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5 Different Types of Car Mugs (Travel Mugs That Are Particularly Good for Vehicles)

Red travel mug on hand.

When you’re setting out for a road trip, one of the most important things that must make it to the car is a mug full of a beverage that will keep you going. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken 12-hour road trips that started at 4:30 am.

Best case scenario, you’re wide awake at that time. In reality, though, you’re probably struggling at least a little. This is coming from someone who can stay up all night and into tomorrow. Having that mug next to you is what helps get you by.

If your beverage of choice is coffee, you know that at the gas station or fast food place the drinks come in pretty small cups. Sure, that’s fine if you’re going into the office. Not so much if you’re driving for the next several hours.

You can take your own personal mug and put two of those tiny cups in it. That much coffee may not keep you from needing to stop ever so often, but it will keep you from needing to browse for longer. Not having to purchase new drinks all the time keeps you on schedule better. 

So, you may be wondering what kind of mugs are best for car. Well, you’re in luck. Get your drink ready, we’re about to find you a mug.

1. Stainless Steel Mugs

Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee Mug with Lid and Handle (2 Pk) 14 oz.- BPA-Free Spillproof Lid, Double Wall Camping Travel Coffee Mugs Tough & Shatterproof, Keeps Coffee/Tea Hot And Beer Cold Longer

Stainless steel mugs are a great option for the road because they help keep the temperatures intact for longer. That can be for hot coffee or cold soda. One thing I always bring is a cooler with cold beverages.

If you don’t have a mug that can keep them cold, they might get room temperature pretty fast. Don’t even get me started on long summer drives. That’s never fun.

Personally, after I’ve gotten my fill of hot tea, I move on to bubbly flavored water or soda specifically because it puts a little extra pep in my step. Every little bit counts when you’re stuck in the car for hours. Stainless steel keeps the bubbles going longer, too. 

Most stainless steel mugs come with varying lid types as an extra bonus. Not only does the steel help, but not opening bottles over and over keeps a drink from going flat. Lids also make hot coffee easier to drink because it comes out of a controlled area. Let’s not forget, no spilling over bumps

While these mugs may be a bit more costly than other types, perhaps it’s worth it when you consider the plethora of designs available. There are so many to choose from that it becomes a personalized mug-choosing experience.  

2. Travel Mugs

Contigo SnapSeal Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug 2-Pack, 20 oz., Blue Corn & Bubble Tea

These mugs are meant to be used on the road. The design is specific for someone who can’t look at the mug. It needs to be convenient and quick to use.

Travel mugs make use of some extra height because more beverage is the name of the game to maximize daylight hours or road time in general. Brands get that.

Since they want to be with you in the front seat, you should have no issue fitting one into a cup holder, unless the vehicle is a bit older. Standard cup holder size is factored into the making of these mugs. The fit will be snug, which is great, honestly. The less opportunity to tip, the better. 

A way to personalize your travel mug, aside from design, is to take a moment to consider the lid types. There are some that you squeeze at the top, others you slide the top to an opening. There are actually some that you use your teeth to activate.

Almost all of these are made with driving in mind, so they aren’t complicated and shouldn’t require two hands to open.  Sometimes you can find some heavy-duty travel mugs that come with all kinds of features, including a temperature sensor.

They get pretty fancy. Remember that before you load a new travel mug into the dishwasher or put it in the microwave. Due to what could be deemed excessive technology, it might not be safe. Check the bottom before any major moves.

3. Tumblers

YETI Rambler 20 oz Tumbler, Stainless Steel, Vacuum Insulated with MagSlider Lid, Navy

A smooth cylinder that gradually gets a little larger by the top is a great way to describe a tumbler. There’s no complicated technology, just a simple design to keep your beverages insulated and convenient for you. Lids come with sliding or pop-open spouts for easy access, too.

Tumblers actually look a lot like what you would be given after ordering a large coffee to go. Perhaps just a tad more grip-friendly and sturdy. While most are around the same size, be sure to pay attention to the bottom, since that’s the part that will go into your cup holder. 

There aren’t handles on tumblers, unlike other travel mugs. So, that’s something to keep in mind as far as figuring out what your beverage needs are. No handles make it extra convenient for the car because you just need your hand to grab it.

If you plan on taking it to a hotel or business meeting, not having a handle might make carrying it around cumbersome. Definitely worth considering ahead of purchase. 

4. Heated Mugs

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug 2, 10 oz, Black, 1.5-hr Battery Life - App Controlled Heated Coffee Mug - Improved Design

If you like to keep your hot beverages hot forever, this might be your answer. Other mugs can be made of material that insulates, but this goes a step further. Heated mugs use your car as a power source to keep warm.

Whether you are a slow sipper or plan to make a beverage on the go, a heated mug could get it done. The design is meant to be as car friendly as possible. Of course, there shouldn’t be any sizing issue as far as fitting in the cup holder.

