Best Replacement Car Batteries
You don’t want to wait until the day your car doesn’t start to begin researching replacement car batteries. Eventually, your car’s battery will run out of charge and needing a replacement is part of your car’s maintenance. Generally, you will likely have to replace your car’s battery once or twice during its life, although there are products you can purchase to help maintain and extend your car’s battery life. But that’s not what this article is about—you’re likely here because you’re shopping for a replacement car battery.
There are two general types of automotive batteries: Lead-acid (regular) and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM). Lead-acid batteries typically cost less than AGM batteries but won’t hold a charge for as long. AGM batteries, on the other hand, are designed to withstand routine draining and recharging cycles. Most modern vehicles with high-tech features such as start/stop systems now come from the factory with AGM batteries, which is why most of our recommendations on this list are AGM batteries. They may be more expensive, but they offer better long-term performance by withstanding deep discharges and are more likely to be recovered if they’ve been accidentally drained.
Batteries also come in different sizes and terminal types, so you’ll want to check your car’s manual to get the right one prior to purchasing. You may notice some of the battery models on our list are similar but with different top terminals—make sure you’re getting the one you need.
As you browse through our list, you’ll see that we’ll highlight a couple features for most of the batteries. One of them is cold cranking amps (CCA), which measures how well a battery can start your car in cold weather conditions. Another feature is reserve capacity, which is how long a battery can run if any parts of your car’s charging system fails.
For more information on the best replacement car batteries, refer to our table of contents.
Criteria For Choosing the Best Car Battery
Cold-cranking amps (CCA) is a measure of how well the battery starts an engine during extreme cold weather and is a crucial car batteries ratings. Each vehicle model requires a certain amount of amperage to start, especially in cold weather. If your battery doesn’t have sufficient amperage to turn over, it won’t start.
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To check the CCA rating of a particular battery, look for a label on the top or the side of the battery case and look for a number followed by “CCA.” Otherwise, check your owner’s manual specifications for a minimum CCA rating. If the battery in your car isn’t the car’s original, you’ll need to look up the accurate battery CCA rating for your particular vehicle.
If you live in a cold climate when temperatures can go well below freezing point, you may want to look for a battery with a higher CCA rating to prevent no-start issues in cold mornings.
Reserve capacity indicates how long a battery can run a vehicle if the charging system, which consists of the alternator, stator, and rotor, fails. In general, 30 minutes of power is considered average, while 2 hours and above are considered superior reserve capacity.
A way to test actual reserve capacity is to measure the amount of time it takes a fully charged battery to be discharged down to 10.5 volts, which is the typical fully discharged state. At that level, the car will be unable to start without a jump-start. Another way is to measure how long you can accidentally leave the headlights on and still get the car started without needing a jump-start.
Battery life is tested by repeatedly discharging and recharging the battery until performance drops to unacceptable levels. Such a test is typically performed at a test temperature of about 75°C or 167°F to mimic the high underhood temperatures during the summer, which is the most detrimental condition for batteries health and lifespan. Frequent exposure to high temperatures deteriorates batteries quickly due to increasing plate corrosion and the electrolyte needed for current vaporizing more quickly.
Long life is especially important if you make many short trips that don’t allow much time for recharging. That said, if you plan on keeping your vehicle for up to 10 years, a higher grade battery that is designed to last longer would be a wiser investment. Otherwise, a lower grade battery that will get you by in the meantime might be a better option if you’re on a budget.
Other Factors To Consider
Tip 1: Choose The Right Type of Battery For Your Vehicle
We all know that every vehicle requires a specific type of battery. Each vehicle needs a different amount of power and differently sized battery.
For instance, many cars come with AGMs to support an increasing array of electrical components, and the charge system may be configured specifically for an AGM battery. Thus, you need to check your vehicle’s maintenance guide to know what kind of battery is suitable for your car.
- If you lose the maintenance guide, you will need to take your car to a repair shop and ask a mechanic to identify the type of your car battery.
