Greg Dolley’s Weblog

A Blog about Graphics Programming, Game Programming, Tips and Tricks

Tip: What You Didn’t Know About Car Chargers

Posted by gregd1024 on January 20, 2008

What didn’t you know car chargers (i.e. iPod car charger, cell phone car charger, etc.)? Simple: you don’t need them! Yup, that’s right – don’t ever buy a “car” version of a charger for a device that comes with a regular wall A/C adapter. How come?

With a car charger you can only charge one device at a time and only the device it was made for. What if you could charge anything in your car with a device’s regular A/C adapter? Not only that, what if you could charge more than one device at a time?

There’s an easy way to do this: instead of buying a car charger, buy a DC/AC Inverter for your car! What this device does is convert your cigarette lighter socket into a standard wall outlet. Then you can plug the regular A/C adapter into the inverter – as if it was a wall in your house! Also, the cheapest inverters come with two outlets (others have four, six, etc.), so you can charge more than one device at a time.

Best of all, an inverter costs only about $25 dollars, not those rip-off prices you see for typical car chargers ($60 – $120 dollars). Since most people have no clue that an inverter will do the same thing, the OEM’s know they can charge more.

I’ve been using the same inverter for about a year and it works great! It has even survived amazingly hot summer temperatures when my car has been parked under the sun for an extended period (my car’s cabin thermometer would typically read 145 – 175 degrees). That’s what I call durability!

I’d recommend buying an inverter with a power rating of 150 watts. It’s probably more than you’ll ever need. You can charge a high powered laptop, cell phone, and a few other small devices all at the same time with that amount of power. Most laptops need 75 watts, but high powered one’s could require 90 or 120 watts. iPods, PDA’s and other small devices use almost nothing – about five watts max.

You can buy an inverter at any electronics store. I got mine at Fry’s Electronics, but Circuit City and Best Buy should have them too.

-Greg Dolley

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7 Responses to “Tip: What You Didn’t Know About Car Chargers”

  1. gman said

    good idea, except for the inconvience of the size of the transformers and all the extra cables that will be strewn about your card

  2. gregd1024 said

    Hi Gman,

    The 150W inverters have a pretty small transformer. Mine fits in that little space underneath the emergency break handle. The size gets too big for the 300W models and higher. While it does add one extra cable (for the inverter itself), I don’t mind.

    -Greg Dolley

  3. Jono Cono said

    Great post, thanks for the info. This was exactly what I was trying to find out so I could charge my laptop in the car. Found a nice small inverter for less then $20. Cheers.

  4. gregd1024 said

    Jono, nice! 😉

  5. Matt Lacey said

    I used to use one of these, had a four way adapter connected which ran into the boot. In there I had a Pentium 133 (85w PSU) which provided me with mp3 music in the car 🙂 controlled via a remote control up front and could even use my palm for display, but most of the time just used it like an iPod shuffle.

    Mine also endured a lot and never broke (surprisingly the hard drive also survived – I used an old drive in it that I didn’t mind trashing but it lasted the two years I had it without issue)

  6. gregd1024 said


    Wow, your hard drive was also durable! Very nice 🙂


  7. Chris said

    I used an inverted for a few years to power a laptop for music that I sent to my stereo. I had both the inverter and laptop under the driver’s seat, even had a numpad keyboard to control it.

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