What Is 2020’s Best Outdoor Extension Cord?
If you’re a weekend warrior who takes pride in your home projects, a quality extension cord is an indispensable tool that you’ll need to invest in. But, it isn’t as simple as grabbing the first bright orange cord you see at the hardware store. While they may all look similar, there’s a lot that differentiates a mediocre cable from one of the best outdoor extension cords.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at ten of the top options on the market, and we’ll share with you some helpful advice for selecting the extension cord that matches your needs.
Quick Picks: Compare 2020’s Best Outdoor Extension Cords
- Outdoor Extension Cord Reviews
- Iron Forge Cable 12/3 SJTW Heavy Duty Yellow 3 Prong Extension Cable
- US Wire and Cable 99050 Extension Cord
- AlphaWorks Cord Reel with Alexa Smart Plug
- Woods 982452 50-Foot Extension Cord
- REELWORKS Retractable Extension 40-Foot Extension Cord
- AmazonBasics 12/3 SJTW Heavy-Duty Lighted Extension Cord
- Southwire 25890002 100-Foot Lighted Extension Cord
- Century Extension Cord Contractor Grade 50 ft 10 Gauge Power Extension Cord
- LifeSupplyUSA 10/3 50ft SJTW Lighted End Extension Cord
- AmazonBasics 12/3 Outdoor 15-Foot Extension Cord with 3 Outlets
- What to Consider Before Buying an Outdoor Extension Cord
- Length of the Cord
- Weather in Your Area
- Number of Outlets Needed
- Your Environment
- Features You Need in an Outdoor Extension Cord
- Power Rating
- Wire Gauge
- Outlet Construction
- Additional Features
- Caring for Your Extension Cord
- The Over-Under Coil
- The Around-The-Arm Coil
- Final Word
Outdoor Extension Cord Reviews
Iron Forge Cable 12/3 SJTW Heavy Duty Yellow 3 Prong Extension Cable
Most reliable outdoor extension cord
If you’re looking for a cable that’s built to last a lifetime, this 100-foot offering from Iron Forge Cable could be the last extension cord you ever need to buy. This cord is packed with features that are designed to keep it working in top shape for decades.
This 15 amp extension cord can handle an impressive 1,875 watts at 125 volts. This cord also features reinforced prongs that resist bending and damage, and a lighted socket brightly illuminates when the cable is plugged into power, which makes working in low light conditions easier.
The cable itself is bright yellow for high visibility, and it’s extra flexible, so it lays flat while you’re working to help eliminate tripping hazards. The thick vinyl covering is slip, weather, and abrasion-resistant, and it’s built to stand the test of time.
Should anything go wrong with your Iron Forge Cable, the manufacturer stands behind it with a lifetime warranty.
- Plenty of power handling – 15 amp handles 1,875 watts
- Lighted outlet
- Heavy-duty construction is built to last
- Lifetime warranty
- Stress relief collar could offer better reinforcement
US Wire and Cable 99050 Extension Cord
Best extension cord for cold weather
For homeowners that deal with frigid temperatures in the winter months, the 99050 cable from US Wire and Cable is one of the best options on the market. This cable is loaded with features discerning homeowners need, and it’s designed to work in the coldest regions without fail.
This two-toned cable is rated to work in extreme temperatures up to -94°F, so even homeowners in Siberia will find what they need from this rugged cord. The colorful TPE jacket is extremely flexible, so it lays flat, and it’s easy to store, even if you aren’t concerned with frigid temperatures.
The female plug is lighted, so you’ll have no issue working at night or in low light conditions, and the heavy-duty 12 AWG wiring delivers the power your tools need to perform in any situation. US Wire and Cable stands behind this cable with a lifetime warranty.
- Ideal for cold weather
- Lighted plug
- Lifetime warranty
- Made in the USA
- Stress relief jacket is too short; the wiring will likely break over time
- Male and female plugs could be higher quality
AlphaWorks Cord Reel with Alexa Smart Plug
Best smart outdoor extension cord
It seems like every single tool, appliance, and accessory is smart these days, so it was only a matter of time before extension cords got in on the fun. This smart extension cord from AlphaWorks is packed with features that make it one of the most convenient and easy to use cables on the market.
