What Are The Best Jumper Cables? (Guide) – 2020 Reviews
When you plan to be prepared to help a friend, you’ll need to plan to keep a set of jumper cables in your car. Jumper cables are an essential rescue tool because they solve one of the most common problems in older cars: failing batteries.
But if you’ve never purchased a set of jumper cables before, you may not understand which features are necessary for safety or efficacy and which are unnecessary add-ons which jack up the price.
In this article, we’ll get tangled up into the world of jumper cables so that we can teach you how to pick a winning set.
Quick Picks: See The Top 3 Best Jumper Cables of 2020
- Jumper Cable Reviews
- Best Overall: Cartman Booster Cable 4 Gauge
- Best Cheap Option: TOPDC Jumper Cables 4 Gauge
- Best Value: Energizer 1-Gauge 800A Heavy Duty Jumper Battery Cables
- Honorable Mention: EPAuto 4 Gauge x 20 Ft 500A Heavy Duty Booster Jumper Cables with Travel Bag and Safety Gloves
- Second Honorable Mention: Pennzoil Jumper Cable
- Factors to Consider When Choosing Battery Jumper Cables
- Jumper Cable Length
- Quality of instructions
- Ease of use
- What is the right way to jump a car?
- Who should carry a jumper cable?
- Who shouldn’t attempt to jump a car?
- Jumping Off
Jumper Cable Reviews
In this section, we’ll check out five of the best jumper cables on the market and highlight the features which make them shine. We’ll mention our top pick, the best cheap option, our selection for the best value for your dollar, and two runners-up.
Best Overall: Cartman Booster Cable 4 Gauge
For jumper cables, sometimes simple and timeless designs can be the best overall choice, and that’s why we’ve selected the Cartman Booster Cable as our top pick.
- No extra frills
- Includes carrying bag
- Plenty of length
- Not rated for use at temperatures below negative 13 degrees Fahrenheit
- No digitized features
This set of jumper cables has exactly what you need to jump start your car using another car or vice versa. There aren’t any extraneous features or other features which you’d wish that these cables had to make using them a bit easier.
The contents of the set are the cables themselves, an instruction placard, and a carrying bag to keep the cables tangle free when they’re sitting in your trunk for long periods of time.
The instruction placard is clear, easy to understand and perfect for removing the jitters which many inexperienced people have when they are trying to set up a jump for the first time.
Likewise, the color-coded alligator clamps on the cables mean that it’s hard to mess anything up.
There aren’t any downsides to this set of jumper cables for the vast majority of use cases, but there is one limitation which may be relevant to people who live in extremely cold places where having a functional set of cables is even more important than normal.
The cables cannot guarantee their pliability at temperatures below negative 13 degrees Fahrenheit or negative 25 degrees centigrade. For people who regularly travel around the Arctic or Antarctic regions, you’ll need to get a more cold-resistant set.
Best Cheap Option: TOPDC Jumper Cables 4 Gauge
The TOPDC Jumper Cables are a great pickup at a low cost, and you’ll find that there aren’t any points where the manufacturer has cut corners to make the cables less expensive.
- Includes easy-winding spool
- Works at any temperature
- Includes LED light to help find dead battery contacts at night
- Mediocre instruction placard
- Not very durable
The value in this set of cables stems from the fact that they work. The gauge of the cable means that you can jump anything as large as an SUV without worrying about damaging the cables with overloaded charge.
As a nice bonus feature, the cables also have a tiny LED light which illuminates the battery contact while you are trying to place it in the darkness under the vehicle’s hood.
You’ll need to connect one end of the clamp to your own battery before the light will work, but it’s still a great feature which makes hooking up the cables in the late afternoon or night much easier.
The only issue with these jumper cables is that you will need to be careful about throwing heavy stuff into your trunk. The interior construction of the cables uses many tiny wires with copper jackets and aluminum cores.
If these tiny wires are hit with a heavy object that is somewhat sharp, it can damage the rubber sleeve around the bundle of small wires and compromise the electrical insulation of the cables.
This means that the cables will be more dangerous to use and also have a lower maximum carrying capacity of charge. But, if you treat the cables carefully you won’t have any issues.
