You’re browsing on Amazon, in search of a new car charger to marry with your coveted smart phone. Whether driving the daily commute, long road trip or cross country as a trucker, you need those precious watts to keep your device alive.
As you browse, you see tens and hundreds of chargers. Different shapes, sizes and colors and some eerily similar. So much noise, like everything else on the internet. How are you supposed to make up your mind?
They’re all the same, you say. Just ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ it. Nah, forget that, you’re going to get the one that’s on sale for $7.99. It says FAST CHARGE and a whole lot of other sexy verbiage, 4.5 stars and FREE Amazon Prime shipping. That’s the one.
What a deal!
A day or two later, the door bell rings. You answer it, but no one is there. Instinctively, you look down to the right of your bare feet. There it is, my car charger, safely tucked inside that sly brown box with a smile. You pick up that package as you have all the previous ones.
Back inside your cozy home, you ravage through the box and inner packaging, eventually finding a shiny charger that is slightly bigger than you assumed it would be.
Wait, this thing doesn’t come with a cable?
Disappointed, you shrug it off by acknowledging you’ll use that white three foot cable that came with your iPhone.
You are now the proud owner of an average car charger and will be using an antiquated charging cable to boot. But hey, it only costed you $8.70.
Meanwhile, your smart phone ran you an easy grand. And you will be charging it at the equivalent speed of a hybrid turtle-sloth.
“Whatever, it’s just a charger. It charges.”
Let me ask you a question. It’s Black Friday. You just scored a doorbuster deal on a 70 inch, 4K TV for $550 (normally $999) at Best Buy. Are you going to take it home, tape a slab of cardboard over half the screen, degrade the 4K settings to 1080P and switch from stereo to mono?
Similarly, that’s what many folks effectively do with their charge devices. Nonchalantly minimize its potential. I’ve even ran into some people that actually offer push-back on maximizing the use-case of charge technology.
Folks, if charge speed doesn’t matter one lick to you, if you do not care the least bit that it takes you 5 hours to charge your phone, this article isn’t for you.
But for those who would like to better understand the topic of charging smart devices we all use and rely on today, please read on. At the very least, you can learn to avoid being like the ‘trictional’ (kinda true, kinda fictional) character in the purchase circumstance above.
Why a quality phone charger goes a long way
One of the things I’ve heard people complain about is how slow their phone charges. In fact, it’s less of a complaint and more of an acceptance.
What we have here is simply a lack of understanding how charging works. A charger is a perfect example of a convenient technology where the only thing that matters to the vast majority is that “it works”. They don’t question how well, they just seem to accept that a charge is a charge.
But a charge is not a charge. And, to put it simply:
A quality charger is fast, safe, compatible and long lasting.
A low quality charger is slow, hazardous, incompatible and short-lived.
People go through chargers like they go through toothbrushes (well, I hope most of you replace your toothbrush a couple times a year).
Why? Because they buy ’em cheap! Cheap chargers made with cheap materials that have absolutely no business charging your $1,000 smart phone! Which brings me to my next point. The negative affect a bad charger can have on the long term health of your phone’s battery life.
How can a low quality car charger affect your battery performance?
First of all, a bad charger may not immediately make itself known with the obvious symptoms. But like a silent killer, a bad charger can be harming your phone’s insides, namely your battery. In the long run, it can really take its toll.
If you have ever had a failed battery in a smart phone, you may have not even thought to consider your charger as the main culprit.
For the overall and long term health of your smart phone, avoid cheap chargers at all costs!
What features to look for in a charger for your vehicle
So the question then becomes, how do I make sure I get one of the good ones?
Well, we briefly touched on it above, you need to think about some key aspects before you go adding one to your Amazon cart.
The following list concisely covers what features should be automatic in terms of your next charger:
The fact is that we live in an on-demand world built on speed and convenience. Our phones are getting increasingly powerful, thus requiring a battery that can manage the workload. With that, a solid, fast charger to compliment your battery is worth its weight in gold.
Here’s a quick comparison of how most of the world is charging today. We’ll use a standard iPhone 8 Plus for this example:
The Apple Experience (Extremely Common):
Why is this the most common charger experience you ask? Well, because Apple has been packing their smart devices with a cheap white block for years. As their devices have gotten more powerful and batteries more impressive, one thing has remained a constant. Their torturously slow charger.
Most folks have to leave their phone charging overnight to wake up to that precious 100%.
Requirements: Standard 1A USB Port with 1A USB-A charging cable
iPhone Maximum charge speed = 5W
30 Min Speed Test (starting at 1%) = 16%
The 2.4A ‘Fast Charge’ Experience (Common):
This is the standard. Many stores like Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Amazon and eBay tend to carry generic and/or branded chargers capable of a maximum 2.4 amp current. It’s fast, but by 2019-2020 terms, not that fast.
Don’t get us wrong, unless it’s a bad charger (as described earlier in this article), we’ll take the charge! But make no mistake, charging tech companies take advantage of the term ‘fast’. It’s a marketing term. They can get by using it no matter how ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ their charger is.
Why? Because, the truth is, ‘fast’ is relative.
Of course when you make the jump from Apples lowly 5W charger, any upgrade is going to be noticeably faster. In fact, generally a standard USB 2.4A charger will grant you a maximum 10W of power, about twice the speed most folks are accustomed to.
Public Service Announcement: Big box stores are known to add a huge markup to standard products. If you find yourself in the phone/car accessory aisle at Best Buy, do not purchase a single USB port 2.4a car charger for $29.99. For this product’s dated features and overall ceiling, in 2019 that’s the sucker’s rate.