At its core, this cord packs commercially capable features. This 13 amp 50-foot cable handles up to 1,625 watts, and it’s rated to work in harsh temperatures as low as 14°F and as high as 140°F.
This smart cable is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT, and more, allowing you to control your extension cord through practically any smart home device. The cord boasts an impressive WIFI range of up to 320-feet.
When it’s time to roll your cord away, it couldn’t be easier. The cord stores away inside its reel, which can be mounted on your home’s exterior, inside your garage, or anywhere else. Smart Retraction Technology ensures that your cord is carefully rolled up after each use.
- Compatible with most smart devices
- Impressive power handling
- Includes cord reel with Smart Retraction Technology
- 14 AWG cable isn’t heavy-duty enough for the most demanding applications
- No instructions included for mounting the cable reel
Woods 982452 50-Foot Extension Cord
Affordable extension cord with high power handling
If you’re looking for a 15-amp cable that can handle up to 1,875 watts without breaking the bank, this affordable cable from Woods may be a smart choice for you. Don’t let the low price fool you; this cable is packed with features that demanding homeowners are sure to appreciate.
This cable handles an impressive 1,875 watts, and it features a durable oil and abrasion-resistant jacket that can handle working in all weather conditions. The cable is UL-listed and meets OSHA design specifications, so you can rest assured that it’s built to deliver the power you need.
While this cable doesn’t have high-end features like a lighted end or a TPE jacket, it’s tough to find a more capable cord at this low price.
- 15-amp handles up to 1,875 watts
- Flexible in all weather conditions
- No lighted end
- Only 14 AWG wiring – not designed for the most demanding applications
REELWORKS Retractable Extension 40-Foot Extension Cord
Best retractable outdoor extension cord
If you’re looking for a retractable cord but don’t need smart home compatibility, this 40-foot offering from REELWORKS may be ideal for your home.
This cable features heavy-duty components, and it’s built to stand up to anything you can dish out. The 12-gauge 15-amp wire handles up to 1,875 watts, and it features a three-outlet tap so you can connect multiple tools and accessories to the same cord.
The SJT cable resists practically every hazard that it’s likely to come in contact with, including oil, acids, and alkalies. You’ll never have to worry about adverse conditions, as this cable is rated to work in temperatures from -58°F to 221°F.
The bright yellow cable also features a circuit breaker to help deliver clean and protected power to your tools, and it can be mounted anywhere in your garage, shed, or on the exterior of your home.
- High power handling – 15-amp 1,875 watts
- Three outlet tap allows you to use multiple tools with a single cord
- Flexible in any temperature
- Need to be mindful when using multiple tools at once (wire is only 12 AWG)
AmazonBasics 12/3 SJTW Heavy-Duty Lighted Extension Cord
Best affordable heavy-duty extension cord
Usually, homeowners are forced to sacrifice high-end features if they’re looking for a budget-friendly extension cord. But, this impressive cord from AmazonBasics manages to offer a low price without compromising features.
This heavy-duty 12 AWG cable is 15-amps and handles up to 1,875 watts. A lighted female end ensures you’ll never have a hard time finding the plug in low light conditions, and an SJTW jacket provides superior flexibility while offering protection against hazardous materials like oil, acid, and more.
This cable is available in two high-visibility colors, and Amazon backs this extension cord with a one-year warranty.
- 15-amp 1,875 watts
- SJTW jacket ensures operation in extreme weather
- Only has a 1-year warranty
- Lighted end tends to burn out quickly
Southwire 25890002 100-Foot Lighted Extension Cord
Best 100-foot extension cord
If you need a lengthy cable that’s designed to meet the power needs of today’s modern tools and accessories, this cable from Southwire is one to take a closer look at.
This 100-foot cable is 15-amps and handles 1,875 watts, so it’s capable of handling demanding applications, and it also features a lighted end and heavy-duty over-molded plugs for long-lasting durability.
This long-lasting cable features a heavy-duty vinyl jacket that won’t mark floors or walls, and it stays flexible in most weather conditions.