Best Value: Energizer 1-Gauge 800A Heavy Duty Jumper Battery Cables
These Energizer Heavy Duty Jumper Cables have all the features that you need as well as a little bit of extra length (25 feet) which can help to jump cars in difficult positions. Because of the extra length of 25 feet, you’ll literally get more bang for your buck when you pick this set of cables.
- Has 25 feet of length instead of the standard 20 feet
- Rim-protected alligator clamps protect against sparking while finding battery contacts
- No-slip clamp lacquer
- Awkward and non-standard clamp shape
Every cable manufacturer includes instructions which helps the users to understand how their car must be positioned in comparison to the vehicle that needs to be towed.
But, often times the length of the cable means that any minor deviation from the precise location specified by the instructions results in a very difficult connection. That’s where the extra five feet on this set of cables comes in handy.
You may find that the alligator clamps themselves are considerably heavier than other jumper cables. The reason behind this is that the clamps have a small lip which covers the very front of the clamp’s contact to protect against accidental sparking when you are finding the battery.
So, while the cover is a feature which may help to make inexperienced cable users to be more comfortable by avoiding sparking, it may also make the process of connecting the clamps to the contacts more difficult.
Honorable Mention: EPAuto 4 Gauge x 20 Ft 500A Heavy Duty Booster Jumper Cables with Travel Bag and Safety Gloves
Our first honorable mention for one of the best cable sets is this EPAuto set, which includes a handful of simple yet helpful safety features that many people will love.
- Includes separate sets of instructions for vehicles with a dead battery and vehicles with weak batteries
- Includes safety gloves
- Tangle free cable
- Weak instruction set
- Safety gloves may not protect against electricity
The cool thing about this jumper cable set is that it has different use modes depending on whether you’re jump starting a car that has a fully dead battery or whether the car merely has a weak battery or a stalling issue.
This means that you won’t need to damage the battery of the car that is receiving the jump simply because you don’t know how to perform the jump the right way.
On the other hand, it also means that you’ll need to exercise your discretion when it comes to which instructions to follow. Diagnosing the problem of the other vehicle is a prerequisite if you want to use these cables to their fullest.
You should be wary when you are using these jumper cables, with the included safety gloves, however. While the safety gloves are a nice addition to the set, they probably won’t protect you from any serious shock.
So, while the safety gloves might help you to feel more confident when you are seeing some minor sparking from the battery while you are connecting the contacts, they will not protect you from a major blunder like touching a piece of metal on the cable or the battery.
Furthermore, the instruction set on these jumper cables is not the strongest. You’ll probably need to read a more detailed set of instructions on the internet.
Second Honorable Mention: Pennzoil Jumper Cable
When you’re looking for a short and sweet jumper cable, this Pennzoil jumper cable set will do the trick.
- Large amount of exposed copper for maximum charge rate
- 7-year warranty
- Comfortable grips
- Only 12-feet long
- Large amount of exposed copper on the alligator clamp
The grips on the alligator clamps in these jumper cables have the traditional rubber coating. The coating provides a good mix of durability and also comfort for your hand. It’s difficult to damage the rubber enough to compromise the insulation that they provide.
The drawback of these jumper cables is that it is exceptionally short, clocking in at 12 feet of length. This means that you’ll need to be more careful about how the two vehicles are positioned before you attempt to make the jump.
To give you an idea, 12 feet means that you will need you have your front bumper right against the front bumper of the other vehicle to make the jump and have enough slack to be comfortable.
Furthermore, you will find that the large amount of exposed copper on the alligator clamps makes the cables a bit dangerous for people who are clumsy. Exposed copper means that you can get shocked, though it will also ensure that the cables are more durable.
This means that in aggregate, these battery jumper cables are not very good for beginners. But, pros will value their comfort and longer than average warranty. You may also find that it’s better for jump starting smaller vehicles which are easier to move into a short-range position.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Battery Jumper Cables
When you’re in the market for battery jumper cables, you’ll need to keep a handful of features in mind, including:
- Jumper Cable Length
- Quality of instructions
- Ease of use
In this section, we’ll go through each of these features and describe what we mean so that you’ll be a well-informed purchaser.
Jumper Cable Length
The length of the jumper cable is critical because every additional foot of length makes setting up the jump considerably easier.
