Jump starters come in various forms and are known by different names such as battery-powered jump starters, jump boosters, portable chargers, or booster packs. They can be broadly classified into two main types: battery-powered models and supercapacitor jump starters. Both types of jump starters are portable, but the battery-powered ones require pre-charging to function effectively.
If we broaden the category a bit, however, we can find a few more types of jump starters that give us even additional options when choosing which one to buy.
Editor’s Note: Check out our best jump starters article to see our top picks.
Battery Jump Starters (Our Favorite Type)
Our preferred type to buy and use, battery jump starters utilize an internal battery. Manufacturers typically feature lithium-ion, lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO), or lead acid technology. Once you charge these internal batteries, you can use them to jump-start a wide range of vehicles, from 12V car batteries to light- and medium-duty trucks. Some of the latest models even claim to be capable of jump-starting 24V battery systems found in larger vehicles. These jump starters are particularly suitable for passenger vehicles, providing a convenient solution for dead batteries that need a jump-start.
Supercapacitor or Capacitor Jump Starters (Safest)
Supercapacitor jump starters operate differently from battery-powered jump starters. They don’t require pre-charging and are low-maintenance. Instead of internal batteries, they have internal capacitors that draw power from a weak battery until they accumulate enough energy to start the engine. The best supercapacitor jump starters are able to maintain their power output even in cold weather, where batteries often lose efficiency. This makes them a superior choice for jump-starting in cold temperatures.
Multi-function Models (Most Flexible)
Many of the top-rated jump starters fall into the multi-function type of tool. These jump starters often come with additional features such as a flashlight and/or SOS light. A true multi-function jump starter might also offer extra functionalities like an inflator. This is a great option for those who want multiple features in a single device. It keeps you from having to store several different products in your vehicle.
Plug-in 120V Models
Plug-in jump starters with an automatic charge system are an excellent choice for a well-equipped home or garage. They offer fully-automatic charging features, making them the best option for charging a dead battery at home. It’s important to note that many of these models do not have an internal battery. They are primarily intended for use in locations with access to a 120V power outlet.
These also offer additional “smart” functions which make them very useful for ongoing battery maintenance and recovering completely dead batteries.
Which Type of Jump Starter is Right for You?
First of all, ANY type of self-contained portable jump starter beats having to flag someone over and connect two cars with a pair of cables. With that said, we prefer battery-powered jump starters as they fire up very quickly. Most models work for a dozen jump starts before requiring a recharge via USB-C.
We do tend to prefer jump starters with a good tack record. After all, placing a giant pack of batteries underneath the back seat or in the trunk from a no-name brand might not rest easy with most people. With that said, most manufacturers should provide safety features in their products to keep them from overloading when not in use. Pick a supercapacitor model if you have a real concern about this.
We also like the idea of having one of the more sophisticated 120V plug-in starters at the shop and/or garage. In addition to jump-starting your vehicle, these models offer trickle-charging, battery maintenance modes, and desulfation functions.
Given the myriad of choices, you should find any of these types of jump starters to work well for you. The only trouble we’ve had is the financial investment to make sure every vehicle in our household has its own!