LAST UPDATED: May 9, 2019
Best Car Batteries for Cold Weather: Stay Out of the Cold with These Top Choices
The best car batteries that will start your engine no matter how cold it gets
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON May 9, 2019
When the temperature drops and the weather turns chilly, that’s when car batteries struggle. The car may not start or may stall halfway to your destination. If you live in an area where the winter is exceptionally cold, then you need the best car battery for cold weather out there to give you confidence on the road. This guide will give you plenty of information to find the right option for your vehicle.
Optima handles the cold climate with ease and efficiency. Its powerful starting burst will fire the engine even in bad weather. That power is only equaled by its reliability, vibration resistance, and performance. The battery is both for the heavy-duty and casual user.
It has a really high cranking amp and a good reserve capacity, which both translate into a fast start and reliable performance. Spiral Cell technology offers a cleaner source of energy.
The packaging is an issue with this battery.
No other battery gives you as much value for your money as Odyssey. With its dual functionality, mounting flexibility, and faster recharge, it offers more than other more expensive options.
Functions as a starting battery and delivers sustained power for a longer time. It’s both lightweight and has a compact design that makes it easy to mount and install.
Terminals are not included with the battery. It’s also prone to overcharge.
ACDelco deserves a place here not because it’s the cheapest nor the best overall; it’s because of its unique high-density negative paste. It gives the battery high performance and long life. Since it doesn’t require water, it’s relatively maintenance-free; you can install and forget about it.
The high-density negative paste combined with the enhanced life alloys gives the battery superb power and performance. Good vent caps design prevents leakage.
Premature battery failure is a high risk.
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Benefits of Car Battery for Cold Weather
- More reliable performance. No matter how cold it is, cold weather batteries are designed to deliver maximum power. The car won’t die down or stall in the middle of nowhere. The battery’s capacity powers even intensive energy-consuming cars with efficiency and reliability.
- Faster engine start. Car batteries for cold weather deliver a strong five-second starting burst. That burst is what brings the engine to life instantly. Once you turn the key, the car fires up, even when it’s freezing out there.
- Better charge and discharge rates. Regular batteries tend to have a low capacity in the cold, as it slows down the chemical reaction inside the battery. This affects both the battery’s performance and reliability. Batteries designed for cold weather don’t have this problem, and they tend to charge and discharge at faster rates.
- Cold climate compatibility. Both high-reserve capacity and cold crank ratings make winter batteries more efficient during the cold months. Hot weather batteries need to handle the heat with a higher lead-to-electrolyte ratio.
Types of Car Battery for Cold Weather
Once upon a time, lead acid batteries were the norm. All vehicles ran on them and maintaining them was part of the car owner’s routine. The batteries use liquid electrolytes, which is why they’re sometimes called wet cell batteries. They leak and spill more often, especially when they’re not supposed to. They’re cheaper than AGM batteries and have a relatively long life, especially when maintained properly.
Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries don’t need an active liquid to produce electricity. This takes away the risk of spilling and leakage that plague wet batteries. AGM batteries handle repeated draining and recharging cycles better than wet batteries. They’re also maintenance-free.
For the past 40 years, Optima Batteries has been leading innovation in the field of car batteries. The company introduced the first maintenance-free acid battery as early as the 1970s. This was followed by its high‐performance AGM automotive batteries, the first of its kind. The company also makes Optima Batteries 8016-103 D34M BlueTop for boats and RVs as well as Optima Batteries 8014-045.
EnerSys Energy Products Inc. is the company that manufactures Odyssey batteries. With 100 years of experience, the company operates from two manufacturing plants in Warrensburg, Mo. and Newport, Wales. It has sales and service facilities in 17 countries all over the world. Top battery options include the Odyssey PC625 Powersports Battery and Odyssey PC925 Automotive and LTV Battery.
ACDelco has been around since 1908 when GM was established. Over the years, the company’s innovation and technology have helped a woman fly around the world and put a man on the moon. The company makes the ACDelco 94RAGM Professional AGM and ACDelco 48AGM Professional AGM Automotive BCI.
Car Battery for Cold Weather Pricing
- Under $200: Batteries that sell under $200 vary both in features and lifespan. You could find a good battery with reasonable performance, but its starting power would be limited. Batteries in this price range won’t have a decent, or even moderate, reserve capacity to keep the car going for long.