Battery jumper cables tend to come in a few different standardized lengths. You can pick between cables with lengths of 12 feet, 20 feet, 25 feet, 30 feet, and 50 feet. For most purposes, you should opt for battery jumper cables that are at least 20 feet long.
Likewise, most people won’t need battery jumper cables that are longer than 25 feet or 30 feet. Extra length beyond a certain threshold means that you’ll be at a larger risk for the cables getting tangled. Furthermore, every additional foot of length on the cable is a larger surface area for damage.
If your battery jumper cables aren’t long enough, you’ll need to spend more time positioning your vehicle or the vehicle to be jumped before you can power the other vehicle.
While many people have managed to make jumps with taut cables, having a taut jump cable increases the chance of one end unclipping spontaneously and causing a major hazard for anyone in the area.
The gauge of the jumper cable refers to the diameter of the internal metal-jacketed bundle of wires which carries electricity from your battery to the empty battery. The smaller the gauge number, the more charge can be carried at a time.
But why is the amount of charge carried per unit of time an important feature for a jumper cable? Couldn’t you just leave the cables connected for longer to get the same result of filling the empty battery?
As it turns out, batteries which are empty are typically contained in vehicles which have their electrical components turned on. Because they are turned on, they attempt to draw electricity even when there isn’t any in the battery.
Then, when the charge flows into the battery from your jump, it’s immediately drawn out of the recipient battery and wasted on the devices which are still on.
This means that for larger vehicles which have more devices or more power-intensive devices, like SUVs or trucks, you’ll need a significantly higher rate of charging to make any headway on filling the battery while the devices immediately peter it away.
For most purposes, a four-gauge jumper cable will provide enough bandwidth for SUVs with a dead battery to be charged. Keep in mind that the larger the vehicle that you’re charging, the more robust your own battery will need to be during the jump, even if your engine is running.
So, you should keep your eye out for a jumper cable with a gauge that is at least four units.
Any higher values mean that the maximum throughput of the cable is lower, which will limit the types of vehicles that you can successfully jump while also making it slower and more difficult to jump the vehicles that the cable is rated for.
Quality of instructions
The quality of the instruction set with the jumper cables is important, especially if you aren’t experienced at hooking up jumper cables.
The instruction set in a jumper cable pair should explain how to position your vehicles, how to connect the cables to the contacts on each vehicle, and how to know when the jump is finished.
While this may seem like a simple collection of things, many instructions opt for minimalism. In particular, instruction sets which rely too heavily on pictures without enough accompanying text — or vice versa — can be dangerous and difficult to use.
Ease of use
The ease of use and the comfort of jumper cables are one in the same. Many jumper cables have grips on the alligator clamps which are uncomfortable, not durable, or otherwise get in the way of using the cables correctly.
Your comfort preferences aren’t super important because you won’t be using your jumper cables too frequently, but if you have sensitive skin or wrist joints, you’ll appreciate a well-padded set of cables.
Likewise, the ease of use of a jumper cable includes bonus features like protected metal contacts to prevent sparking and lights which help you to identify where the battery contact is in the darkness of the engine area.
The safety of jumper cables is especially important because if you use jumper cables incorrectly it can result in serious injury.
High voltage flows from jumper cables when they are attached to a full battery. The safety features on your jumper cables includes the rubber insulation around the cable bundle as well as the protection around the alligator clamps which you hold with your hands.
Not all sets of insulation on jumper cables are created equal. The thinner the rubber insulation on the alligator clamps or the cables themselves, the more likely they are to become damaged by a stray sharp object in your trunk.
When your jumper cables have damage to their insulation, it’s a major hazard which you may not recognize at first glance.
Having a good instruction set is also part of a jumper cable’s safety package. If you use the jumper cables incorrectly, the chance of hurting yourself or damaging your vehicle is much higher.
Before you purchase jumper cables, try finding the instructions and reading them to make sure that they are entirely clear to you.
The confusion of trying to find the battery contact on someone else’s vehicle will compound any misunderstandings you have, so it’s important to be familiarized with your cables before you use them.
In this section, we’ll discuss a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding using jumper cables so that you’ll be ready to jump someone else’s car when the time comes.
What is the right way to jump a car?
While jumping a car with a pair of jumper cables may seem scary, if you do it correctly and carefully you will never be in any danger that you do not understand and control.
