Best Car Battery 2018 – Buyer’s Guide
Best Car Battery
Optima Red Top
Best Car Battery – Introduction
Stranded in the driveway with some clicking and no ignition? Sounds like it could be a dead battery. Before you go ordering a new one, lets trace the root of the issue to make sure a new battery will actually solve your issue.
What does a Car Battery do?
The battery in your vehicle is primarily responsible for storing enough power to crank your engine after the next time you shut it off. It also serves the purpose of powering your lights and accessories while the engine is not running. There are also times where the dips and spikes in the cars electrical system. The battery helps provide a steady flow of power to keep everything running in the event that the alternator can’t keep up.
The alternator is responsible for keeping everything running while the car is on. It is a belt-driven generator that serves a dual purpose providing a charge to the battery and also providing the electrical current necessary to keep your car running.
When to Replace Car Battery
Dead Battery vs. Drained Battery
If your car is not starting, the battery is typically the first place you should start. Especially if you are seeing some abnormal behavior with your car’s headlights, electrical system or lighting. These cases are great examples of how important it is to have a high quality roadside emergency kit in your car at all times.
A drained battery occurs when the alternator and vehicle charging system is not able to keep up with the demand of the car. Current is drawn from the battery reserves. There is no charge left to power the starter on the next ignition.
This situation is usually resolved by using some sort of battery charger or jumper cables. Although you may get the vehicle running again with a jump or charge, it is important to diagnose the root cause of the issue. If it is the alternator or cabling, the same issue will occur with your new battery as well.
Electrodes and electrolytes are the two main components of a car battery. A dead battery occurs when the cell is unable to sustain a reaction due to the lack of necessary chemicals. It can also occur when the cell has developed an internal short. Internal electrode structures failing from old age as the electrode plates erode typically cause this. No matter how much time you spend with a charger or jumper cables, you can’t bring back a dead battery. Time to buy a new one!
Choosing the Best Car Battery
The battery is one of the most common recurring issues that affects car and truck owners. The extreme range of temperatures that batteries face in the engine bay make quality automotive batteries a necessity.
Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) is the most commonly misunderstood specifications of a battery. CCA refers to a test in which manufacturers place the battery in a cold environment (0°F/-18°C) and measure the discharge load in amperes that a new, fully-charged battery can deliver for 30 seconds, while still maintaining terminal voltage equal to or higher than 1.20 volts per cell. This is important because extremely low temperatures will degrade battery performance. You want to be sure that your battery will have enough power to crank even the highest compression diesel truck engines even when its below zero.
Although CCA is important, most of the US is not affected by below zero temperatures on a regular basis. Depending on your application, you can save a ton of money by not chasing the highest CCA numbers.
Warranty is another hugely important spec of a good battery. You want a battery that the manufacturer will stand behind; at least 3-4 years of free replacement is the industry standard. These warranties are usually “limited warranties”. Customers should read the documentation to fully understand what is covered and what is not.
Top 5 Best Car Battery Comparison
DieHard is a premium brand of automotive battery marketed by Sears Holdings retailers, including Sears and Kmart. They are a very popular option for the budget shopper that wants a quality brand name to back up their purchase.
The DieHard Advanced AGM Battery comes in as the #5 best car battery due to the DieHard/Sears name, as well as the strength and warranty. It comes in at a whopping 650 CCA which is more than enough even for the coldest environments. It is advertised to have 20x more vibration protection providing up to 2x the life vs. conventional batteries. A 4 year free replacement warranty backs this maintenance-free, spill-proof battery.
|CCA (Cold Cranking Amps)||650-800|
|Cranking Amps||up to 1020|
|Reserve Capacity||100 min|
|Warranty||3-Year Free Replacement Warranty|
This car battery will meet or exceed your vehicle’s OE specifications because it is constructed to dispense maximum cold cranking amps. Even in extreme temperatures, the Bosch Premium Power Battery provides dependable starting power you can rely on. With the 3 Year Warranty, and the Sears quality reputation, this is a tough battery to pass up. More information and reviews on Amazon:
ACDelco is another large provider of Aftermarket Automotive parts and accessories. They are actually a subsidiary of General Motors but make quality replacement parts for most major automotive manufacturers.
The ACDelco Professional AGM Battery features a high density negative paste and Alloy/Silver-Calcium stamped alloy to improve performance and increase battery life. A robust envelope separator with a puncture resistant back provides increased acid circulation helping to prevent shorts, overheating, and extend battery life. Its 3-Year replacement guarantee isn’t the best on the list, but it’s plenty of time to not raise any red flags.
|CCA (Cold Cranking Amps)||720-800|
|Reserve Capacity||145 min|
|Warranty||3-Year Free Replacement Warranty|
ACDelco Professional Automotive AGM Batteries have high cycling capabilities and are remarkably charge-receptive, which is necessary for ‘start/stop’ vehicle applications. With four and a half stars across hundreds of reviews, this is a solid battery choice if you are looking for something a bit more budget-friendly. Check it out on Amazon:
The Odyssey Extreme line is designed specifically with performance in mind with 540 CCA, up to 70% longer cycle life, faster recharge times, and extreme temperature tolerance. They advertise the highest recharge efficiency of any sealed lead battery on the market and an operating temperature range of -40 degrees Celsius – 45 degrees Celsius.
