Best Car Battery Chargers: Keep Your Car Batteries Around Longer
A good car battery charger can save you time and money on expensive replacements
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PUBLISHED ON May 6, 2019
A dead battery doesn't always mean a replacement. Just like any other battery, car batteries can be recharged with a small amount of time, effort, and the right equipment. Car battery chargers do the same thing a quick jumpstart with jumper cables accomplishes by delivering juice to the battery, just with longer-lasting results. To save some money and keep your battery running, check out some of the best battery chargers available.
- Best OverallNOCO Genius G1100SummarySummarySmall in price and form, this charger is one of the few options that are actually portable in design. For use around the garage or house, this is a top contender to consider.ProsProsGood charging and maintaining capabilities. The body features a very sleek design that's portable enough to be used around the garage or house with ease.ConsConsLimited battery compatibility with certain voltages. This one doesn't pack the same kind of punch as more expensive options.
- Best ValueMOTOPOWER MP00205ASummarySummaryThis smart charger hides some decent power in basic design and body. Offering up to 12 volts of charge, this charger is a smart option with a few intelligent features built into the design.ProsProsEasy to use right out of the body. The included instructions are surprisingly easy to follow.ConsConsLacks decent and quick charging capabilities with standard car batteries. Not really suitable for larger vehicles.
- Honorable MentionSchumacher SC1281SummarySummaryTrue charging, especially for larger vehicles, gets done with chargers like this beefy option. Coming with smart battery charger features and a powerful battery, this is the charger for the big vehicles.ProsProsThe main body is beefy and well-constructed. The charging capabilities do a good job of getting most batteries up to a usable level in a shorter amount of time than other options.ConsConsLack of quality construction with some units. Accessories like the clamps could be beefier for heavy-duty or constant use.
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Why Buy a Car Battery Charger
- Avoid battery replacements. Replacing a lead-acid battery isn't rocket science, but it can be quite the process depending on the type of vehicle you own. In some vehicles, battery replacement is a simple operation: disconnect the clamps, remove the old battery, insert the new one, reconnect everything. In other cars, like some hybrids for examples, the process is much more complicated, requiring access to special compartments, tools, and batteries. With a simple charger, on the other hand, you can remove a lot of the complication. An automatic battery charger also tends to come with important features like fast charging, float mode, stage charging, alternator check, overcharge protection, and more.
- Save money. Beyond the challenging replacement process, a good car battery charger also allows you to save money. First, no replacement means no money spend on a new battery. Second, you can save money on having a professional replace the battery for you. In both case, investing in a quality car battery charger upfront will be rewarding in the long run.
- Charge other devices. Some car battery chargers come with additional charging modes and ports for other smaller accessories and different battery types. USB ports, for example, are common and perfect for keeping devices charged on the go.
- Multitask with a multifunctional device. Need to listen to a radio in the garage? With the right car battery charger, that's more than possible. Many options come with other features and capabilities built right into the device. Explore your options ahead of time to see what features are important to you and which ones you can live without.
Types of Car Battery Chargers
As the name suggests, this type is a basic battery charger that can restore the juice in a car battery, often even if it has been completely discharged. Basic chargers are plentiful, and it's usually possible to find the right charger that's the perfect size, shape, and amperage that you need for your vehicle.
Less common than regular chargers, battery maintainers are meant to keep car batteries from completely discharging. They are good for a quick "fill-up" and for maintaining the overall health of a battery if you can remember to use it every now and then.
The least common version of a battery charger, restorers breathe new life into old batteries. As various contaminants build up in a battery's cells, the battery loses effectiveness. Restorers can break down these contaminants so it can hold a charge once again. These are the most expensive type of charger and are more common in professional garages than for home use.
Top Brands of Car Battery Chargers
When it comes to automotive products and battery chargers, NOCO is a well-known brand that offers several products in a different league of their own. Since 1914, the company has been a trusted name in many mechanic garages thanks to the product line's durability and resilience. One such charger is the NOCO Genius G7200.
Long known as premium hardware and power tool manufacturer, Black+Decker has a pretty good presence in many professional and home garages as well. Its line of car battery chargers leans on the smaller side, but high-quality options like the BC15BD Charger are plentiful.
Car Battery Charger Pricing
- $50 and under: For a decent battery charger that doesn't offer too much in terms of thrills, this is the range to consider. Most chargers in this range have low voltage outputs, so they might not be the best for larger vehicles.
- $50-$100: This standard range of car battery chargers has almost anything and everything you might consider for any vehicle. Larger voltages are commonplace here, along with a few options with extra features and accessories.
- $100 and above: Higher-end car battery chargers tend to be larger in form, more powerful in voltage, and more convenient in terms of extra accessories. It's easy to find a model that can tackle nearly any vehicle, including a few restorer options for professional use.
