a USB charging port. The heavy-duty clamps are color-coded for easy identification and coated with a rubberized material for added grip and protection.

Having this tool on hand can save you from being stranded with a dead battery and also come in handy in a wide range of other situations. It’s a must-have in your car emergency tool kit.

2. Best for Large Vehicles: Clore Automotive Jump-N-Carry Jump Starter (JNC660)

clore jump-n-carry booster pack

Old school lead-acid battery jump starters can crank longer and harder than lithium-ion booster packs. Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus /

If you ever have a tow truck jump start you, or see a jump starter being used at a garage, odds are it’s a Clore Automotive Jump-N-Carry Starter. Since 2001, the Kansas-based company has been making portable lead-acid battery (like car batteries) jumper and booster packs that can hold up to heavy-duty use. They also make the professional Solar line of automotive battery products.

The Clore cranks at 425 amps with 1,700 peak amps, and can turn over larger, high-compression engines like diesels. Lithium-ion jump starters often won’t work with completely dead batteries, but this style has no trouble with that, and can even do a little charging of a flat battery. 

Clore Automotive uses a specifically-designed Proformer battery for the JNC660, which is designed to provide extremely high power output, extended cranking power, and a long service life. By far our favorite feature are 46-inch, heavy-duty #2 AWG copper insulated cables with industrial grade Hot Jaw clamps. Compact jump starters tend to have small, weak clamps and cables only a few inches long. While it’s not as modern as other jump starters on this list with no USB outlets, the Close has a 12-volt power output to power a variety of accessories. There is also a voltmeter on the front so you can check the status of the battery inside the starter.

Clore’s JNC660 is a good choice for anyone who wants to be able to start multiple vehicles, needs a jump starter that will stand up to rough conditions, has hard-to-reach batteries, or needs to be able to start in extreme weather.

3. Best NOCO Alternative: GooLoo GT3000

gooloo jump starter and clamps

When most portable jump starters are similar, differences like better battery clamps become important. Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus /

We’ve tested a literal pile of jump starters in the AutoGuide Garage, and after testing, the GooLoo is the one we use most often when we have a dead battery, which is distressingly often. At ‎9.06 x 3.94 x 2.12 inches and over four pounds, it’s a lot chonkier than most of the competition, but it’s in the more powerful 3,000/600 peak/starting amps range, with a 84.36Wh battery.

The GooLoo jump starter also has the best battery clamps this side of the NOCO. They’re bigger and open wider than others; in fact, we discovered at least three brands used the same, small, completely interchangeable clamps. This may sound like a small detail, but we’ve jump started a lot of engines with portable jump starters, and small clamps can be a big problem, preventing you from getting a good grip on the dead battery.

We’ve also often used the USB and USB-C charging ports, which are behind a protective rubber shield. Our biggest frustration in testing is the flashlight, which requires a stupid 12-second press on the power button to turn off. The included cloth carry bag is also too small, and the clamps tend to stick out. Those are minor complaints, and we usually keep a GooLoo jump starter in our emergency kit.

4. All in One: Michelin XR1 Power Source Jump Starter/Inflator/Inverter/Radio

michelin power source xr1 portable jump starter

If you need a jump starter that can pick up FM radio, Michelin is your only choice. Photo credit:

We don’t know if someone challenged Michelin to get as many features into one device as possible, or if their engineers were just bored, but the Power Source XR1 answers questions you probably didn’t think to ask, like, “Can I get a jump starter, bluetooth radio, power inverter, tire inflator, phone charger, AM/FM radio, and probably portable foot massager in one device?” The answer about an 85% yes, because you have to plug the massager into it.

As you might expect, the Michelin is a jack of all trades and master of none. Despite using an AGM lead-acid battery, it only makes 1,000 peak amps and 300 cranking amps. The air compressor is slow, drains the battery, and users report it tops out at about 50 PSI, far short of the 260 PSI gauge. The power inverter is good for 200W continuous and 400W peak, on a stout 25 amp circuit. Recharge time for the main battery from flat is 15 hours using the onboard charger, or 12 hours from the 12V plug.

If you understand its limitations, though, it’s cheap for a 200W power station, and has household, 12V, and USB ports, bluetooth capability, onboard storage for all its many cords and hoses, and a one-year warranty. Users reviews are good enough for us to recommend it, and it’s an interesting alternative to carrying multiple devices.

5. Best Jump-n-Carry alternative: Viking 1700 Peak Amp Portable Jump Starter and Power Pack

harbor freight viking jump starter

Harbor Freight's Viking jump starter competes directly with the Clore Jump-n-Carry. Photo credit: Harbor Freight.

