The 3 Best USB Car Chargers of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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Apple has announced the iPhone 15 series, which replaces the company’s long-standing Lightning connector with USB-C for the first time. We’ll update this guide soon to reflect this development. Usb Type C Data Cable

The 3 Best USB Car Chargers of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

For a few bucks, a good USB car charger can charge your phone and other devices faster than the port that came in your car. After testing more than 60 models, we’ve determined that the best car charger is the dual-port Nekteck PD 45W Type-C Car Charger. You can fast-charge phones, tablets, and laptops on its USB-C port and simultaneously charge a second phone on its USB-A port. No other charger offers as much power for a better price.

This model can charge phones, tablets, and computers on its USB-C port, and it has a second port for charging USB-A devices. It adheres to USB-C fast-charging standards and includes a quality cable.

Compared with the familiar USB-A port, the smaller USB-C port can charge most modern phones faster (if you’re using the right cable) and can even charge tablets and laptops. And the Nekteck PD 45W Type-C Car Charger provides the best of both worlds. When you’re using a USB-C–to–Lightning cable, the charger’s USB-C port can charge an iPhone about three times faster (at 18 watts) than the USB-A wall charger that Apple used to package with its phones; your phone can charge from empty to 54% in just half an hour while you’re sitting in traffic, say, or running errands around town. This Nekteck charger’s 45-watt output and included USB-C–to–C cable also support the maximum charge rate on Android phones (such as the Samsung Galaxy S10), the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pros, and even many laptops. And you can use the 12-watt USB-A port at the same time to charge a second phone or other device with any USB cable you already have.

Port one: 45 W USB-C Port two: 12 W USB-A

If you want to have the fastest charge possible on two modern devices—such as an iPhone 8 or later, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or later—this is your best bet. But you need to bring your own USB-C cables.

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With two USB-C ports, the Scosche PowerVolt PD40 (CPDCC40) is the charger you should get if you want to fast-charge two modern devices at the same time. Each of the PowerVolt PD40’s USB-C ports supports 20-watt charging, so you can charge two modern phones at top speed; that means an iPhone’s battery will go from zero to around 54% charged in half an hour, compared with about 45% on a standard 12-watt USB-A charger. You can also use MagSafe wireless chargers at full speed. The PowerVolt PD40 is one of the most affordable dual–USB-C chargers available from a company we trust, and during testing it stayed firmly in place in our car charging port. You can still use this charger with older phones, such as an iPhone 7 or earlier—they just won’t charge any faster than they would on a USB-A charger.

Port one: 20 W USB-C Port two: 20 W USB-C

Though ZMI’s dual-port charger doesn’t charge as quickly as USB-C chargers, it does provide the fastest USB-A power possible, in a nice metal package and at a low price.

We think getting a faster USB-C charger is worth spending a little more, but if you simply want a good, inexpensive power source in the car, go with ZMI’s PowerCruise C2 36-Watt Dual USB Car Charger with QC 3.0. Any two-port, 24-watt USB-A charger from a reputable company in this price range works just as well as any other, but unlike similar models we tested, the PowerCruise C2 stands out because it supports Quick Charge 3.0 on both ports, offering slightly faster speeds to devices that support that standard. It’s also made of metal instead of the cheaper-feeling plastic of almost every other charger.

Port one: Quick Charge 3.0 USB-A Port two: Quick Charge 3.0 USB-A

This model can charge phones, tablets, and computers on its USB-C port, and it has a second port for charging USB-A devices. It adheres to USB-C fast-charging standards and includes a quality cable.

If you want to have the fastest charge possible on two modern devices—such as an iPhone 8 or later, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or later—this is your best bet. But you need to bring your own USB-C cables.

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Though ZMI’s dual-port charger doesn’t charge as quickly as USB-C chargers, it does provide the fastest USB-A power possible, in a nice metal package and at a low price.

I’ve reviewed car chargers for Wirecutter since 2014, monitoring every noteworthy new model. Additionally, I’ve tested hundreds of other charging accessories, researching and writing our guides to USB wall chargers, USB-C laptop chargers, and USB-C accessories, among others. Previously, for three years I was the accessories editor at iLounge, where I reviewed more than 1,000 products, including numerous charging options.

Because poorly designed and manufactured USB-C chargers and cables can fry innocent phones and laptops, I’ve also used specialized testing hardware to confirm the safety and reliability of every charger we’ve considered for this guide. This step allows us to definitively say that our picks work exactly as advertised, putting out the right levels of power and adhering to safety standards.

