Best Cheap Coolers 2019 – Reviews and Top Picks

My partner and I are avid campers. We visit the Sierras at least couple times a year and we take our camping gear very seriously. When our Yeti cooler broke after many years of loyal service, we started looking for a new one, but stumbled upon a very annoying issue – even the smallest Yeti cooler costs $200! We don’t spend that much time on the road and to invest that much money in something. That’s when I started vigorously searching for the best budget coolers. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are many to choose from! It is possible to find a durable, portable, and high-quality cooler for every need and occasion for less than $50! Trust me, a great cooler doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

  • Wagan EL6224 24 Liter Electric Car Cooler and Warmer
  • Rating:
  • Capacity: 25-quart // 24 litres
  • Can Capacity: 27
  • Insulation: Polyurethane Foam
  • Temperature: Cooling – 36°F / 20° below the outside temperature // Heats up to 140°F
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 17 x 15 inches
  • Weight: 12.5 pounds
  • Igloo Polar Cooler (120-Quart, White)
  • Rating:
  • Capacity: 120-quart // 113 litres
  • Can Capacity: 188
  • Insulation: yes
  • Temperature: Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
  • Product Dimensions: 38.31 x 17.38 x 17.75 inches
  • Weight: 19.9 pounds
Name
Capacity:
Can Capacity:
Insulation:
Temperature:
Product Dimensions:
Price
Name
Capacity:
Can Capacity:
Insulation:
Temperature:
Product Dimensions:
Price
№1
25-quart // 24 litres
27
Polyurethane Foam
Cooling – 36°F / 20° below the outside temperature // Heats up to 140°FShow More
11 x 17 x 15 inches
№2
70-quart // 66 litres
100
yes
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
23 x 17.5 x 17.5 inches
№3
120-quart // 113 litres
188
yes
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
38.31 x 17.38 x 17.75 inches
№4
70-quart
100
Extra insulation in walls and insulated lid
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
29 x 15.8 x 18.2 inches
№5
75-quart // 70 litres
130
Extra-thick insulation
Ice retention up to 5–6 days at 90°F
16.9 x 33.3 x 19.4 inches
№6
50-quart // 47 litres
84
ThermOZONE insulation
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
22.4 x 17.3 x 17.3 inches
№7
54-quart // 51 litres
78
Ultratherm insulation
Ice retention up to 4-5 days
26.38 x 15.5 x 15.5 inches
№8
60-quart // 56 litres
90
Ultraterm insulation
Ice retention up to 3-4 days
18.5 x 20.3 x 20.5 inches
№9
27-quart // 26 litres
30
no
Suitable for summer
12.2 x 9.65 x 13.78 inches
№10
Roughly 15 litres
20
yes
Product Dimensions: 12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75 inches.Show More
1.2 pounds

Wagan EL6224 is built to accompany you on the road and keep your food and drinks at a desired temperature. The device is large enough to fit 24 liters, but still compact enough to fit into any car. Besides, it has both cooling and warming up features, yet to utilize the device, it has to be plugged into the 12v DC outlet in the car. It is not only a perfect fit for long-term road trips and can survive bumpy roads; but also, for daily, short-term use.

Capacity:
25-quart // 24 litres
Can Capacity:
27
Insulation:
Polyurethane Foam
Temperature:
Cooling – 36°F / 20° below the outside temperature // Heats up to 140°F
Product Dimensions:
11 x 17 x 15 inches
Weight:
12.5 pounds
PROS

Cooler & Warmer

Easy to control the temperature

Durability

No ice needed

Cons

Impractical to use

Car battery life

A spacious and powerful Coleman Xtreme Series Portable Cooler is indispensable for parties, BBQ’s and road trips. All you need to do is fill it up with ice and you’ll have cold drinks and snacks wherever you are. It is affordable, spacious and easy to use. However, with cheap price comes the possibility of poor quality. It is not as durable as most, so do use it with caution to prevent any damage to the chest.

Capacity:
70-quart // 66 litres
Can Capacity:
100
Insulation:
yes
Temperature:
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
Product Dimensions:
23 x 17.5 x 17.5 inches
Weight:
12.3 pounds
PROS

Provide 5 full days of ice retention

Build-in cup holders

Comfortable and controlled carrying

EZ-Clean top

Cons

Fragile and breaks easily

Ice melts very fast on the sun

The Igloo Polar Cooler is a solid choice to keep at home for occasional parties, at events or in the office. The ice chest is very spacious and even though it might not be the most portable option, it will surely keep a large amount of drinks cold for a long time. Yet, if you’ll decide to take it for a camping trip or to an outdoor party, don’t you worry – it’s durable enough to sustain a road trip. However, be prepared to replace ledges and handlers, as they break easy.