Harbor Freight’s Viking house brand of jump starters has a lot of fans, and the 1,700-amp model goes head-to-head with the Clore JNC660. It’s even called out by name in Harbor Freight advertising. It claims several advantages over the Clore: a 22,000 mAh lead acid battery with 500 cranking amps, five-inch longer cables, and a USB port. You pay for the additional capacity, both figuratively and literally: Depending on sales and discounts it usually costs more than the Clore, and it weighs over 25 pounds. We also don’t like the big ears it has for cable storage, which make it harder to maneuver, and are more likely to break off in very cold weather when plastic is brittle. 

The Viking jump starter measures 14.0 x 16.0 x 4.0 inches, and we like the 2AWG leads and ultra bright, five-mode, six LED array. A recessed port for charging the jump box from the wall outlet is a nice touch, and a master disconnect switch ensures there’s no power to the jump leads when you don’t want it. It’s easy to take tools back to Harbor Freight stores for replacement, but you’ve only a 90 day warranty to do it in, which is the biggest advantage that the Clore has over the Viking. There is a larger 800 cranking amp model available for heavy-duty applications.

6. NEXPOW G17 2000A Battery Starter

nexpow 2000a jump starter in a dirty mazda engine bay

2000 amps is the smallest size we recommend, and the Nexpow has performed well in our tests. Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus /

We’ve tested a literal pile of portable lithium-ion jump starters in the AutoGuide, and with a few exceptions like the great clamps and terrible flashlight on the GooLoo, there isn’t much to differentiate them. The Nexpow model G17 2,000 amp is a minimalist variation on the theme, slimmed down to the basics: Indicator lights, some USB ports, and a flashlight.

Fortunately, all of those work well, although it has the same low-quality interchangeable cables and clamps as Imazing and other brands, indicating they’re all probably made by a few factories and styled and branded for the sellers. The Nexpow jump starter promises a 2,000A peak burst to start engines up to a claimed 7.5L gas or 6.5L diesel, but in our experience you should cut those numbers in half. It did start a 3.0-liter gas engine with a very low battery for us, which is about all we’d expect of it.

The Nexpow jump starter uses an 18,000 mAh battery with a shelf life of up to two years, and doubles as a powerful battery pack with USB Type-C support and Quick Charge 3.0. It also charges up over USB-C, which is very convenient. It’s rated at a wider -4°F/-20°C to 140°F/60°C range than most jump starters but again, we wouldn’t expect much from it under about 15°F. It’s extremely light and compact at 9 x 3.4 x 1.2 inches, although the fitted, zippered case takes up a lot more room.

How Many Amps Do I Need to Jump Start My Car?

As you can tell, portable jump starters have a variety of specifications that could make it tricky to determine the right one for your vehicle. What you need to know is that jump starter power is typically noted in cold cranking amps (CCA) or peak amps (PA). To measure CCA, a fully charged battery is put in a cold environment—0°F—and determining how many amps it discharges for 30 seconds. This value explains what to expect from a battery in the worst starting conditions.

It’s true that the more amps a jump starter offers, the more powerful it is. But does that mean you should just purchase the most powerful product? Not necessarily.

What’s important is determining just how much power you need for your vehicle. Compact cars or even small sedans can be jump started with as little as 150 CCA, while full-size trucks and SUVs need around 450 CCA. But there are other things to consider, such as engine size and how old the vehicle is. Larger engines and older vehicles will require more amps to jump start, as will diesels which have high compression, which is why you will typically see powerful jump starters advertised as being capable of starting engines as large as 8.0 liters. Generally however, 400-500 CCA is adequate to start most vehicles. The colder the temperature, the more CCA you’ll need, too.

If you’re trying to jump start an older carbureted vehicle, you’ll usually need far more cranking time and amperage for a hot spark than a modern fuel injected one. But as no one has sold a vehicle with a carburetor in Canada or the United States since the 1994 Isuzu P’up, that’s not likely to be a problem.

Keep in mind there may be times you have to help jump start someone else’s vehicle. Most of the products on this list will cover any passenger vehicle on the road today, but it never hurts to have something more powerful at your disposal, if you’re willing to spend the extra money.

What are the Different Types of Batteries?

There are two kinds of batteries commonly available in jump boxes, lead-acid and lithium ion (LI). LI batteries are the same ones you find in a cellphone and are very energy-dense, meaning they hold a lot of electricity for their size. They also tend to be able to charge faster than lead-acid. But they are more sensitive, too, losing power fast in extreme cold. Inconveniently, LI batteries last longest when they’re not fully charged. Keeping them between 85% and 25% full can make them last as much as 50% longer, but of course you want your portable battery charger at 100%. Slow charging and discharging also help a lot—again, not what you need in a jump starter. The tradeoff is a much smaller and lighter battery pack.

Lead-acid batteries are like traditional car batteries (although they increasingly use other technologies). These are very dependable, durable and as lead means actual lead, heavy batteries. Unlike LI batteries, they like to be kept fully charged and in fact should be topped off every 30 days, and every time you use it. To get the most out of a lead-acid battery pack, you can even break it in by slowly discharging it to under 50% and then charging again. After 20-50 cycles of this, a lead acid battery will actually have more capacity than it came with. And it’s easy to do—just use the included USB or DC ports to power and charge your personal electronics. This will be exactly the right sort of slow discharge for the formatting or priming cycle.