Even if your car has a USB port designed to sync your smartphone with the car’s entertainment system, and even if that port can charge your phone, spending $20 or so for a dedicated two-port charger can be worth it. That’s because the built-in USB ports in most cars put out only 5 watts, which isn’t enough to charge a tablet or even newer smartphones at full speed. If you’re running an app such as Google Maps or Waze, for example, your car’s USB port may not charge your phone faster than your phone uses power, so you can end up at your destination with the same battery level on your phone as when you got into the car. Good USB-A chargers can charge more than twice as fast (12 watts), and the latest USB-C chargers can charge modern smartphones at 18 to 20 watts as long as you use a cable that plugs into the smaller port instead of the USB-A cable that probably came with your device. (These are our favorite cables for iPhones.)

Even if your car’s USB port does offer higher-speed charging, most cars have only one port. All of our picks let you charge two or more devices on a single accessory outlet—something your family and friends will appreciate.

However, if you recently bought a multiport USB charger that provides at least 2 amps from each of its ports (look for the “output” listing in the small print on the body of the charger), you have less reason to upgrade. Although you’d be able to charge some devices slightly faster with our top picks, the difference wouldn’t be big enough to be worth spending more money on a new model right now.

You can find hundreds of USB car chargers that plug into your car’s accessory-power jack. Over the past few years, these chargers have become significantly smaller, more powerful, and less expensive—just like USB wall chargers. But most of the car chargers available aren’t even worth considering because they don’t have enough power to simultaneously charge two devices at faster speeds, something even very inexpensive models can now do. These days, a good USB charger for the car should offer the following:

For our latest update, we tested another 20 chargers, including some with only USB-A ports, some with just USB-C ports, and some with both. To find the top options in each category, we put the finalists through a number of tests.

Once we had these results, the Wirecutter team had a spirited discussion about the pros and cons of different physical sizes: Is smaller always better, or can a charger be too small? The answer, based on our discussions and our hands-on testing: Yes, some chargers are so small, they’re hard to remove from a car’s outlet when you need to. Although in our evaluation we paid attention to each charger’s size and fit in a car’s dashboard, we concluded that the smallest car charger isn’t always the best choice.

This model can charge phones, tablets, and computers on its USB-C port, and it has a second port for charging USB-A devices. It adheres to USB-C fast-charging standards and includes a quality cable.

The Nekteck PD 45W Type-C Car Charger is the right model for any vehicle, any phone, and almost any device you might want to charge while driving. It’s a tiny but powerful charger that has both USB-C and USB-A ports, ensuring near-universal charging compatibility. Thanks to the USB-C port’s 45-watt output, it’ll charge almost anything at top speed, so you’ll never have to worry about your phone running out of power while you’re using it to navigate, and you can even juice up your laptop on the go. The Nekteck also comes with a USB-C–to–USB-C cable, making this low-priced model an even better value.

Charging speed is the most important factor when you’re choosing a car charger, and in our tests the Nekteck PD 45W model performed as expected. It was one of the first chargers to feature both a fast USB-C port and a USB-A port, and it’s still the best. Most smartphones charge at 15 to 18 watts, so this charger’s 45-watt USB-C port is more than powerful enough to charge any smartphone at its fastest rate. (There’s no risk of your device drawing too much power, so you can safely use higher-rated chargers without causing damage to the phone or worrying about anything overheating.)

In our tests of the Nekteck charger, our iPhone 13, paired with a USB-C–to–Lightning cable, went from completely drained to about 56% in 30 minutes, and to 85% after an hour (such figures may be slightly less if you’re using navigation apps). The Nekteck’s 12-watt USB-A port, on the other hand, brought the iPhone to about 42% and 75% in those respective periods of time. Other USB-C car chargers with 18 W output—we tested four others—can charge a phone just as quickly, but few pair that capability with a quality USB-A port, and none do so for such a good price.

Since many compact laptops charge at 30 W or 45 W, you can even use this Nekteck charger to quickly fill them up on the go. In our tests, its USB-C port charged the 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablets—both of which are capable of laptop-like fast charging with 45 W chargers—at their fastest rates, something no other car charger we tested could do. The larger iPad reached 33% charge in half an hour and 65% in one hour. (Some popular laptop models, including the 13- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, can draw 60 W or even 96 W, so they won’t charge as fast as they can with their included wall chargers.) Our tests with Total Phase software showed that the USB-C port behaved as promised, and it didn’t throw out any red flags that would make us cautious about using it.

