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How to Choose A Power Inverter

Cobra CPI 490 power inverter

When you're choosing a power inverter, it's important to choose the right size. It all depends on how you intend to use the inverter.

  • How many electrical outlets do you want? The inverters we carry have 1 to 3 outlets, so you can choose the size that best fits your needs.
  • Do you want the flexibility and portability of a cigarette lighter adapter or a hard-wired, permanent installation? The general rule of thumb is that loads exceeding 150 watts will require a direct connection to the battery.
  • What is the current draw of the equipment you will use in your car? Typical small appliances can be used with most inverters. If you'll be using heavy-draw equipment like some large power tools or large TVs (over 13"), then you'll need a larger-capacity inverter and a direct connection to the battery.

Why do I need a power inverter?

Once you have an inverter in your car, you'll wonder why it wasn't standard equipment from the factory. A power inverter allows you to use electrical equipment in your car that requires an AC power supply. It's particularly great to have when traveling or during vacation.

Choosing the right inverter really depends on how you intend to use it. Will you use it almost daily, or will you use it only as an occasional convenience item? If you will be using your inverter frequently, you may be better off hard-wiring it into the car. This means using a direct connection to your car battery.

You should also consider a model with more than one outlet, for added convenience. A hard-wired installation is also a good idea if you frequently use your cigarette lighter to plug in other equipment, like portable music players or smartphones.

If you're only going to use the inverter occasionally, just use the adapter and plug it into your car's cigarette lighter. This method also gives you the freedom to use the inverter in different vehicles. If you won't be using it for a while, you can take it out of the car and store it indoors.

  • Justin from Tokyo

    Posted on 4/2/2021

    Hi, I've got a subwoofer installed with a 500w rms amp wired to the battery. Could I wire up an inverter using this same line to the battery, and still run the amp? I would likely not be using the inverter and amp both at the same time.

  • Jose Saavedra from West Palm Beach FL

    Posted on 10/11/2020

    I have been using inverters for a long time in large sailboats, now i have an RV and many things are the same. I use the inverter to run a vacuum cleaner, a tv, fans,microwave, induction stove, etc. In the RV, i want to prevent using the generator every time i need some AC power. I have a small 150 W inverter that goes in the cigarette lighter and a 2500 W, hardwired into the batteries. If you need to charge a laptop, run a small fan or charge some batteries, a small inverter will do and you can plug it in the cigarette lighter. Simple. If you need more power, add the total number of watts needed at the same time, double it, this is what i would buy. Look and understand about "Modified and Pure Sine Wave" Modified sine wave are cheaper, but will not run microwaves, or induction stoves or some other sophisticated electronics. Pure Sine Wave is like home, a more stable, cleaner electrical wave, but they are about 30% more expensive In the RV as in a boat, you need a solid, deep cycle, battery bank. I use two or three large batteries from Walmart, The inverter should have a low voltage alarm, so you have enough power to start the engine or generator in the morning. And please, carry with you a long set of jumping cables... The time will come when you just ran off the batteries too long, or left something on, and the batteries will be too flat to get the engine started.

  • Jaymie Papp from Surrey

    Posted on 8/17/2020

    Yo, I just wanna rock out with my electric guitar. Ive got a Marshall MG50FX and/or an Orange Rocker 15. For the most part only one amp at a time but you never know when you might meet up with a Bigfoot that wants to rock. HAHA Any input or information would be gratefully appreciated. Papp

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/10/2015

    Ralph, the answer is... big. Unfortunately, bigger than we carry. Given the scale of what you need to power and the application, you should inquire with Generac for the best fit for your situation. Good luck!

  • Ralph from 13830

    Posted on 7/9/2015

    I will be using a 6kw ecogen for a campsite with flourescent lighting, a fridge, laptop, tv: How big an inverter should I use?