Lifetime 55-quart High Performance Cooler review: Great alternative to coolers that cost hundreds more

The Good Lifetime's 55-quart High Performance Cooler is even bigger than advertised, and it performs even better than some rotomolded coolers that cost hundreds more. The dual-locking lid latches and roped handles help it feel like a premium pick, and the built-in bottle opener is a handy inclusion, too.

The Bad You can get performance that's just as good from the Igloo MaxCold Cooler, which costs less than half as much.

The Bottom Line This cooler is an excellent middle-ground pick that feels fancy without breaking the bank.

8.1 Overall
  • Features 8.5
  • Design 8
  • Performance 8
  • Usability 8

You'll find lots of fancy, expensive, "rotomolded" options if you're shopping for a new cooler. All of them promise notably better durability and insulation than their cheaper competitors, but they typically cost at least a few hundred dollars.

Another option: Spend a lot less on the Lifetime High Performance Cooler. I grabbed mine on sale at Walmart for $97. With dual latch locks, roped handles and a heavy duty design, it looks just like fancier coolers from the likes of Yeti and Orca, but it costs a lot less. It even has a built-in bottle opener, which seems like the sort of no-brainer feature every cooler should include.

Of course, the real question is whether or not it can perform as well as those pricier upgrade picks. After testing the thing out, I'm happy to report that it does, indeed, do a pretty decent job. It couldn't hold the cold as long as the Yeti Tundra 45 or the 58-quart Orca Classic Cooler, but it did manage to outlast the Bison Gen 2 Cooler and the Rovr Rollr 60, two rotomolded models that cost $329 and $399, respectively.

That's an excellent result that ties it with the Igloo MaxCold as the best performing, nonrotomolded cooler that I tested. The MaxCold is the better bargain of the two at just $45, but it's a very plain design that looks and feels cheaper than the performance would indicate. If you want to step up from there to a model that does a better job at looking the part, but you aren't prepared to dish out a few hundred bucks of your cold, hard cash for a Yeti or an Orca, then consider Lifetime as an excellent middle-ground pick.

Lifetime's cooler (gray) is one of the strongest performers you'll find for less than $100 -- but the Igloo Maxcold (teal) is even better at less than half the price.

Ry Crist/CNET

Let's start by taking a closer look at those performance claims I just made. The graph above charts the ambient temperatures inside each cooler I tested over 48 hours in our 70-degree, climate-controlled test lab. Inside each cooler: A measly 3 pounds of ice -- not even half of a small-sized bag from the gas station. My goal? Give each cooler a challenge to see which ones can actually deliver in suboptimal circumstances. (They'll all give you at least a day's worth of cold drinks with a full bag of ice.)