What you will find is these are tall mugs. Taller than normally tall mugs, in fact. The reason for that is the heating mechanism. 3/4 of the mug is for your drink. That last fourth is where the heat comes from. Typically, you’ll have a cord that plugs right into the lighter.

As long as it’s plugged in, your beverage will not chill out. You can leave it that way or you can use the battery. Once you’re no longer in the car or plugged up, the mug will continue heating until the battery runs out. There are notches on the side that keep you updated on how much juice is left in the battery.

Close by to the cord’s location on the mug is a temperature gauge. This is where you can relay to the mug exactly how hot you want it to stay. Be careful not to make it so hot that if it did spill over by accident the liquid wouldn’t cause anyone injury. 

5. Glass Mugs

2-Pack 12 Oz Double Walled Glass Coffee Mugs with Handle,Insulated Layer Coffee Cups,Clear Borosilicate Glass Mugs,Perfect for Cappuccino,Tea,Latte,Espresso,Hot Beverage,Wine,Microwave Safe

When you just want that regular-sized coffee in a no-nonsense way, these mugs are basically glass coffee cups. It’s different and almost gives you a restaurant feel, since it isn’t abnormally tall or built to be dropped and rolled.

This mug comes in multiple shades and has a lid that looks like the type you get on a coffee to-go, just more reliable. The colored sleeve is made of silicone, which means that, whatever the temperature inside the mug, it won’t have an impact on your hand when you pick it up.

Being shaped like a small cup of coffee means it fits in your car smoothly and, if it does spill, there shouldn’t be a major mess.  


1. What are the best car mugs made from?

To be fair, it really depends on your expectation of use. The best way to decide what’s best for you is to examine your life and how rough you are with things. If you’re a frequent traveler or often like to pack a drink, you might prefer a mug that is based on steel. The reason is durability.

You never know when something will fall out of your hand or get tossed around in the trunk. Factor in features like the ability to put in the dishwasher and microwave.

Steel is strong and will see you through. As New York Times reported, “It’s also the best material for vacuum insulation and therefore heat retention.”

2. What else are mugs made out of?

Different color of mug on white isolated background.

One of the most well-known mug materials is ceramic. Most people have an entire side of a cabinet dedicated to all kinds of wacky shapes of ceramic mugs, the ones you can customize like graphic tees.

The reason they aren’t on the travel mug list is that most are big with nice, wide handles that would never fit in a cup holder. 

Another not listed is one that everyone should know but does not. Coffee Affection shared, “Melamine is a man-made material used in various kitchen products. Lightweight, durable, and essentially unbreakable, melamine mugs hold up well in the dishwasher and are highly affordable.”

We also have China cups, which would be what you’d serve your most important guests with. They are usually small and dainty. These stay in China cabinets where their ornate designs can be appreciated and not dropped.

Lastly, a popular one for small businesses is stoneware mugs. These are fun because they are usually made by individual shops, so they come in a variety of designs.

They are good for hot beverages but can weigh more than you’re used to.  Because of that, this type didn’t make the list. The likelihood is small that there’d be one good for traveling with. 

3. What’s the difference between a stoneware mug and one made of ceramic?

Technically, stoneware is a type of ceramic, as is porcelain. What sets it apart is the type of clay being used and the properties it possesses during the making of the mug. As The Times of India explained, “Stoneware is non-porous ceramic dinnerware made from stoneware clay.

It is fired at a temperature between 2150 and 2330 degrees Fahrenheit. It is thicker than other dinnerware. Ceramicware is earthenware made of porous clay fired at low heat between 1,832 to 2,102 degrees Fahrenheit.”

4. How often should I trade out travel mugs?

A woman's hand holding a mug.

It’s not uncommon for someone to keep a travel mug in the car for long periods of time. However, there are certain signs to look for, so you know when it’s time to switch out. For example, if you tip the cup up for a swig and you get a whiff of an unpleasant odor, put it down.

It needs to be cleaned. It’s the same result if you feel a slimy layer on the inside or under the lid. On a side note, people don’t wash their pets’ water dishes enough. Layers of slime build in there, too, making the water not taste great. I digress.

Another thing to look out for is a crack. These can be mended but sometimes plastic chemicals can leak into the cup if it isn’t taken care of, so use caution.

5. Can you throw car mugs away?

Technically, yes, but please don’t. Landfills are suffering enough as it is. Let’s find ways to upcycle, shall we? If the mug is broken, you can break it down into smaller pieces and put it in your garden. Soil needs room to breathe and this will provide pockets of air that will be good all year long.

Not broken? Use them as test samples for art projects or plant something cute. Better yet, donate them so someone else can get joy from a new-to-them mug. Finally, no one ever said not to re-gift a coffee mug.