Most people don’t think about the batteries in their vehicle until it doesn’t start and they are stuck somewhere. Since you will have to shop for a car battery a couple of times during the lifetime of your vehicle, knowing ahead of time what the best battery for their vehicle is can save a lot of headache and confusion. We researched many different types of car batteries and have chosen the DieHard Advanced Gold AGM Battery as our best overall pick. We’ve also added two other high quality, popular car batteries that are at the top of our list for your consideration as well.
Car Battery Buying Guide
There are several things that you will notice that can indicate that your battery needs replacing. These include:
- A battery that doesn’t accept a charge
- Side of the battery bulging
- Loose terminals
- No battery filler caps
Before Your Purchase a New Battery
Before you start shopping for a new battery there are a few things that you will need to know. We have listed these below.
Battery size – Batteries come in many different sizes. These are called groups. It is relatively easy to find out what group size your battery falls into. You can look at the existing battery, which is probably the simplest solution; or you can check the owner’s manual. The majority of auto parts stores can also help you select the right size if they know the make and model of your vehicle. Many auto parts stores will even install the new battery for you free of charge.
Climate – Choose your battery according to the climate that you live in. Batteries that are better for hot weather will often have the label of S or will have South on them meaning they are designed to handle extreme hot weather. Cold weather batteries will have N or North on them and are designed with higher cold-cranking amps so they can be started during extreme cold weather.
High Performance – The most common type of battery purchased is a lead acid battery. There is an increase of vehicles that are coming out with AGMs or absorbed glass mats which means they can withstand a heavier power drain without damage. So many cars have outlets for mobile phones, stop/start systems, and electronic safety features that these cars need to have higher power capabilities.
Off-Road Driving – Depending on the quality of the battery, some may have internal plates that are very fragile and under heavy, constant vibration these plates can crack or weaken. Others have sturdy coils that are much better to constant coils. Batteries that have totally sealed cases are less likely to leak than those that have caps.
Professionally installed – There are several places you can go to have your battery installed. These places include auto parts stores, garages, and others including Wal-Mart automotive, Sam’s automotive and more. Many of these places will install the battery for free if you purchase it from them. Installing a battery is not hard and you can also choose to do it yourself but with all of the options available, you don’t have to choose to do it on your own.
Check the “freshness” date – Vehicle batteries can lose their strength if they sit on the shelf too long. If you’re shopping online and you’re purchasing new, you can be fairly sure that the battery will be fresh. If you are purchasing in a store like Wal-Mart or even an auto parts store you should look for a date on the case. You want to be sure that the battery is no more than 6 months old. The dates on the battery can sometimes be written in code with letters representing the month (A-January, etc.) and a number representing the year. (8 would be for 2018, etc.)
Old Battery Turn in – When you purchase a new battery from a store you will take your old one in and trade it in. You will pay a core charge of 5-20 dollars if you don’t bring in the old battery when you purchase the new one.
Battery Terms to Know
There are a few terms that you will want to be aware of when it comes to purchasing a new battery. We have included these frequently used terms below.
Auto Battery Electrolyte – This is an electrolyte that is made of water and sulfuric acid. When the battery is discharged the negative and positive lead plates turn into lead sulfate. In addition, the electrolyte loses a lot of sulfuric acid and turning into mostly water. Always be very careful when handling vehicle batteries because of the acid. Wear hand and eye protection if you have to work with them.
Cranking Amps – Another popular term you will hear is cranking amps. This indicates the starting power of the battery. Look for a battery that matches your vehicle’s needs and requirements but looking at the owner’s manual.
Cold Cranking Amps – Cold cranking amps is the number of amps that it requires to start during any given conditions. Since batteries can only offer about 50% to 60% of their cranking amps when the temperatures are below freezing.
Maintenance – Free – This type of battery has become the norm when compared to old-school batteries that require you to watch the electrolyte level and addition of distilled water.
Battery Terminals – These are located either on the top of the battery or on the sides depending on the kind of battery it is. These battery terminals need to be kept clean and free of corrosion. Use a terminal cleaning brush and terminal spray.
Battery Buying Tips
To ensure that you get the best battery for you vehicle, follow these great tips.
Test the Battery Yearly – Most batteries on the market today are maintenance-free but it is still recommended to have the battery load tested each year once the battery is two years old if you reside in warm climates and when it is 4 years old when you live in cold climates.
Proactive Actions – Make sure that you keep up with your battery’s maintenance needs so you can choose a replacement battery that is on your terms rather than having to scramble or take just anything due to an emergency.
Driving and Car Needs – Make sure that the battery that you choose is the right size and has the terminals in the right place for your specific battery mounts. Your owner’s manual will help you with choosing the right type and size.
Compare the warranties – It is in your best interest to choose the car battery that has the longest period of free replacement that you can find. There are two ways that a warranty can be measured: the period of free replacement and the prorated, partial reimbursement model. Keep in mind that if the battery shows any signs of personal neglect including not installing them properly and low-water levels can make your warranty null and void.
Vehicle batteries come in two different varieties: Maintenance-free batteries and absorbed glass mat. Maintenance free batteries are the more traditional style and work great for some people that like them.
Lead-Acid – regular batteries. It’s been a few decades but batteries used to require topping off with water to keep them in good working order. Now, with the maintenance-free design, batteries don’t need refilling as much because they don’t use as much water. Lead-acid batteries cost less than the other type of battery, AGM.
AGM – This type of battery costs more than lead acid and will not handle deep discharges very well. They don’t hold their charges as long. Much more vehicles are coming with AGMs due to the increase in powered accessories and power that vehicles have. AGMs will cost more than other regular batteries but if you have a large power load they are certainly the way to go and can handle deep discharging better and typically will fully recover.
A car battery is a very important purchase. Your vehicle will not run without one and if you choose the wrong size for your vehicle it can cause the battery to fail earn on if it works at all. With all of the new technologies that vehicles have now and the accessories and options that are powered that most have you need a powerful battery that can handle a large battery load.
Finding the right battery is not hard thanks to the many different venues where you can find one such as auto parts stores and places like Sam’s or Wal-Mart. These places will not only help you find the right size but in most cases they will replace them for you free of charge.
There are many different brands of car batteries on the market today. Some brands are better than others which is why this guide will be a big help to you when it comes to researching what is out there. Starting with the three top rated car batteries that we have featured and the buying guide that provides all kinds of information on what to know before you shop, what to look for when you are shopping and how to find certain things out like the freshness date that you may not have known before.
Once you choose the right battery you will be able to turn yours in to an auto parts store so they can dispose of it properly. Batteries are not supposed to be dumped in the regular trash and you can get in trouble with your city for throwing them away in this manner.
If you choose to purchase your battery online to get a great deal on a quality battery, remember to contact your auto parts store to find out if they will take your old battery. Most of the time they will take your old battery and will happily install the new one for you too.