Shopping for an outdoor patio cooler?
You’ve come to the right place.
Patio coolers come in different styles ranging from rustic wooden chests to metal roller carts. They blend better with the patio furniture compared to traditional ice chests.
When shopping for a patio cooler, important factors to consider include capacity, insulation, and storage accessories.
What’s In This Buying Guide?
In this in-depth buying guide, we review the best outdoor patio coolers and cooler carts. We compare our top 10 picks and give you helpful tips for choosing the best cooler for your needs and budget.
Why Get a Patio Cooler?
After all, an ice chest is a perfectly good way to keep drinks cool when relaxing on the patio.
A cooler cart has two big advantages over an ice chest: style and practicality.
Style-wise, these coolers carts look much better than ice chests. Some have a modern metal roller cart design while others have a traditional wooden finish. You can even get a rattan style cooler that matches your rattan patio furniture.
A patio cooler also looks way cooler, no pun intended, amidst a backyard BBQ party compared to a boring ice chest.
But a patio cooler is not just stylish; it’s also more practical than an ice chest.
Most patio coolers are in the form of a roller cart. The storage chest is raised high above the ground, meaning you don’t have to bend to pick a cold beer.
A cooler cart is also much easier to move around, especially when loaded with drinks and foods. Instead of lifting it as you would an ice chest, you simply push the cart to where the party is.
Something else we love about these coolers is all the extra storage nooks they provide. Most carts have a storage shelve under the storage chest, and others also include folding side shelves and handles where you can hug hand towels.
Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap. A cooler cart will cost you more than a similar capacity ice chest. But the style and functionality upgrades are worth it, especially if you often entertain or spend a lot of time on the patio with your family.
A patio cooler is also a great addition to a pool deck or next to an above-ground swimming pool.
Best Outdoor Patio Coolers (Comparison Table)
BLACK + DECKER
- Best overall
- 35″ x 29″ x 35″
- Best rattan style patio cooler
Galvanized steel, zinc plated metal and a rattan exterior
- 43.3″ x 23.4″ x 34.6″
Best Choice Products
- Best modern patio cooler
- 15.5″ x 36″ x 33″
- Best for parties
Not specified (but likely heavy duty plastic)
- 39.1″ x 26.8″ x 21.5″
- Most durable patio cooler
Yes (but thinly)
- 33″ x 18″ x 29″
Merry Garden MPG-PC01
- Best compact patio cooler
Plastic insert and eucalyptus hardwood exterior
- 17.2″ x 23″ x 20.5″
Rio Brands Entertainer
- Best for small families
Yes (but thinly)
- 32″ x 17″ x 15″
BELLEZE Rolling Cooler
- Best bargain
Steel frame with rattan exterior
- 34″ x 19″ x 17″
Clevr Rolling Cooler
- Best budget patio cooler
Steel frame with rattan exterior
- 15″ x 34.2″ x 34.2″
- Best for outdoor use
Yes (but thinly)
Steel frame with rattan exterior
- 34″ x 18.8″ x 16.5″
Best Outdoor Patio Coolers (Reviews)
The BLACK+DECKER features a 20-gallon ice chest, large enough to hold enough drinks for a party and leave enough space to put ice.
The chest is insulated, so the ice stays solid for hours. When the ice finally melts, the integrated drain plug makes it easy to clean the chest.
The stainless steel construction gives the BLACK+DECKER cooler a solid and durable feel.
Moving the cooler around is easy thanks to the 360-degree lockable wheels. You can load extra items on the bottom shelf. When the party starts, the built-in bottle opener keeps the drinks flowing while the cap catcher prevents messes on the floor.
Many customers say they did not receive all the screws needed to assemble the cooler. Luckily, it’s easy to find fitting screws around your home or at a nearby store.
The BLACK+DECKER mobile cooler is a great choice for anyone looking for a good looking and practical patio cooler.
If you have rattan furniture in your patio, garden, or pool deck, the Giantex HW51578 is the one you want.
The rattan wicker finish matches perfectly with your furniture.
Under the rattan exterior is a metal body, specifically an anti-rust zinc-plated metal body. This makes the Giantex cooler ideal for outdoor use.
The chest features a wide door that opens upwards. It’s held in place by two poles, making it easy to fetch drinks without holding the door open.
One area where the Giantex cooler shines is extra storage space. It has the usual bottom rack that’s perfect for large items. Also, you get a couple of side shelves for additional small items. There are also hangers under the ice chest, perfect for hanging a few wine glasses.
