The Best Cooler for the Money

best cooler for the money

As you have seen here at TheCoolerZone, there are a huge number of coolers to choose from on the market.  They can range greatly in size, ice life, features, and of course price.  But what is the best cooler for the money?  Like many things, there isn’t always a simple answer to this and the correct cooler can also vary from person to person depending on their needs and budget.

To help find the best cooler for the money to meet your needs, we are listing the top coolers for three different price ranges: budget, mid, and premium.  Remember: just because a cooler is “cheaper” doesn’t automatically mean that it is “better”!  Sometimes it is worth spending some extra money to get a cooler that blows the competition out of the water and has a much longer life expectancy.

*Please note that RTIC coolers make a very good argument for being included in several of these categories.  However, they are in the process of updating their cooler lineup.  Once their new lineup is released we will update this article as necessary*

For those who are just looking for our results for the best coolers for the money, we have included a helpful table below.  For those who want to read more about our choices and methodology just hop right below!

Price RangeBudgetMidPremium 
ModelColeman
coleman-chest-cooler-thumbnail
Rubbermaid Gott
Marine Cooler
rubbermaid-gott-marine-cooler-thumbnaill
Grizzly Cooler
grizzly-cooler-thumbnaill
Link to Buy (Amazon)LinkLinkLink
Ice Life4.5 days5 days7-10 days
Sizes (approx. quarts)30 to 150102-15015-400
Our Full ReviewLinkLinkLink

How We Determined the Best Cooler for the Money

how we determined the best cooler for the money

Similar to how we review and rank many coolers on TheCoolerZone, we establish metrics to judge each cooler off of.  This not only allows us to quantify its performance but it also makes it much easier to directly compare two coolers.

In determining what the best coolers for the money are, we are going to use a few important metrics: Cooling ability, Life Expectancy, Features, and of course Price.

Cooling Ability

This is how long a particular ice chest is able to keep stored items cool before requiring additional ice.  Typically, the huge, heavy, and expensive roto-molded coolers excel at this category but there is still a lot of variance and competition within these products.  In addition, in the mid and budget tiers, ice life can be a much more challenging achievement which makes it easy for us to pick examples that stand out from the competition.

Life Expectancy

This metric is essentially how long you can expect a cooler to last with typical use.  Obviously how well you handle a cooler and the environments you put it in play a huge role in how long it will last, but certain key features and construction methods typically allow for coolers to shine in this category.  In the more affordable tiers, some of these premium components that play a part in increased durability are simply too pricey to include so the manufacturers have to find clever and unique ways to increase the life of their products while staying within a certain price point.

Features

We all love features!  These days, coolers are not only coolers but can also double as bottle openers, fish scales, cutting boards, picnic tables, and more.  In addition, annoying tasks such as emptying out water, transporting from place to place, and storing them can be greatly simplified with helpful design features.

Price

As expected, price plays a vital role in determining the best cooler for the money.  While asking price isn’t everything, in order to be considered in this competition the price does need to be very reasonable compared to what you are getting.  We want to reiterate again that PRICE ISN’T EVERYTHING.  Some things in life are worth spending a bit extra on for quality and a cooler is definitely one of them!  That being said, we understand that some coolers are simply out of many peoples’ budget which is why we have created three price tiers to choose from.

Now that we have established the metrics we are looking for, let’s get started!


Cooling Ability

best cooler for the money cooling ability

When shopping around for the best cooler for the money, obviously how well the cooler performs as a cooler plays a huge role in determining this.  There are a lot of features that we typically see that make a cooler good or bad at keeping ice frozen.  While many of these will obviously add cost to the asking price, there are some more affordable routes that can be taken that still allow non-premium priced coolers to have great ice life.  Some of these features include things such as roto-molded construction, thick rubber gaskets, quality hinges, elevated bases, metal hardware, and tighter tolerances in construction.

Premium Price Tier

The premium-priced coolers almost always offer up impressive ice life compared to many cheaper coolers on the market but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t clear-cut better examples.  Typically with premium price coolers, you can expect ice life of at least a few days and that number can increase up to a week or more!  Many people may not have any need for 10 days of ice life but for some that might be required for long camping excursions or road trips.

