The primary consideration when choosing between a 12V car battery charger and a jump starter is whether your purpose is to carry the device in the car for emergencies when your battery is dead or you just need to charge and maintain a battery at your home or garage. A pure 12V car battery charger typically plugs into an AC outlet to operate and so is not designed to be carried in a car for emergencies.  So, do you need a 12V car battery charger or a 12V battery jump starter?

12V Car Battery Charger: NOCO Genius G3500 Smart Battery Charger Underhood View

Here are some other tips to help you choose which device is the right choice for you:


Being stranded in a lonely parking lot somewhere at night in the rain with a battery that won’t start your car is probably one of our biggest nightmares. What you could do in that event, if you carry jumper cables, is to hope a Good Samaritan is nearby who will take pity on you and allow you to jump your car off their good battery.


Interested in seeing examples of quality car battery chargers and battery jump starters?  Be sure to see our other articles about some of the best!


That’s assuming you actually carry jumper cables with you, your Good Samaritan has a set, and a Good Samaritan is indeed left in the parking lot with you and is willing to help!

If you don’t want to take that chance, a jump starter is an excellent choice to put your mind at ease. Jump Starters are just batteries with built-in jumper cables with the capability to jump start your car in the event that your low battery is incapable of doing the job.






It works the same way as jump starting your car using jumper cables but, without the need for a second vehicle to furnish the battery.  This is a case where a plug-in 12V car battery charger is not going to do the job and is not the appropriate tool.

12V Car Battery Charger: Gooloo 12V Jump Starter Main ViewPortable Power

Some lead-acid and most lithium-ion battery boosters have built-in power banks with USB ports and power ports to charge laptops, smartphones, and MP3 players for example. If you want to have this kind of capability, a jump starter that is also a power bank is the only way to go.

While you’re not using the jump starter for emergencies, you can use some of the power to power your devices while traveling. Just remember that the jump starter is a battery and be sure to plug it in when you get to the hotel or home so that it will be ready when you need it in an emergency.

A typical battery charger is not portable and a portable car battery charger is not a jump starter.  Again, since most car battery chargers need AC power to operate, they are not the right choice for use as a portable power bank.

Air Supply

Some jump starters even come with a built-in or accompanying air compressor capable of inflating your tires when they are low on air.  Although this might not fix a flat in an emergency, if the problem is a slow leak, you may be able to buy yourself enough time to get to a nearby garage or tire shop for repairs.

A 12V battery charger does not come equipped with or have an accompanying air compressor as part of its design.

12V Car Battery Charger: NOCO Genius G3500 Smart Battery Charger Under Hood View 2Battery Tending

If your goal is to keep your garden tractor battery healthy during the offseason or perhaps your ATV, RV, classic car or motorcycle, then an auto battery charger and maintainer is what you need.

Modern battery chargers are designed to charge and maintain batteries in many types of vehicles. They plug into an AC outlet and provide a steady charging current to your battery and then once fully charged, they maintain a full charge on the battery.  Battery charging typically takes time which you typically don’t have in an emergency situation.

So, although technically, if you leave a 12 volt battery charger connected to your dead battery, it will eventually raise the battery’s voltage level enough that it will start your car parked in your driveway, it’s not designed to jump start your car in an emergency.  On the other hand, booster packs are not designed to charge or maintain batteries.





Cold Weather

If you live in a moderately severe winter climate you know the toll that the cold takes on a car battery. While it’s true that if your car battery loses power to the point it cannot start your car, a car jump starter is an appropriate candidate to start it, it’s much more efficient and better for your battery to use a battery charger/tender to keep the battery fully charged and to prevent damage to the battery.  A car jump starter will not charge and maintain your battery so that it will be ready to start in wintry weather.





12V Car Battery Charger



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What do you think of this comparison?  Which 12V device are you planning to buy?  Please take a moment to leave a comment below.

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Just remember, a 12V car battery charger is designed to charge your battery over time and must be plugged into an AC outlet to operate.  A battery jump starter is a standalone tool that is used in emergencies to jump start your dead battery.  I sincerely hope that this article has provided you with valuable information that helps you choose the right tool for your needs.  Choose a battery booster to carry with you in your car to jump start your battery in an emergency. Choose a 12V car battery charger to charge your battery over time within range of an AC outlet.