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5 Best Jumper Cables in 2019 – Buyers Guide and Reviews

When you head out on a road trip, you always make sure to take the essential gear you might need. This probably includes a basic tool kit, some good tunes, road snacks, and a USB cable to keep your phone charged.

The most prepared among us will also keep some safety gear in the back. Is there anything missing from this list?

What about a set of jumper cables?

A man starting a car with jumper cables between two vehicles in the snowWhen I was a kid, every car had them in the trunk. In today’s era of “no user serviceable parts inside,” far fewer people perform their own maintenance or repairs on much of anything. But does this simple piece of equipment still have a place in our lives?

Read on to find out what jumper cables are, how to use them, and why you need them. We’ll explore the features to look for in a good set, and then review some of the best jumper cables on the market.

Let’s jump into it.

Quick Links to Our Picks for 5 Best Jumper Cables in 2019

Clicking the links above take you to further information, customer reviews and current prices on Amazon.

What Are Jumper Cables

The heart of your car is the battery. If the battery isn’t working, then nothing works. No ignition, no lights, and (gasp!) no DVDs to entertain the kiddies.

In the event your battery lacks the power to start your vehicle, you’ll need to recharge it. Normally, your vehicle recharges the battery while it’s running, but that’s of no use if you can’t start the engine. It’s an electrical Catch-22.

Jumper cables are heavy wires that allow for a connection between a functioning battery and a battery in need of help.

After the connection is made, the non-starting vehicle can draw enough power from the operating vehicle’s battery to get started.

Once started, the newly running vehicle should gradually recharge its battery, assuming neither the battery nor the charging system is defective.

Note: Check out our articles on battery testers and battery chargers to learn more about home charging and maintenance of your vehicular batteries.)

How To Use Jumper Cables

Jumper cables are one of those things you buy, hoping you never have to use them. In the event you do, however, it is important to use them correctly because misuse of jumpers can leave you in a worse predicament than before you started.

Don’t be intimidated, though! They’re easy to use, so long as you do it with the proper precautions.

Here is a step-by-step guide to boosting your car with jumper cables. By the way, on top of jumper cables, you’ll also need a second vehicle with a fully functional battery that has at least as much voltage as your own.

Align the Vehicles

Depending on the length of your cables and the vehicles (and the space you have to work with) you can either park nose-to-nose, side-by-side, or front-to-back.

Connect the Cables to the Batteries

Pretty much everything hinges on getting this part right, but don’t worry; it’s not hard.

Shut off both vehicles and open the hoods. First, attach the positive cable (generally red, or sometimes orange) to the positive terminal on the dead battery. Do the same with the positive terminal on the good battery.

Now, connect the negative cable (the black cable) to the negative terminal on the good battery. Take the remaining negative clamp and attach it to the frame of the car, or part of the engine. It’s important that the place you attach is metal, and unpainted.

This grounds the connection away from the battery, reducing the danger of a spark causing an explosion.

Charge up the Dead Battery

Start the motor on the vehicle with the good battery. Let it run for about 5 minutes to build up some charge in the dead battery.

Try to Start Your Vehicle

Leave the other vehicle running and try to turn your engine over. If it catches and starts, great! If it doesn’t, you may need to check your connection to be sure power is flowing from one battery to the other.

Wait another 5 minutes (with the “good” vehicle still running) and try again. If it fails to start a second time, you’ll probably need to replace your battery.

Let Your Vehicle Run and Recharge

Assuming your alternator is working, and the battery is ok too, running your vehicle should recharge the battery.

If you weren’t planning on leaving just yet, run your car at low revs for about 5 minutes, and then idle for an additional 20. This should provide enough charge to start up again later.

Disconnect the Cables

Unhook the cables from the batteries in the reverse order you connected them. That means:

  • Black (negative) attached to the frame
  • Black (negative) attached to the good battery
  • Red (positive) attached to the good battery
  • Red (positive) connected to the formerly dead battery

If you need to go now, go ahead! You’ll be fine, so long as you don’t turn off the car until you get where you’re going.

