Whether you’re dealing with minimal outlets in an apartment or need an outdoor connection for power tools, extension cords will come in handy time and again. When choosing a high-quality extension cord, it’s important to consider what you’ll use it for, as this will help determine what gauge to get.
“You have to match the gauge with the amperage (AMPS) and distance you need,” says Dan Belanger, a Master Electrician and owner of 4 Wire Electrical. “If you use a cord that’s too small, it can melt or not provide the right voltage to your equipment.” When in doubt, Belanger says you can play it safe with a 12-gauge extension cord. Quality is another crucial factor to consider. “The better the cord, the [stronger] it is, which can lead to a prolonged lifespan,” says Dan Mock, Vice President of Operations at Mister Sparky, an electrical company that offers services across the United States. “Quality cords also tend to be safer, so you’ll want to spend a bit more in order to make the best decision,” he adds, noting that products should have a UL rating, which ensures the product was tested and meets minimum safety requirements.
With that in mind, we set out to find the best high-quality extension cords, factoring power and gauge ratings, cord length, and plug type into our research.
Here are the best extension cords.
LifeSupplyUSA Outdoor & Indoor Heavy Duty Power Extension Cord
Versatile for everyday use
Comes in many lengths and colors
Can be used indoors and outdoors
End lights up when plugged in
Not very flexible
Not for cold weather
If you’re looking for a quality, versatile extension cord, the LifeSupplyUSA Outdoor & Indoor Heavy Duty Power Extension Cord is a solid option. The 12-gauge cord is housed in a PVC jacket, which is resistant to common outdoor aggressors such as oil, grease, and moisture. It comes in many sizes, ranging from 3 to 200 feet, which means you should be able to find an option that works for your everyday needs.
Additionally, it comes in a few different colors—black, green, orange, and yellow—so you can choose one that either looks good with your indoor decor or is high contrast for outdoor use. The end of the extension cord also conveniently illuminates with a red LED light, which allows you to see at a distance if the cord is fully plugged in.
With that said, this extension cord doesn’t withstand extreme weather conditions, and it isn’t very flexible. If you’re looking for a flexible outdoor extension cord that is also versatile, we recommend our heavy-duty pick, the Southwire Outdoor Heavy-Duty Generator Extension Cord with Power Light Plug.
Price at time of publish: $19
Amperage: 15 amps | Wattage: 1,875 watts | Gauge: 12 | Length: 3 feet to 200 feet | Number of Outlets: 1 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
Amazon Basics Extension Cord
Convenient for everyday household use
Neutral colors blend with decor
Can purchase in single or two-packs
Not safe for outdoor use
Not suitable for major appliances or power tools
While cheap extension cords aren’t recommended for safety reasons, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good quality cord at a great price. For this category, we chose the Amazon Basics Extension Cord, which offers excellent value for the overall cost. The 16-gauge, vinyl-sheathed cord works best for indoor use and is versatile enough for a variety of general and daily applications, such as charging your phone. It comes in six different sizes ranging from 3 to 25 feet, and in two neutral colors—black or white—so you can easily use and disguise it in your home.
While it’s a solid budget-friendly option for indoor use, this extension cord should not be used outdoors or with energy-intensive major appliances or power tools. However, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly cord for basic charging needs around the house, it’s worth consideration.
Price at time of publish: $10
Amperage: 13 amps | Wattage: 1,625 watts | Gauge: 16 | Length: 3 feet to 25 feet | Number of Outlets: 1 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
Best for Outdoors
US Wire and Cable Yellow Lighted Extension Cord
Versatile size and gauge
End lights up when plugged in
Color stands out indoors
When it comes to outdoor extension cords, Mock says to look for an option that can be exposed to light rain, dirt, and other outdoor elements, as it needs to be more durable than an indoor cord. This Yellow Lighted Extension Cord from US Wire and Cable fits the bill for a variety of outdoor uses. This UL-listed, 12-gauge pick comes in a 25-foot length, which should be a long enough cord for most everyday needs, both outdoors or indoors. (If you’re in need of a longer extension cord, consider our heavy-duty pick below instead.)