Capacity:
120-quart // 113 litres
Can Capacity:
188
Insulation:
yes
Temperature:
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
Product Dimensions:
38.31 x 17.38 x 17.75 inches
Weight:
19.9 pounds
PROS

Spaciousness (120-quart // 133 litres & 188 cans)

Provide 5 full days of ice retention

Threaded drain plug

Secure lead closure

Cons

Massive

Fragile latches and other parts

Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme cooler is the perfect representation of a “good quality at a reasonable price”. The cooler comes at only $40 but it seems to exceed all expectations. It’s rather spacious and does keep ice for several days. However, just as earlier discussed Coleman cooler, the plastic parts of the chest break easy.

Capacity:
70-quart
Can Capacity:
100
Insulation:
Extra insulation in walls and insulated lid
Temperature:
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
Product Dimensions:
29 x 15.8 x 18.2 inches
Weight:
13.9 pounds
PROS

Spaciousness (70 quart // 66 litres & 100 cans)

Have-A-Seat lead support

EZ-Clean top

Low CO2 insulation for reduces carbon emission

Cons

Fragile & Breaks easy

Ice retention does not always last for 5 days

This rolling cooler is a real catch for avid campers, large families and friend groups. It’s the second biggest cooler on the list and accommodates up to 130 cans + ice, and tall enough to fit cans and bottles. Most importantly though, it has wheels, which makes it extremely easy to travel with. However, the insulation doesn’t last for 5 days as claimed, thus it’s not an optimal choice for a long trip.

Capacity:
75-quart // 70 litres
Can Capacity:
130
Insulation:
Extra-thick insulation
Temperature:
Ice retention up to 5–6 days at 90°F
Product Dimensions:
16.9 x 33.3 x 19.4 inches
Weight:
14.88 pounds
PROS

Spaciousness (75 quart // 70 litres & 100 cans)

Rugged all-terrain wheels

Portable and mobile

Build-in cup holders

Cons

Ice retention doesn’t last for 5 days

It is yet another rolling cooler on the list. It’s not the largest one, but it’s big enough to accommodate food and drinks for a family of four. It might be a great option for those who are looking for a cooler to take on a short-term family camping and beach trip. However, it is not too easy to carry around, as it’s rather bulky. And the insulation sometimes doesn’t live up to 5 days as stated.

Capacity:
50-quart // 47 litres
Can Capacity:
84
Insulation:
ThermOZONE insulation
Temperature:
Ice retention up to 5 days at 90°F
Product Dimensions:
22.4 x 17.3 x 17.3 inches
Weight:
12.79 pounds
PROS

Heavy-duty wheels

Locking Telescoping Handle

ThermOZONE Insulation and Xtreme 5 Technology

Build-in cup holders

Have-A-Seat lid

Cons

Hard to carry around

Handle breaks easy

Does not keep ice for 5 days

The Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler is built to endure the abuse of water. The cooler is potentially the best cheap cooler for a fishing adventure. It’s suitable for storing drinks and fresh catch. Bear in mind, that insulation is not too strong and cooler does not store ice in warm temperatures long enough to serve you at the long-term fishing trip.

Capacity:
54-quart // 51 litres
Can Capacity:
78
Insulation:
Ultratherm insulation
Temperature:
Ice retention up to 4-5 days
Product Dimensions:
26.38 x 15.5 x 15.5 inches
Weight:
8.1 pounds
PROS

Rust-resistant stainless-steel screws and hinged latch

UV protection shields from sun-damage

Ultratherm insulation

Threaded drain plug

Fish ruler

Cons

Lid is not insulated

Does not keep ice for long

This cooler is a part of the Igloo Cube series – first cube-shaped coolers on the marker. The cube shape does not only make the cube look cute, it actually results in ergonomically easier carrying, because your arms are way closer to your body. Even though it’s rather big, it’s relatively easy to roll around. Unfortunately, the ice inside doesn’t last for that long, but you can use it for summer parties or short trips; it will keep the ice solid for a couple days.

Capacity:
60-quart // 56 litres
Can Capacity:
90
Insulation:
Ultraterm insulation
Temperature:
Ice retention up to 3-4 days
Product Dimensions:
18.5 x 20.3 x 20.5 inches
Weight:
12.2 pounds
PROS

Ergonomic cube shape

Durable wheels

Telescoping and side handles

Dry storage in lid

Build-in cup holders

Cons

Ice retention time is short

Handle is prone to break

The Coleman 30-Can Soft Cooler is the option, if you are looking for an easy-to-carry cooler for daily usage. It’s very light, practical and suited for carrying food and couple beverages for lunch, picnic or beach trips, it wouldn’t be a greatest choice if you need a cooler that will keep the frozen food frozen for days. The insulation is rather low and the ice retention doesn’t last for long.

Capacity:
27-quart // 26 litres
Can Capacity:
30
Insulation:
no
Temperature:
Suitable for summer
Product Dimensions:
12.2 x 9.65 x 13.78 inches
Weight:
PROS

Portable

Antimicrobial properties

Heat-welded seams

Cons

No insulation

Ice retention up to 1 day at most

The OAGear Backpack cooler is an optimal choice, if you need something that you can carry for hours. This backpack is insulated and is suitable for keeping ice, thus you can pack up fresh food with you. However, don’t expect it to keep ice intact for days – it will melt by the end of the first day.