- 100-foot length
- 15-amp 1,875 watt power handling
- Lighted plug
- Not as flexible as some other cords on our list
- Vinyl jacket isn’t as heavy-duty as other materials
Century Extension Cord Contractor Grade 50 ft 10 Gauge Power Extension Cord
Top outdoor extension cord for demanding applications
If you’re a professional contractor or someone who uses professional-quality tools that demand lots of power, this cable from Century is ideal for your needs.
This 50-foot cable features a high-visibility SJTW jacket that maintains it’s flexibility in extreme weather conditions. The 10-gauge cord provides the heavy-duty power handling that the most demanding tools and accessories require.
Most importantly, this cable features over-molded plugs with the most heavy-duty stress relief jacket of any cord on our list, so you can rest assured that it’s built to stand the test of time no matter what you throw at it.
- 10 AWG 15-amp cable handles up to 1,875 watts
- Heavy-duty stress relief jacket
- Lighted ends
- Could be a bit more flexible, difficult to coil and store in cold temperatures
LifeSupplyUSA 10/3 50ft SJTW Lighted End Extension Cord
Affordable 10-gauge extension cord
If you’re looking for an affordable 10-gauge extension cord available in a variety of lengths, LifeSupplyUSA has you covered with this 10-gauge cable.
This 15-amp extension cord handles up to 1,875 watts and features a heavy-duty insulated jacket that’s capable of working properly in any weather conditions. The lighted ends feature over-molded stress relief collars that come high up the cord to protect it from damage, and the prongs are heavily reinforced for durability in any working conditions.
For homeowners that require a longer cord, LifeSupplyUSA makes this model available in lengths from 25 to 200 feet, so you’ll have no trouble finding a suitable cable if you need an exceptionally long one.
- 10-gauge wire can handle virtually any power demands
- Handles up to 1,875 watts
- Overmolded stress relief collar
- Lighted ends
- Not as flexible as some other cables on our list
- Not built to work in frigid temperatures
AmazonBasics 12/3 Outdoor 15-Foot Extension Cord with 3 Outlets
Best affordable multi-outlet extension cord
For homeowners that demand versatility and want a well-made cord on a budget, this fifteen footer from AmazonBasics could be ideal for you.
This 12-gauge 15-amp cable can handle up to 1,875 watts, and it features a three-way tap so you can plug multiple tools into a single extension cord. The heavy-duty vinyl jacket keeps the cord protected against moisture, abrasion, and sunlight.
An over-molded stress relief collar helps reduce strain to keep your cable working in top condition, and the 3-way outlet tap is heavy duty and does a solid job of gripping tools and accessories, so they don’t come loose during operation.
While this short cable isn’t quite as flexible as some of the contractor-quality cables on our list, it’s ideal for homeowners that need a durable outdoor extension cord for basic use.
- 15-amp 1,875 watts power handling
- 3-way outlet tap
- Overmolded stress relief collar
- Not as flexible as higher-quality cables
- Not designed for use in frigid temperatures
What to Consider Before Buying an Outdoor Extension Cord
We’ve just run down ten of the best outdoor extension cords on the market today. Depending on what you need out of your extension cord, you’ll quickly realize that a few of these options are a better fit for you. Now, let’s take a look at some of the factors that will help you make a smart decision.
Length of the Cord
The first thing you’ll need to consider is how long you need the cord to be. Depending on the size of your yard and the number of exterior outlets you have available, you should have a good idea of what the minimum length you’ll need is.
It’s always better to air on the side of caution when choosing a length. While a 25′ cord may be suitable for you, it usually makes sense to spend a few extra dollars to purchase a longer cable. You never know what future projects will bring, so it’s always better to have an extension cord that’s longer than what you need than a cable that’s too short.
Weather in Your Area
The climate in your area is another factor you’ll want to look into when you’re shopping for a cord. Virtually all cables will be able to function in cold weather. But, if you live in an unusually cold climate, a cord rated for freezing temperatures will be better suited for you.
But, cold weather extension cords are important for another reason. Extension cords designed for cold weather tend to be made from much more flexible materials. Flexibility is a critical feature that will help you work more safely and allow you to coil and store your cord with ease. A flexible cable also tends to last much longer than a stiffer one.