By the time you get there, you should have recharged your battery enough to start again the next time you drive.

Why We Recommend Owning Jumper Cables

Getting stuck with a dead or weak battery is no laughing matter. At best it’s inconvenient, especially if you’re kaput in your own driveway or garage. At worst, it can actually be dangerous. You don’t want to be stuck waiting in the dead of winter for someone to come by who can help you out.

With a set of jumper cables handy, you’re just one functioning vehicle away from getting started again.

Sure, if you have a membership with a service provider (like AAA), you could call them, and they’ll come give you a boost. Same goes for any towing service. But you could be waiting a while, or even paying out of pocket for the job. And if you have a dedicated jump starter for your car that you know how to use, all the better. But not many of us own one.

Jumper cables are safe and easy to use, and, best of all, any vehicle nearby can lend a bit of juice. They aren’t expensive, they provide peace of mind, and will pay for themselves, most likely in a single use.

Best Jumper Cables Buyers Guide and Advice

We know what they’re for and how to use them. Now we’ll look at some of the key features of jumper cables, and how to tell the good stuff from the not so good.

Gauge

The lower the number, the more strands of wire are twisted up inside. The more wire, the more volts it can conduct. It’s like a water pipe – the wider it is, the more water can flow through.

Choose your gauge based on the size of the batteries you’ll be charging. For example, a gauge of 1 could jump-start a semi. A gauge of 10 is more suited to motorcycles and yard tractors.

(Funny story: I clearly recall my dad driving a Pontiac Firefly into the backyard to jumpstart his aging International Harvester riding mower. If we could have just attached the mowing deck to the Pontiac, we’d have done that. It was a big yard.)

Thickness

Thickness is not the same as gauge!

A jumper cable may appear thick, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s lots of copper wire inside. Don’t be taken in by sales words like, “heavy duty,” or, “professional grade.” Look for the gauge clearly labeled on the packaging and go by that.

Amperage

If the amperage rating on your jumper cables is low, they may not be able to carry enough current to crank the engine, or if they do, it’ll be with great difficulty. Some lower quality cables may be as low as 200-250A. That probably won’t be enough to boost anything bigger than a very small car.

Choose cables marked at least 400A to be sure of a clean and easy start, no matter the vehicle.

Length

It’s no use getting great cables that aren’t long enough to make a connection.

While you may plan on lining up nose-to-nose, or side-by-side, that won’t always be possible. We recommend you get enough length to make a connection even if the vehicles are front-to-back, if possible, taking into consideration the length of your vehicle. Typically, 16-20 feet long ought to be enough.

If you drive an RV, a huge quad-cab truck, or a limo, front-to-back likely won’t be possible, of course. For over-sized vehicles just get the longest cable you can find, usually 20-25 foot long.

Clamps

Because they make the actual connection between the batteries, it’s very important the clamps can grip tightly. Look for clamps with solid-looking copper teeth. Many clamps have extensions for gripping side-posts, so look for that if you need them.

Clamps should be clearly color-coded for + and -, and have some sort of protective coating or insulation to protect you from a shock. (Wearing gloves is a good idea, anyway.)

Insulation

Not only should the wire be thick for peak efficiency, but the coating around the wires should also be, too. The heavier the insulation, the less leakage of heat there will be when current is flowing through the wires. Keeping the heat inside will protect your engine and your hands.

Good insulation will also keep your cables working in low temperatures, a must for anyone who lives where winter means sub-freezing temperatures for weeks on end.

Safety Rating

Jumping a battery can be dangerous is done improperly, or with sub-standard equipment. Be sure the jumper cables you’re looking at have been tested and approved for safe operation in your country.

For example, a UL Listed or Certified product has been evaluated by UL, a company that has specialized in safety testing and verification since the 19th century.

