Look, you and I both know that those cheap-y car chargers we get at the pharmacy, mall kiosk or as free giveaways at conferences have a limited usefulness before they fizzle out on us — usually at the most inopportune time. So I went looking for the very best USB car chargers that will be ready to rock when you roll, whether you’re in your car all day for work or carpools, or you’re getting ready for a big spring break road trip with the family.

Because when you’re maybe a wee bit lost and need to pull over to re-check the directions on your phone and notice your phone is barely at 2 percent battery power (sad trombone) you will be totally grateful to be prepared with one of these outstanding options.

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Related: 7 super helpful tech accessories  for long car rides with the kids


ZUS Smart Car Charger is not only amazing as a charger, it actually helps you remember where you parked the car

ZUS Smart Car Charger and Smart Car Locator by Nonda

Not only does this dual-port USB car charger look sleek with its slim design and offer top-of-the-line features like a backlit ports for dark environments or nighttime use, it can also help you keep track of where you left your car. Really. Using the free companion app (iOS and Android), the ZUS charger remembers where you’ve parked and will guide you back to your spot. I know, right?!

(Can they make one for the car keys next?)

More smart tech features: the charger uses something called Smart Device Detection, meaning it figures out whether you have an iPhone or Android, then automatically adjusts for optimal, speedy charging. And when they speedy, they mean it; you can charge two iPads simultaneously at full speed. You may not need the “military grade” quality for actual combat use, but we presume it can withstand a grabby toddler pretty well too.

Smart, fast, powerful. We approve. (Amazon, $35.99)


Moshi Car Charger Duo: One of the best smartphone car chargers we've found

Moshi Car Charger Duo

The Moshi Car Charger Duo (formerly known as the Moshi Revolt Duo) is a tiny little powerhouse of a car charger. I like the inconspicuous look of this guy, with an anodized-aluminum cover that blends right into most car dashboards and a simple LED indicator light that gives us a faint glow in the dark. No major bells and whistles here, but this charger gets the job done, and well.

One thing, though: Android folks are out of luck here; the Moshi is for iDevices only. (Moshi, $24.95)


Related: 6 simple tech tips for traveling with kids


Tech Armor dual device charger: One of our top 4 USB car chargers

Tech Armor Dual USB Car Charger

It may look unassuming, and it kind of is, but that’s also what makes this nifty dual charger is perfect for tossing in your tote or better, stashing in the dash so it’s always there for your devices. With two ports, you can charge up while your driving buddy or navigator juices up as well.  No arguments about port-hogging. (Amazon, $17.95 or high-speed version for $19.95)


Road trip must-have: Belkin Road Rockstar charges two devices in the front, with a 6' wire for charging in the back, too.

The Belkin Road Rockstar with 4 USB Ports

That they gave a charger a “rock star” name should tell you something. We’re definitely fans of Belkin accessories in general, and raved about this multi-port lifesaver last fall which is smart for families in particular, and carpoolers of all kinds.  What’s makes this one of the best USB car chargers for us is that in addition to the two ports up front, the device also has a 6-foot cable that extends into the back seat, attached to a hub that clips to the back seat car pocket. That’s two more USB ports, folks. Basically, *Oprah voice* you get a charge! You get a charge! Everybody gets a charge! (Amazon, on sale $11!)