Best Beverage Coolers

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

34 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
485 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best beverage coolers

Last Updated September 2020

What’s more refreshing than an ice-cold brew, can of soda, or bottle of water on a hot day? It hits the spot and keeps you hydrated, which is why buying a beverage cooler should be your next investment.

Whether you’re camping, traveling, or tailgating, it’s important to have drinks in tow, and it’s even more important that they remain cold. Beverage coolers are insulated to maintain the optimal temperature, which is usually just above freezing. Depending on their construction and the type of insulation, some beverage coolers are capable of keeping properly packed contents cold for a whopping 48 hours.

As you begin to compare beverage coolers, you’ll quickly discover how many different designs there are on the market. From stainless steel cabinets to soft totes and rugged rolling coolers, you might find it challenging to choose one from such a diverse selection. To help make your choice a simpler one, we’re sharing this buying guide on beverage coolers with an overview of all the styles and features you’ll need to compare, including a few of our favorites.

Some hardtop beverage coolers feature a lid equipped with built-in can holders to prevent cans, bottles, and glasses from sliding across the top of the cooler.

Key considerations

Types

Hardtop: These beverage coolers remain a popular option because they’re durable, portable, and available at every price point. While most are made from molded plastic, you’ll find a few hardtop beverage coolers with stainless steel walls and lids. Hardtop beverage coolers hold up to heavy-duty use, and some can be used for makeshift seating. Most have two handles for easy carrying, and some even feature a telescopic handle and wheels for easy rolling. Many also have a spigot to drain water from melted ice

On the downside, when fully packed, some beverage coolers are far too heavy for one person to carry, so be prepared to enlist someone’s help. Also, the lid on lower-quality coolers doesn’t have a great seal, which means warmer air can seep in and raise the temperature inside the cooler.

Soft tote: It’s safe to say that no two soft tote beverage coolers are alike, so you’ll find a wide variety of colors, styles, and even features. One thing they all share in common is that they’re the most lightweight, portable options of all beverage coolers. These coolers usually come with handles, and occasionally they include a crossbody strap or backpack straps for hands-free portability. Most styles are collapsible, which means you can store one easily in a car or RV when it’s not in use. Many soft tote coolers are equipped with pockets or compartments for additional items.

Unfortunately, soft tote coolers lack the structural integrity of hardtop models, so they’re prone to tipping over if not well packed. They rarely keep beverages cold as long as other types of coolers, so you’ll need to pack them with quite a few ice packs to keep beverages chilled.

Patio or backyard: These beverage coolers are usually constructed of stainless steel or weather-resistant plastic. Many of these styles are designed to match outdoor furniture, such as bars and patio sets. These coolers typically have a large capacity to accommodate plenty of bottles and cans with ample room for ice. Many designs also feature convenient “bar-ready” accessories, such as a bottle opener, attached recycling bin, and shelf. Certain beverage coolers in this category also have wheels, making them easy to move around a yard or party.

On the downside, while patio or backyard beverage coolers are weather resistant in most seasons, most aren’t intended to be left outdoors in snow or hail. Cleaning them can also be a bit challenging because they have hard-to-reach nooks and crannies where mold and mildew can grow.

EXPERT TIP

While ice is convenient and inexpensive, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you invest in a series of flexible ice packs for your beverage cooler.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Drainage

One of the downsides of using a beverage cooler is that the ice eventually melts, which means you’ll need to dump out the excess water. Fortunately, many hardtop and patio beverage coolers are designed with a drainage spout to make the emptying process as easy as possible. While you might need to slightly tilt the cooler to get out all the water, it’s much easier than trying to maneuver the cooler 90°.

Insulation

Beverage coolers keep drinks cold with insulated walls and, in some designs, the drinks stay cold for up to 48 hours. With that said, the better the insulation quality, the more you’ll end up spending on a beverage cooler. More often than not, the coolers that retain cold the longest tend to have the highly sought-after feature of an insulated lid, which is something you’ll rarely find in lower-priced styles.