Extras

Useful things like a reference card for setup (because most of us won’t do this often), and a storage bag are nice to have. Some even come with safety gloves or lights for working in the dark.

Best Jumper Cable Recommendations and Mini-Reviews

Now that you know some of the features to look for, you’re ready to start shopping for a set of cables. We’ve sifted through the available choices and narrowed it down to 5 of the best on the market. Here are our reviews for each of the contenders.

Cartman BC0420K Booster Cable

Cartman Booster Cable 4 Gauge x 20Ft in Carry Bag (4AWG x 20Ft) UL-Listed

Specs:

  • Wire gauge = 4
  • Amperage = 400
  • Length = 20’
  • Clamps = Top and side
  • Insulation = T-Prene coating

Overall Impressions

This certainly appears to be a good, medium-duty jumper cable. The 4-gauge wire should handle all but the biggest batteries and engines, and 400 amps are plenty for typical vehicles.

At 20’ long, most motorists will be able to make a front-to-back connection.

Since many battery fails seem to happen in the dead of winter (at least in places that have winter), it’s good to know that the insulation will keep this cable flexible and useful down to -13F. With top and side clamps, you’ll be able to hook up to any battery.

There’s nothing that jumps out, so to speak, about these cables, but that’s ok. We’re not looking for a lot of flash in a set of jumpers.

What’s In the Box?

  • Cables with clamps
  • Work gloves
  • Carrying bag
  • Wire brush (for cleaning terminals)

Features

  • T-Prene coated cables (a synthetic rubber that maintains flexibility to -13F/-25C)
  • Fits side-terminal and top-post connections
  • Oil, water, and chemical resistant
  • Color-coded and stamped for polarity identification
  • UL listed
  • RoHS compliant (no EU-banned hazardous material)
  • Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA)
  • 5-year warranty

What We Like

The carrying bag is a nice bonus and will keep the cables protected and easy to get at. (Assuming you actually bother to use it.)

Supplying us with a pair of gloves is great, too, since we certainly recommend wearing them when connecting jumper cables. And the little scrubbing brush is a cool bonus for cleaning terminals to get a better connection.

The copper teeth on the clamp look like little dragons, so we’re quite sure they’ll grab on to your terminals and not let go. The curved protrusion for side posts is a nice touch, and it doesn’t seem to stick out so far that it’s going to get in the way when connecting to top posts.

5-year warranty? Love it! Heck, it might take that long before you even get to try them out. We wish more companies would stand behind their products this long.

What We Don’t Like

Some users have reported the clamps are stiff and difficult to open. We’d anticipate that will loosen with use, and we’d rather have them a bit stiff than too loose to make a solid connection.

The manufacturer identifies the wire inside as being CCA, or Copper Clad Aluminum. That means the core of the wire is aluminum, and it’s coated in copper. Using CCA keeps costs and weight down.

Aluminum conducts electricity very well, but copper makes a better connection. We’d prefer all-copper wiring, but there is no harm in using CCA; it’s functional and safe.

Who is This Set Best Suited To?

Most average motorists will find this sufficient for their needs. Owners of motorcycles, small- to mid-size trucks and SUVs, and small to large cars will do just fine with the Cartman 4-gauge, 20’ cables.

A Different Set Might Suit You Better If?

  • You own a large truck or SUV
  • You own a commercial vehicle or heavy equipment
  • You only own very small vehicles and equipment

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, it’s ok to be average, as long as you’re above average at doing it! If you just need a reliable set of cables that are going to work whenever you need them, on just about any battery, these are well worth having in your trunk.

For more pictures and additional ordering options, click the link and have a look.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Energizer ENB125 Jumper Cables

Energizer 1-Gauge 800A Heavy Duty Jumper Battery Cables 25 Ft Booster Jump Start - 25' Allows You to Boost Battery from Behind a Vehicle!

