The Best Outdoor Extension Cords of 2018

By Kevin Oliver

Whether you’re hanging holiday lights or running power to an unreachable corner of the yard, a durable outdoor extension cord is an often overlooked, but vital component of daily life. A quality outdoor extension cord should be able to effectively transmit power and withstand the daily wear and tear that the average yard can bring, including rain, snow, tall grass, creeping critters, and just about any other annoyance you can think of.

After 15 hours of research and more than a month of testing, we’ve determined that the Voltec Pro 12-gauge outdoor extension cord (available at Amazon for $45.98) is the best extension cord money can buy. This well-built extension cord combines an impressive power capacity, a useful length of 50 feet, a fortified wall-socket locking component, and overall value that make it the clear front-runner in our testing.

However, there are many other great extension cords of varying lengths and power capacities that are certainly worth looking into.

Here’s how the best outdoor extension cords we tested ranked, in order:

  1. Voltec Outdoor Extension Cord (50 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)
  2. U.S. Wire & Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (50 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)
  3. Iron Forge Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (25 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)
  4. Viasonic Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (15 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)
  5. TerraBloom Heavy Duty Extension Cord (25 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)
  6. U.S. Wire & Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (100 Feet, 14 Gauge, 13 A)
  7. Watt’s Wire & Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (25 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)
  8. Coleman Basic-Power Outdoor Cord (100 Feet, 16 Gauge, 10 A)
  9. Woods Lawn and Garden Extension Cord (25 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)
  10. Master Electrician Multi Purpose Extension Cord (20 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)
  11. AmazonBasics Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord (50 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)
— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated September 28, 2018

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Best Overall Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed / Jessa Rose Photography

Voltec Pro Outdoor Extension Cord (50 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)

  • Editors' Choice

Voltec Pro Outdoor Extension Cord (50 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)

Best Overall

With the perfect balance of durable design, value, and power capacity, the Voltec Pro outdoor extension cord takes the top spot in our list.

In broad strokes, this powerhouse of an extension cord married the best of both worlds in our tests, combining the practical usefulness of a long extension cord with the power capacity (15 A) to safely keep any piece of machinery drawing current from a standard household outlet. Specifically, the Voltec was designed to be a strong, dependable, no-nonsense extension cord that gets the job done. It’s heavy, with a thick cord wrapped in a yellow and blue jacket that feels both durable and dependable. The downside to its heaviness is that it was a little difficult to manage right out of the packaging. However, once the cord was stretched out and used once or twice, it became much easier to manage.

Both before and after running this cord over with the Jeep, there was no voltage drop measured. It performed as well as any cord could in our objective tests and stood up to the scrutiny of multiple uses over a long period of time. That level of dependability is exactly what you’re looking for in an extension cord that will likely spend most of its days hanging in a garage; you need to be able to depend on it when you need it.

Although it may seem like a small detail, the Voltec includes a small locking mechanism that helps the cord stay firmly plugged into any wall outlet. In situations involving repeatedly lifting and moving the cord to various spots, this locking clip proved to be quite the headache saver.

In testing this cord out in a myriad of elements and situations, this cord repeatedly impressed. With its high-power rating, durable design, and lockable lighted outlet, the Voltec Pro 50 foot outdoor extension cord is simply the best extension cord on the market.

Best Value Best Value
Credit: Reviewed / Jessa Rose Photography

U.S. Wire and Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (50 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)

  • Editors' Choice

U.S. Wire and Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (50 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)

Best Value

In our research, we found that with most affordable outdoor extension cords, the customer was forced to choose between length or top-notch power capacity. The U.S. Wire and Cable outdoor lighted extension cord provided a compromise that offered the best of both at a great value.

This extension cord features most of the best aspects of our top pick, minus the locking clip attached to the connector, and performed similarly in all the testing. Like the Voltec, this 50-foot extension cord is rated for 15 A and can handle a serious amount of power. That power never observably dropped in our testing phase.

This cord is well-constructed, although slightly less durable and seemingly less weather resistant than the Voltec. It also was a bit bulkier to manage throughout the testing phase, both coiled and uncoiled. Aside from those minor issues however, this cord performed every bit as well as our top pick. If you’re interested in the Voltec but want something more affordable, there’s no better value than the U.S. Wire & Cable 50-foot outdoor lighted extension cord.

