Best Car Batteries Buying Guide
Most people expect their car batteries to last forever (1). That’s until they painstakingly discover one day that the car doesn’t sputter to life like it usually does. That comforting whirr is nowhere to be heard and you have never messed with the jumper cables before.
That leaves you with only one choice. You wait for assistance. And if you are out in the middle of nowhere, pray that assistance comes fast.
But it doesn’t always have to be so. If you are diligent about checking under the hood of your car, you can get a heads up about a weak battery that is about to go kaput. We will come to that in a bit.
The fact is that despite assuming that car batteries will last for years, the constant charging and recharging can take a chunk out of your battery’s life. And there will be a time when you need a replacement.
That’s where the turf gets trickier though. Because if this is the first time you are venturing to shop for car batteries, you will be overwhelmed at all the technical jargon that gets thrown at you. Thankfully, we are here to make things easier.
For now, let us quickly check where to buy car battery as well as what you need to know before buying.
Things to know before buying car batteries
Buying car batteries need not be difficult if you are aware of what to look for. In fact, with a few simple tips, you can get the best car battery for a much reduced price than what your auto mechanic would typically quote for it. Why looking for expensive ones while you can buy cheap car batteries with high quality ?
Car batteries come in a variety of sizes and fits and this is hands down one of the most crucial aspects of the purchase. The simplest thing to do would be to get your hands on the owner’s manual and check for the terminal locations and size. Most battery retail outlets also have a fitment guide handy allowing you to pick one that fits your car perfectly.
There are three types of terminals in car batteries.
- Top Terminal: The common sizes in Top Terminal fittings are Size 65, 24/24F, 35, 51R, 47 (H5), 48 (H6), 49 (h8)
- Side Terminal: Size 75 batteries have a side terminal and these batteries are usually used in midsized cars for GM motors and some Chrysler models.
- Dual Terminal: Dual Terminal batteries are found in many large sized Chrysler & GM vehicles as well as pickups and sedans.
How recent is the model
You need to buy a battery that was manufactured recently. Batteries can lose their strength when stored for a long period of time. As a rule of thumb, do not buy anything that has been on the shelf for more than six months. Check the shipping code.
Check the battery life
The battery life depends on a lot of factors some of which are beyond your control. For example, the climate. If you live in a place that has very warm climates, then you’d want to ensure that you check the battery life before you buy. The best car batteries are often tested for factors like the battery life and reserve capacity.
The warranty on your car battery has two separate aspects to it. There is a free replacement period during which you will be reimbursed the entire amount for your battery and there is a prorated period during which you will only qualify for partial reimbursement.
You’d want to look for one that has the longest free replacement period. Once the prorated reimbursement period starts, the amount of reimbursement that you qualify for can reduce rapidly. Also, be aware of what can void the warranty. Different manufacturers have different terms and conditions for voiding the warranty. But it is estimated that factors like failure to check the water levels and incorrect installation are the main reasons for voiding the warranty.
The Types of car batteries
Now that you know what to look for under the hood, it is equally important to know the different types of car batteries and the reasons why each one of these may or may not be an ideal choice for your car.
Wet or Flooded Battery: If you have bought a car in the past four or five years, then chances are high that the battery in your car will be a wet or flooded one. These have become extremely popular owing to their low maintenance and pocket friendly price tag. These batteries contain freely suspended design plates which are individually insulated in separator bags. These are also called ‘low maintenance batteries’ because they are completely sealed and you do not need to replace the gases or top the water off in the electrolyte solution. The price for wet or flooded batteries range from $50 to $700.
Calcium-Calcium: Calcium-calcium batteries are extremely cheap (usually under $100) and are characterized by a very slow rate of self-discharge. But the caveat is that due to the calcium alloy on both the charged plates, these batteries can undergo substantial damage if overcharged.
Valve regulated Lead Acid: VRLA or Valve regulated lead acid batteries feature pressurized safety valves on the box which prevent fluid loss. There are two different types of VRLA batteries:
Gel based: A Gel based VRLA battery adds silicon to the mix which turns the battery acid into a viscous gel. The battery is easier to maintain and there is no acid leakage. The tradeoff is that it cannot generate a lot of power during startup which means that they are not the best of choices for cars.
AGM Battery: An AGM or Absorbed Glass Matt battery is more suited for incessant startups and recharge cycles. They have a bunch of features which make them extremely popular among newer car models. Some of these include integrated excellent starting power, electronic safety systems, fuel conserving start-stop systems and other convenience based features which can be critical as the demand for power from the battery increases due to the use of portable devices in the car. An AGM battery is a great choice if your car stays idle for extended time periods which result in a conventional battery draining out. AGM batteries can handle these discharge periods easily and will recover completely even if it is drained accidentally. An AGM battery can cost almost double of what a conventional battery does though.