Specs:

  • Wire gauge = 1
  • Amperage = 800
  • Length = 25’
  • Clamps = Parrot
  • Insulation = PVC

Overall Impressions

Who knows more about batteries than Energizer, right? Right away our confidence is high just because of our familiarity with the manufacturer.

These cables look like they mean business; they’re very thick, and the clamps look deadly strong. One look and you’ll know they were made for large vehicles. They also look heavy, so we’re glad they come in a nice, convenient carrying bag.

What’s In the Box?

  • Cables with clamps
  • Carrying bag

Features

  • Copper Clad Aluminum wire
  • PVC-coated, color-coded, and insulated clamps
  • Tangle-free and flexible to -40F/C (same number in both scales)
  • 2-year warranty

What We Like

We can’t imagine what battery would be too large to jump with these cables! With an 800A capacity and the heaviest gauge out there, you will have no trouble getting any large vehicle started. And with the parrot-type pincer clamps, you’ll have a solid grip on your terminal posts.

The carrying bag is a nice bonus, even if it never gets used again after the first jump. At least they’ll stay conveniently coiled until you need them the first time.

While we don’t want to put it to the test, knowing they’ll stay flexible right down to -40F/C is reassuring. That’s dangerously cold – you don’t want to get stranded when the mercury is that low!

What We Don’t Like

These cables are not UL-listed, which surprised us since so many Energizer products are. Still, we have enough faith the company to put our trust in these jumpers.

CCA wires? That’s too bad. Then again, they do keep the cost and the weight down, both of which would be significantly increased with solid copper on a 1-gauge, 25ft booster. (Remember, that’s two 25ft cables – 50 feet of copper wouldn’t be light!)

Anecdotal evidence suggests these clamps may not be the best choice for some side posts, so you might want to look at another model if you have these in your vehicle.

This isn’t a fault, but the Energizer ENB-125 jumper cables are major overkill for average and smaller size vehicles. We’d swear you could use them for towing. Don’t do it, though.

Who is This Set Best Suited To?

If you drive a really, really big vehicle, like a Super-Duty pickup, an RV, full-size SUV… maybe a dump truck… these cables are right up your alley. You’ll never be caught short.

They’re also excellent if you live somewhere that winter temperatures regularly dip to freeze-your-boogers-instantly levels. Keep them in the trunk, and they’ll be ready when you need them.

A Different Set Might Suit You Better If?

  • You live somewhere it’s warm all the time
  • You only drive small- to mid-size vehicles

Final Thoughts

If you’ve got big toys, you need big cables. The Energizer EMB-125 jumper cables are highly recommended for big-league drivers who don’t want to drop serious coin on all-copper jumpers.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

OxGord CABC-18-16 Jumper Cables

OxGord Jumper Cable 8 Gauge x 16Ft - Commercial Grade 250 AMP Non Tangle Battery Booster Starter with Carry Case

Specs:

  • Wire gauge = 8
  • Amperage = 250
  • Length = 16’
  • Clamps = Top and side
  • Insulation = T-Prene

Overall Impressions

We would definitely classify these as “light-duty” jumper cables. That’s fine for small vehicles, but we don’t think we’d try them on a pick-up or SUV. Maybe not even a full-size sedan.

OxGord manufactures a LOT of automotive products, as well as pet supplies and gardening equipment. A strange mix, but we do note that some of their jumper cables have been packaged and branded for Pennzoil. That boosts our confidence.

The carrying case seems a bit flimsy, but then these aren’t heavy-duty cables anyway. The clamps lack the gripping teeth we see on more expensive cables, but they’re appropriately shaped for a good fit, regardless.

What’s In the Box?

  • Cables with clamps
  • Carrying case
  • Instructions for use

Features

  • Copper Coated Aluminum (CCA) wires
  • Copper toothed clamps
  • Color-coded rubber grips on clamps
  • T-Prene insulation (synthetic rubber) temperature resistant to -40F/C
  • 1-year limited warranty

What We Like

These cables are very light – they weigh just under 3.5lbs. That means anyone can handle them with ease. The clamps are long, with two different depths to choose from and pincer ends, to help them fit a variety of posts.