How We Tested

To learn all we could about outdoor extension cords, we put them through the paces by using them constantly in daily life for over a month. Admittedly, it’s a tall task to discern overwhelming positive or negative qualities in heavy-duty outdoor extension cords. However, by using them in a variety of situations (including a North Carolina hurricane), we were able to parse the standout features and qualities that made certain extension cords better than others.

And just to spice things up, we decided to run over each extension cord with a 3,300-pound Jeep.

Credit: Reviewed / Jessa Rose Photography

Both before and after we ran over the extension cords, we measured the voltage at both ends of the cords to learn whether the cords could stand up to the extreme pressure. We also exposed the cords to the elements to see how well they’d hold up in poor conditions.

Since all of the cords we tested held up to their expected power capacity and offered at least moderate durability, we put the most weight on our daily usage of the cords. In using each of them frequently, the ups and downs to each cord’s design, length, power capacity, and useful features became readily apparent. Paired with our objective tests and voltage measuring, we feel we’ve covered all the bases in determining the very best in outdoor extension cords.

Understanding Power Transmission When Buying Outdoor Extension Cords

In the simplest terms, the amount of power a cord can hold is related to the size of the wiring inside of the cord and the length of the cord. The longer the distance that power needs to travel, the thicker the internal conductive copper wiring needs to be. Cable thickness is measured in AWG, or American Wire Gauge, in which lower numbers signify thicker cables. For example, a 12-gauge cable has thicker conductive wiring than a 16-gauge cable.

Because of the increased thickness of the conductive wires, lower gauge cords are rated to carry a higher amperage. Most often, short extension cords will offer lower gauges and higher power ratings, while longer extension cords typically opt for the thinner high gauge wiring that make the long cord easier to manage. Most of the top cords on our list are rated for 15 amps (15 A) and can hold and safely transmit power for just about any application. Some cords are rated for lower amperage but are still useful in lower-power applications.

Testing
Credit: Reviewed / Jessa Rose Photography

It’s important to remember that each cord is rated for a certain number of amps. Constantly over-powering a low-rated extension cord is not only less effective but can also be dangerous. Running too much power through a low-power rated extension cord, such as a 100-foot 16-gauge cord, can actually cause damage from voltage drop and even fire from the overload. While we still considered some 16-gauge extension cords because of their useful length and affordability, it should be made clear that these cords aren’t safe for heavy machinery or other high-power applications.


Other Outdoor Extension Cords We Tested

Iron Forge Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (25 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)

Iron Forge Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (25 Feet, 12 Gauge, 15 A)

The Iron Forge outdoor lighted extension cord was one of the best cords we tested, offering a strong and durable design, lighted outlet, and great flexibility. It’s length and limitations on outdoor use kept it from being a contender for our best overall spot but makes it easy enough to manage indoors. Although it’s rated for heavy duty use, the Iron Forge is light enough to be used indoors without causing any fuss. The cord was portable, both coiled and uncoiled, and could easily be placed anywhere you need it.

Like our top pick, the Iron Forge performed well in both our objective and subjective testing, holding its own against everything we threw against it—within consideration of its length, of course. The lighted outlet option made the cord easier and safer to use in the evening, which is an important detail that’s easy to overlook.

After all our tests, we found this cord to be a top-notch blend of power capacity and flexibility, making it ideal for high-powered indoor needs.

U.S. Wire and Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (100 Feet, 14 Gauge, 13 A)

U.S. Wire and Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (100 Feet, 14 Gauge, 13 A)

U.S. Wire and Cable, whose 12-gauge cable was our top value pick, also makes a 100-foot extension cord that performed very well during our tests. Although it’s rated for a lower power capacity, the value of a 100-foot extension cord at an affordable price cannot be overstated.

This cord boasts all of the features of our top value pick, minus the 12-gauge rating, and is surprisingly compact for a 100-foot cable. While it won’t hold up to the heaviest electrical jobs, this is the best 100-foot extension cord we reviewed and a very useful cord to have on hand in the garage.