Capacity

As you compare coolers, you’ll see capacity listed in quarts, gallons, or cans. While quarts and gallons certainly offer a more accurate representation, many consumers agree that it’s far easier to understand cooler capacity in terms of 12-ounce soda or beer cans.

While there’s no standard capacity for beverage coolers, it’s fairly easy to separate them into low-, medium-, and high-capacity models:

  • Low-capacity coolers hold 4 to 24 cans.
  • Medium-capacity coolers hold as many as 30 to 50 cans.
  • High-capacity coolers hold upwards of 90 cans.

Maintenance

An often overlooked feature of beverage coolers is how easy they are to clean. Most soft tote coolers only require spot cleaning with mild soap or detergent and water, though you’ll need to allow adequate time for the cooler to dry before using it. Hardtop beverage coolers are easy to simply wipe clean, and they dry within seconds or minutes.

Patio and backyard beverage coolers require the most effort to clean. Stainless-steel coolers call for finish-appropriate products, which can rarely be used to clean the interior insulated walls. You might need to go at the inside with a sponge, scrubber, or even toothbrush to reach all the nooks and crannies as well, especially if anything other than water has spilled inside the cooler.

EXPERT TIP

If you plan on investing in a medium-size beverage cooler, stick to one with wheels. In the event you don’t have someone available to help you lift or move it, you can simply roll it from one place to another on your own.


Staff  | BestReviews

Beverage cooler prices

Beverage coolers cost between $12 and $300, mostly depending on capacity and construction.

Inexpensive: If you’re on a budget, you’ll find a wide variety of tote styles with low to medium capacity for less than $50. There are a few hardtop beverage coolers in this range, but they’re mostly low-capacity designs without an insulated lid.

Mid-range: These beverage coolers cost between $50 and $150. This range mostly includes medium- and high-capacity hardtop coolers from well-respected outdoor equipment brands. You’ll also find a few licensed coolers featuring college and major league sports teams here.

Expensive: The most expensive beverage coolers cost between $150 and $300. These include high-end hardtop coolers made of stainless steel, many of which are intended for marine use. This bracket also includes the vast majority of patio and backyard coolers.

EXPERT TIP

Keep a soft tote beverage cooler in your car. Besides functioning as a last-minute cooler, you can also use it as a beach bag or grocery tote.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Rinse out your beverage cooler. To prevent stains and strange smells from lingering inside your cooler, rinse it out with a diluted mixture of vinegar and water after each use.
  • Learn how to pack like a pro. To maximize your cooler’s “chill time,” learn to pack the contents correctly. It’s recommended that you layer the bottom with frozen food and ice packs, followed by refrigerated food and beverages. Fill in all the gaps between items with ice or ice packs.
  • Bring a scoop for ice. For sanitary reasons, it’s recommended that you use a scoop or spare cup for putting ice in glasses.
If you’re tailgating and bringing a high-capacity beverage cooler, place the cooler in your car and then pack it with beverages, food, and ice packs. That way, you won’t have to lift the fully packed cooler into the car.

FAQ

Q. Why do some beverage coolers have buckles or latches?
A.
Many hardtop and patio beverage coolers have buckles or latches for safety reasons — they help keep out curious kids and pets. The buckles and latches also help provide an airtight seal between the lid and the insulated walls.
 

Q. Is it possible to repair a soft tote beverage cooler rather than buy a new one?
A.
It depends on the extent of the damage to the cooler. In some instances, a small puncture can be easily fixed with duct tape and later patched with appropriate materials. If you have a good-sized cut through all the layers, unfortunately, the quality of the insulation is compromised, so your only option is to invest in a new beverage cooler.
 

Q. Should I invest in a patio or backyard beverage cooler or just use a regular hardtop beverage cooler?
A.
If your goal is aesthetics, then it’s an easy choice to invest in a beverage cooler that matches your other outdoor furniture or appliances. On the other hand, these coolers tend to have a large footprint, and it’s not always practical to have one around when it isn’t in use. Hardtop coolers, especially those with wheels, tend to be a safer bet in this case. The only pitfall of a hardtop beverage cooler is that guests will need to bend down to retrieve drinks.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer

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