Sometimes, you just gotta know what’s OUT THERE, and that’s where a 12V spotlight, either corded or rechargable, can come in very useful when you’re out in the dark. Handheld spotlights like these are typically larger than your typical flashlight, and they tend to have more power, more “throw” (the reach of the illumination), and are suprisingly cost-efficient for the result you’re going to get. Many people use spotlights like these for night hunting, boating (finding the docks/channels at night), or they keep them in their truck/van as a backup light.
They’re handy, and they’re just fun to use. Often times. we’ll be in complete darkness – camping in the desert or forest – and it’s just fun to break out the spotlight and look for critters in the surrounding area. We’ve also used ours to get an advanced look at the potholes of a dirt road, to see if the path was worth risking in our not-so-new cargo van.
We’ve owned two separate 12 volt spotlights (one corded and one rechargeable) over the last couple years, and have used a handful of others at the generosity of other folks on the road. Combined with industry research and compiled reviews, let’s dive into the top choices for handheld spotlights – from low budget choices all the way up to top-tier quality and performance.
Wallet-Friendly 12V spotlight:
GSM Outdoors Cyclops Spotlight
If you’re simply looking for a light to use for fun in recreational camping, you may not need something as robust as the spotlights further down the list. Or maybe you captain a boat that you only occasionally take out at night, and could use the peace of mind of having a nimble light to check your surroundings.
This GSM “Cyclops” Spotlight is a corded spotlight, meaning it plugs directly into a cigarette lighter (12V) outlet. For $20, this honestly works remarkable well. It acts as a true spotlight, meaning the beam is focused on a small point rather than wide, flood coverage.
Does it feel like it can take a beating? Maybe not, but for such an accessible price, something’s gotta give. It’s simple (on/off switch), and it just works.
One unique feature compared to the other spotlights on the list is the included orange clip-on filter. From reading all the users who have owned this light over the years, most choose to remove it. But it’s purpose is to prevent “night blindness”, meaning you can still see objects at far distances, but your eyes remain adjusted to seeing in the dark when you turn the light off.
Halogen bulb, Corded
120W (10 Amps amps @ 12V)
Middle-tier, Corded 12V Spotlight
This is a corded handheld spotlight, meaning it has to be plugged into the 12V outlet. This can be a positive feature for many people, because you’re not limited to a (potentially short) battery life of a rechargeable spotlight. This Goodsman spotlight has a couple of really handy features and indications of quality that make it an excellent middle-tier 12 Volt spotlight.
Full disclosure, this is one of the two lights we have personally owned. And we love the unique feature of instantly switching the beam from “flood” to “spot” using the trigger. This is particularly useful, as many times you need to cast a broad light as opposed to a blinding beam.
The light is medium-sized, and built fairly tough. It’s not an LED spotlight, which have their pros and cons (see below), but it features a high quality Xenon bulb, which has lasted us more than 2 years of use without changing.
If we had to pick one downside, the description states that “ the Light bulb gradually brightens, reaching its maximum brightness (2000 lumens) after one minute”. We had to confirm this personally, and while we did see the difference, it’s slight. Still, in a perfect world, we would want maximum brightness upon turning it on, without having to wait.
Xenon bulb, Corded
35W (2.917 Amps amps @ 12V)
Middle-tier, Rechargeable Spotlight
NoCry Rechargeable 12V Spotlight (LED)
Alright, this one’s got a lot going on, so let’s get started.
First, this is the only one on the list that is a rechargeable handheld spotlight, that can be charged by either a 120AC wall outlet, or a 12V car outlet. Cool! It’s very compact, water/shock proof, and doesn’t sink – which may be a very helpful feature for the boating crowd.
The LEDs are very bright (1000 lumens), and at it’s highest setting, the charge will last up to 6 hours. This seems pretty high, but there are many accounts that confirm it. I’d imagine that over time, the 3000 mAh Lithium Ion batteries will begin to give way, but honestly, even 3 hours from a single charge is still pretty amazing.
Performance-wise, it’s not quite as bright (and doesn’t throw it’s beam as far) as the two spotlights listed below, but it’s still going to give a very clear picture of something 70-80 yds away in pitch dark.
LED, rechargeable (cordless)
18W (1.5 Amps amps @ 12V)
Requires 4 hours for a full charge
Top-quality 12V quality spotlights:
Larson 6 Million Candlepower LED Spotlight
Claiming to put out a 1000’ foot beam with only LEDs, this spotlight is visibly (get it) better-constructed than the others on the list.
The housing is tough, textured plastic that is both dustproof and waterproof. It’s also significantly smaller than some of it’s competitors on this list, meaning it’s super maneuverable and stows small – perfect for boats or camper vans.
If you’re planning to use a spotlight often, and perhaps under more extreme conditions, then a higher-quality 12V LED spotlight like this is a safe bet. You’ll get thousands of hours of additional use from LED units (compared to the standard light bulbs in other spotlights), and it wont overheat or burn out. LED’s are also much more resistant to shock and impact.
It might go without saying, but this 12V spotlight is not rechargeable – it needs to be plugged into your vehicle (or otherwise connected to a 12V battery in some manner) in order for it to work.
25W (2.08 amps @ 12V)