Deep Cycle batteries: These are not usually found in fuel powered cars because of their high and fast discharge rates. But the longer battery life makes them a great choice in electric cars, golf carts and motor boats. If you were to use a deep cycle battery in your car, it may not recharge fast enough if your car is not driven for a long time.
Lithium Ion battery: Last but not the least; we have lithium ion batteries which are used by some limited edition automobiles or extremely high performance cars like the Porsche. They are a standard feature in electrical cars due to their lighter weight, longer life and ability to withstand frequent charge/discharge cycles. The most important disadvantage is that they have obscene price tags. A standard Lithium Ion battery can cost as much as $1500 as compared to the $300 of a conventional lead acid battery.
Did that overwhelm you? You are not alone. Most first time battery buyers have a similar reaction when they go through all the features, technological aspects and jargon related to their car batteries.
Nevertheless, we have evaluated several of the top battery brands and models for their lifetime, features, flaws and warranties. Based on hours of research, testing and speaking to car owners who have used these batteries for years, here are out pick of the five best car batteries in the market.
The Best Car Batteries – Our Best Picks
#1 – ACDelco 78AGM Professional AGM Automotive BCI Group 78 Battery
It was a Consumer Reports top rating that propelled the ACDelco 78AGM to the top of our list of best car batteries trumping some other equally popular models. The reason behind the rating though is that it manages to crank up a very impressive performance in almost all the parameters.
The ACDelco 78AGM is an Absorbed Glass Matt battery that features silver calcium stamped alloy which increases both, the performance as well as the cycle life. It has a very low resistance thanks to the calcium lead positive grid.
ACDelco’s vent cap design prevents acid leakage (Although the battery is 100% pressure tested against leakage) and the envelope separator ensures optimum performance even in varying temperatures.
We spoke to numerous customers who replaced their in-car ACDelcos with the 78AGM and couldn’t help but be impressed with the performance. The battery is the best definition of zero-maintenance. You can install this and forget about it.
Also, coming from ACDelco, you can be rest assured that this is going to last longer than most of its counterparts. It has a 36 month free replacement warranty period too which is among the best in the business.
We also compared prices for the ACdelco 78AGM across online-retailers and offline stores and found the best pricing on Amazon. Another reason why Amazon is the best place to pick this up is because they have the most recently manufactured inventory which reduces the risk of loss of battery life due to storage.
Top Customer feedback based on our quick interviews about the ACdelco 78AGM:
“I got the battery shipped last week. The temperature has dropped to the mid thirties but this one never fails to crank the truck.”
#2 – Optima Batteries 8020-164 35 RedTop Starting Battery
We have used the Optima RedTop starter battery series for years without a problem. But with some recent mods to the car which made it more power-hungry, we decided to swap it with the Yellow top which is more suited for power-demanding accessories. Turns out, it wasn’t a bad decision at all.
This is a dual-purpose AGM battery that has excellent starting power clubbed with the resilience against frequent cycling.
Optima is one of the most reputed and trusted brands in car batteries and their AGM batteries have one of the widest surface areas for their lead plates. The result is that the batteries are more energy dense and pack a punch when it comes to cranking power.
Also, unlike conventional AGM batteries with their flat plates, Optima features spiral wound lead plates which have a flawless performance irrespective of humidity or temperature fluctuations. Irrespective of whether it is extreme winters or the harshest summers, this will crank your car in no time.
If you have a mean off-roader with a winch that demands a reliable power solution or if you have just turned your car into a discotheque, then Optima’s Yellow Top series is the best bet for you.
The only thing that you’d want to know is that this is different from a conventional plug and play battery that you can hook to a charger and recover. This will probably recover a lot better than the rest but you need to follow the recharge procedure to the T. Thankfully, Optima provides you with enough resources and tutorials to make it simple. It also features a 36 month free replacement warranty.
Top Customer feedback based on our quick interviews about the Optima 8020-164:
“I have used the Optima Yellow Top for my HD trucks and even for off road jeeps. It hasn’t failed even once. It outlasts most other type of batteries and has excellent deep cycle capacity which is crucial for accessories which draw a lot of amperage.”
#3 –D3400 XS Series Car battery
The D3400 XS Series is one of the cheapest AGM car batteries in the market. But don’t let the cheap price tag fool you into thinking that this is a poor quality product. Instead, this is considered as the budget priced alternative for an Optima Yellow top by a lot of customers.