The body of the Nekteck PD 45W combines glossy black plastic and matte metal elements. It’s no fashion piece, but it does look pretty good next to the cheaper designs of some competitors. It sticks out 1.4 inches from the outlet, and its face is an oval 1.6 inches tall and 1.1 inches wide with a blue LED to indicate when it’s plugged in. Although the Nekteck PD 45W is compact and unobtrusive, it isn’t so short that it’s difficult to remove, as some other car chargers are.

The Nekteck PD 45W car charger is the only model we tested that includes a USB-C–to–USB-C cable, a $10 to $20 value if bought separately. You can keep this cable in your car to charge your Android phone, computer, or iPad Pro without having to buy a separate accessory. We’ve verified that the cable adheres to standards; it’s not only safe, but it also has a sturdy build quality. In addition to passing our own tests, the Nekteck charger has been certified by the USB-IF, which means it has been independently tested for safety.

Similar to the coverage from most reputable charger makers, Nekteck’s standard warranty period is 12 months, with a six-month extension if you sign up for the company’s newsletter. We’ve found the customer support to be helpful, both in response speed and in addressing our concerns.

Unlike some chargers, the Nekteck PD 45W Type-C Car Charger doesn’t have illuminated USB ports, which would make plugging in cables in a dark car a little easier.

If you want to have the fastest charge possible on two modern devices—such as an iPhone 8 or later, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or later—this is your best bet. But you need to bring your own USB-C cables.

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If you want to simultaneously charge two phones at the fastest speeds possible, or to take advantage of Apple’s MagSafe Charger in your car, we recommend the Scosche PowerVolt PD40. It’s one of the most affordable dual–USB-C car chargers you can get from an accessory maker we trust, and unlike cheaper options, it stays snugly in place to ensure your phone continues charging. Each port supports 20-watt charging speeds, even when you use them at the same time, and the device overall is about the same size as the tiny Nekteck 45-watt charger but not much more expensive.

In our testing, the PowerVolt PD40 charged an iPhone 13 plugged in with a USB-C–to–Lightning cable from zero to about 53% in 30 minutes and to 83% in an hour. That’s the same speed as the Nekteck charger achieved, and it’s roughly 15% more battery life than your phone would get from a standard 12-watt USB-A charger. Android phones, including the Google Pixel family and the latest generations of the Samsung Galaxy line, would see similar gains compared with using USB-A chargers. The PowerVolt PD40 also performed as expected when we ran it through the Total Phase test, showing the proper power rates and no errors, so it should be compatible with any device that charges on the USB-C standard.

When it comes to wired charging, 20 W chargers aren’t any faster than 18 W chargers for iPhones. But if you’re using a MagSafe charger in the car, you need 20 W, as found in the PowerVolt PD40, to take advantage of full-speed wireless charging.

Like the Nekteck PD 45W car charger, the PowerVolt PD40 has USB-IF certification, which means an independent lab has verified that it meets a set of criteria for safety and performance. Although we didn’t rely on USB-IF certification in making our recommendations for this guide, that stamp of approval makes us even more comfortable with our picks.

Scosche offers a three-year warranty and makes service replacements easy. Wirecutter staffers who have taken advantage of the company’s warranty have reported a fast and pleasant experience.

Though ZMI’s dual-port charger doesn’t charge as quickly as USB-C chargers, it does provide the fastest USB-A power possible, in a nice metal package and at a low price.

If you don’t want to spend more than $10 or so on a charger and aren’t concerned about USB-C speeds, we recommend ZMI’s PowerCruise C2 36-Watt Dual USB Car Charger with QC 3.0. To be fair, any dual-port USB-A charger from a reputable brand will work as well as any other. But the PowerCruise C2 has a slight edge because it’s the rare charger that supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 charging technology on both ports (if you have a compatible phone), and it has the most aesthetically pleasing design in the category.

Like every dual-port charger we tested, the PowerCruise C2 properly allowed 12-watt power draw from both ports. An iPhone 13 should reach 38% from empty in half an hour and about 74% in an hour. Although we don’t think you should buy the PowerCruise C2 only because it supports QC 3.0—most phones these days will charge just as fast or faster on a USB-C charger—the fact that it offers that support, for the same price as non-QC chargers, adds extra value and makes it the best USB-A option for a larger variety of phones.