|CCA (Cold Cranking Amps)||540-850|
|Cranking Amps||up to 1380|
|Reserve Capacity||87 min|
|Warranty||4-Year Free Replacement Warranty|
Odyssey plates are made of pure virgin lead (unlike the lead alloy in most batteries). This battery has significantly more surface area because it packs in more plates resulting in much more power. Twice the overall power and three times the life of conventional batteries, up to 400 cycles at 80 percentage depth of discharge. With 4.0/5 stars, if you’re looking for performance and longevity and willing to pay the additional money, this is a great performance option. More information on Amazon:
Optima has long been amongst the top car battery manufacturers in the world. The Yellow top battery is designed for performance and is especially good for drivers with aftermarket electronics including stereos, speakers, subwoofers, or lights. The SpiralCell technology at the heart of every Optima battery provides unparalleled cycling capability (rechargeability).
With up to 3x longer life, 15x the vibration resistance, and a fully spill-proof casing, Optima provides one of the best options for the performance-oriented applications. The reason the Yellow top is #2 on the list is because the Red Top in the #1 spot is cheaper and plenty for the average consumer. As we stated before, the best car battery for performance is the Optima Yellow top battery. So you end up paying a bit more for the performance.
|CCA (Cold Cranking Amps)||650-900|
|Cranking Amps||up to 1125|
|Reserve Capacity||98 min|
|Warranty||3-Year Free Replacement Warranty|
The Optima Yellow Top high-performance AGM battery is ideal for trucks with winches, vehicles with high-demand electronics and audio systems. With almost four and a half stars and thousands of reviews, you really can’t go wrong buying either of the Optima batteries on this list. Spending the extra few dollars might be worthwhile to get the Yellow Top if you have some aftermarket electronic components. Great prices on Amazon:
Optima Batteries manufactures Optima Red Top Battery. The name speaks for itself when it comes to performance and reliability-focused car and truck batteries.
The Red Top is a budget-friendly version of the more performance-oriented Yellow Top battery. The specs are a bit lower, but it still has the same SpiralCell technology with 15x the vibration resistance, high reserve capacity, 3x longer life, and the fully spill-proof casing.
|CCA (Cold Cranking Amps)||720-850|
|Cranking Amps||up to 1000|
|Reserve Capacity||90 min|
|Warranty||3-Year Free Replacement Warranty|
The Yellow Top and Red Top have almost identical CCA and Reserve Capacity. You’re mainly sacrificing a bit of capacity (amp hours) by not upgrading to the Yellow Top. For most applications, the Red Top is more than enough and is the lowest priced battery on the list. It has almost four and a half stars across thousands of reviews as well. This is the easy choice for the best car battery in 2018. Don’t believe us? Check out the reviews on Amazon:
What are the best car batteries to buy?
The best car batteries to buy are the car batteries that meet and exceed the manufacturer specifications and will hold up to conditions of your driving and environment. Colder climates, high performance driving, and aftermarket stereo systems will usually require batteries like the Optima Yellow Top that will hold up to the extreme conditions.
Warmer climates, regular commuting and long trips won’t require anything special. A battery that meets manufacturer specifications will work great for this scenario. We recommend the Optima Red Top as a cheaper alternative that provides a great warranty and reliability.
How much does it cost to replace a car battery?
Car battery replacement is actually something you can do by yourself fairly easily. If you shop at a local auto parts store such as Advance Auto Parts, you can take advantage of their free battery replacement service with purchase of a new battery. We recommend purchasing online and picking up in store as you can typically get 15-30% off of your order and get free installation. Core charges are also refunded immediately which will reduce your cost. Check out the stock at your local Advance Auto Parts here:
How long does car battery last on average?
Car batteries typically last 2-5 years. It is highly dependent upon the environment and driving conditions that are experienced by the vehicle. High performance driving, extreme cold or heat, faulty wiring or alternators can drastically reduce the life of a battery. Most average drivers can expect around 3 years out of their battery before needing a replacement. This is why we recommend shooting for a 3 year warranty. There’s nothing better than a free replacement after using your battery for 3 years!
What is the life of a car battery?
The life of a car battery, as with many other types of battery, is a steady decline in performance. Each discharge and recharge cycle will decrease the efficiency of the battery. This is called Battery Fatigue. The ions in the electrolyte solution inside the battery begin to decay. This process can take anywhere from 2-5 years as depending on driving conditions and environment. Once your battery can no longer sustain a charge or sustain an output voltage of 12.6v, it is time to replace it.
