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Best Jumper Cables for 2022

Stranded? No need to worry -- these jumper cables will get your vehicle up and running again.

CNET Cars staff
11 min read

As just about every driver knows, a dead car battery can be a huge headache. Whether you're in a rush to get somewhere or you're just trying to make your way back home, you won't be going anywhere until a good Samaritan stops by to give your car a jump. Waiting around for a someone to give you a hand is stressful enough, but add in appointments or inclement weather and it can ruin your whole day.

If you carry a pair of car jumper cables (booster cables) or a portable jump starter with you, though, you can get things going a whole lot quicker. Just use the jumper cable set to hook your battery up to another one, and you can jump-start your car. A good set of emergency cables will give you enough juice to get running and back home, although you'll still need to have your car battery checked over. Even so, having a set of the best jumper cables on-hand and ready to go in your trunk or boot definitely beats waiting for a tow truck.

There are a whole host of jumper cables and jump starters out there, with different capabilities (and price points). Determining which is the best jumper cable set for you means evaluating your circumstances and needs, and then going from there. For your convenience, we've compiled a list of some of the best jumper cables or emergency cables across a wide variety of categories, selected based on customer satisfaction and expert opinion.

After our picks for the best jumper cables, read on for more information about booster cable sets -- including the proper way to use them to jump-start your car.


While Energizer's Jumper Cables may rank as our runner-up heavy duty jumper cable set, they're really just as good as the Cartman models. Like Cartman, they have 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon, based on more than 13,000 customer ratings. They also edge out Cartman Booster Cables in the sales category, ranking as the most popular jumper cables on the site.

The Energizer jumper cable set is highly ranked for their capabilities, and they come at a reasonable price, as well -- the 16-foot cable length/2-gauge cables are only $30, while the most deluxe, heavy duty cable model to move more serious amperage (25 feet/1-gauge) comes in at just $52. Combined with a two-year warranty, that means that Energizer's cables are a smart investment.

Energizer's Jumper Cables also rank as our top pick in the heavy-duty category -- while the company offers a 6-gauge model, most of the varieties range in wire gauge from 1-gauge to 4-gauge. This gauge jumper cable can handle higher amperage, greater than 400 amps, delivering a burst of power that can jump-start trucks and SUVs in addition to cars.

Comparison of the best jumper cables for 2022

Best jumper cables overall CartmanBC1207401.0-6.016-20 feet$22
Best jumper cables overall runner-up/Best heavy-duty jumper cables EnergizerENB2161.0-10.012-25 feet$30
Best jumper cables for the money/Best compact jumper cables Amazon BasicsBC120749A4.0-10.012-20 feet$16
Best jumper cables for the money runner-up VoilamartVPA-JL-1200AN1.0, 2.020 feet$31
Best jumper cables if money is no object Forney528782.012-25 feet$240
Best jumper cables if money is no object runner-up Iron Forge ToolsFBA_IFT-BC022.020 feet$36
Best jumper cables with reverse-polarity protection HorusdyAB0011.0-6.012-25 feet$40
Best long jumper cables Always PreparedAPJC4.020 feet$30
Best extra-long jumper cables EnergizerENB1301.030 feet$99
Two Amazon Basics jumper cables hooked up to a car battery
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Two Amazon Basics jumper cables hooked up to a car battery

The Amazon Basics Jumper Cables are a solid and affordable option.

Amazon Basics

How do you use jumper cables?

Using jumper cables to start a car is very dangerous (and potentially harmful) if you don't follow the proper instructions. Not only does the process involve dealing with high voltages of electricity, but damaged batteries can also leak hazardous substances. Make sure to always use jumper cables safely, and remember -- manufacturer's instructions always supersede any others.

You can jump-start a car if the battery is dead -- typically, you'll know the battery is dead because the car makes a low whining noise when you try to start it, but there are other signs, as well. "The first clue would be that the vehicle won't start. It could lead to no lights appearing on the dashboard and, potentially, there may even be a clicking sound coming from the engine bay," says Lee Silsby. Silsby is a tester for the UK's Ministry of Transport and the founder of Earningsportal. "You could also note the battery is dead if you go to remote unlock the vehicle and this doesn't work."

To jump-start a car, you need jumper cables and an additional battery with a matching voltage or a jump starter. Usually, the battery will be in another car, but there are also portable jump starters that can give you an automatic car the boost it needs to get going. If you are using another car, you must first make sure that both cars are parked in an orientation that allows the jumper cables to reach from one battery to the other.