Despite the low-cost, they are well insulated and should stay flexible even in extremely cold conditions. You’ll get a good grip on them, too, with the rubber-coated handles.

We also quite like the price! They can be had quite inexpensively – you might even want multiple sets to toss in every trunk.

What We Don’t Like

Yes, they’re CCA, but we’re not going to complain much about that this time. That’s what keeps them low-cost. The warranty is disappointingly skimpy, but, again, they aren’t expensive, anyway.

The lack of pointy teeth could hinder the connection, but there’s lots of surface area, anyway. It should make solid contact at the correct angle. The very low amp rating could keep you waiting awhile for enough charge to start a larger battery – but that’s not what you’d buy it for.

Who is This Set Best Suited To?

The OxGord CABC-08-16 jumper cables are ideal for small cars, yard tractors, and motorcycles.

They’re an inexpensive insurance policy for commuters, like me, who drive tiny cars and don’t need 10lbs of cable in the trunk. They’re also perfectly suitable if you own a few vehicles with 6V batteries and you want something exclusively for them.

A Different Set Might Suit You Better If?

  • You own medium- to large-size vehicles

Final Thoughts

They say you get what you pay for. In this case, we think you get a bit more.

The OxGord CABC-08-16 jumper cables are a low-cost solution for people who want peace of mind, but don’t drive (and don’t expect to drive) anything bigger than a compact car.

Have a peek at this link:

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Iron Forge IFT-BC02 Jumper Cables

Iron Forge Tools Booster Cables in Carry Bag 2 Gauge 20 Foot 500 Amps

Specs:

  • Wire gauge = 2
  • Amperage = 500
  • Length = 20’
  • Clamps = Top and side
  • Insulation = unknown

Overall Impressions

Everything about these cables looks solid and dependable. Unfortunately, we’re not sure what the insulation is, but we’re guessing PVC based on the temperature rating.

The clamp spring looks sturdy, and there are plenty of copper teeth for gripping your terminals. It all wraps up neatly in the carrying case, but we don’t have high hopes for a long life out of the case. Expect the cables to far outlast the packaging.

They’re a bit pricey compared to some options, but they’re a heavier gauge than average, so we expect superior performance when called upon.

What’s In the Box?

  • Cables and clamps
  • Carrying case
  • Work gloves

Features

  • Vinyl-coated, color-coded clamps
  • CCA wires
  • Copper teeth, side and front
  • Tangle-free to -40F/C
  • ETL-listed (meets North American safety standards)
  • Lifetime warranty

What We Like

Lots of teeth should equal a firm grip on anything, and that means a better connection.

At 500 amps and with 2-gauge wire, this cable will handle just about anything on the road with ease. With 20’ to play with, you’ll have no trouble hooking up front-to-back with all but the longest pickups and SUVs.

When a product is made in China (like this one), we’re happy to see it has been verified as meeting western safety standards (which this one does).

Doubling our confidence in the product is the lifetime warranty. I could be cynic and suggest that you’d be lucky to find this company in 10 years, but instead, I’ll be glad to know they stand behind what they make.

Oh, and while the carrying case seems to be less than optimal, the inclusion of safety gloves is a nice touch.

What We Don’t Like

We really wish the manufacturer told us what the insulation is (a check of the website turned up little information), it certainly seems heavy-duty enough. The wires are CCA, mind you, but at 2-gauge, we’re not too concerned; there’s plenty of wire to move the amps.

The carrying bag is a letdown, but that’s far from a deal-breaker. Maybe just keep the box it was shipped in if you have it delivered.

Who is This Set Best Suited To?