According to our extensive reviews that are summarized in our Cooler Comparison Chart, the premium coolers with the longest ice life are as follows:

yeti-tundra-series-cooler-thumbnailYeti Cooler: 13 days

 

grizzly-cooler-thumbnaillGrizzly Cooler: 10 days

 

pelican-elite-cooler-thumbnailPelican Elite Cooler: 10 days

 

Mid Price Tier

The mid-price tier doesn’t offer up quite as impressive of ice life as its more expensive siblings but that isn’t to say that you can’t find a great performance here.  Many ice chests in this category can offer up a few days of ice life which is still more than enough for many people.

The top three mid-price coolers in regards to ice life are:

igloo-maxcold-cooler-thumbnailIgloo MaxCold Cooler: 6 days

 

rubbermaid-gott-marine-cooler-thumbnaillRubbermaid Gott Marine Cooler: 5 days

 

igloo-super-tough-stx-cooler-thumbnaillIgloo Super Tough STX Cooler: 5 days

 

 

 

Budget Price Tier

The budget line is where you may start to really see particular products struggle to hold ice for long periods of time.  Some of the features such as premium gaskets, thick roto-molded walls, and quality hinges are simply too expensive for many of these examples.  However, you can still find ice chests with acceptable ice life if you know where to look.

Our top budget price coolers for ice life are:

igloo-quick-and-cool-cooler-thumbnailIgloo Quick and Cool Cooler: 5 days

 

coleman-chest-cooler-thumbnailColeman Ice Chest: 4.5 days

 

coleman-xtreme-cooler-thumbnailColeman Xtreme Cooler: 4 days

 

 

Below is a graph showing all of the coolers that ranked for ice life and how long they can keep life (approx).

best cooler for the money cooler ice life


Life Expectancy

best cooler for the money life expectancy

The best cooler for the money should last for a long period of time relative to its asking price.  Most people hope that their coolers will last for more than a few uses and there is a noticeable range in how well a particular example holds up.   This becomes even more noticeable when you expose the cooler to elements that you typically see outside including rain, the sun, and the occasional bump or drop.  A lot of the features that make a cooler have long ice life also make it have a longer cooler life as well.  You should be looking for these types of features in premium coolers but many can also be found in more affordable examples as well.

Premium Price Tier

When you are spending hundreds of dollars on a cooler you expect something that not only will perform up to your high expectations but that will also do so for a long period of time.  When you buy a premium cooler you are buying something that you plan to use for many years to come and that will pay for itself many times over when compared to going the cheap route.  The top coolers in this category are designed to last for years if not decades with typical wear and tear.  In addition, they can handle mild levels of abuse without issue.  Rather than break down all of the specific life-lengthening features of each (which you can find in our full reviews for each product), we will simply summarize our top choices here for the sake of time.

grizzly-cooler-thumbnaillGrizzly Cooler

 

 

pelican-elite-cooler-thumbnailPelican Elite Cooler

 

 

k2-summit-cooler-thumbnailK2 Summit Cooler

Mid Price Tier

Mid-priced coolers can still have many of the features we like to see that directly affect how long they perform but might have to implement some money-saving alterations in order to drive down the price some.  The biggest areas we see these are in the wall construction and quality of components and hardware.  You won’t see as many roto-molded examples in this group and you will also see more plastic in the place of steel and other metals but overall many of these ice chests can still last many years without concern.  The biggest difference may be in their ability to handle above average abuse.  Things such as being “bear-proof” won’t be as prevalent here.  That being said, our top three mid-priced coolers in terms of ice life are:

rubbermaid-gott-marine-cooler-thumbnaillRubbermaid Gott Marine

 

 

igloo-super-tough-stx-cooler-thumbnaillIgloo Super Tough STX

 

 

igloo-all-terrain-cooler-thumbnaillIgloo All Terrain

 

 

 