This extension cord also features a lighted plug, which makes it more visible at night while also indicating that power is running through it. In addition to its outdoor use, the SJTW-type cord is versatile enough for indoor use—though the yellow color of the PVC jacket might not blend into your interior decor.
Price at time of publish: $30
Amperage: 15 amps | Wattage: 1,875 watts | Gauge: 12 | Length: 25 feet | Number of Outlets: 1 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
Southwire 1639SW0061 12/3 100' SJEOW Supreme Extension Cord
Chemical and oil resistant
Can withstand extreme cold
Only comes in one color
You don’t need to worry about durability with the Southwire 12/3 SJEOW Polar/Solar Supreme Cold Weather Extension Cord with Lighted End. The 100-foot extension cord is designed to handle extremely cold and hot temperatures—as low as negative 76 degrees and as high as 221 degrees Fahrenheit, making it an excellent outdoor option for extreme climates. (You can also snag it in 25-foot and 50-foot lengths.) It features a durable, insulated housing that keeps the cord flexible despite the cold and is also chemical and oil resistant.
With its bright blue color and lighted ends, the heavy-duty extension cord is ideal for outdoor job sites, as it remains highly visible while being able to withstand most electrical needs. However, it would be a fantastic choice for backyard needs, as well, especially in regions with extreme heat or cold.
Price at time of publish: $114
Amperage: 15 amps | Wattage: 1,875 watts | Gauge: 12 | Length: 100 feet | Number of Outlets: 1 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
Best With Surge Protection
Belkin 12-Outlet Home Office Surge Protector with 8 ft Cord
Has 12 outlets
Limited cord length
According to Belanger, surge protectors and extension cords are two different things. And, while some extension cords feature surge protection, you can also find surge protectors with a little more length in the cord. Case in point: The Belkin 12-Outlet Home Office Surge Protector is a surge protector first and foremost, but it features an 8-foot cord that could offer the extra reach you need for your tech accessories, lamps, and other home devices. While we wish it had at least one longer option, this length could still come in handy in an office setting or small room at home.
In addition to being a convenient combo, the surge protector also features a space-saving design, a whopping 12 outlets, and safety covers that slide over the outlets. It even comes with clips to keep your cords organized.
Price at time of publish: $32
Amperage: 15 amps | Wattage: 1875 watts | Gauge: Not listed | Length: 8 feet | Number of Outlets: 12 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
Best With Multiple Outlets
Cordinate 10 ft. 16/3 Designer 250J 3-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip
Nice color options
Low-profile, flat plug
Limited to indoor use
Fabric cord may get dirty
Extension cords are useful to have around the house, especially when faced with minimal outlets. However, many extension cords only come with one or two outlets. If you’re in need of a way to plug in multiple devices from a distance, consider the Cordinate Designer 3-Outlet Power Strip With Surge Protection.
Designed for indoor use, this pick features a 10-foot cord with a chic braided cover and three outlets, as well as surge protection as an added safety measure. It also boasts a flat plug, which is great for keeping things flush with the wall when plugging an extension cord in behind furniture. In addition to its functionality, the extension cord is designed to blend into your home decor, not take away from it like many options so easily do. The cord was thoughtfully designed to meet both aesthetic and electrical needs, making it a fantastic choice for a home office, living room, or bedroom. Just keep in mind that this is best used inside your home, not outdoors.
Price at time of publish: $15
Amperage: 13 amps | Wattage: 1,625 watts | Gauge: 16 | Length: 10 feet | Number of Outlets: 3 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
Most Modest Niko Power Pendant
Stylish wood finish
Fun color options
On the pricey side
If you need an indoor extension cord but don’t want to compromise your design aesthetic, a decorative extension cord is an excellent compromise. Our top pick for this category is the Niko Power Pendant from Most Modest, which features a sleek wood finish, geometric shape, a 10-foot cord, and several cord colors to choose from, including indigo, ivory, graphite, and yellow.