You can load up the trolley with everything you need from the kitchen, including utensils and extra foods, then wheel it to the patio or pool deck. Once the trolley is in place, lock the casters to secure the cart.
The Giantex cooler’s extra-large 27-gallon capacity makes it ideal for large parties and families. It holds plenty of drinks, and you can even add a few foods for the grill.
The Giantex cooler has one big limitation – the ice chest is not insulated. This is a big deal, especially during summer, when most people need the cooler.
Lack of insulation means the ice melts fast, requiring constant draining and refilling. If you get extra-hot summers where you live, we don’t recommend the Giantex cooler. It’ll be a pain to use. Get an insulated cooler instead.
As long as you don’t get sweltering hot summers, the Giantex HW51578 is a great-looking cooler cart. We highly recommend it if you already own rattan patio/outdoor furniture.
If you have a modern patio or garden furniture, the Best Choice Products patio cooler is a great choice. It has an eye-catching red and black styling with an overall minimalist look.
The ice chest is fairly large at 20 gallons. It can hold about 70 cans or more than 50 bottles. So whether you are relaxing with your family or hosting a large BBQ, the Best Choice Products cooler is perfect for any occasion.
The chest is insulated, so you won’t struggle with constantly melting ice.
The cooler comes with all the usual accessories, including a lower storage rack, a bottle opener, and a cap catcher.
It is wheeled, of course, with two of the casters being lockable.
Build quality is excellent. The stainless steel body and frame gives the cooler a years-long lifespan.
Most customers had an issue assembling the cooler’s wheels. They don’t quite match up properly to the legs, and you may have to force them into place. But overall assembly is still fairly easy and quick.
The Best Choice Products patio cooler cart is a great choice for anyone looking for a large-capacity cooler cart with a modern style.
The Igloo party bar cooler’s 31-gallon capacity makes it the best choice for parties and other large gatherings. It holds more cans and bottles than any other cooler we have reviewed. It can even hold large 2-liter bottles, so you can load up some drinks for the kids.
Because the cooler is insulated, it keeps ice solid for long. Some customers have found the ice still solid after a couple of days.
The Party Bar cooler comes with dividers, so it is easy to organize drinks by type or age. You can also put in drinks and food. If you want one continuous space, the dividers are removable.
If your party goes late into the night, you’ll love the Party Bar cooler’s interior LED lights. They not only look cool, but they also provide practical illumination to see which drink they are taking.
The LED lights run on 4 AA batteries that are not included.
The cooler chest sits on a sturdy base with heavy-duty casters. The casters make it easy to move the cooler around, especially when it is full.
While the Igloo party bar cooler lacks extra storage space like other patio coolers, it does include a bottle opener, a cap catcher, and a drain plug.
The most common complaint from customers is the lid. The entire cooler is well made apart from the flimsy plastic lid that is not insulated.
You may want to keep the cooler out of direct sunlight as the lid can let in some heat.
It’s hefty and a bit pricey. But if you want a cooler that will hold enough drinks for all your guests, the Igloo party bar cooler is the best choice.
Stainless steel patio coolers not only look cool, but they are also hardy and durable. For something you are going to be using outdoor a lot, you want hardy and durable.
The Tommy Bahama rolling party cooler, has a stainless steel base and exterior with a removable ice bucket.
This Tonny Bahama cooler has a heavy feel to it thanks to the stainless steel construction. Good thing it has casters to wheel it around.
It’s durable and perfect for repeated outdoor use.
The ice chest has a large capacity of 25 gallons, so this cooler is great for parties. The ice chest is removable so you can use it on its own without the roller cart.
Accessories include a flip-outside shelf, a bottle opener, a drain plug, and a cap catcher.
As you would expect for a large, stainless steel cooler cart, the Tommy Bahama cooler’s price is higher than average. If you are looking for a budget cooler, this is not it.
The price is a bit high, but the Tommy Bahama cooler beats other patio coolers on hardiness and durability.
Patio coolers are not just for use at home. If you need a cooler you can carry to picnics, the beach, or a tailgating party, we recommend the Merry Garden wooden patio cooler.
It is also the best choice for small patios and anyone looking for a cooler with a wooden finish.
We love the wooden finish of the Merry Garden patio cooler. It’s made with eucalyptus with an oil stain to protect it from the elements. The louvered sides are a nice touch, as are the gold handles on the sides.
Beyond aesthetics, the Merry Garden cooler is a practical option for those looking for a compact patio cooler. It has a smaller ice chest than other coolers – just 13.7 gallons. This allows for a much smaller size that easily fits in the trunk of a car. It’s also perfect for small patios or pool decks.