It’s up to you to choose between potentially less expensive and lighter LI battery jump starters that might have a shorter lifespan, and big, heavy lead-acid jump boxes that can last a long time.

How to Use a Portable Jump Starter to Restart Your Car


Jump starter cables on a car battery

Traditional lead-acid jump starters are connected positive to positive, and battery to ground; but lithium-ion jump packs use both clamps on the battery terminals. Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus /

Every person should know how to jump-start a dead car battery—it’s just a useful life skill to have. Knowing how to jump a car will save you time and money so you don’t have to call a tow truck, or maybe help out someone stuck on the side of the road on their way to a job interview. While most people will wave down a passerby or call a friend to help with the jump, drivers can save even more time and do it themselves if they have a portable jump starter in their glove box or trunk at all times.

But if that’s not an option, here is a step-by-step illustrated and easy-to-follow guide on safely jump starting your car the traditional way. Bookmark this page on your phone so you have it handy in case of an emergency.

How to Tell if the Car Battery is Dead

Before you equip yourself with jump-starting skills, it’s critical to establish that the battery is the actual reason the automobile won’t start. If you turn on the ignition and the engine makes a cranking noise, a dead battery is not the problem and jump-starting it will be a futile exercise. Conversely, if the car is totally dead upon turning the key and there’s no noise, or maybe just clicks, then it’s highly likely that you have a dead battery in your vehicle and jump-starting it is perhaps the only option.

How to Jump Start a Car

  1. First, park the functioning vehicle in a way that both the cars are facing each other, preferably only 1.5 feet apart, but never touching one another. More importantly, park the automatic transmission cars, while putting the manual transmission ones in neutral.  
  2. Make sure to put parking brakes on both the cars, so neither of them moves unexpectedly.
  3. Both vehicles must be turned off, with keys out of the ignition.
  4. Turn off everything in both cars–radio, overhead lights, heaters, and headlamps if you can. You want all the power to go to starting.
  5. Place the jumper cables on the road/ground, while ensuring that the clamps do not touch/collide with each other.
  6. Open the hood/bonnet of both the cars and find the batteries (consult the owner’s manual for exact location, some are in the trunk, or even under the back seat), and battery terminals. Typically, the two terminals on respective batteries are color coded red or black, signifying negative “-” and positive “+” charge. 
  7. It’s crucial to correctly identify both the charges to successfully jump-start the car. Also, if the battery terminals are grimy, wipe them off with a wire brush or rag.
  8. Attach the red (positive) cable clamp to the (+) terminal of the dead battery. You must firmly connect the clamp to the battery terminal, which may well necessitate some wiggling of the clamps. 
  9. Now affix the red (positive) cable clamp on the other end of the jumper cables to the operative vehicle’s (+) battery terminal.
  10. After that connect the black (negative) cable clamp to the functional battery’s (-) battery terminal. 

    Sparks can happen, don’t be too alarmed. Just double check you’re connecting everything in the right order.

  11. Now go over to the automobile with the lifeless battery. Remember, do not attach the black (negative) clamp to the dead battery, instead affix that cable clamp to a metal, unpainted part of the vehicle such as a bright, clean screw on the car engine block. It will help ensure a safe car jump.

    Always try to connect the negative cable to a ground point away from the battery on the dead car

    The rule is, “positive to positive, negative to ground”

  12. Start the working car.
  13. Wait for at least a minute or two. Depending on your battery’s age, and how long since it stopped working, you will need to let the car run for a few minutes to start to get some charge into the dead battery.
  14. Now try starting the inoperative car. If the vehicle does not start, allow the running vehicle to charge the battery for a few more minutes before attempting again. On a few occasions, moderately revving the engine of the operative car while charging the lifeless battery may help.
  15. Once the defunct car is running, you can start disconnecting the jumper cables, beginning with the black (negative) cable clamps. However, don’t let the clamps touch one another while any part of the jumper cables is still connected to a car.
  16. Now, go for a drive. It will enable the battery to build up a charge. Also, the drive will allow the car’s alternator to charge off the battery and assure that your battery won’t die again once you switch off the engine. If your car didn’t start because you left the lights on and not because you have a bad battery, you should drive your car for at least 45 minutes to ensure you’ll have enough charge to start it next time.


Recent Updates:

January 3, 2023: Removed promoted product recommendation.

November 28, 2022: Added hands-on review and photos of NOCO Boost Plus GB40.

November 25, 2022: Removed sold-out Imazing Im39 jump starter.

October 2, 2022: Removed Staley J509 jump starter, replaced Nexpow 1500A jump starter with 2000A model. Updated product descriptions and links.

October 21, 2022: New introduction, removed Audew and Viking 450A jump starters, added GooLoo GT3000 and Imazing 2000A.

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