- If you go camping often, especially if you like boondocking without electrical hookups, you must get a deep cycle battery on top of your usual cranking battery for powering your appliances and devices.
- Because climate has a huge impact on the way a car battery works, you should choose a battery appropriate for your local weather conditions. Cold-weather batteries are often labeled “N” or “North”. Hot-weather batteries might be labeled “S” or “South”. In some cases, owners can replace an AGM battery with a traditional flooded one to boost longevity in hot climates, but it’s best to consult a mechanic first.
- If you are an off-road driver, a battery which can endure constant vibrations will be a better choice for you.
Tip 2. Choose The Right Size
Batteries come in a variety of sizes and it’s important to choose the right size. If the terminals are in the wrong place, your car’s cables might not reach or they might not fit securely.
To determine the right fit for your vehicle, check your owner’s manual or an in-store fit guide. Below is a battery size groups for your preference.
- Size 24/24F (top terminal): Fits most Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Nissan, and Toyota vehicles.
- Size 34/78 (dual terminal): Fits many large Chrysler vehicles, 1996 to 2000 GM pickups, SUVs, plus mid-sized and large sedans.
- Size 35 (top terminal): Fits most Japanese nameplates, including Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and recent Honda vehicles.
- Size 47 (H5) (top terminal) : Fits Buick, Chevrolet, Fiat, and Volkswagen models.
- Size 48 (H6) (top terminal) : Fits many Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Volkswagen, and Volvo models sold in the European and North American markets.
- Size 49 (H8) (top terminal): Fits many Audi, BMW, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz models sold in the European and Asian markets.
- Size 51R (top terminal): Fits many Honda, Mazda, and Nissan.
- Size 65 (top terminal): Fits large cars, trucks, and sport-utility vehicles from Ford or Mercury.
- Size 75 (side terminal): Fits some General Motors mid-sized and compact cars and a few Chrysler vehicles.
Tip 3: Pick A Maintenance-Free Battery
Thanks to advanced technology, most car batteries nowadays are maintenance-free which don’t need any special attention. However, do note that the flooded type of lead-acid batteries require more maintenance. They lose water during the charge cycle, thus they require to be filled with distilled water only every 2-4 weeks as needed to function properly and stay healthy.
Furthermore, flooded lead acid batteries should be equalized occasionally to make sure each cell is equally charged. You can do this by applying a controlled overcharge once every 30-90 days.
Therefore, if you are not a handyman or would want to save time, you should buy a maintenance-free battery whenever possible, which is either a gel type or a fuss-free AGM.
Wonder how to test a car battery, check this video!
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Tip 4: Avoid Purchasing Old Batteries
Batteries lose their strength even when we store them carefully. Therefore, you should always buy a new one which was manufactured within the last 6 months to make sure what you buy is the best car battery at that time.
Tip: To know how old your battery is, you can check the four- or five-digit date code on the cover of your battery case. The first part of the code is key and consists of a letter and a digit, for instance D11. A letter is assigned to each month: A for January, B for February and so on.
The number that follows denotes the year: for instance, 8 for 2008, 9 for 2009, 0 for 2010, 11 for 2011, 12 for 2012 and so on. So “D11” means in April 2011, the battery was shipped from the factory to local battery wholesale distributors.
Tip 5: Purchase A Battery Which Has A Good Reputation
Buying a battery which has a lot of reviews is a smart choice as this battery is tested by auto enthusiasts and consumer communities. All you have to do is read reviews or check consumer reports on commercial sites selling the battery to get information about the battery or other types of batteries sold there.
A safe bet is to grab one from a major manufacturer with positive reviews. You can find in the next section a list of the most prestigious car battery brands with proven track records.
Also: Recycle Your Old Battery
You cannot dump a car’s battery just anywhere as the battery’s lead and acid is toxic. But they can easily be recycled, and most retailers will dispose of the old one for you. Sometimes when buying a new battery at a store, you might have to pay an extra small amount that will be refunded when you return the old battery.