CNET Smart Home
12 coolers tested: Which ones are worth the cash?Shopping for a new cooler this summer? We tested a dozen of them to help you pick the right one.
It's summertime at the CNet smart home so we're taking a break from the gadgets and gizmos to get a cold hard look at coolers. You got a lot of options if you're shopping for a new on this summer ranging from dirt cheap to hundreds of dollars. So which ones are the smartest buys. Let's start by taking a look at the Metric that probably matters most, performance. I tested 12 coolers, ranging in price from 4 dollars to 400 dollars in our climate-controlled test lab by tracking the ambient temperature inside all of them over 48 hours. Inside each one, three pounds of ice. Now, that's not a lot, that's not even half of a small-sized bag from the gas station but I wanted to challenge the coolers and get a good granular look at how they perform. In the end the test delivered giving us a terrific look at the differences from model to model. Now that pink line at the bottom, that represents our top performer, the popular Yeti Tundra 45. It's a thick, rugged cooler with a fancy roto-molded design. At $300 it doesn't come cheap. Now roto molding, that's short for rotational molding. And it's just what it sounds like. The mold is literally rotated as the plastic is poured in and that helps it set more evenly for better durably and insulation. And as the Yeti and other coolers like it show roto molding can make a huge difference in how well your cooler keeps things cold. That leaves YETI as my top pick for people who just want the best performance money can buy. But be aware that YETI' s cooler are smaller than the name suggest. For instance, the Tundra 45 here, isn't a 45 quarts cooler. It actually holds about 33 quarts. Not cool YETI. For something bigger, consider the Orca Classic cooler. Another [UNKNOWN] model that costs about $300. It doesn't hold the cold quite as long as the Yeti does, but it hit the same minimal temperatures in my tests. And at 58 quarts, there's 35% more space inside for your beer. If you don't want to spend hundreds, don't worry, I found a couple of picks that cost a lot less, too. Let's start with my top overall value pick, the Igloo Maxcold cooler At a price of just 45 dollars, it isn't anything fancy to look at. But it performs like a champ. Better than any other cheap cooler I tested. And better than two of the four [UNKNOWN] molded models that I tested too. Another good value for the price, the Lifetime High Performance cooler. I picked mine up at Walmart for $97. It perform just as well as the Igloo max cold and the extra $50 or so gets you a much better design with dual lid latches, rope handles and even a built in bottle opener which seems like something every cooler should include. I also measured it at 62.4 quarts which is bigger than advertise than about 35% bigger than Igloo That brings us to wheeled coolers. I tested a few out to try and find a good pick for folks who want to bring their cooler with them on their next hike. The cheap models I looked at felt flimsy and underperformed in my test, but I was blown away by the mobility and durability of the Roover Roller 60. With nine inch inflatable rubber wheels and a sturdy steel frame, the thing is built like a tank. And the roto molded design offers strong cooling performance too. Though not as strong as Orca or Yeti. At $400 it was the most expensive cooler that I tested but until I find a good rolling value pick I say it's a wheeled cooler worth saving up for. And one last thing. If you're just looking for something dirt cheap, don't even bother with $20 coolers like this Rubbermaid or Igloo model Bottles. This disposable styrofoam cooler cost me just $4 and it held its minimum temperature longer than either of them. For more cooler insights, check out our full round-up post on CNET.com. Now, time to enjoy some of these test sets.