Requirements: Standard 2.4A USB Port with 2A USB-A charging cable
iPhone Maximum charge speed = 10W
30 Min Speed Test (starting at 1%) = 32%
The True Fast Charge Experience (Uncommon):
What we are tagging as the ‘True Fast Charge’ is minimally used at this time mainly because these chargers are a bit more expensive to make. In other words, there is less profit margin to work with for charging tech companies. Most companies would rather sell a dated technology, slap the ‘fast charger’ label on it and, you guessed it, profit more. But most folks would never know it. The label says fast charger, so they think they’re buying a fast charger.
But a true fast charge experience for your smart phone does exist! Mainly thanks to Power Delivery technology.
It is an amazing revelation to think that you can restore up to 60% of your battery on some phones in less than 30 minutes of charging. That would have been considered sorcery just a few years ago. But here we are.
Requirements: PD (USB-C) Port with USB-C to Lightning (or USB-C) charging cable
iPhone Maximum charge speed = 18W
30 Min Speed Test (starting at 1%) = 60%
So having gone through the three tiers of charging speed, you now have a choice of what you’d like to be YOUR standard.
Again, if you’re really looking to maximize your user experience in this iPhone generation, speed should be your first consideration
Intelligent Charging (Overheating Protection)
The next feature you need to consider in your search for the best car charger is intelligent charging or a system that protects the phone from overheating. Most phones these days have chipsets and monitoring software that will shut down charging operations if the battery temperature reaches a certain threshold. While your phone should be good to go, it’s even better when your charger also has built-in layers of protection.
You want to find the best car charger that can stand the test of time and torture. Nobody would want an iPhone if it crapped out after a year of use. Durability matters, going the distance with diminishing in quality matters.
These days, most phone chargers have universal compatibility. For quite some time, the USB-A port has been the standard, but the faster Power Delivery USB-C port is on the uprise. In fact, Apple is finally beginning to show signs of transitioning their standard lightning to USB-A to the lightning to USB-C. This makes sense, because there is a faster/higher charge ceiling with USB-C. The newer phones are getting bigger and so are their batteries. The bigger the battery, the more charge required to fill ‘er up.
This brings us to price, which is by all intents and purposes a key factor for everyone. Price for car chargers can range from five dollars for a cheap gas station charging adapter to upwards of a hundred dollars for a premium mount with nifty wireless charging. I will say, wireless chargers although convenient and cool looking, their charging speed is quite behind the times and NOT worth the excess cost. $100 for 10W maximum? No thanks.
If you notice that the charging device is inexpensive, but also appears to be cheaply made of plastic, seems flimsy and/or makes a funny sound when you FM radio is on, you need to consider you got what you paid for. My inclination is always to buy something of quality that will go the distance.
Say NO to Dirt Cheap!
“I can get a perfectly fine car charger on eBay for $5.00!” Sure, that certainly is an option. Many $5 options on eBay actually, shipping directly from China.
Careful, friend. This can lead you to some problems where you probably want to avoid the risk altogether. But, purchasing a questionably cheap charger that was likely haphazardly built with shoddy materials and non-existent quality assurance, can’t be that bad of a match for you phone, can it? Let’s think about this for a moment. You want to connect a $5 car charger to your $1,000 smart phone?
Unfortunately, you stand the risk of overheating your phone, damaging the port, diminishing the life-span and/or permanently damaging the battery (so many folks have absolutely no idea their cheap charger ruined the battery health of their phone, thus triggering the need for purchase of a replacement phone). You even run the risk of causing a car fire. It does happen. Now, I know what you are thinking, that’s a bit extreme. Nope! People have caught on fire in their vehicles from exploding charging devices. Why take the risk? To save a few bucks at point of purchase?
At this point it probably comes to no surprise, it is my fully vetted recommendation that you entirely avoid cheap electronics.
This is no joke. In fact, most engineers in the cellular space, will tell you that despite their efforts to create stable batteries, you can and will damage the battery with poor charging products and habits. Bad chargers, bad cables.
Charging Cables Matter Too (for Maximizing Charge Speed)
This brings us to the next key consideration. If you couple a fast charging block with a cable not capable of matching its current output, you’re stifling your fast charge potential.
Fastest Cables (Ranked in Order by Type)
- USB-C to Lightning (Best for Apple Devices)
- USB-C to USB-C with Power Delivery (Best for Samsung, Google & LG Devices)
- Type-C to USB-A
- Lightning to USB-A
- Micro-USB to USB-A
Car Charger Versus Wireless Car Charging Mount Debate
The other thing to consider is whether or not you should use a standard charging & cable, or a wireless car charging mount. This is up to you, it comes down to preference. Which do you prefer? Fast charge speed or the convenience of a 2 in 1 charging mount feature?
However, if you go the wireless route, know that the charge will have a lower (and slower) speed ceiling. Most wireless car chargers will claim 7.5-10W, however, even in the wireless charging mount word, the specs don’t always hold up. This is the case, especially, when you’re running apps against a charge. Our batteries are always under such a load from the background applications, that it cannot keep up with the average energy output from a wireless charger.
Power and speed over wireless convenience is still the way to go.
The Best Car Charger in 2019. Period.
Road Mama’s car charger can charge at maximum 63W at once. It includes a dual port (PD 45W and QC3.0 USB-A 18W) and comes bundled with the best charging cables compatible with your phone.
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We at Road Mama have done our best to illustrate the various aspects of the charging world. Ultimately there are hundreds if not thousands of options for you to consider, but we are extremely confident with our charger and charging cables, we’re giving you the best possible charge available for your phone model at a very good price.
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