It has a prolonged life span (touted to last almost ten years without any problems), is sealed, spill-proof and vibration resistant. If you are tired of replacing your batteries after they conk off every five years or so, then give the D3400 XS a shot.
The extremely low resistance and quality construction makes it a great choice for both cranking as well as amp heavy accessories like audio systems and lights. The D3400 is considered by many customers as being one of the most energy dense batteries in the business.
Further, the XS range includes an impressive lineup of batteries in varying configurations making it a great choice for everything from cars to boats to heavy duty trucks and SUVs.
The D3400 XS does not feature battery posts. Instead, it comes with M6 terminal bolts which lets you mount this directly as a replacement to your OEM battery.
Top Customer feedback based on our quick interviews about the D3400 XS:
“This is an awesome battery that has tons of juice, fits directly, is not pricey, lasts forever and is very durable. This is a hefty and powerful replacement.”
#4 – Exide Edge FP-AGM51R Flat Plate AGM Sealed Automotive Battery
There are only a handful of choices in the 51R category for automotive batteries and the Exide Edge rates among the best ones in the business. Like most other car batteries in this list, this is an AGM battery with a spill-proof design.
This fits perfectly, installation is a breeze, weighs only 15 pounds and has one of the best performances among batteries in its class. Exide’s flat plate design which uses six sets of plates lined horizontally in a straight line, maximizes the energy intensity, conductivity and energy availability which allows the battery to perform at its best even in demanding situations.
It is estimated that the Exide Edge FP-AGM51R boasts of 17 times more energy for repetitive driving as well as for shuttle driving.
Be it extremely low temperatures or a furnace under the hood, the Exide Edge will crank your vehicle at the first go. It features up to 15% more starting power than conventional batteries.
Also, it features Exide’s SureLife Graphite Technology that ensures fast and hassle free recharging even if the battery is completely drained.
Like most of Exide’s range, it has been tested vigorously for continual heavy use in stop-and-go traffic and it manages to elbow out quite a few much-hyped models.
Top Customer feedback based on our quick interviews about the Exide Edge FP-AGM51R:
“Completely sealed, this holds its charge for longer than most batteries, charges faster, handles vibration and has a much deeper discharge. Fits most OEM battery replacements out-of-the box and has a great pricing too.”
#5 – Odyssey PC680 Battery
Our final pick, is hands down the best battery in this list of best car batteries . This is the Odyssey PC680 which has an excellent service life (3-10 years depending on the usage, comes with a limited 2-year full replacement warranty and has a bunch of other features including a longer cycle life, faster recharge and vibration resistance.
For starters, this AGM battery has a 70% longer cycle life as compared to most conventional deep cycle batteries. It runs at an extremely stable voltage for a very long period of time preventing common problems like dimming of lights.
The Odyssey PC680 is known to last for up to 400 cycles at almost 80% depth of discharge. Also, it is the fastest recharging battery in the market among all other sealed AGM batteries. The PC680 goes from zero to 100% recharge in just six hours of time.
Construction wise, it is incredibly sturdy and durably built which allows you to mount it without having to worry about leaks, vibration or shock.
Odyssey’s batteries are also resistant to extreme climate fluctuations making it a great choice even if you live in an area with severe climatic conditions.
Top Customer feedback based on our quick interviews about the Odyssey PC680:
“My Odyssey PC680 just died after 10.5 years of vigorous usage. No prices for guessing what I am going to replace it with.”
For us, that feedback sums up most of the reasons why this is the best car battery in 2017.
P.S. You need to add $10 to the price of the battery because it does not come with the side posts for mounting. But that is not a deal breaker for this amazing car battery which ticks all the right boxes.
Accessories to make your life simpler
Along with getting the best car battery, take a look at the following accessories which will allow you to be proactive and check the condition of your battery before it bites the dust. Not all of these are mandatory. But you’d be in a better position to identify and repair any flaws before it leaves you stranded on the road.
Storage charger: A storage charger will let you to temporarily charge your battery and prevent discharge especially if your car is idle for a long time. You can use a float charger to monitor the status of your battery from time to time and ensure that everything is in working order.
Jump starters: If you do not have a jump starter in the car emergency kit, then it is highly recommended that you get one. You can jump start the car without having to connect two different cars.
Handle: If your car battery does not include a carrying handle or a loop, then you can easily buy an aftermarket one. This may look like an overhyped feature. But in reality, it can make it easy for you to remove as well as lower the battery into the compartment.
That’s it folks. We hope that you enjoyed reading this guide and that this lets you pick the best car battery for your car.