Top 8 Best Car Batteries
By | Last updated: August 6, 2021
best car batteries

It happens to the best of us: we’ll head into the house after exiting our car, head filled with thoughts or arms filled with groceries. The car headlights are long forgotten, as is the dome light you turned on whilst fumbling for those blasted house keys. The next morning, in a rush to beat traffic, you twist the key and come up with a fistful of no-go. Life has supplied you (and the car) with a dead battery.

Fortunately, that scenario doesn’t happen nearly as often as it once did, thanks to headlights that automatically turn off and interior lights designed to extinguish themselves after a few minutes. Still, not everyone drives an up-to-the-minute car, packed with all the latest features. Plus, there are always gearheads with a project car or two needing a new electrical lump.

Before splashing out the cash on a new battery, ensure you’re buying one that physically fits the space in your car (yes, this could be a problem if the battery is too long or too tall for your application). We’ve selected a variety for this article. Determining the correct number of cranking amps required by your vehicle is also important. Don’t forget to use care when connecting these things, lest damage befall your car.

1. Editor's Choice: Optima Batteries - RedTop Starting Battery

Go ahead and kvetch that we’re vapid consumers of name-brand marketing by placing Optima batteries at the top of this post. These things reliably garner great reviews and are a well-known entity. Sometimes, there’s something to be said for a familiar face (or battery, in this instance). A total of 800 cold-cranking amps should fire even the largest engines, save for that 46-liter airplane engine stuffed into the chassis of a 1900’s fire engine.

The aptly-named RedTop series of batteries is designed for starting duties, as opposed to their YellowTop range which is intended for high accessory loads or cars with a lot of battery-draining electronics. Optima says their units are fifteen times more resistant to vibration and harshness than other brands in durability tests. Its unique shape is partially a product of its SpiralCell design, said to improve on the traditional flat cells in most batteries.

Pros/Looks good (yes, that matters to some), trusted name, strong starting power
Cons/Scattered reports of going flat within a couple of months
Bottom Line/Well-known for a reason

2. ACDelco Professional Automotive Battery

Given the market share of General Motors, there must be an argument that there have been more ACDelco-branded batteries installed in vehicles than just about any other variety. Your author would wager that wide swaths of the Midwest and rural Canada had at least one ACDelco battery in their driveway at any given time.

This particular unit has 740 cold-cranking amps and something called a Robust Envelope Separator which does exactly what you think it does, providing a puncture-resistant back and preventing electrical shorts within the case. Its vent cap is designed to prevent acid leakage, an event which can be disastrous to the legs of one’s denim jeans. Ask me how I know.

Pros/ACDelco knows what they're doing
Cons/May invoke flashbacks of mid-'80s GM ownership
Bottom Line/A reliable choice

3. XS Power Car Audio Battery

Boasting a sky-high review rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars from a healthy sample size of real-world customers, these XS Power batteries seem to have gained a lot of fans. Available in a wide selection of physical sizes and electrical output, this 12V powerhouse should start your rig with little difficulty even in tough conditions. Take care to spec the right terminal type for your application.

Car audio fanatics have left multiple reviews, praising this battery for its propensity to maintain a steady output of juice. Short brass post adapters are needed for some OEM replacement duties so make sure they’re shipped with the battery you’re buying to avoid a hassle during installation. It is of an absorbed glass mat design, meaning its electrolyte is suspended in fiberglass.

Pros/Great reviews, looks the business
Cons/Outrageously expensive
Bottom Line/An in-house testing lab has produced results

4. Deka Intimidator Battery - Hybrid car Applications

It might flummox some shadetree mechanics as to why a hybrid – or all-electric car – still requires the services of a traditional-style battery. Turns out, these older types of batteries are still required to juice the thing to life, not to mention provide power for popping the trunk lid when the car is turned off, for example. This, despite its bloody big battery in the floor used for (or in part) propelling the car.

Future developments will surely render this setup obsolete. But, for now, it is a situation with which some owners will eventually have to deal – especially owners of older hybrids. This battery is made for most Prius models from 2004 and up, a vehicle age at which many cars will begin to reach end-of-life for consumables like a battery. Reviews are good and customers report successful (but careful) installation.

