Car battery brands are not all the same, and a poor-quality battery will not last as long as a higher-quality one. But, bottom-line, it’s more complicated than ‘what’s the best car battery?’
Most car batteries sold here in the USA come from only a handful of sources. Most of them are private-labeled to an assortment of chain stores and auto parts stores. A few OEM-style batteries are imported from Europe and Asia. Usually those are only available at the dealership for inflated prices.
Historically, construction varies widely among batteries. The conventional flooded-cell battery, with removable caps and a thirst for distilled water on a regular basis is pretty much obsolete. Virtually any battery you can buy today is what is referred to as a maintenance-free battery.
So, What’s the Best Car Battery?
Again, it’s not that simple. Large marketers like Sears and Interstate claim their product is vastly superior to all others. That’s not always the case. There are dozens of different batteries in any manufacturer’s product line, in various sizes and terminal styles. Ratings of batteries by organizations like Consumer Reports reveal that in most cases, any given size of any brand might be as good as any other. But, a bargain-basement battery, bought solely on price, probably will not last as long as the premium batteries.
Warranty is the Real Differentiator
Most auto parts stores and retailers have batteries with different warranties, ranging from a year to as much as five years. We suspect that much of the 30-40% extra cost of a premium battery goes to the warranty, rather than for improved construction.
So when shopping for a battery, be sure to read the fine print: warranties differ widely. For example, five-year warranty is probably prorated for the last three years. This means you’ll only get part credit for the remainder of the battery’s warranty period, rather than a straight-up replacement. If you travel extensively, you might want to choose a nationally-available brand so you won’t have to limp home with a failing battery or buy a new battery outright from a local source.
You’ll have to determine if warranty or price is more important to you. Otherwise, the middle of the road batteries will have pretty similar performance and output.
No matter what, when buying a new battery, look for a shop that will test your battery and charging system. They’ll usually then install the battery for free. We don’t recommend simply picking a battery off the shelf and plunking it down on the counter.
If you’re not yet ready to replace your car’s battery, this guide will help if you’re faced with a dead battery: How to Jump a Car.
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