A flat battery is a risk in any car, and it’s worse without a jump starter. Here, we look at which ones are best…
Modern jump starters use a variety of battery technologies, including lithium- and lead-based chemistries, with the latter typically being heavier but cheaper.
In this product test we compare both types, and we also look at what other features the jump starters offer; a USB, 12V or even three-pin charging socket is a great feature, especially for camping trips when every imaginable device needs charging, and a flat battery on your car is also more likely.
We’ve also considered how powerful our starters are, and the safety aspects including whether they warn against wrongful connection, dead shorts, and a low charge on the car battery.
Finally, there’s also the question of how often the jump starter itself needs to be charged, which can be as often as every two months with lead batteries, while some of the lithium-based cells can be left for up to six months before needing a maintenance charge.
Value for money is always a factor in our product tests.
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol up to 4.0-litres, diesel – not stated. Noco’s Jump Starters are becoming as popular in the UK as they are on the other side of the Atlantic, and it’s easy to see why given their solid performance, safety and idiot-proof ease of use.
Important warnings are clearly flagged up on the unit itself, including to show when you’ve connected the cables incorrectly, if there’s an electrical short or if the car’s battery is very low on charge. Similarly, the 100-lumen LED torch is very bright and can be used for dark, under-the-bonnet moments or as an emergency warning light thanks to its emergency flashing modes.
At nearly a foot long, the jump leads allow more flexibility than most rivals, too, all of which helps to make this the best jump starter of the lot.
Autocar says: 5 stars
2. Ring RPPL300 – RECOMMENDED
Buy from: www.toolstation.co.uk
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol and diesel, up to 3.0-litres.
The Ring RPPL300 and the Noco Boost Sport that wins our test are both noticeably better for perceived quality, feeling durable enough to withstand years of hard use. In fact, the RPPL300 only lost out to the Noco because its safety warnings are relegated to a few tiny LEDs that are a bit tricky to understand.
All of the Ring’s other functions are accessed by a single button, which makes it very easy to use.
It’s also got really punchy starting power, as well as twin USB outputs for device charging. The unit is a bit too big to sit in a pocket and function as a separate USB charger, sadly.
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol up to 6.0-litres, diesel up to 3.0-litres.
For charging accessories, the Clarke JSM350 is unbeatable. There are a couple of USB sockets, Lightening and 28-pin plugs for Apple users and the ubiquitous Mini and Micro USB plugs are supplied.
A lead with various connections for countless 12 volt accessories is also included. The 18Ah internal battery is big enough to deliver plenty of power, too, meaning that the Clarke can even revive a 6.0-litre petrol engine or 3.0-litre diesel.
You do have to charge it every three months, and while that’s better than many rivals it is a shame that you can’t do it via a USB charger – you have to use a mains- or 12V socket.
Autocar says: 3 stars
4. Laser 7405
Buy from: www.thetoolacademy.com
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol up to 4.5 litres, diesel up to 3.5 litres.
If the Laser was a touch smaller, it would be a genuine alternative to your everyday ‘handbag’ USB charger, as well as being able to start your car’s flat battery. Two USB outputs offer up to 2.1 amps, and a third USB C port can supply a whopping 3 amps.
Despite the diminutive size, the Laser will also start large capacity engines, which is truly impressive.
It needs to be charged every 2-3 months to keep its internal battery topped-up, and the leads that you connect to the car’s battery are a touch shorter than is really convenient, but this is still an impressive package.
Compared with the lithium packs, this 13.5kg unit is enormous, but it still makes a good case for lead/acid technology. With up to 1200 Amps (3000 Amps Peak) there are few engines this unit cannot revive, and even light commercial vehicles are catered for by the unit’s switchable 12 or 24 volts output.
At 12 volts, the two internal batteries deliver 40 amp hours in total, providing a massive reserve for the 2.1 Amp USB socket, the two 12-volt sockets, and even the inverter-driven mains sockets.
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol up to 3.0 litres, diesel up to 2.0 litres.
Sealey’s E/Start range is notable for having no battery at all. Sealey suggests using your car’s dead battery to energise the compact unit, which seems crass yet it does actually work. That’s because your car’s “flat battery” usually has plenty of reserve power, even if its voltage has dropped too low to power automotive components.
The E/Start 800 feeds off this reserve energy, or from another battery or USB energy source, for a couple of minutes to energise itself, meaning that you never need to maintenance charge it.
The flip side is that no internal battery means no USB outputs or lights, so this really is a dedicated jump starter.
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol up to 2.5 litres, diesel up to 2.0 Litres.
This is the most affordable compact booster here, and it has all the safety features you expect as well as surprisingly punchy starting performance. At 6Ah, the small battery has less stamina than some others here, which is why it’s fallen short of the rating we’ve given some others.
Even so, it should do the job unless you need multiple jumps in between charging the starter pack.
You also get an LED torch, two USB sockets, leads that cater for Micro USB, USB C, and Apple’s Lightning ports, making this a great device-charging ‘hub’ for any outdoor trip.
Autocar says: 3 stars
8. Sealey Schumacher SL65S – Best budget buy
Buy from: Amazon
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol up to 2.0 litres, diesel up to 1.6 litres.
This Sealey jump starter is genuinely compact and light enough to replace an everyday USB charger. At 13.5×8.5×2.5cm, it fits easily into a pocket or glovebox.
With 8Ah capacity and two USB outputs it’ll charge your phone and other gadgets with no hassle at all, but predictably the compact size limits the size of engine that it’ll restart.
Still, it’ll serve for most small capacity engines; it’s the recommended monthly charging that’s likely to be the biggest problem as it’ll be too easy to let the starter’s battery run low and then it’ll be useless just when you need it most.
Autocar says: 3 stars
9. Halfords Essentials 4 in 1 Jump Starter
Buy from: www.halfords.com
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol and diesel up to 2.0 litres.
Price is a chief reason why lead/acid boosters are still popular. The Halford’s jump starter has a cranking power that only slightly falls short of our two award winners, yet its reserve capacity is better than both despite being significantly cheaper.
For a traditional unit, it’s fairly compact, and at 6kg it’s heavy but not as unmanageable as some others. Unfortunately, safety aids like low battery, incorrect correction, or dead short warnings are omitted, and you need to top-up-charge every couple of months.
Manufacturer’s recommendation: Petrol up to 6.0 litres, diesel up to 4.0 litres.
This jump starter is a real heavyweight, and is complete with a whopping 40Ah battery, and a peak cranking current of 2200 amps.
There aren’t many engines that this booster won’t resuscitate. But, at 17kg, the Clarke is also inconveniently heavy, and the unit also feels short of features given its high price tag. There’s just a single a 12 volt cigarette lighter socket and the old-fashioned incandescent light is rather feeble.
More importantly, there are none of the usual safety features, which makes this a very difficult product to recommend.
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