Marine coolers come in all shapes and sizes, but they also come in many different quality levels. What are the details to look for? We stopped in at Alltackle, a fishing tackle and boating supply store in Annapolis, MD, for a quick look at some of the important features that set one cooler apart from another—and also determine whether a cooler costs a couple of bucks, or an arm and a leg.


Let’s recap the most important items to look for when choosing the best marine cooler:

Hinges: Cheap coolers usually have very thin plastic hinges, which are sure to fail in a couple of seasons. Some have slightly thicker hinges, which swing open on a pin. Although this is better than thin plastic that merely bends, if that pin is plastic, they’ll still fail after a few years. The best coolers have beefy hinges built right into the top and back of the cooler, which swing on a thick stainless-steel pin. You can extend the useful lifetime of a marine cooler by swapping out cheap plastic hinges for replacement hinges like those from Cooler Shield.

Insulation: Just how well will a cooler hold in the cold? Insulation thickness is the biggest determining factor and essentially, the thicker the insulation is the better the cooler will hold ice. But there’s a price for increased insulation, since the thicker cooler walls eat into interior volume. Other items that will have an effect are how well the top seals (the best models close on gaskets), and how it’s held down (tensioning clasps or rubber catches that close the top under pressure are much better than plastic latches).

Accessory parts: Depending on how you use the cooler, you may want to consider accessories like wheels. These certainly make carting the cooler down the dock easier, but they also require the loss of a lot of interior cooler space. Handle quality is another important factor. And the presence of a drain can be very important as well.

Cost: Naturally, for many people this is one of the most important things to consider when buying a cooler. And like the old saying dictates, you’ll get what you pay for. An inexpensive, cheaply built cooler will only cost you $20 to $60 dollars, depending on size. A mid-range cooler can be purchased for $100 plus or minus. But a top-notch, high-quality cooler will cost several hundred dollars and an extremely large high-quality marine cooler can even break the $1,000 barrier.

The next time you’re shopping for a new marine cooler be sure to take all of these considerations into account—remember, coolers are an essential item when it comes to partying on your boat. Then, each and every time you swing that cooler open to grab a cool frosty beverage, hopefully, you’ll be satisfied with your choice.