The Merry Garden cooler has no casters, but considering its size and capacity, you should be able to lift it even when full. It comes with nice-looking side handles.
The cooler chest itself has double walls to improve insulation and keep the ice solid for longer.
Many customers say they received the cooler with damage. It seems there is a problem with packaging or build quality.
The Merry Garden wooden cooler can’t serve a large party, but its good looks make up for its smaller capacity. If you want a beautiful rustic wooden cooler that you can take to the beach, we recommend it.
The Entertainer cooler has a compact, space-saving design that’s great for small patios, gardens, and pool decks.
As expected, the ice chest is also fairly small, with a capacity of 19.2 gallons. It holds enough drinks for most families as well as small parties and gatherings.
The base is detachable, so you can lift up the ice chest and pack it in your car trunk for a picnic or an afternoon at the beach. The detachable base also makes storage easier.
With the ice chest detached, use the side handles to loft and carry the cooler.
The Rio Brands Entertainer cooler has a stainless steel body and base. It’s hardy and can withstand plenty of outdoor use.
Similar to other coolers, the Rio Brands Entertainer comes with a bottle opener and cap catcher.
The manufacturer says the Rio Brands Entertainer cooler has injected foam insulation to keep the ice solid for three days. But most customers found the ice melts after just a few hours. Clearly, the insulation could be better.
If you need a cooler for just your family or small parties, no need to buy a large and expensive patio cooler. The Rio Brands Entertainer is perfectly sized for small gatherings, and, as a bonus, it takes up less space than large coolers.
The Belleze portable rolling cooler is not the cheapest one on our list, but it is the best bargain. It provides plenty of room for your drinks for a lower price than a similar-sized cooler.
Construction quality is good. The steel frame is hardy and will keep the cooler in good shape for years. We love the rattan finish. It goes really well with rattan patio or garden furniture.
A bi-folding door provides easy access to the ice chest while an integrated bottle opener and cap catcher makes things easy for everyone.
The ice chest is well insulated, so the ice stays solid for a long time. When you need to get rid of melted water, there’s a handy drain plug at the bottom.
Surprisingly, the Belleze cooler does not provide any external storage, not even a bottom shelf that is common in other roller coolers.
The lack of a shelf has a hidden downside. When you load the Belleze cooler to capacity and roll it, you’ll notice that the legs are wobbly, especially when pushing it over uneven ground. The missing shelf acts as extra support in coolers that have it. Without it, the Belleze cooler is slightly unstable when full.
If you love a good bargain, the Belleze portable rolling cooler is one of the best deals you’ll find when shopping for a patio cooler.
The Clevr rolling cooler boasts a large capacity at a low price. The 20-gallon ice chest holds enough drinks for a party.
The chest is foam-insulated, so the ice stays solid for a day or even two.
The legs and the body are made with stainless steel, ensuring the cooler is outdoor-ready. You can get the Clevr cooler in two finishes: tropical-style hunter green and beach-style seafoam blue.
There’s a rack at the bottom, which provides extra storage and boosts support for the legs, so you don’t get any wobbliness when pushing the cart.
Other accessories include a bottle opener, cap catcher, and two side handles.
For easy mobility, the Clevr cooler comes with four 360-degree caster wheels, two of which are lockable.
We’ve seen several complaints regarding the drain plug. When the ice inevitably begins to melt, some of the water leaks from the closed drain plug.
This is not a problem if you are using the cooler on grass, but can it make a mess in a patio or deck.
To be honest, the Clevr cooler is much better than some pricier patio coolers we’ve seen. If you are looking for a sturdy and spacious patio cooler on the cheap, Clevr is an excellent choice.
All the above patio coolers are great, but they work best on level surfaces, be it a floor, pavement, or lawn.
If you need a cooler that can handle any outdoor terrain from sandy beaches to the gravel pathways in your backyard, we recommend the Vingli wagon rolling cooler.
The Vingli wagon has a very off-road look to it; a lifted body, strong steel axles, and large tires. It’s meant to handle all kinds of outdoor terrain. Instead of being limited to the patio, you can take the Vingli wagon to the beach, picnic, or even camping.
The Vingli cooler has a sturdy metal construction that can withstand the outdoors. The inflatable wheels are 10,” and two of them are lockable.
The ice chest is insulated and has a capacity of 20 gallons. That’s enough to carry as many drinks as your family needs. You can also throw in some food.
Once you fill-up the ice chest, it’s easy to pull the wagon using the integrated handle.