Hands holding the ends of a jumper cable.
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Hands holding the ends of a jumper cable.

Jumper cables -- such as this Energizer model -- come with color-coded red and black clips.


After that, it's a matter of following specific instructions. Make sure the cars are both not running, then pop the hoods. Connect one of the cables' red clips to the positive terminal on the dead battery, then the other red clip to the positive terminal on the donor battery. Then, you attach one of the cables' black clips to the donor battery's negative terminal. Finally, you connect the remaining black clip to an unpainted metal section of the dead car, one that's not directly next to the battery -- idrivesafely.com recommends one of the metal struts that hold the hood open. Incorrect connections can result in power drainages, sparks or even explosions, which can damage your vehicle and injure you.

"If you connect the negative (ground) terminal first, any accidental metal to metal contact on the way to connecting the positive (hot) terminal will result in a short circuit with the entire capacity of the battery behind it," says Mike Arman. Arman is an electronics expert, a vocational school teacher, and the author of Motorcycle Electrics Without Pain. "The accidental metal to metal contact completes the circuit. While nobody intends to do this, clamps can slip out of your hand, you might have to reposition the cars because the cables are too short, or you might be wearing a metal ring which completes the circuit (it will melt and you may lose the finger). Connecting the positive (hot) terminal first avoids most of this. The circuit is dead until the negative (ground) terminal is connected."

Four different jumper cables
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Four different jumper cables

Not all jumper cables are created equal.

Always Prepared/Amazon Basics/Forney/Voilamart

Once the clips are attached, you start the donor car and allow it to run for a few minutes. After some time has elapsed, you may be able to start the dead battery. First, you'll want to see if the light in the car works. If it does, you can try starting it. If the car starts, detach the cables in the opposite order -- first the black clip from the unpainted metal, then the black clip from the battery, then the red clip from the donor battery, and finally, the red clip from the dead battery. It's recommended that you allow the car to run for 10 to 20 minutes before turning it off.

"Leave the vehicle running for a while -- or even better, take it for a long drive to charge up the battery," says Silsby. "It would also be worthwhile checking the battery as it may need replacing. If you find it goes dead again very quickly then this is possibly the case.

If the car doesn't start, you can check the connections and try again, though it's possible the battery is too far gone to be jumped.

Jumper cables clamped on a car battery
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Jumper cables clamped on a car battery

As shown here with the Horusdy jumper cables, red clips are always connected to positive terminals and black clips to the negative terminals.


More about jumper cables

Jumper cables, also sometimes called "booster cables," come in many different varieties, so you'll want to make sure you pick the pair that's right for you. One way in which jumper cables differ is in the gauge, or thickness, of the wire. The lower the gauge, the thicker the wire is, ranging from 1-gauge to 12-gauge. Thicker -- or heavy-duty -- wires allow more electricity to pass through, so if you have a larger battery that needs more juice to start, you'll probably want a pair of cables with a lower gauge.

It's also important to make sure that your cables have good clamps. Each pair of cables comes with one cable with red clamps on each end, and one cable with black clamps (alligator clamps or parrot clamps) that connect to the cables and grip car batteries' terminals, making them an essential part of conducting electricity. For that reason, clamps should be securely attached and insulated in order to prevent electrocution and injury.

A car with the hood open an jumper cables running to a tow truck.

With Energizer's 30-foot jumper cables, you have your choice of parking configurations while getting a jump.


Five things to know before using jumper cables

  • What is your budget? The amount of money that you have to spend on jumper cables will be an important factor in determining which ones you get. Luckily, there are great models at a wide array of prices, offering different benefits.
  • What voltage is your battery? No matter what voltage your car battery is, you'll need to get jumper cables that are compatible. If they're not compatible with your battery's voltage, you won't be able to use them to jump-start your car.
  • What length do you need? The length of the cables that you get will be determined by the conditions under which you use them. For instance, if you live in a busy area where parking is sparse, you may want longer cables to allow for more distance between cars.
  • What gauge do you need? The gauge of your cables references their thickness, and thicker cables transmit more power. If you have a larger vehicle with a larger battery, you'll want a lower gauge, which means the cables are thicker.
  • How do you operate the jumper cables safely? In addition to the instructions given in this article, make sure you read the manufacturer's instructions thoroughly and follow them fully in order to ensure safe use.

Written for Roadshow by Scott Fried.

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