Number of Outlets Needed
For most homeowners, you’ll run into projects where you need to power a variety of different tools or accessories at the same time. In these instances, it’s helpful to have multiple plugs to connect to.
If you plan on needing to power multiple things from a single power cord, you’ll also want to make sure that it can handle the power you’ll be demanding with multiple tools or accessories drawing power from the same cable all at once.
Some homeowners are more demanding than others, and if you’re especially hard on your tools, you’ll want to ensure that the cable you choose can stand up to what you dish out.
High-end cords feature heavy-duty jackets designed to stand up to a variety of workplace hazards. If you work with oil, acids, or other hazardous material, you’ll want to be sure you select a cable that can stand up to the stress you’ll be putting on it.
Features You Need in an Outdoor Extension Cord
As you evaluate different extension cords, there are several essential features that differentiate the best extension cords from mediocre models that aren’t going to stand up to the test of time. Here’s what you should look for.
The most important thing to consider is the amount of power the cord can handle. Not all extension cords are designed to provide the same amount of power. Using a cable that isn’t rated to deliver the amount of power you need is dangerous, and it can become an electrical and fire hazard.
Power is measured in a few different ways when it comes to extension cords. When you look at the packaging of a cable, you’re likely to see information about amps, volts, and watts.
Amps, which is short for amperes, are a measurement of the current of electrons as they move through an electrical conductor. The more electrons moving through the current, the more current there is.
Extension cords are usually rated for 10, 13, or 15 amps. Ten amp cords are mostly made for indoor use, but they’re often branded as “indoor/outdoor” cords. While these cords are suitable for light-duty, they don’t provide the power handling that many outdoor applications demand.
A 13 amp cord is better suited to the amount of power you’ll need outdoors. Cables rated for 15 amps are mostly used for heavy-duty projects, like construction, or running a generator. Most households are only about to handle up to 15 amps of power at a time anyway, so a 15 amp cord will ensure that your extension cord can handle any project you have.
While a 13 amp cord is usually more than adequate for use outside, a 15 amp cord will ensure you always have an extension cord on deck that can handle the power demands of any job you have.
Voltage is another power measurement, and it measures the amount of electrical force that’s moving the electrons. The higher the voltage, the higher the electrical force being generated. Most extension cords don’t display a voltage rating.
Wattage measures the amount of electrically being used, and you’ll occasionally see a wattage handling measurement listed on the packaging. This rating will let you know how many watts the cord can safely handle at once.
You’ll want to pay close attention to these numbers, as they’ll tell you all you need to know about the handling capacity of an extension cord. A cord that can’t handle the amount of power you need can overheat and even catch fire.
If you’re having trouble locating this information on the package itself, check out the tag on the cord. Most cords are UL or ETL rated, and they have a tag that displays amps, voltage, and wattage.
Wire gauge is another important consideration when you’re evaluating how much power it can handle. Gauge is the measurement of how thick the internal wiring of an extension cord is, and it’s typically expressed as AWG. The higher the gauge, the thinner the wiring is. Lower gauge cables are capable of carrying more power across longer distances.
For exterior use, you’ll want an extension cord that’s at least 14 gauge. But, if you need a length greater than 25 feet, you’ll want to step up to a lower gauge cable. A 12 gauge cable is suitable for lengths up to 50 feet, and for extension cords over 50 feet, you’ll want to step up to a ten gauge cable.
How the outlet is constructed is a major differentiator that separates the best outdoor extension cords from mediocre ones. The outlet of a cable consists of three different components, the receptacle, the connector, and the strain relief.
The receptacle is the interface where your tool or accessory plugs into the extension cord. The receptacle should grip your accessory tightly enough that it won’t come apart during use, but not so tightly that it’s difficult to unplug things from the cord.
The connector should be rugged, and provide plenty of protection for the sensitive internal components inside. Cheaper cords usually feature connectors that don’t offer the rugged protection that you’ll need if you want your cable to last a lifetime.
