Believe it or not, it's possible to spend almost $800 on a cooler (a cooler!). But if you have no need for two-inch polyurethane foam insulation, a freezer-style sealing gasket, or dry-ice compatibility -- not to mention testing by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee -- here are some cheap coolers for spring, summer, and even tailgating in the fall.
While it can be tough to find a sizable, hard-sided cooler on a tight budget, Target offers the 52-quart Igloo Family Cooler for only $20. It may not be bear-proof, but it does feature a fish-measuring ruler on the lid. It's lined with Igloo's Ultratherm foam insulation and holds up to 83 cans. You can also use it as extra seating at a tailgate or backyard barbecue.
Meijer.com sells the slightly smaller 48-quart Coleman Chest Cooler, which features environmentally friendly Thermozone insulation, for $24. Consumers posting coolers reviews at Meijer.com appreciate the large capacity: The cooler is designed to hold 63 cans and store two-liter bottles upright. In coolers reviews, consumers say this Coleman is durable and the rust- and leak-proof drain is easy to use.
Also available at Meijer.com is the California Innovations 40-Can Rolling Cooler with Easy Access Lid, which normally retails for $60 but will set you back only $21 through June 30. The Igloo 22 Can Playmate Gripper Cooler is another solid soft-sided option for $16 at Lowe's.
If size doesn't matter and you just want to keep the cost as low as possible, take a look at Walmart's selection of cheap coolers. You're likely to spend more on an ice pack or a six-pack than on the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness 6-Can Cooler. It costs just $6, so you save money and support Susan G. Komen for the Cure at the same time.
For a little more room, check out the Ozark Trail 12 Can Cooler with Hardliner, starting at $10. It features a three-inch expandable top, an antimicrobial and PVC-free liner, and an internal food separator. It comes in different colors and sizes as well: a 24-can model for $14 and a 36-can model for $18. Consumers posting coolers reviews at Walmart call all three of these cheap coolers sturdy and convenient.
Walmart also offers cheap coolers specifically designed for tailgating and beach bumming. At just $8, the Goodhope Bags Beach Cooler is an ultracheap and cleverly designed beach bag with a 12-can cooler at the base. For tailgating, 12-pack coolers with team logos cost $20.
You can find cheap coolers on eBay as well, of course, but keep an eye on shipping, which can cost far more than the cooler itself. And we would be remiss if we didn't suggest the truly cheap, disposable foam coolers available at any gas station. But if you want a cheap cooler you can use more than a few times -- and you care at all about the environment -- you're better off with one of the more substantial and sustainable options above.