Anyone who lives where winters are brutal will be glad for such thick insulation. As to vehicles, these are suitable for any size car or truck but may be overkill for mid- to small-size cars, motorcycles, and yard equipment.

A Different Set Might Suit You Better If?

  • You live in a moderate climate year-round
  • You don’t own large vehicles

Final Thoughts

The Iron Forge IFT-BC02 jumper cables are an excellent all-around solution for pretty much any motorist. If your household has (as so many families do) a big family vehicle and a smaller one for errands and commuting, these cables are ideal for doing double duty.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Top DC TD-ULB9E0616CU Jumper Cables

TOPDC 100% Copper Jumper Cables 6 Gauge 16 Feet Heavy Duty Booster Cables with Carry Bag and Safety Gloves (6AWG x 16Ft)

Specs:

  • Wire gauge = 6
  • Amperage = 450
  • Length = 16’
  • Clamps = Top and side
  • Insulation = PVC

Overall Impressions

These cables are pretty hefty for the gauge and length, and that’s to do with the excellent insulation, and the 100% copper wire. In fact, from end to end, these look and feel like really good quality jumper cables.

Fully vinyl-coated clamps make us feel confident that we won’t have a shocking experience when we go to connect. The steel-coated copper teeth appear capable of gripping just about anything. All this, and rolled up into a nice little carrying case.

What’s In the Box?

  • Cables and clamps
  • Carrying bag
  • Safety gloves

Features

  • 100% copper wires
  • Vinyl-coated, color-coded clamps
  • PVC-coated cables
  • Flexible to -40F/C
  • Functional up to 167F/75C
  • Copper-plated steel jaws

What We Like

Thank you, TOP DC, for putting a simple diagram on the front of the carrying case to remind us how to connect two batteries safely. Simple, but useful.

While the gauge isn’t high, having 100% copper wire is excellent. The conductivity is fabulous, and it is far less likely to heat up uncomfortably than CCA wire. Sure, it adds to the weight, but it also adds to the quality and functionality.

The PVC insulation is heavy-duty and will keep these cables straight and working in even the most extreme temperatures. At 16’ long, hooking up in most configurations will be no problem. Front-to-back might be tight with large vehicles, but we don’t expect anyone with a large truck to buy these, anyway.

What We Don’t Like

While the Amps are high, the gauge is a bit low. Unfortunately, to get more gauge from TOP DC, you get fewer amps. Still, there should be enough of both in these cables to jumpstart just about anything short of a very large truck or SUV.

Who is This Set Best Suited To?

Just about any motorist can use these cables, from sub-compact drivers to full-size sedan owners. Even owners of small-to-mid-size trucks and SUVs should be fine with them. People who live where it gets either really cold or really hot will appreciate the extreme temperature rating.

A Different Set Might Suit You Better If?

  • You own a very large truck or SUV

Final Thoughts

100% copper wires come at a premium, but the moderate gauge of the TOP DC TD-ULB9E0616CU keeps the price and weight manageable. The combination of great features on these cables makes them a solid investment for nearly every motorist.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

I’m Glad We Hooked Up Today!

Now that we’ve separated the contenders from the field, it’s time to pick a winner. Our top pick for the best jumper cables for 2019 is the Iron Forge Tools IFT-BC02 Booster Cable Kit. With 2-gauge wire and a 500A rating, there’s next to nothing that you can’t start. This is a versatile set of cables, and a great investment for just about any motorist.

We hope you’ll agree that buying a set of jumper cables is a good investment that every motorist should make. It won’t take up much of your disposable income, and they could save you time, frustration, and money down the road.

If you have a friend whose life is devoid of jumper cables, do him or her a favor and pass this article along. And since you’re being such a good friend, you should also direct them to this site so they can help themselves to the very best in automotive content on the web.

Thanks for reading, friends! And don’t be a stranger – send us your comments, concerns, and questions and we’ll do our best to respond appropriately.

Be well, and drive safe!

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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Kyle Palmer

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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