Budget Price Tier

Unfortunately, “budget” and “long-lasting” typically go against each other as the necessary feature cuts in order to drive down the price directly affect both life expectancy as well as their ability to handle natural elements and other expected wear and tear.  You won’t find many of the premium features here but for those on a tight budget you can still rejoice knowing that we have researched and discovered some budget examples that can still offer a few years of proper performance without concern:

igloo-ice-cube-cooler-thumbnailIgloo Ice Cube

 

 

rubbermaid-durachill-wheeled-cooler-thumbnailRubbermaid Durachill

 

 

coleman-chest-cooler-thumbnailColeman Chest

 

 


Features

best cooler for the money features

These days most coolers are much more than simply a place to store your chilled items and the best cooler for the money should have plenty of extra features and accessories.   A wide range of features has started to be added to coolers to make them more user-friendly and also allow them to stand out from the crowd.  As mentioned earlier, finding things such as bottle openers, scales, internal compartments, etc. are fairly common.  And in some cases, you can even find more unique features like internal lights and even speakers!  After extensive research into the various features that all of the coolers we have reviewed have, we came up with a list of our top 3 choices for each price tier.

Premium Price Tier

As expected, the most expensive coolers typically have the most impressive array of additional features.  However, that isn’t to say that there are some clear-cut winners.  Some brands simply go above and beyond to offer up some really helpful features that make their cooler the ultimate all-in-one package.

kysek cooler review thumbnail s

First up, we have the Kysek cooler.  This example comes with a host of features include Durocold insulation, a Bearclaw bottle opener, Heavyhauler inset wheels, and even an optional Codeblue sensor that helps to monitor internal temperatures.

igloo-yukon-cold-locker-cooler-thumbnail

Not far behind is the Igloo Yukon Cold Locker.  This product includes things such as an integrated fish scale, over-sized drain plug, dual lid locks, Cooler Riser technology, and a handy raised surface on the lid.

grizzly-cooler-thumbnaill

Finally, we decided on the Grizzly cooler.  This ice chest has helpful additional including an oversized drain plug, skid-free rubber feet, easy snap latches, both rope and built-in side handles, and a built-in ruler.

Mid Price Tier

While noticeably more affordable than the premium price tier, mid-priced coolers can still offer up a lot in terms of features.  In fact, we have found that many mid-priced coolers actually offer up larger selections of accessories than their older siblings!

rubbermaid-gott-marine-cooler-thumbnaill

Our top choice is the Rubbermaid Gott Marine cooler.  This cooler has built-in cup holders, embedded slots for ice packs, a reinforced lid that doubles as a seat or eating table, and an easy open lid.

igloo-party-bar-cooler-thumbnail

Next up is the Igloo Party Bar Cooler.  This cooler is loaded to the brim with cooler stuff.  This includes things like 16 waterproof LED lights, built-in bottle opener and bottle cap catch bin, modular grates for dividing up the storage spaces, wheels, see-through lid, locking casters, and more.

igloo-all-terrain-cooler-thumbnaill

Finally, we have chosen the Igloo All Terrain Cooler.  This cooler is designed to be mobile and its list of accessories reflects that.  The list includes oversize pneumatic tires, pivoting tow handles, additional side handles, and a threaded drain plug.

Budget Price Tier

The top budget price tier coolers for the money find a happy medium between offering up an acceptable array of features while maintaining a competitive price point.  Some noticeable features will be missing in these products such as premium hardware, roto-molded construction, etc., but there are still plenty of helpful accessories to choose from.

igloo-marine-ultra-cooler-thumbnail

First up is the Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler.  This product is loaded to the brim with helpful features such as an integrated fish keeper, odor-resistant lining, corrosion-resistant hardware, side handles with a rubber grip, and a threaded drain plug.

coleman-xtreme-cooler-thumbnail

Second is the Coleman Xtreme Cooler.  It comes with ThermOZONE insulation, oversized wheels with aggressive treads, two-way rotating handles, built-in cup holders, and a hinged lid.

rubbermaid-durachill-wheeled-cooler-thumbnail

Finally, we have the Rubbermaid DuraChill wheeled cooler.  As the name suggests, in includes wheels that are oriented long-wise instead of short-wise (a unique twist), dual access lid, integrated cup holders, front-access drain plug, and rotating side handles.