Pros/Will precisely fit certain Prius models, cheaper than the dealer
Cons/Requires a vent tube, may not fit other vehicles
Bottom Line/Read the instructions and installation should be smooth

5. Delphi MaxStart Premium Automotive Battery

One of the few car batteries out there that deploy a dual terminal, this spark-o-box can be swapped from your hooptie Ford Taurus to your hooptie Chevy Celebrity with ease. By the way, your author has never understood why GM steadfastly hung on to a side-post battery terminal design while so many others moved on to the easier-to-service top posters. Anyway.

The Delphi MaxStart can be had in several other configurations, including one that looks big enough to eat breakfast off (don’t, because acid). An absorbed glass mat technology apparently provides better cycle life and faster recharging than traditional flooded batteries. Delphi asserts their batteries are built to withstand much more vibration than their competitors, perhaps because they offer exact fits to OEM sizes.

Pros/Versatile terminal system, vibration resistance
Cons/Might not be returnable through Amazon
Bottom Line/Plenty of good customer feedback on this one

6. ACDelco Gold Automotive Battery

We’re back to the ACDelco brand for this part of our list. This is a commentary on either the shrinking number of car batteries available on Amazon since the last time we visited this topic or the inability of your author to find more brands. Nevertheless, this entrant is an old-school car battery, the type that’s been around for ages.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, just because something is old doesn’t mean you throw it away. As a true lead-acid battery, the seller makes sure to not it has a puncture-resistant case and ingredients which improve cycle life. Words like ‘negative paste’ and ‘stamped alloy’ will be familiar to anyone who’s worked on a car in the last fifty years.

Pros/Old-school tech that's guaranteed to be familiar, attractive price
Cons/Not exactly cutting edge equipment
Bottom Line/They keep making them for a reason - they work

7. Optima Batteries - YellowTop Dual Purpose Battery

This company has three different types of batteries to form the pillars of its marketing efforts. These so-called YellowTop units are aimed at drivers who append their ride with all manner of electrical accessories – lights, sounds systems, and the like. While its cranking amp rating may be lower than some other options on this list, it makes up for it in other capacities.

It is apparently several times more resistant to vibration than similar batteries, making it a good choice for off-road use or being hammered upon by a wall of subwoofers. Depending on the total load, the thing should be good for well over an hour of reserve time, meaning you should have plenty of leeway while walking to the next town for gasoline while your traveling companion stays behind and listens to music.

Pros/Decent cranking amps, bears heavy electrical loads
Cons/Yeah, we know - Optima again
Bottom Line/Tried and tested by many gearheads

8. Odyssey Automotive and LTV Battery

Here’s the Big Daddy of our list, heaving out nearly 1,000 cold-cranking amps. This means, of course, that your car should start even on the coldest Midwest morning simply by looking at the key. A limited three- or four-year warranty, depending on the model, gives enough peace of mind to override the premium asking price.

The company asserts their Odyssey batteries have a service life of up to 10 years in the right conditions, 70 percent longer than conventional deep-cycle batteries. They also boast what claims to be the highest recharge efficiency of any sealed lead battery on the market, capable of 100 percentage recharge in 4 to 6 hours.

Pros/Professional performance
Cons/Professional price
Bottom Line/Be a professional

Automotive Batteries FAQ:

How long do car batteries last?

As with most automotive wear items, it rather depends on the amount of maintenance provided and the daily demands placed on them. A battery tasked with cranking over a Crown Vic taxi in NYC during the hottest summer on record will have a markedly shorter lifespan than one commuting from the ‘burbs every weekday. Also, it is helpful for batteries (especially old school lead-acid ones) to work their way through a charge cycle, rather than enduring constant short trips in which it never fully recharges after starting the car.

How much are car batteries?

Budget well into the three-figure territory for a new car battery. If you seek something more than the basics, such as a high-power unit or a lithium-ion option, $400 or $500 is certainly not out of the question.

How to dispose of car batteries?

Responsibly and very carefully. With that stereotypically ‘dad’ answer out of the way, look to your local recycling center to see if they take old car batteries. Some do – though even if they don’t, it’s likely the staff there can point you in the right direction to the correct disposal facility.