We wish this extension cord came in at least one shorter size for small spaces, and it’s on the pricey side for a relatively short extension cord. However, the extension cord does come with three outlets and a chic leather cord wrap, and it’s covered in braided nylon to elevate the style. One feature that makes this extension cord even more unique is the fact that it can be mounted to the wall on a sleek hook, or hung from a metal stand (sold separately) for desktop use if needed.
Price at time of publish: $138
Amperage: 15 | Wattage: 1875 | Gauge: Not applicable | Length: 10-feet | Number of Outlets: 3 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
One Beat Desktop Power Strip with USB Charging Ports
Low-profile, flat plug
Combination of USB ports and three-prong outlets
Great for desktop use
Fabric cord may get dirty
For the best extension cord with USB ports, the One Beat Desktop Power Strip is an excellent choice. This power strip features a flat plug, making it a good choice for behind furniture, including desks, couches, and beds. In addition to its three USB ports, the extension cord also features three outlets, so you can plug several of your electronics into this one product, making it a fantastic multi-functional choice for a home office or even a living room where you need to plug light fixtures and charge your devices.
The biggest downside is the cord length. While the 5-foot length makes it a good choice for desktop and office use, it might not be sufficient for larger rooms or spaces with minimal wall outlets. Also, the cord is wrapped in braided fabric which could get dirty over time, especially if it’s handled frequently throughout the day. With that said, this is an overall great pick for someone looking for a multi-functional extension cord with USB plugs, as well as someone concerned about the aesthetic of the cord, as its sleek white and gray design can blend easily into any space.
Price at time of publish: $15
Amperage: 13 amps | Wattage: 1,625 watts | Gauge: 16 | Length: 5 feet | Number of Outlets: 3 | Outlet Type: Three-prong
The LifeSupplyUSA Outdoor & Indoor Heavy Duty Power Extension Cord is our best overall pick because it has a versatile 12 gauge cord and is durable enough to withstand outdoor aggressors like oil, grease, and moisture. On top of that, it comes in tons of different sizes ranging from 3 feet to 200 feet so you can find one that fits your length requirements. For a heavy-duty extension cord that can withstand the elements, we recommend the Southwire 12/3 SJEOW Polar/Solar Supreme Cold Weather Extension Cord with Lighted End, which is durable enough to withstand temperatures well below—and well above—0 degrees Fahrenheit.
What to Look for in an Extension Cord
“Extension cords are categorized by a sequence of letters on the insulation of the cord that is meant to indicate the type of wire inside and steer users toward best use,” Dan Mock, Vice President of Operations at Mister Sparky, explains. The different types of extension cords include: E, J, O, P, S, T, W, FT2, HPN, and SRDT. Extension cords can also come in various combinations of these categorizations to indicate different attributes or uses.
- E: These types of extension cords are made with thermoplastic elastomer rubber (TPE), which makes it oil-resistant. “This cord is best suited for construction site use, where oil exposure and high temperatures are common,” says Mock.
- J: Considered the most standard extension cord, J cords have 300-volt insulation. Mock says they work best for light outdoor needs, such as leaf blowers.
- O: The “O” in O cords stands for oil and specifies that they are oil-resistant. “This cord is best for garage use, where engine oil and other chemicals may be present,” says Mock.
- P: “Having a parallel wire construction, P cords are best for indoor use and household jobs like powering fans and cleaning tools,” Mock explains.
- S: This extension cord is considered the most basic and made for standard and general use around the house (think: plugging your phone charger in).
- T: This cord is easy to remember, as the “T” stands for “thermoplastic” and can withstand colder temperatures. “They are great for minor outdoor jobs or garage usage during chillier months,” says Mock.
- W: If you’re looking for a powerful outdoor extension cord, this type is best. “With heavy-duty insulation, these cords are designed for outdoor use and are best for medium to high voltage jobs in the elements,” Mock explains.