Price

best cooler for the money price

Last but certainly not least in the journey to find the best cooler for the money is the metric of the price.  Even if a cooler knocks it out of the park in every other category but is simply too expensive then it cannot be considered for this competition.  However, at the same time, it is important to understand that high-end coolers are not cheap and, despite the high asking price, are well worth the money due to their superior performance and durability.

In determining which coolers make the cut here, we looked at everything they have to offer in other categories and then compared this to asking prices.  For example, a cooler that only does a little bit better than a competitor but is twice as expensive would not fare well here.  On the contrary, a cooler that maybe has a few hours lower ice life but is 30% of the cost of another ice chest will shine here.  It is also important to compare coolers that are relatively the same size.  It isn’t fair to compare the asking price of a small 15-quart cooler to a huge 120-quart cooler.  Instead, we try to find coolers of very similar (if not identical) storage sizes and look at the asking prices for each.

Premium Price Tier

As you might have expected, there are plenty of premium-priced coolers to choose from on the market.  Competitors include Engel, Grizzly, Igloo, K2, Kysek, Mammoth, Pelican, Yeti, RTIC, and much more.  After extensive research, we have found three choices that are able to exhibit the features and performance we like in a premium cooler but at the most competitive price point.

engel camping cooler thumbnail

First up is the Engel High-Performance cooler.  Compared to most of the other competition it is one of the most affordable while still having great features and ice life.  There are also various shapes and sizes, all of which do a very good job of staying competitive in the asking price.

mammoth-discovery-cooler-thumbnail

Next is the Mammoth Series cooler.  The Mammoth line isn’t quite as impressive in terms of maximum ice life and there are some notable features that are missing but the price is extremely competitive and among the most affordable you will find in this tier.  Because of this, we are able to overlook a few of its shortcomings.

igloo-yukon-cold-locker-cooler-thumbnail

The final selection was tough but we are going to have to go with the Igloo Yukon Cold Locker.  Many people initially wouldn’t put Igloo in the same category as Yeti, Pelican, K2, etc., but the Cold Locker is their premium offering and keeps up with the best no problem.  And, despite this, the Cold Locker is still able to maintain some of Igloo’s reasonable price points that are common on its lower-tier models.

Mid Price Tier

The mid price tier is also loaded with competition that varies greatly in size, performance, build quality, and features.  While it does mean there are a lot of product to sort through, it also helps to establish some clear-cut favorites that stand out in price while still offering up a viable product.

rubbermaid-gott-marine-cooler-thumbnaill

The first product we will list is the Coleman Gott Marine.  We have mentioned our praises of this unit above in other categories and it also shines in its relative price compared to its competitors.  It comes in plenty of large sizes that give great storage capacity for a very reasonable price.

igloo-super-tough-stx-cooler-thumbnaill

Next up is the Igloo Super Tough STX.  This is another example of a product that “plays out of its league” in regards to toughness and ice life but is still very reasonably priced similarly to its lower-end siblings.  Many premium features are present on this unit that you are typically only used to seeing on much more expensive brands.

igloo-maxcold-cooler-thumbnail

Finally, we have the Igloo MaxCold.  Simple, proven, and affordable.  This is a great mid-level cooler for someone who isn’t looking for a ton of bells and whistles but simply wants an ice chest that does its primary intention well and does so for a reasonable price.

Budget Price Tier

Obviously, the budget price tier already prioritizes low asking prices to even make this tier.  Because of this, finding products that stand out really boils down to finding the best-performing products in other categories since the variance in asking prices is relatively small.  Remember: just because it is a budget cooler doesn’t mean that it has to make huge sacrifices on performance.  There are still plenty of great coolers in this price tier so keep your expectations high.

igloo-ice-cube-cooler-thumbnail

Our first choice is the Igloo Ice Cube.  This is one of the oldest and most established coolers in the industry and it has stuck around for such a long time for good reason.  It is incredibly resilient for its price and the ice life is plenty for many people’s needs.

coleman-chest-cooler-thumbnail

Second is the Coleman Chest.  Similar to the Igloo Ice Cube, this chest prefers a very straightforward approach that doesn’t offer up tons of features or accessories but gives you a solid cooler for a very low asking price.  This is the type of ice chest you can throw around and leave places without worrying about it being stolen.

igloo-legend-cooler-thumbnail

Finally, we have chosen the Igloo Legend.  This is probably the oldest cooler style we have reviewed and it has been around for longer than most people have been alive!  The first thing you will notice is how simple the design is which means that it is very affordable to product and also means that there are fewer areas for things to go wrong.  It is a great little chest for those on a tight budget but still wanting quality.