Capacity:
Roughly 15 litres
Can Capacity:
20
Insulation:
yes
Temperature:
Product Dimensions: 12.25 x 16.5 x 7.75 inches.
Product Dimensions:
1.2 pounds
PROS

Easy to carry

Plenty of room

Heat sealed no-leak liner

Cons

No ice retention

Buyer’s Guide – What to Consider while Choosing the Best Budget Cooler?

What to Consider while Choosing the Best Budget Cooler

When searching for a cooler, we all want one that keeps the inside cold for days, is durable, sturdy, lasts for years and is fairly cheap. This all sounds great but is actually nearly impossible to find. As you can see, there are many cheap coolers on the market for every occasion, season and personal preference. To choose the perfect cooler, you need to determine what size you need, what you are going to use it for, and what is the occasion or event you plan to take it to.

Dimensions

Coolers don’t have to be large and clumsy. There is a cooler for those who throw large parties every weekend, or going solo on a backpacking trip. Thus, while buying a cooler first thing you should consider is how big you want it to be. Think what you want to use it for and for how many people. If you have a large family and often attend large sport events, picnics or outdoor weekend trips, go for Igloo Polar Cooler. Yet, such a large cooler is not useful for you if need something to put in your car to keep your drinks cold on the road. You can choose from middle-sized and non-wheeled options.

Sturdiness VS Mobility

Sturdiness VS Mobility of cheap coolers

There are both rolling and fixed coolers, and while wheels undoubtedly make coolers mobile and easier to use, they aren’t always necessary. If you plan to keep your cooler at home or in the car you might not need wheels after all. Fixed coolers are more stable, and even the largest one of them can be easily placed in the trunk or car seat without fear of it moving around and destroying the contents. While having rugged wheels does not exclude stability, such coolers are way more comfortable to use when you expect to move around on foot a lot and planning to carry a lot of food and water with you. Most mobile one, however, are those made of soft fabric. Extremely light and easy to carry they have almost no stability and provide little to no retention.

Ice Retention Properties

Cheap coolers Ice Retention Properties

Maybe the most important feature of the cooler is the ice retention that it provides. Most of the coolers are said to keep ice for up to 5 days, yet this is rarely the case. Most will surely keep the ice for only 3 days and then you’ll need to add more ice. For some, using coolers for a couple days is more than enough, but if it’s not, go for the Igloo Polar Cooler. However, if you take long road trips often, especially into the wilderness, with no chance to grab more ice, you might want to consider taking the electrical Wagan EL6224 cooler instead. No ice is needed and the drinks will stay just as cold.

Proper durability for the right occasion

Cheap coolers durability

Most coolers are made of plastic, which makes them particularly sturdy and rigid. Others are simply made of fabric, which increases the comfort of use and their mobility. While choosing a cooler consider for what occasion you’ll be using it for. This will help to understand how durable it should be. On the road every weekend, have camp fires every now and then or throwing wild parties, prioritize durability and sturdy materials: go for plastic coolers with reinforces lids, no wheels. These coolers survive long drives and keep the food and drinks cold for longer. If you require a smaller, lighter and more mobile version and don’t need long ice retention, choose plastic ones with wheels or even soft fabric.

Best brands within the price range

Best brands within the price range of cheap coolers

As a matter of fact, it is relatively easy to find a high-quality and affordable cooler. If you don’t want to go broke and striving to find the best cooler under $100 focus on the Coleman and Igloo brands. They are just as well known and of the same quality as Yetis, but are a lot more affordable. They have many reliable options for many occasions. For example, Coleman Xtreme Series Portable Cooler – a sturdy, extra-insulated cooler can be used for both road trips and large home parties and it goes for just $60. Igloo Ice Cube for instance costs less than $30 and is great for those prioritizing mobility over sturdiness, as it is spacious, but portable and easy-to-use wheeled cooler.

Conclusion

Choosing a great cooler isn’t as hard as it might seem. The key is to understand what you need it for and how you are going to use it. Things you should focus on are the size of the cooler, its stability and durability, as well as ice retention. Our top pick for the best budget cooler is the small but powerful Wagan EL6224 because it is electric and requires no ice to cool of drinks, or the need to warm up the food. The best mid-sized one is the Coleman Xtreme (70 quart) – an easy to carry, portable option with long-lasting ice retention. The best large cooler for big parties or camping trips for a large group is undoubtedly the Igloo Polar Cooler.

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By Chris Hayes
    about author

    My name is Chris and I am a hunter, outdoorsman, survivalist of 36 years old from Bosie, Idaho. Being a participant of Ihea-USA, I like big game hunting most of all, especially hunting white-tailed deer. Except hunting, I’m also keen on fishing and gaining new knowledge how to survive in the wild nature.As a professional hunter, I do not stop improving upon own hunting skills and testing new gear, equipment, hardware and weapons.I write articles to share my experience and knowledge with the readers who motivate me for more. For any additional information contact me at [email protected]

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