- FT2: “This sequence signifies that the cord is flame retardant,” says Mock, noting that these types of extension cords are better for construction jobs where potential fire hazards are apparent.
- HPN: This type of extension cord is built to handle high temperatures, making them more compatible with high-temperature appliances.
- SRDT: SRDT extension cords are heavy-duty and best for appliances with high amperage.
Power and Gauge Ratings
An important thing to consider when shopping for extension cords is the power and gauge rating. “Extension cords all have an American Wire Gauge (AWG) rating that is determined by wire thickness and used to measure electrical wire in order to determine best use and power capacity,” Mock explains. This rating is considered a sliding scale, since the lower the AWG rating is, the thicker the cord will be. “This is important to check, especially when using a cord for heavy-duty power jobs, as using a cord with a higher AWG can lead to malfunctions and overheating,” Mock adds.
Length and Plug Type
Next, you’ll want to consider the length and plug type, as this will tell you how far the cord will extend and whether or not it is compatible with your outlet. “With three-prong plug types, there is an additional pin [called a grounding or earthing pin] which acts as an added layer of safety for plugs,” says Mock. “If there is some sort of faulty wire, surge, or other issue, this pin will help prevent any issue such as electrocution, fire, damage, or more,” he adds. Because of the safety component, Mock says these types of plugs are more common nowadays.
When dealing with electricity, safety is of utmost importance. In addition to choosing the right extension cord for your job, you’ll also want to check that the cord was vetted for safety. “The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) helps to test and regulate electrical cords through a series of heat, hazard, moisture, and damage tests that determine whether a cord is safe for commercial or residential use,” Mock explains. He recommends looking for the Underwriters Laboratory label (UL) on an extension cord, as this organization tests all types of electrical products and components for safety.
What’s the difference between an extension cord and a surge protector?
“An extension cord brings power from point A to point B, whereas a surge protector protects equipment from a power surge,” says Dan Belanger, a Master Electrician and owner of 4 Wire Electrical. While they do make power bar surge protectors that give you some extension, Belanger says they are generally separate products, especially if you need the length of an extension cord.
According to Mock, it’s safe to plug simple items such as a lamp into an extension cord. “For items you care a bit more about—such as computers and TVs—I recommend plugging these into a surge protector,” he notes, adding that the protector will help these devices from overloading.
Can I plug an extension cord into a surge protector?
“I recommend keeping extension cords and surge protectors separate, as these two items function differently, and extension cords are not made for the same usage as a surge protector,” says Mock. If you need a surge protector with some length, you can find options that appear to be a hybrid of the two. However, it might not be available in the exact length you need.
How should I store an extension cord?
Like all electrical items, Belanger says to keep extension cords in a space where they’ll be protected from moisture. If you have a garage, Mock says you can coil them up and hang them on a wall, either on a hook or pegboard. If not, you can keep them all together in a storage box. “Be sure to keep the storage box out of direct sunlight and away from high heat or extreme cold, if possible,” Mock adds.
How long can I use an extension cord?
An extension cord’s lifetime can vary, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. However, you can keep an eye out for any wear and tear on your cords to get an idea of when to replace them. “You’ll want to watch your extension cords over time and be mindful of any wear, cracks, frays, or other damage,” says Mock. “If you notice anything on your cord, it may be time for a replacement,” he adds.
When it comes time to replace, Mock says that most extension cords are recyclable, so be sure to check with your area recycling program when disposing of old cords.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Contributing writer Jessie Quinn is a lifestyle writer for The Spruce, covering everything from the best gifts to give to the best bedding. When researching the best extension cords, Quinn used her background in journalism to research dozens of options and narrow down her list to include the top picks. She looked at everything from the quality of construction to power and gauge ratings to plug type to determine what makes an extension cord the best.
Quinn also reached out to top experts Dan Belanger, a Master Electrician and owner of 4 Wire Electrical, and Dan Mock, Vice President of Operations at Mister Sparky, an electrical company that offers services across the United States, to learn more about what to look for in extension cords and important safety precautions to take.