The Best Cooler for the Money: Our Top Choices for Each Price Tier

best cooler for the money our top choices

In choosing what the best cooler for the money is, we chose three coolers from each category (premium, mid, and budget) that performed the best in 4 different criteria: cooling ability, life expectancy, features, and price.  We believe that all four of these metrics play a vital role in determining good coolers for the money and it allowed us to narrow down the competition.

The method used in choosing the top choice for each category is quite simple.  We tallied up how many points each selected cooler received and picked the cooler with the most points.  Each metric counts as a single point so the math is fairly straightforward.

Premium Price Tier

The coolers that received points in the premium price tier are as follows:

Grizzly Cooler check-markcheck-markcheck-mark

Pelican Elite Cooler check-markcheck-mark
Igloo Yukon Cold Locker Cooler check-markcheck-mark
Yeti Cooler check-mark
K2 Summit Cooler check-mark
Kysek Cooler check-mark
Engel Cooler check-mark
Mammoth Cooler check-mark

 

Winner:

Grizzly Cooler

grizzly cooler

Check Out Grizzly Cooler Prices on Amazon                                                                                                             Check Out Our Grizzly Cooler Full Review

As you can see, the Grizzly cooler lineup is our top choice in the premium price tier for the best cooler for the money.  The combination of amazing ice life, plenty of helpful features, and extra tough build quality means that this cooler is designed to last and perform up to spec for a very long period of time.  While it isn’t the most affordable in this tier, the great product you get justifies the slightly higher asking price.

Mid Price Tier

The coolers that achieved points in this tier appear as so:

Rubbermaid Gott Marine Cooler check-markcheck-markcheck-markcheck-mark
Igloo Super Tough STX Cooler check-markcheck-markcheck-mark
Igloo Maxcold Cooler check-markcheck-mark
Igloo All Terrain Cooler check-markcheck-mark
Igloo Pary Bar Cooler check-mark

 

Winner:

Rubbermaid Gott Marine Cooler

rubbermaid gott marine cooler

Check Out Rubbermaid Gott Marine on Amazon                                                                                                       Check Out Our Rubbermaid Gott Marine Full Review

This was really a 2-cooler race between the Rubbermaid Gott Marine and the Igloo Super Tough STX.  Both of these products emboss a lot of the ideals that we look for in much more expensive coolers but do so at a more reasonable price.  The metric the broke the tie was that the Gott has a few extra features that we like to see compared to the Super Tough STX.  However, either product is a great choice for someone on somewhat of a budget but still wanting quality.

Budget Price Tier

The top coolers that received points in this final category are as follows:

Coleman Ice Chest check-markcheck-markcheck-mark
Coleman Xtreme Cooler check-markcheck-mark
Igloo Ice Cube Cooler check-markcheck-mark
Rubbermaid Durachill Cooler check-markcheck-mark
Igloo Quick and Cool Cooler check-mark
Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler check-mark
Igloo Legend Cooler check-mark

 

Winner:

Coleman Ice Chest

coleman chest cooler

Check Out Coleman Ice Chest Prices on Amazon                                                                                                              Check Out Our Coleman Ice Chest Full Review

The competition for budget-priced coolers was another close race with the Coleman Ice Chest coming out on top.  As alluded to above, many of these products already perform well in the price category since they are already budget-oriented, to begin with.  Because of this, finding a well-rounded cooler in the other metrics is what would help to stand out here.  The Coleman ice chest takes a very simple and straightforward approach that results in a potent little cooler than has surprising ice life and toughness.  It doesn’t have as many features as some other products but it does its core intentions very well and because of that it is our top choice for the best cooler for the money in the budget category.

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