Changes:

  • Added FAQ
  • Simplified intro
  • Updated #1 with new product info
  • Updated #3 to include current review details
  • Replaced #4 with another item from same brand (availability)
  • Replaced #6 with different product (availability)
  • Replaced #7 with a new option (availability)

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: 13_Phunkod / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

6 Comments on “Best Car Batteries: Starting Something...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    As soon as a vehicle joins my family’s fleet, if there is *any* question about the starter battery, it gets a new one – it is cheap insurance.

    Current go-to is ‘Energizer’ brand [yeah right] picked up in-person from the warehouse club (‘S’ not ‘C’) and installed by me. (Manufactured by East Penn, which isn’t wonderful but is Good Enough and fairly reasonably priced.) [I get a lot of things delivered, but somehow putting a single lead-acid battery into a box and shipping it doesn’t seem Ideal. Also, core charge.]

    In my 25-year-old truck (driven relatively infrequently) I spent a little more for the “Platinum AGM” as an experiment – because Science is too important to be left to the professionals. (Very pleased so far.)

    My daily driver came with an Interstate battery [Exide – Bob Lutz’s old place?] and it is killing me but I left it alone.

    [One day someone will sell me an ICE starter battery which uses more modern chemistry with improved energy density (i.e., doesn’t strain my back) at a reasonable price, and I will gladly upgrade.]

    Things I would pick up from Amazon:
    • NOCO jump starter [and backup cellphone power source, cf. Murphy] (goes in the trunk)
    • A modern (lightweight, electronic) battery tester
    • A old-school ‘heating element in a box’ battery tester
    • A cheap-to-midrange multimeter to go in the small tool bag in the trunk (along with a fresh battery for the multimeter, cf. Entropy)
    • A modern ‘intelligent’ battery charger [with Desulfator and Temperature Compensation]
    • An old-school ‘transformer in a box’ battery charger (it will be heavy)
    • New cable ends (‘terminals’) if you need them [I installed a ‘quick disconnect switch’ on my truck, but the AGM battery has solved the issue and I leave the power connected now]
    • A battery terminal cleaning brush
    • A rubber-coated side terminal wrench, if applicable (goes in the small tool bag in the trunk) [because shorting out against the body with your shiny chrome ratchet on the side of the road in the dark would be a Silly and Easily Avoidable Mistake]
    • A pair of safety glasses (3M ‘Virtua’ style, doesn’t have to be that brand) to go in the small toolbag in the trunk [because acid, explosions, acid explosions]
    • A small toolbag, to go in the trunk :-)

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Interstate @ Costco

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I put a Deka with 700 CCA in my wife’s 2011 Hyundai Tucson last winter. Pleased so far.

  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    The best battery is a fresh battery!!

    Living in upstate NY, the battery was replaced every 3 years like clock work. Never had an issue with starting in the harsh winter or muggy summers.

    Now living in the Deep South, and same rule applies.

    Spend the money and save yourself the headache of a tow or looking for a jump in the middle of the Wal-Mart parking lot.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    That’s a big nope to expensive batteries. I use a Walmart EverStart 3 year battery in every single one of my vehicles. I choose the 3 year over the 2 year, not because of the warranty but for the higher CCA rating. Any vehicle could get totaled tomorrow, and I have AAA for a reason.

    The EverStart MAXX in my wife’s F150 cost $98. The cheapest Optima Red Top at Walmart for that truck is $239. The most expensive Yellow Top? $279. No, and no and no.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    My best luck has been with Motorcraft batteries for our Ford products. Their Group 65 battery is a beast, with 1000 cranking amps, 850 cold. I easily get 4+ years out of these in the Florida heat in an old Super Duty. Wal-Mart’s Everstart battery’s are inexpensive but typically are toast inside of 3 years and their warranty isn’t as good as it used to be. OEM batteries seem to all suck. Our Subaru, Focus and Cadillac OE batteries all crapped out in less than 3 years, at least the Caddy & Ford dealer replaced them under warranty. Subaru, tough luck. Finally, the AGM battery that came in our ’12 Grand Cherokee Hemi lasted an amazing 6+ years and would still start the car when I replaced it on a hunch that the Radio/Nav unit’s wonky performance was related to low voltage, which turned out to be a good guess. But the new AGM battery at AutoZone was about $230, so good thing they last. Regardless, replacing the battery every 3-4 years is cheap insurance that your motor will always be ready to go when you are.

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