Ultimate Car Battery Buying Guide and Tips
Your car battery is a decidedly important part of your car. Without your car battery, you would not be able to start up your engine in the first place. However, like anything in our modern technological world, we never notice something until something goes wrong. So if you are reading this battery buying guide, chances are that you want a bit of an in depth know how about what specific markers you should look out for when you are looking to buy a new battery for your car. A good car battery will give you better performance, fewer hassles, and last you longer than a subpar one. The perfect battery for you is obviously specific to your particular demands from your battery. However, this guide is the perfect place to start to educate yourself so that you can make an informed choice that you will be happy with.
Brand: For most people, your car manufacturer probably already has recommendations on which battery brand you should go for. Additionally, what battery will fit your car also depends on the battery size, which can often be specific to certain brands. As a rule of thumb, you should buy a battery from a well-known, established brand instead of saving a few bucks on a cheap off brand one. A battery from a good brand is much more likely to provide you with great performance and longevity with fewer hassles. And if something does go wrong, you have the peace of mind that comes from having a warranty covering your purchase from manufacturing defects. Buy the best brand you can afford, within your requirements.
Size: Battery sizes are often related to their capacities. Therefore, which battery is suitable for you often depends upon the size specifications that come with your vehicle. Additionally, your engine bay is actually designed to house a battery of one size, and one of another size might not fit properly. Battery sizes are number and letter combinations, such as 65, 75, 24/24F, 34/78, 51R, and are usually printed on the battery label. Moreover, some sizes are specific to certain makes and models of vehicles. So look in your owner’s manual and buy the battery that is the correct size for your car.
Battery type: When it comes to modern car batteries, there are two main types on the market: you have your traditional lead acid battery and you have the absorbed glass mat or AGM style battery. Traditional lead acid batteries are cheap and dead simple to use. They have been around for years and modern sealed batteries do not even require you to “top off” the battery with water or account for “gassing” or release of flammable hydrogen. However, AGM batteries have a lot going for them. Their internal construction allows them to be much more robust than traditional lead acid batteries. Not only do AGM batteries provide better performance and sustain deeper discharge cycles, they also retain their charge longer than their traditional counterparts. However, AGM batteries can also cost almost twice as much.
Reserve Capacity: The reserve capacity of a battery is how long your battery can provide enough power to run your car if your charging system goes kaput. A very common circumstance is leaving your car in ignition in the garage or leaving your lights on overnight. The reserve capacity is measured using standardised testing procedures and is usually printed on the battery label. Generally speaking, you should always spring for a battery that has at least 90 RC, i.e. 90 minutes of reserve capacity. This should get you through any alternator failure issues you might encounter on the road.
Cold Cranking Amps: Not only does battery performance decrease in cold weather, it also takes a great effort to fire up your car engine when the temperatures outside are low. Therefore, the number of cold cranking amps or CCA is a good measure of battery performance in cold climate. It is the amount of current, or amperes, the battery can provide for at least 30 seconds at 0 degree Fahrenheit without falling beyond minimum voltage. Manufacturers will usually advertise this number prominently, but there is no need to go overboard. You can usually find a recommended CCA rating for the make and model of your car, so try to get as close to that number as possible. It should also be obvious that CCA means nothing if you live in the warmer climes.
Battery Life: The marker of the longevity of your battery is the battery life. While most manufacturers will warranty their batteries for 36 months or 3 years, a good battery can last much longer than that. If you take good care of your battery by not allowing deep discharges or by using a trickle charger when the battery is not being used for an extended duration of time, your battery can last for quite a while. Unfortunately, the battery life cannot be measured by any standard metric and you will have to rely on customer reviews and word of mouth about how long the battery typically lasts in everyday use.
Warranty: A 36-month warranty is a bare minimum when you are buying a car battery. Your warranty should cover free replacement of your battery if it stops working within the duration of the warranty. Some manufacturers go even further and offer a discount on a new battery purchase on a pro rata basis if your battery dies within a certain period of time after the expiry of your warranty.
Car Battery Buying Tips
- Check the physical dimensions of your battery so that it fits in your engine bay
- Do not go for overkill; a battery that is enough is good
- Spring for the most expensive brand you can afford
- Buy a trickle charger for your battery so that you can take care of it when not being used or if fully discharged accidentally
- A handle on the battery case is a huge relief
- If you have a lot of accessories or lights on your vehicle, you should consider buying a high performance battery specifically designed for high current draw and repeated charging cycles
- Never buy a battery that has been sitting on the showroom shelf for more than 6 months; you can find the date of manufacture encoded on the label
Here's also a great buying guide video from Youtube:
So there you have it: a few things to keep in mind when buying your next car battery. By and large, following the guidelines specified in the owner’s manual of your car is all you need to do. However, if you have specific requirements or if you have modified your vehicle in any way, you now know what you should need to look for in a battery.