Plastic mugs typically earn fewer recommendations than stainless-steel travel mugs because they don't retain heat and cold as well, and they are more susceptible to absorbing beverage tastes and odors. There's also the issue of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in polycarbonate plastics that has been linked to health problems. Not all plastic travel mugs contain BPA, since many are made with polypropylene, which does not leach BPA. On the plus side, plastic travel mugs are more affordable and they can usually be microwaved -- making them handy for reheating coffee or soup.
One of the top-rated plastic travel mugs is the Aladdin Recycled and Recyclable Travel Mug (*Est. $9). This travel mug is manufactured from recycled water bottles, and it can be recycled at any center that accepts No. 5 plastics. The interior of the bottle is made from BPA-free recycled polypropylene. It comes with or without a handle, holds 16 ounces and fits in standard car cup holders. The lid has a sliding cover that protects the drinking hole to prevent splashes, but the mug is not fully spill- or leak-proof.
Both Shape and Real Simple magazines choose the Aladdin Recycled and Recyclable Travel Mug as one of their favorites, saying it's a great choice for those who want an eco-friendly option. The travel mug also gets good reviews from owners, with various colors of the mug earning 4- and 4.5-star ratings on Amazon.com. Reviewers love that the mug is safe for the dishwasher and microwave (unlike metal travel mugs). However, the Aladdin Recycled and Recyclable Travel Mug doesn't insulate as well as those made with stainless steel, and most reviewers say it keeps drinks hot only for about an hour. Good Housekeeping finds a similar result in its test of travel mugs, saying the Aladdin Recycled and Recyclable Travel Mug "doesn't insulate much better than a cardboard cup."
The Brugo Travel Mug (*Est. $21) performs well in tests at Men's Journal, Real Simple and About.com, where reviewers praise the innovative lid design. The lid has three settings -- sip, lock, or tip and cool. The lock setting is designed to provide a spill-proof seal, and the tip-and-cool setting pulls a small amount of hot liquid into an internal chamber to cool it to a comfortable drinking temperature. The mug can hold 16 ounces in total, and although it has stainless-steel accents, the inside of the mug is constructed from double-walled, BPA-free polypropylene. The base is 3.4 inches wide by 3.4 inches deep, so the Brugo Travel Mug will fit in most car cup holders. Hand washing is recommended.
Professional reviewers tend to like the design of the Brugo Travel Mug, but it earns very mixed ratings at Amazon.com. In over 40 reviews, the mug has an overall rating of just 2 stars out of 5. Some of the most critical reviews seem to be repeated, so the true rating might be a bit higher. Users say the mug leaks, even when the lid is in the locked position, and others raise durability concerns. Some reviewers also complain about poor insulation. "This is a novel idea, but it just doesn't do what any travel mug should do -- keep your coffee warm and not leak," writes one reviewer.
If you're a fan of pressed coffee, the Bodum Travel Press (*Est. $20 ) may be worth a look. The travel mug is made from BPA-free plastic and can hold 16 ounces. To use it, you add coarse ground coffee or loose-leaf tea and hot water, then push the press down. The base is 3.25 inches in diameter, so it will fit in most car cup holders. It's recommended in reviews at Real Simple magazine and the Los Angeles Times, where reviewers call it a cool and unique travel mug. However, the Bodum Travel Press gets mixed ratings at Amazon.com, where it has an overall rating of 3 stars in 40 reviews. Users say the press doesn't hold coffee grounds or tea leaves very well, which allows them to escape into your beverage. Others report that the lid leaks occasionally.
We didn't find as many recommendations for other plastic travel mugs. Real Simple magazine picks the Oxo Good Grips Plastic LiquiSeal Travel Mug (*Est. $11), which also comes in a stainless-steel version, as one of its favorite spill-proof thermal mugs. The Oxo Good Grips Plastic LiquiSeal Travel Mug is constructed from double-walled, BPA-free polypropylene on the inside and polycarbonate on the outside, and it has a spill-proof lid. The travel mug gets average ratings at Amazon.com, earning 3.5 stars in roughly 20 reviews. Reviewers say the mug keeps drinks hot for only an hour or two, although users are impressed with the lid; while it is very good at preventing spills, it can be hard to clean.