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If you type “portable jump-starter” into Amazon, you’ll be met with hundreds of similar units with strange brand names, jargon-heavy descriptions, and thousands of mixed reviews. Suffice to say, it's hard to know what you’re looking for. We spoke with automotive experts to narrow down that long list into something more digestible: Cheapism’s top five jump-starters for 2022. Knowing that messing under the hood can be daunting (if not dangerous), we also asked our experts how to safely jump-start a car.

How to Jump-Start a Car

Before diving into our picks, it’s worth going over the basics of jumping a car, according to the experts.

“The first thing that I would tell anybody that’s going to look to jump-start a vehicle is read the owner’s manual,” said David Bennett, AAA’s repair systems manager. “Understand any precautions and procedures that need to be done prior to jump-starting a vehicle.”

That’s because the process will vary from vehicle to vehicle. Bennet also stressed the importance of proper safety gear (listed below), which most guides neglect to include. The bottom line?

“If you’ve never [jump-started a car] and you’re not comfortable, don’t do it because you could damage the vehicle itself, especially with all of the electronics today,” Bennet explained.

But if you need a refresher or want to learn, here’s our condensed guide. Skip to the end if you want a primer on jump-starting with portable units. 

Things You Need

  • Owner’s manual

  • Jumper cables

  • Gloves, eye protection, and a fire extinguisher

  • Another car or a fully charged jump-starter

  • Wire brush or toothbrush (optional)

  • Another person to assist (optional)

Step 1: Read the owner’s manual and put on your protective gear.

Step 2: Open the hoods of the dead vehicle and the jumper car.

Step 3: Park the jumper car close to the dead vehicle so the jumper cables can reach both batteries.

Step 4: Turn off both cars, make sure all lights and electronics are off, engage the parking brakes, and put both cars in park (or neutral if you drive manual).

Step 5: Inspect the battery to ensure it’s not frozen, leaking, or corroded. Lift up any flaps to expose the terminals. Connect the red (positive) jumper cable to the dead battery’s red (positive) terminal. Ensure the cable is clamped directly onto the terminal. Do not let the black (negative) cable touch any metal surface.

Step 6: Just as you connected the red (positive) jumper cable to the dead vehicle, connect it to the jumper car. Then connect the black (negative) cable to the jumper car.

Step 7: Finally, connect the other end of the black (negative) cable to an unpainted surface on the dead vehicle. Sometimes there will be a labeled bolt for the ground; otherwise, just look for an unpainted metal surface a few inches from the dead battery.

Step 8: Start the jumper car and let it idle for a few minutes. Once you can turn on the cabin light in the dead car, you can try starting it.

Step 9: Let the car idle for a few minutes. Then disconnect the cables in reverse order, removing the black cable from the dead vehicle first. Be cautious when you remove this clamp and do not touch any metal surfaces.

Note: The process for jump-starting a car with a portable jump-starter will depend on the model (read the manual!), but the steps are largely the same.

  • Start with the dead car off, and take the above safety precautions. Then attach the red (positive) jumper cable to the positive terminal, and attach the black (negative) jumper cable to the negative terminal. 
  • Turn on the jump-starter, wait around 30 seconds, and try to start your car. Once you’ve started the car, let it idle for a few minutes, then turn off the jump-starter and disconnect the cables starting with black (negative).

5 Best Portable Jump-Starters

Budget Pick: YABER Portable Car Jump-Starter

$50 from Amazon

Peak Amperage: 1,000 amps

Weight: 1.43 pounds

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At just $50, this portable jump-starter is among the cheapest on the market, and yet it has stellar reviews. Not only did YABER’s jump-starter earn 4.4/5 stars on Amazon, but it also received an A grade on Fakespot, meaning that the reviews are likely genuine. It’s cheap and feature-packed, with an IP66 waterproof build, a built-in flashlight, and a portable, light frame. The downside is the unit’s flimsy-looking cables.

Ultra-Portable Option: Weego 44s Jump-Starter

$68 from Amazon

Peak Amperage: 2,100 amps

Weight: 11.2 ounces

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Weego’s 44s jump-starter doesn’t have many features, but it’s cheap and compact at just 11 ounces (about as heavy as a can of soup). While it can fit in the palm of your hand, this tiny jump-starter is no slouch when it comes to its power, providing enough amperage to start up to a 7-liter gas engine. Again, the only major drawback is the unit's thin cables.

All-in-One Jump-Starter: Michelin ML0728 Power Source with Air Compressor

$152 from Amazon

Peak Amperage: 1,000 amps

Weight: 16.5 pounds

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This all-in-one jump-starter comes from one of the most well-respected brands in the industry, and it’s loaded with extras. Are your tires low? Fill them up with the attached air compressor. Want some tunes while you jump-start your car? Turn on the built-in radio. Of course, all those features translate to extra weight, and at 16 pounds, it’s not as portable as the other options on our list.

For Big Engines: NOCO Boost Pro GB150 Jump-Starter

$300 from Amazon

Peak Amperage: 3,000 amps

Weight: 7.5 pounds

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This oft-recommended brand offers a lineup of jump-starters, but we were most impressed with the Pro GB150, a powerful unit that’s overkill for most consumers. With more than enough amps to turn over a Dodge Viper’s 8-liter engine — that’s a 640 horsepower sports car — this beast can take on nearly anything you throw at it.

Best Overall: GOOLOO GP2000

$70 from Amazon

Peak Amperage: 2,000 amps

Weight: 2.81 pounds

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With its enthusiastic reviews, combination of portability and power, and expert endorsement, GOOLOO’s GP2000 takes the top spot. ChrisFix, a mechanic and one of YouTube’s top automotive content creators, told us that his GOOLOO jump-starter is among the most reliable units he’s tried. While it weighs less than most laptops, it’s close to competing with the giant NOCO GB150 when it comes to amperage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between peak amperage and cranking amps?

A jump-starter’s peak amperage is the maximum power a device can discharge in a short burst. Cranking amps, on the other hand, refer to the sustained power that a device can deliver over a longer period. While most manufacturers list a device’s peak amperage (it’s a bigger number and looks more impressive), a product’s cranking output gives you a more accurate idea of its performance. Unfortunately, some companies don’t list cranking amperage, so we stuck with peak amperage in our guide.

What should I do if my battery is corroded?

If you’re at home, you should wear gloves and clean the terminals with baking soda and water, according to David Bennett, AAA’s repair systems manager. The baking soda should neutralize the corrosion, allowing you to safely brush it away. But let’s say you’re in the middle of nowhere. In that case, do your best to clean the terminals with a wire brush or toothbrush. In any case, don’t pour soda on your battery, Bennett said.

What’s the biggest safety concern while jumping a car?

If you’re not wearing safety glasses, a spark could go into your eye, Bennett explained. “You've got to make sure that you have protective eyewear and gloves,” he said.

What should I look for when purchasing a jump-starter?

According to ChrisFix, a prominent YouTube mechanic, it’s difficult to tell whether a jump-starter is worth its salt without trying it out. “There is a lot of junk out there,” ChrisFix explained. He added that weak spots tend to be the charging port, the batteries, the internal electronics, and the cables. Bennett also commented on portable jump-starters’ cables, noting that weak cables could lead to a fire. So look for sturdy, well-reviewed units that have thicker cables.

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