Can A Portable Microwave Be Used In The Car?

by Sid Wilson | Published On

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team, is reader-supported. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission, at no extra cost to you.

Portable microwaves for your car are not a new concept. They’re old ones. The problem is that there haven’t been many options for portable microwaves which are affordable and small enough to fit in your car.

In this article, you would get to know if these portable car microwaves are good enough to be used in cars or if there are better alternatives for it. 

Can a portable microwave be used in the car?

Why Don't Portable Microwaves Exist?


Portable microwaves for cars do not exist because of the following reasons-

  • Power Problems

    Portable microwave ovens are often unreliable because they are portable and do not have an electric outlet.

    This means that you may have to set up your microwave on a table or countertop so that it can receive power from an outlet.

    However, this could be dangerous if you leave the oven on for too long due to potential overheating issues.

    If this happens in your car then there is also no way for you to remove food from inside before placing it back into the vehicle’s interior due to lack of space and/or access points from outside (such as windows).

  • Bulky Size

    The size of portable microwaves will always be larger than those built into vehicles because they require additional components such as venting chambers which create hot air vents when cooking certain foods such as soups or casseroles.

    These devices also come with extra features like automatic defrosting systems which allow users easy access to their cooking processes without having any problems with reheating items later on.

  • Unnecessary

    Portable microwaves are dangerous to use because they can harm you or the people around you. The problem is that the portable microwave ovens on the market today are not made with a safe track record.

    Many of these microwaves have been recalled by manufacturers as they were found to be defective. These defective microwave ovens have had many reports of incidents regarding burns and other instances of overheating which has led to incidents where consumers were injured.

Alternatives For Portable Microwaves For Car

These safer alternatives for portable microwaves for cars could easily opt for-

  • 12V Food Warmer

    The 12 V food warmer is a cheap and easy way to warm things up in your car. It works by converting the 12 V DC power from your car battery into the 120V AC or 230V AC power necessary to cook or heat.

    It requires no extra equipment apart from a 12V DC cigarette lighter outlet and works just as they do in your kitchen oven.

    The 12V food warmer is ideal for situations where you just need some heat or cook a small amount of food, with no more than 1-2 meals at once.

    This can be great if you just want to warm up some leftovers and eat them in the car without having to use a full-blown microwave oven (which can consume as much as 3KW – roughly 6 times more power).

    Of course, it might be a good idea to install a voltage relay for safety reasons (in case your car’s battery is too low).

    This can be a good solution for occasional short trips, such as road trips.


    • Cheap and easy to install
    • Works with all kinds of foods – just like your kitchen ovens
    • Can be used to cook food, bake food, defrost frozen meat, etc. by adjusting the heat settings.
    • Can heat a small thermos to 160-170F in about 1h30’s to 2 hours


    • Not meant for hot water or liquids – limited capacity
    • Not the best way if you need to warm up a lot of food at once (prefer the electric stove)
    • It’s a very low-wattage heating system. It cannot reach higher than 170F
  • Portable Electric Stove

    The Portable Electric Stove for the car is essentially a 12V DC to 110V AC inverter. It converts AC power into DC power (12V) and then into 110V or 230V AC that can work with an outlet.

    The USB connection provides the power, while the cigarette lighter offers the gas supply and running of the unit. It is capable of heating up to 50 degrees in about 90 minutes.


    • Can be used for more than just food warming – it can be used as a real stove like you would have at home
    • Does not require extra equipment or wires getting routed all over your dash or under your hood
    • Can heat up to 100 degrees
    • The battery on this device is not too small to run it continuously, so you can use it as a real portable stove (without having to go out every time you want to cook something)
    • Can heat up to 50 degrees in about 1h30’s
    • Reduces smoke and smell from the car
    • Improves air quality in the car


    • Depending on the model chosen, it is low wattage – and can only do around 50 degrees in 1 hour
    • This is not very efficient if you need a lot of heating power, like 100 degrees
    • Not the best option if you need more than just occasional food-warming power
    • Requires a lot of installation work, but if it’s done right it can be very safe and reliable over time
  • Low Wattage Microwave w/ Inverter (12V DC to 110V AC inverter)

    The Low Wattage Microwave w/ Inverter (12V DC to 110V AC inverter) reduces the power consumption by around 40% and improves heating efficiency by almost 60%.

    It works by inverting the DC power from your 12V battery into 110V AC power and then transforming it into microwaves.

    It is a 2-in-1 unit – so it can help you warm up your food and also be used as a microwave oven. The whole unit weighs no more than 20 lbs and has dimensions of 8 x 8 x 10 inches, making it very compact.


    • A very efficient microwave reduces your power consumption by around 40%. Can save you up to 50% battery life, depending on how you use it
    • Works as a Portable Microwave (converts DC into microwaves) as well as Food Heating System (uses the “heat” function for heating)


    • This is a very efficient microwave, but it can only reach temperatures of around 200F when using the “microwave” function
    • It cannot achieve higher than 200F when cooking food
    • This is a very good microwave, but it’s a little on the expensive side. Theoretically, it can work with a 12V DC battery, but it will not work as well and will require a lot of power to run depending on the size of your battery
    • It won’t be able to survive too many re-cycles (because it will drain your battery too quickly)

Frequently Asked Questions/FAQs

You can use a 12v heated car mat to warm up foods. The power output of these mats should be more than enough to pre-warm foods. However, where the problem lies is that the power output is not sufficient enough to warm up large portions of food at once (at full capacity). This is where you would need something like a 12v microwave or even a small stove depending on what you want to cook or heat up in your car.

You can, by just turning your 12V car mat on. By increasing the power setting to the max (10) you will be able to reach temperatures of 160-170F in about 90 minutes. This is more than enough to warm up your leftovers. However, it is important to note that you should probably leave this on continuously during these times and not switch it off when finished because it will eat through a lot of power very quickly due to continuous operation (unless the temperature set is high enough). In theory, you should be able to heat food continuously with this unit; but in practice, it’s not recommended


For most people, the 12V food warmer is all that is ever needed for your car. They are cheap and easy to use and sufficient for a lot of situations.

If you don’t need to cook or heat more than 2 meals at once, and want something simple and easy to use then this is a good option for you.

If you find yourself needing more power or better efficiency from the microwave oven and wish to avoid conventional microwaves, then the low-wattage microwave with a DC inverter might be an ideal choice.

This can be a good option if you are trying to reduce your power consumption (and avoid using huge amounts of power while driving).

Rate this post
Sid Wilson

Being a father, a golf lover, and an engineer by profession are the things that define Sid Wilson. He spends most of his time in his garage building and experimenting with stuff. Unscrewing things and then screwing them up is his favorite hobby. Doing these things in his garage has made him what, he is today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *