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Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler, 48 quarts review: Not cool, Rubbermaid: This cheap cooler is just about useless

It doesn't have a drain and it got beat in our performance tests by a $4 Styrofoam cooler. Buy literally anything else.

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Ry Crist
Ryan_Crist2.jpg
Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

3 min read

When I was a kid, our family had a Rubbermaid cooler. Back then, the brand sold a lot of the things, but these days, they've been largely displaced by coolers from Coleman and Igloo. You'll still find one or two Rubbermaids in the cooler aisle at Walmart, though. They look just like the one I grew up with, and a 48-quart "Ice Chest" model like the one I'm writing about now won't cost you any more than $20.

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4.8

Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler, 48 quarts

The Good

At 50.7 quarts, the Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler offers slightly more space than advertised.

The Bad

Rubbermaid's design doesn't include a drainage spout, and it was the weakest overall performer in our insulation tests. It even got beat by a $4 Styrofoam cooler.

The Bottom Line

You'll have a hard time finding a cooler that performs as badly as this one does. Buy literally anything else.

You shouldn't buy it. Like other cheap coolers, the Rubbermaid Ice Chest doesn't have a lid latch or even a drain, which is just a baffling omission. Worse, it wasn't able to outperform a disposable Styrofoam cooler that I grabbed at my local grocery store for $4. 

The weak performance stood in stark contrast to what you'll get if you spend a little more on the $45 Igloo MaxCold. That cooler held the cold about as well as I could have hoped for in my tests, even outperforming coolers like the Rovr Rollr 60 and the Bison Gen 2 that cost hundreds more. Nix your nostalgia for Rubbermaid and buy the Igloo MaxCold instead -- or stick with the Styrofoam and use the money you save on an extra six-pack.

Which cooler should you buy this summer? We tested 18 of them

See all photos

Now, in fairness, the Ice Chest's poor performance seems to be less of a Rubbermaid thing and more of an overall cheap-cooler thing. Just look at the Igloo Island Breeze Cooler, which I picked up at Dick's Sporting Goods for $15. 

In my tests, where I filled each cooler with 3 pounds of ice and tracked the ambient temperature inside for 48 hours, the cheap Igloo was just as underwhelming as the cheap Rubbermaid. 

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With 3 pounds of ice inside, Rubbermaid's cooler yielded a warmer average temperature than any other cooler I tested -- even warmer than the $4 Lifoam cooler.

Ry Crist/CNET

The Igloo did manage to pull the temperature down by a few extra degrees, though, which makes recommending the Rubbermaid even less conceivable.

The kicker is that white line on the graph below, which tracks the cooling power of a disposable Lifoam cooler made from Styrofoam that only set me back a few bucks. 

It was only able to pull the internal temperature from 70 degrees down to 58.4 degrees, which was a few degrees hotter than the Rubbermaid or the Igloo and hotter than any other cooler I tested -- but it also held steady at that minimum for longer than either one of them, and, tellingly, finished the test with a lower average overall temperature for the duration of the test. 

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The Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler was the worst-performing cooler we tested. The disposable Lifoam cooler that cost $4 (white) would arguably be a better pick.

Ry Crist/CNET

In other words, the data suggests that your beers will get warmer faster in the Rubbermaid Ice Chest than they would in the Lifoam. I know which one I'd rather have.

Of course, your best bet is to set your sights a little higher and spend $45 on the excellent Igloo MaxCold, my top-rated cooler to date. It's a few quarts smaller than the Rubbermaid, but the design has a drain and a lid latch, and it's much, much better at keeping things cold.

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4.8

Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler, 48 quarts

Score Breakdown

Features 4Design 5Performance 4Usability 6
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