A car battery starter is one tool you hope you never have to use — but when your car goes dead, one of these battery boosters really comes in handy.

Fortunately, most car battery jump starter models are inexpensive, running from a low of around $30 to a bit over $100. If you have one in your car for emergencies, you won’t need to wait for the local garage to send a tow truck, or beg a friend with jumper cables to come give you a jump. In my mind, the small cost is well worth the peace of mind.

Just to give you an idea about the available features and differences between models, I’ve listed three starters from different manufacturers below. This is, by all means, a very incomplete list. All of the models shown below have built-in jumper cables. Most car battery starters can be recharged from any 12 volt DC vehicle outlet or 120 volt AC household charger, but check the specs on your model to make sure.

A few of the available models of car battery starters:

Schumacher SSC-1000A Automatic Speed Battery Charger

This model costs about $52, and offers the following features:

  • A digital meter that displays the battery charge status and test results
  • Built-in system test to help diagnose problems with your battery and charging system
  • 10-amp fast charge monitors battery condition and adjusts charge rate
  • The ability to also charge small batteries or maintain a large one for motorcycles, snowmobiles, and lawn tractors

Black & Decker BB7B Simple Start 12-Volt Battery Booster

The Black & Decker battery booster runs around 100 bucks.

  • It has a built-in 12 volt DC charging port for charging cell phones
  • The built-in LED light helps out during night-time emergencies
  • Compact design for easy storage; it fits into most glove compartments
  • No jumper cables required, charges & starts vehicle in minutes

Wagan 900 Amp Battery Jumper with Air Compressor

This model runs around $78, and includes a built-in 260 PSI air compressor.

  • Powerful 900 cranking amp jumpstarter
  • 1 DC portable power outlet
  • Built-in work light
  • Battery status indicator lights

Many other models and makes are available. A quick online search for car battery startersCar Battery Startershowed over 80 models to choose from.

Most people who own a car battery starter are happy with them, but when problems do crop up it’s often because the charger doesn’t have enough power. Choosing a starter that has the oomph for your car battery is important – getting more power than you need is far better than getting a charger that can’t start your car in an emergency.

Since every portable battery starter has a battery inside of it, they need to be charged on a regular basis — even if they haven’t been used since the last time you plugged them in. Be sure to read the instructions that come with your unit, and follow it to the letter. This can sometimes cause problems, because it’s not always easy to remember to plug the charger in for a few hours every month.

Depending on the design, some chargers are heavier than others; some fit into a glove box while others need to be stored in the trunk; and some car battery starters include built-in air compressors, and others don’t. Some come with their own electrical cord, while others require an extension cord while they’re charging, which you’ll need to buy separately. There are even small units for smaller cars that can charge a dead battery from inside the car, so you never have to open the hood.

Since the features vary so much, be sure to look at all the documentation that comes with your starter before you decide which one to buy.