Viasonic Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (15 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)

Viasonic Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (15 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)

This 15-foot option from Viasonic offers a high power capacity, a sturdy build, and a useful lighted end for ease of use in darkness. This cord was easy to handle and performed well in all of our testing, both objective and subjective. Because of its length, this cord won’t be handy in many outdoor power situations, but for those looking for a very short cord that can handle a stiff power load, this will do the job.

TerraBloom Heavy Duty Extension Cord (25 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)

TerraBloom Heavy Duty Extension Cord (25 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)

The TerraBloom Heavy Duty 25-foot extension cord is one of the strongest short extension cords that we tested, offering a strong feel, all-weather rating, portability, and a lighted triple socket. This cord performed well in our voltage tests and subjective usage, making it easily one of the best short cords we tested. The TerraBloom is rated for 15 A, making it ideal for heavy machinery, but its length holds it back from holding a higher spot in our rankings.

If you’re in need of a 25-foot extension cord that performs well and offers three power outlets at once, the TerraBloom Heavy Duty gets our recommendation.

Watt’s Wire and Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (25 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)

Watt’s Wire and Cable Outdoor Lighted Extension Cord (25 Feet, 14 Gauge, 15 A)

The Watt’s Wire & Cable extension cord is nearly identical to the TerraBloom Heavy Duty. It has the same length, gauge, power rating, and lighted triple socket. In our subjective testing, these two cords performed equally, and both have a similar texture and quality. The only real difference is the price—Watt’s Wire is more expensive at the time we tested and wrote this guide. Otherwise, this 25-foot cable is every bit as good as the TerraBloom and would make a welcome addition to anyone’s garage.

Coleman Basic-Power Outdoor Cord (100 Feet, 16 Gauge, 10 A)

Coleman Basic-Power Outdoor Cord (100 Feet, 16 Gauge, 10 A)

The Coleman Basic-Power outdoor cord is a traditional extension cord that works well for low-powered seasonal uses (Christmas lights, holidays decorations). However, being a 16-gauge cord, its length greatly hinders the amount of power that can safely flow through it; in fact, in can only carry 10 A safely. Remember, too much power running through an extension cord for an extended period of time can cause a fire. If you need the flexibility and length of a 100-foot extension cord, we recommend paying a bit more for the 14-gauge U.S. Wire & Cable 100-foot option listed above.

Woods Lawn and Garden Extension Cord (25 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)

Woods Lawn and Garden Extension Cord (25 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)

This 13 A medium-duty extension cord is nothing particularly special, but it is a solid option for lower-power needs at an excellent price. In our testing, this cord experienced no voltage drop and performed well in our subjective testing. Again, there’s nothing unique to write home about, but the Woods Lawn and Garden extension cord is a dependable drop cord for low power needs, such as basic lawn equipment and holiday lighting.

Master Electrician Multi Purpose Extension Cord (20 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)

Master Electrician Multi Purpose Extension Cord (20 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)

Although the Master Electrician 20-foot 16-gauge extension cord is a fine cord for low to moderate power requirements, there are much better options. If power isn’t an important factor, the Woods Lawn and Garden extension cord is sold at a lower price point (at the time of this writing), offers a similar durability, and is five feet longer. Or, consider the Iron Forge extension cord, which is rated for 15 A.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a bad extension cord at all, but there’s simply no good reason to choose it over others.

AmazonBasics Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord (50 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)

Where To Buy

$16.99 Amazon Buy

AmazonBasics Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord (50 Feet, 16 Gauge, 13 A)

While the AmazonBasics Vinyl Outdoor extension cord is one of the most affordable cords on our list and presents a decent value, its 16-gauge rating means it can safely carry less power than the other 50-foot options on our list (this cord is rated for 13 A). Aside from the issue of power capacity, this extension cord simply felt cheaper and thinner than the rest, bringing its long-term durability into question after our month of subjective testing.

If you’re planning to use the AmazonBasics cord for a lower-power use like seasonal decor, this cord is a great value. For all other uses, we recommend avoiding this cord and opting for either a 12-gauge or 14-gauge cord that won’t be as much of a potential fire hazard.

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