The details of jumping using your particular jumper cables may vary slightly, but in general, you should follow the following steps to jump a car:
- Position the front of your vehicle such that it is as close as is safely possible given road conditions to the front of the vehicle that needs a jump
- Pull the parking brakes on both vehicles, shift them into Park, and turn both vehicles off
- Examine your battery and the other vehicle’s battery, identifying the positive (“+”) and negative (“-”) battery contacts
- Remove any obstructions which would prevent you from snaking jumper cables from one vehicle’s battery to the other vehicle’s battery
- Take the red clamp of your jumper cable and attach it to the positive contact on your battery; a small spark when you attach it is normal
- Attach the other red clamp to the positive terminal on the other vehicle’s battery; a small spark when you attach it is normal, and a dirty contact may cause a very small amount of smoke which resides immediately
- Attach the black clamp to the negative battery terminal of the car that needs a jump; there should be no sparking
- Attach the other black clamp to a grounding point on your vehicle like the metal struts which prop up the hood; grounding points are unpainted pieces of metal frame which aren’t near the battery, so anything similar will do
- Start the vehicle that is providing charge for the jump and allow the engine to run for up to 15 minutes
- Try to start the vehicle that needs a jump
- If the vehicle doesn’t start, try running the other vehicle for several more minutes; if the other vehicle still doesn’t start, the battery is probably too damaged to revive
It’s normal to see small amounts of sparking at the contact points of the red clamps. If this sparking does not reside as soon as the clamp is fully attached or if the sparking appears to be causing a lot of smoke, disconnect it immediately and be careful.
Your black clamp attachment point on your vehicle should not spark when you attach it because it goes to ground. But, the black clamp attachment point on the negative contact of the other vehicle’s battery may spark a small amount when it is connected.
Other than that, you should be aware that sometimes a small amount of smoke will occur right when you attach the clamps to the battery terminals or a few moments after as the current starts to flow.
The reason behind this is that engine exhaust can cake onto the battery terminals. When the current starts to flow, the caked particles are rapidly heated because they are resistors. This heating causes them to effervesce into smoke.
But, there is only a small film of this exhaust on most batteries. Anything beyond a momentary puff of thin smoke is a cause for concern.
Who should carry a jumper cable?
Everyone who has a vehicle that is larger than a compact car should carry a set of jumper cables because they may need to help someone in need in the future.
Especially if you have a vehicle with a powerful engine like a truck or SUV, carrying a jumper cable means that you’ll be able to help most of the people who you encounter who have a dead battery.
If you have a small car or a motorcycle, carrying jumper cables won’t be much good because your engine and your battery won’t have the capacity to charge most of the other cars on the road, so there won’t be many opportunities for you to help.
Who shouldn’t attempt to jump a car?
Using jumper cables isn’t for everyone, however. If you’re skittish about sparks, smoke, or opening the hood of a car, you’ll probably do more harm than good when you use a pair of jumper cables.
Likewise, people who are elderly, poorly mobile, blind, or otherwise not in good physical form should not use jumper cables. The physical effort involved in applying jumper cables is not very intense, but you do need to be able to perform the basic actions with confidence in your body.
Grip strength is a major prerequisite for using jumper cables. If your grip isn’t strong enough to open the alligator clamps — and sometimes they require quite a lot of force — you won’t be able to connect the clamps to the dead battery contacts.
On the bright side, most jumper cable alligator clamps can double as grip strengtheners, so if you’re on the threshold of being able to open the clamps with one hand you can practice until your grip is strong enough.
Sensory issues are particularly risky for using jumper cables. There is an element of danger in applying jumper cables, so if you aren’t fully able to react to potential issues you may be putting yourself and other people at risk.
If you have compromised vision, applying jumper cables is especially hazardous. It can be difficult to read the labels on a battery under the best of conditions, so people with poor night vision or poor ability to resolve detail will struggle.
That ties up our roundup of the best jumper cables. Now that you understand how to use your jumper cables and which features you should look for in a pair of jumper cables, you’re ready to make a purchase.
Remember to read the instructions before purchasing and also before using the cables, especially if you’ve never jumped a vehicle before. Don’t forget to inspect your cables for damage to ensure that you stay as safe as possible, and good luck with your jumps.