Whereas most car chargers are plastic, the PowerCruise C2 is made of silver-toned brass. It has a substantial heft (something that makes it feel premium) and a clean look. It also sports a glowing ring between the charging stem and the 0.8-inch-tall head, though the ports themselves aren’t lit.

You can find no shortage of small, $10-ish, dual-port USB-A chargers from reputable brands. AmazonBasics’s Dual-Port USB Car Charger, Anker’s PowerDrive 2, Aukey’s CC-S7, and Scosche’s ReVolt all perform identically to one another. Some models are shorter than others and end up looking like they’re part of your car when installed, and some have glowing ports that make it easier for you to plug in a cable when it’s dark. But they all work fine, and any of them is a decent buy if you find a great sale or it’s easier to pick up one of these over the ZMI PowerCruise C2.

Spigen’s SteadiBoost USB-C PD3.0 Car Charger offers less total power than the Nekteck charger we recommend, and it doesn’t come with a cable. It also charged the iPhone 13 a bit slower in our tests—45% in half an hour compared to the Nekteck’s 56%, and 79% in an hour compared to 85%.

Spigen’s ArcStation PD3.0 Car Charger PC2000 looks like a contender for the best dual-USB-C charger on paper, but its performance in testing disappointed us. The 45-watt port displayed errors in the Total Phase Data Center, which we generally consider to be a red flag when it comes to long-term reliability. (Especially when there are comparable chargers available, we’re more comfortable recommending models that don’t produce errors than those that do.) The 20-watt port constantly reset in our tests, with our target device showing the flow of power repeatedly starting and stopping.

Ugreen’s 40W Universal Dual PD Fast-Charging Car Charger also showed errors in our Total Phase tests, and we have tested too many charging products from the company with similar errors to feel comfortable recommending any of them at this point.

Satechi’s 40W Dual USB-C PD Car Charger was inconsistent in our tests, frequently resetting its signal and not delivering the necessary 9 volts needed for its top charging speed.

Anker’s PowerDrive III Duo is a previous upgrade pick. With two 18-watt USB-C ports, it’s still a good option for fast-charging two phones at once, but it doesn’t support full-speed MagSafe charging, and the price is now much higher than it was when we first recommended this model.

Scosche’s PowerVolt Power Delivery Dual 18W USB-C Car Charger (CPDC8C8) is a good alternative to the PowerVolt PD40, as it performed equally well in our tests. But it has a larger charging face, usually sells for a few dollars more, and doesn’t support 20-watt charging for MagSafe.

Anker’s PowerDrive Speed+ Duo has a 30-watt USB-C port (as opposed to the Nekteck’s 45-watt port), doesn’t come with a cable, and generally sells for a few dollars more than the Nekteck. It’s otherwise a good choice if you prefer the aesthetics of the glowing blue ring around the charging face.

We don’t recommend the AmazonBasics 4-Port USB Car Charger because it required us to unplug and reconnect our test iPads a few times to get the proper 2.4-amp power draw from each port.

We didn’t test Scosche’s PowerVolt QC38 because its USB-C port tops out at 20 watts, its total combined output is only 38 watts, it doesn’t come with a cable, and it costs more than the Nekteck.

Despite its very similar name, Anker’s PowerDrive+ III Duo differs a little from the PowerDrive III Duo in looks and function. It’s larger, and it offers more power on one of its USB-C ports—30 watts instead of 18 watts. That may be useful if you’re trying to top off a tablet or laptop more quickly, but we don’t think that feature is worth the extra cost for most people.

Satechi’s 72W Type-C PD Car Charger provides more power than any other model we tested, with 60 watts on the USB-C port (enough to charge a 13-inch MacBook Pro at full speed) and 12 watts on the USB-A port. But it doesn’t come with a charging cable, and that much power is overkill for most devices. If you often find yourself needing to charge your laptop in the car, the Satechi is a good choice for you, but most people would be better off with the Nekteck charger, which includes a cable and offers 45-watt charging that also works with most laptops.

Nick Guy is a former senior staff writer covering Apple and accessories at Wirecutter. He has been reviewing iPhones, iPads, and related tech since 2011—and stopped counting after he tested his 1,000th case. It’s impossible for him not to mentally catalog any case he sees. He once had the bright idea to build and burn down a room to test fireproof safes.

by Thom Dunn and Nick Guy

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The 3 Best USB Car Chargers of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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