The Vingli wagon does not offer any extra storage space. If you like the idea of a patio cooler with a bottom rack or side shelves, check out one of our other top picks.
Another issue is portability. Sure, it’s easy to roll the wagon through your backyard. But unless you have a large trunk vehicle, it’s going to be hard to carry the Vingli wagon to the beach or picnic. It has no foldable or detachable parts.
The cooler lacks side handles, so it is difficult to lift it into the trunk, especially when it is full.
The VINGLI Wagon Rolling Cooler is the best choice for backyard parties. If you have enough trunk space, it’s also a great cooler for picnics, camping, and the beach.
Benefits of Patio Coolers
The biggest advantage of a patio cooler is the raised height. Unlike a traditional ice chest, you do not have to bend to pick a drink.
Patio coolers also win when it comes to style. Instead of a boring cooler chest, you can impress your party guests with a rattan, wooden, or metal cooler cart. More points for you if it has cool interior lights like the Igloo party bar cooler.
Patio coolers are also more portable, at least within your home. Instead of lifting and carrying a heavy ice chest, you get a cart that’s easy to roll around on wheels.
Limitations of Patio Coolers
Patio coolers are highly portable within your home. But for picnics, beach trips, and outdoor events, they are not very portable.
Unless you get a compact patio cooler like Merry Garden or a detachable cooler like the Rio Brands Entertainer, most patio coolers are only ideal for use at home. They are too big to load into a car and cannot handle rough surfaces.
Another downside of patio coolers is their price. A patio cooler will cost you more than an ice chest with a similar capacity. That’s because you are paying for the ice chest as well as the cart it is sitting on.
Another area where patio coolers loose to traditional ice chest is insulation. Patio coolers typically have less insulation; thus, they don’t keep ice solid for as long.
Key Considerations When Buying a Patio Cooler
Ice chest capacity
Patio coolers range from small 10-15 gallon chests to extra-large coolers with 30 gallons or more. The best capacity depends on the number of people in your family and the size of the parties you hold.
Stainless steel patio coolers are the best. They can withstand the outdoors and the elements better, meaning they’ll last longer.
Some patio coolers have a metal finish painted a certain color. Other coolers have a rattan finish while some have a rustic wooden finish. The best choice comes down to your preferences. If you want a cooler that will match your rattan wicker chairs, look for a rattan-style cooler.
Make sure the ice chest is insulated. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep refilling it with ice. Also, check the quality of insulation. Some patio coolers are insulated, but the ice still melts after just a few hours.
Patio coolers with the best ice retention have thick insulation all round, including the door. These coolers can have an ice retention time of several days, reducing how often you need to refill it with ice.
Extra storage and accessories
A bottom shelf is really handy for storing extra things like a bucket of ice, large drinks, or utensils. Other accessories to look for including a bottle opener, a cap catcher, side handles, and side shelves.
A drain plug makes it easy to empty melted water from the ice chest.
If you want a multipurpose patio cooler that you can roll around your backyard and carry to a picnic, look for one with a detachable base. This makes it easier to stow the cooler in your trunk when going to the beach or on a picnic.
Patio Coolers FAQs
Does a patio cooler keep drinks cold?
Yes, most patio coolers are insulated. Once you add ice, it stays solid for several hours. This keeps your drinks cold.
How do you drain a patio cooler?
Most patio coolers come with a drain plug at the bottom. Open the plug to let the melted water out.
Patio cooler vs. ice chest: Which is the best?
A patio cooler is great for use around the home. You can use it in your patio, backyard, garden, or pool deck.
An ice chest is the best choice when you need portability. You can use it for camping, picnics, beach trips, and road trips.
Which ice cooler holds ice the longest?
The Igloo Party Bar Cooler has one of the longest ice retention times of any patio cooler thanks to its full body insulation. Some users say they’ve found solid ice in it after four days.
Which is the best Patio Ice Cooler on wheels?
The BLACK+DECKER Mobile Cooler Cart is one of the best ice coolers on wheels. It has a well made and insulated body, offers plenty of space for drinks, and is easy to roll around on different surfaces.
If you plan to do lots of picnics and beach trips, we recommend the VINGLI Wagon Rolling Cooler, an all-terrain cooler on wheels.
how to make a DIY Patio cooler
If you don’t want to buy a patio cooler, you can make your own using an ordinary ice chest and some timber. All you need to do is construct a wooden frame the ice chest can fit in. Remove the ice chest lid and attach it to the door of the timber frame.
You can opt to build a simple box frame or go ahead and add a stand to raise the cooler higher. For easy portability, consider adding wheels to the legs of the DIY cooler.