Perhaps the most important element of the outlet construction is strain relief. The strain relief portion of a cord looks a bit like a turtleneck sweater, and it’s designed to protect the wiring inside from bending, twisting, and pulling out the back of the receptacle. Most homeowners put their extension cords to the test, and cables without adequate strain relief tend to fail within a few seasons of use.
Another aspect to consider when shopping for an extension cord is how flexible the cable is. Whether you’re shopping online or in a store, it’s challenging to get a feel for how flexible an extension cord is when it’s in its packaging. As a rule of thumb, cables rated for use in cold weather are usually much more flexible than wires that aren’t.
Not only will a flexible cord make it easier for you to use the cable in cold weather, but there are some safety and storage benefits as well.
Cords that offer adequate flexibility will lay flat on the ground, which significantly reduces tripping hazards. Anyone who has ever gotten tangled up in a mediocre cord can tell you how important it is for your cable to lay flat and out of the way while you’re working, or moving about the yard.
Flexible cords also coil up more easily and tend to last longer than stiffer cables do. A stiff cable doesn’t want to cooperate when it’s time to coil it up and store it away, and cords that aren’t correctly coiled can develop permanent bends and twists in the wiring. Eventually, the stress from these twists and bends will cause the cable to fail.
Some manufacturers add some useful extra features when they’re designing their cords, and while they’re far from necessary, they can be helpful to have.
Some cords feature transparent outlet assemblies that light up when they’re plugged into power. While it’s not a requirement, this feature comes in handy when you’re working in low light conditions or at night.
It’s also common to find cords that feature a locking mechanism at the outlet that keeps your tool or accessory firmly locked in place while you work. This feature helps eliminate the frustration of your cord becoming unplugged as you work, and it also helps ensure that you work safer, since a tool or accessory that’s partially plugged into an extension cord is a safety hazard.
Finally, some cords feature automatic reels that make winding and storing your cable a breeze. This feature helps to extend the life of your cable by ensuring that it winds up properly when it isn’t in use, and it also keeps the cord safely stored away when it isn’t in use. This feature is especially helpful for homeowners looking for an extension cord for their garage or shed, or for an outside area where you regularly require power.
Caring for Your Extension Cord
A quality extension cord should last you a lifetime. But, if you don’t properly care for it, wear and tear could have you shopping for a replacement long before you should have to. Taking good care of your cord is a great way to keep it working for many years.
The Over-Under Coil
How you store your cable is the most critical thing you can do to prolong its life. But, storing your cable isn’t as simple as winding it around your arm and calling it a day. By using the over-under coil method, you’ll be able to eliminate stress within the cable so that it can rest properly with no strain on its internal components.
This method is the professional’s choice for storing everything from pro audio and visual cables to extension cords.
To wind your cord in this manner, start by gripping one end of the cable in your right hand. Grip the cable with your left hand about three feet apart from your right. Bring your left hand to your right hand and rotate your wrist 180° as you coil the cable. The cord will let you know the direction it wants to coil up in, and you’ll want to follow that direction as it coils.
Repeat this motion for as many times as you need to coil up the entire extension cord. Not only does this method eliminate stress from the cable so it can be safely stored away, but it also removes tangles, too. When it’s time to use your cord again, you’ll be able to throw the cable out in a straight line without any tangles to contend with.
The Around-The-Arm Coil
Most homeowners tend to store their extension cords by coiling the cable around their arm and then storing it away. While this method is the easiest and fastest way to store a cable, it’s also the most damaging.
When you wind your cord in this matter, you aren’t eliminating the twists that stress your cords internal wiring, so your cable is being stressed for as long as it’s being stored for. Over time, this method will likely cause your cord to fail, and it won’t lay as flat as it should when you take it out for use.
Our list above features ten of the best outdoor extension cords that are suitable for anything you can throw at them. Whether you choose one of the cables on our list, or you decide to venture out for a cable we haven’t covered, you’ll want to be sure to evaluate any cable you come across based on the criteria in our buying guide.
Any outdoor extension cable you choose should provide you with plenty of power handling, a heavy-duty jacket that can keep you working in any weather condition, and the reliability you need to keep your cord working in top shape for many years to come.