Other Helpful Car Battery Recommendations
Best Car Battery Brand
At MaintainYourRide.com, we are very partial to the Optima Brand Car Batteries. Their unique spiral-cell design along with the reputation amongst professionals and consumers is unrivaled. They might be a bit more expensive but you get what you pay for and it will pay for itself in the long run due to the fact that it will last much longer than regular car batteries.
Best Car Battery for Heat
The Optima Red Top is a great choice for the best car battery for hot weather. The unique spiral-cell design of Optima batteries makes them much more durable than your average lead-acid battery. This includes heat and cold resistance.
Best Car Battery for Audio
The Optima Yellow Top is the clear choice for the best audio car battery. The Yellow Top is designed with the most demanding applications in mind. Definitely the best battery for aftermarket stereo systems and subwoofers as it is a deep-cycle battery that is designed to take periods of extremely high power that can overwhelm your alternator. It is also highly vibration resistant and its dry-cell technology makes it safer to place inside the vehicle in the event you need a 2nd battery.
Best Car Battery Warranty
The best car battery warranty that we have seen comes with the Odyssey Extreme Battery. A 4-Year Free Replacement warranty is pretty unheard of in the automotive battery industry. Most will go up to 3 years and then add some stipulations like maybe a discount up to 5-years. But this is full replacement if you have issues in 4 years. Nice huh?
Best Car Battery Near Me
We did an in-depth AutoCraft Battery Review where we compare each of the 4 grades of AutoCraft Battery. AutoCraft is the Advance Auto Parts branded Car Battery offering that you can pick up at any Advance Auto Parts store near you.
The AutoCraft Gold Battery from Advance Auto Parts is a great local option if you need to pick one up as soon as possible. They will even install it for you free of charge and pay you for your old battery core!
Best Cheap Car Battery
The AutoCraft Gold Battery from Advance Auto Parts is also a great option for a cheap car battery. You get plenty of power, decent warranty, and a great price around $150 for most.
Best Car Battery on a Budget
Again here, we prefer the AutoCraft Silver Battery from Advance Auto Parts as you’ll likely spend under $130 and can get some cash back for your old dead battery core.
Best Car Battery Under $200
We prefer the AutoCraft Platinum AGM Battery from Advance Auto Parts as you’ll likely spend under $180 and can get some cash back for your old dead battery core.
Best Car Battery Under $100
Going with a battery under $100 isn’t recommended. This is one of the most important parts of your car and can easily leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. We recommend splurging just a bit on your car’s battery so that you can be sure you’re getting the reliability and especially that warranty in case something goes wrong.
Anatomy of a Car Battery
Most car batteries contain three basic parts: electrodes, an electrolyte and a separator. There are two electrodes in every battery. Conductive materials make up these electrodes. They serve different roles. One electrode, the cathode, connects to the positive end of the battery. This is where the electrical current leaves the battery during discharge – when the battery is powering something. The other electrode, known as the anode, connects to the negative end of the battery. This is where the electrical current enters the battery during discharge.
Between these electrodes is the electrolyte solution. This is a liquid or gel-like substance that contains electrically charged particles, or ions. The ions combine with the materials that make up the electrodes, producing chemical reactions that allow a battery to generate an electric current.
The final part of the battery, the separator, is relatively straightforward. The separator’s role is to keep the anode and the cathode separated from each other inside the battery. Without a separator, the two electrodes would come into contact, which would create a short circuit and prevent the battery from working properly.
How to Replace a Car Battery
The typical car battery installation is very simple. The hardest part will be lifting and maneuvering the the batteries in and out of the engine bay due to their weight. Exercise caution as automotive batteries carry dangerously high levels of electricity.
Loosen & remove the battery cables starting with the negative (black). Make sure to place it the negative cable in a safe and secure location to prevent accidental discharge.
After verifying that you have the proper battery for you vehicle, unscrew the brackets holding in your old battery and remove the old battery.
Drop in the new battery and reconnect the cables starting with the positive (red).
Double check everything is working!
More info here in this video:
Car Battery Disposal
Proper disposal of car batteries is very important as the chemicals used inside can be harmful to the environment. They can actually be recycled and used to reduce resources required to make future car batteries. AutoZone actually does car battery disposal and you can receive a $10 gift card!
Conclusion – Best Car Battery
Car batteries are not cheap, especially when you’re looking at getting the best car battery for your ride. Before you buy a new one, make sure you need one and that your battery is not just dead. Ensure your existing battery does not have an active warranty that will provide a free or discounted battery. Finally, utilize the Car Battery Recycling program with your local auto parts store to get some extra cash back.
Now that your electrical system core is upgraded, it is a great time to start upgrading your electronic components. We have Buyer’s Guides for the Best LED Headlights, Best HID Headlights and even the Best LED Light Bar. Definitely check out some of those to increase your visibility on the road. Prices have fallen drastically these high-end lighting upgrades in recent months.
We also recommend checking out our Best Oil Filter Buyer’s Guide if you’re looking to get your feet wet on the mechanical side of things.