Car battery chargers need to adapt to the different types of car batteries it may encounter. Generally, different batteries will have different levels of amps they require to effectively work. Chargers with the ability to detect the required amps and distribute the necessary voltage make the charging process safer and easier. Some chargers also have to charge phases that can read and adapt to the battery's state and adjust the charging settings accordingly.
Since most car battery chargers see use outside or in garages, a basic level of exterior protection can keep the charger in a good condition for a long period of time. Protection from water and dust is an important feature, often denoted by the IP rating system that measures how resistant something is to these elements. Basic heat protection also goes a long way towards protecting the interior components of a charger.
If you want to get more out of a car battery charger, extra features and accessories are a must. Things like small device charging ports, built-in radios, and rapid-charging functionality all allow you to get more use out of the charger and more value for your dollar. Even basic add-ons like an LCD screen led indicators or a waterproof or spark-proof exterior help with usability and durability.
- Charge Time: The average charge time of a car battery charger will vary, depending on the charger itself and the car battery. On average, most chargers take between two and ten hours to charge a battery completely. Small, portable chargers tend to take longer so larger garage-only models may be a better purchase if you want the fastest charge times.
- Ease of Use: It shouldn't be difficult to hook up a charger to a car battery and get it going. Most tend to be fairly straightforward, but there can be some settings that make it difficult to use if you have to set them manually. This is why automatic car chargers that can read the battery's state and just accordingly will save you some time and effort with each charge.
Best Car Battery Chargers Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: NOCO Genius G1100
Many car chargers tend to be bulky and difficult to move around, making it even more difficult to use with multiple vehicles. NOCO's Genius G1100 charger, on the other hand, takes a less-is-more approach to design, offering a small body that packs a surprisingly decent punch in the power department.
The charger boasts some surprising abilities to bring near-dead batteries that you'd normally replace back to life again. For standard 12-volt batteries, it does a good job of intelligently reading and assessing the status of the battery to apply the correct settings for the best charge possible.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for some 6-volt batteries since the charger's features aren't compatible with all varieties of this type. Charging also takes a longer time than most other options, so patience will certainly be a virtue with this one if you purchase it for standard use.
Best Value: MOTOPOWER MP00205A
It's rare to find a car battery charger that has the intelligence to read a battery without an expensive price tag. The MOTOPOWER MP00205A Charger, however, is one such option that manages to offer intelligent safety features with a basic design. This option gets the job done when it comes to getting a battery working again and can keep the battery healthy as a basic maintainer.
In line with its simple design, the included directions and product information also make it simple to use right out of the box. As a simple trickle charger, it does a good job of getting a car battery charged over several hours.
The downside to this little charger is just that: it's little. Rated at 800 mA, this won't compete with the real multi-stage chargers. The lack of a "power punch" can be problematic for certain batteries, especially in larger vehicles, but the design gets the job done in most cases for a standard size vehicle/battery.
Honorable Mention: Schumacher SC1281
The problem with a lot of common chargers is simple: size. If something is small, it's unlikely to handle bigger vehicles. Schumacher's SC1281 is not in this camp. As a larger battery charger, it packs a powerful electrical punch with a 30-amp quick boost and 100-amp jump starter in addition to its slow charging capabilities.
Despite the larger size of the charger's body, it comes in at a decent weight that makes it surprisingly portable for garage or home use. Better still, charge status readings are fairly accurate, so it's easy to know when the battery is reading for use again after some charging time.
The rest of the charger doesn't quite match the beefy feel/presence of the main body. For example, the clamps could have a bigger, more rugged construction for heavy-duty use. The instructions are also a bit hard to follow since the wording is unnecessarily complicated at times.
- Clean the battery terminals before use. Dirt and debris can make the energy transfer take more time. Use a sanding pad to remove loose debris.
- Don't touch the battery terminals if there is a white powder on them. Known as dried sulfuric acid, this powder can burn skin.
- Read the instructions to the battery charger before use. These will help you connect the cables to the right terminal.
- Don't confuse the positive and negative clamps when attaching the cables.
- Double check to make sure you don't have any electrical circuits switched on in your vehicle. This can cause a spark or gas ignition in the battery.
Q. What is the difference between a jump starter and a battery charger?
A. In short, jump starters deliver a lot of energy at once to get the engine running. Battery chargers have a trickle charge that delivers a little juice over a long period of time.
Q. Doesn't the battery charge during a jump start?
A. Technically, a bit, especially if you leave the jump starter or jumping car running for a little while after the engine is running. Battery chargers, however, can charge the battery more completely.
Q. How do I know which terminals to connect the clamps to?
A. Most car batteries are labeled with a plus and minus sign for the positive and negative terminals.