- Over $200: Investing this amount of money in a battery ensures you get a battery with high starting power. Batteries in this price point have high reserve capacity, are maintenance-free, and are reliable on the road in the harsh cold. They are also durable and come with a good warranty.
We’ve already established that cold weather is the bane of batteries. So not only do you need a high-performance car battery for the winter months, but the battery has to handle heavy-duty use, shouldn’t require much maintenance, and shouldn’t need frequent replacing. Always buy a fresh battery that is less than six months old from the date of manufacture. Even the best car battery for winter will lose its power and performance if it’s older than six months.
When the alternator in your car malfunctions, you still need the battery to keep powering the car’s different functions. That’s where reserve capacity comes in handy. A battery that produces 25 amps at 80 degrees for an extended period of time is considered to have high reserve capacity.
Cold Cranking Amps
Cold cranking amps, or CCA, is an important feature in every cold weather battery. When the temperature drops to 0 degrees, you’ll want the battery to still produce enough amps to get the car started. CCA rating refers to the number of amps the battery offers at this low temperature. Naturally, you’ll want a high CCA battery so you can fire up the engine no matter how cold it is outside.
- Maintenance Free: When you use a wet battery, you’re expected to fill it with water every now and then. It’s part of the maintenance. If you are the kind of person who likes to install a battery and forget about it, then you should consider buying a maintenance-free one.
- Amp Hours: Amp hours are used to measure a battery’s reserve capacity. They refer to the energy charge needed for the battery to produce one ampere for one hour. Again, the higher, the better. A battery with higher amp hours means it can keep the car and all the electronics on the dashboard running for a long time before you need to recharge it.
Best Car Battery for Cold Weather Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Optima Batteries 8002-002 34 Red Top is a battery with a lot of power under its vent caps. It has 800 CCA to start your car when you turn the key in cold climate. Its reserve capacity is 50 amp hours, which is good enough for heavy use and long journeys no matter how bad the weather.
Starting power is not the battery’s only stand out feature. It's Spiral Cell technology consists of lead-oxide-coated cells in a spiral-wound design for a better, cleaner, and a more precise power source. The solid casing is leak-proof and resists vibration and shocks even when used on hot rods and off-road driving.
Since nothing is perfect, this battery has a few imperfections of its own. One problem has to do with the slow drain when left connected to the car. You may need to unhook it when not in use to avoid killing it. In addition, after a deep discharge, the battery may not hold a charge again and will require replacement.
With an affordable price way below the other top players, Odyssey dazzles with a top-performing and tough battery that can take a pounding without leaking or malfunctioning. Thanks to the pure lead plates within, the battery resists vibrations and plows on no matter the condition of the road or the weather.
As an AGM battery, the Odyssey PC680 has a longer lifespan than the other batteries in this genre. Its longer cycle life sets it apart from other convention deep cycle batteries; as does its depth discharge, which reaches 80 percent. Add to that its ability to overcome harsh weather conditions, which makes it a reliable battery to power your car.
The biggest drawback of this battery is its low cold cranking amps. It only has 170 CCA, meaning it lacks the starting power of beefier options. The cells also have tight tolerance and tend to overcharge. Another issue we found has to do with the battery’s size: It’s half the size of a normal battery and fitting it in your vehicle could be tricky.
The ACDelco ACDB24R distinguishes itself with long battery life and quality performance. The secret behind it is in the full-frame power path grids inside the battery. These grids produce higher cold cranking amps and lower self-discharge rates compared to other AGM batteries. This prevents the issue of a slow drain when you store the battery in the off-season.
The battery is maintenance-free with no leaks or spills likely to occur. The pressurized valve system it employs increases the safety of the battery and prevents it from drying out. It’s more suitable for hybrid cars, in particular, with its increased durability and high performance.
On the downside, the battery’s large size and dimensions don’t make it a perfect fit for all cars. The terminals delivered with the battery are non-standard and require terminal adapters for a proper connection. Poor packaging is another issue that keeps this battery from getting the top rating.
Optima’s YellowTop Battery comes with 750 cold cranking amps, which is just shy of its RedTop counterpart. It provides up to 12 volts, weighs a whopping 43.5 pounds, and has a dual SAE and GM post. The battery also comes with a reserve capacity of 120 minutes for continuous and maximum performance no matter the weather.
All of this combined makes it quite capable of starting in extreme cold or even intense heat. It’s protected by a sturdy polypropylene housing as well. This makes it 15 times more resistant to vibrations, increasing its durability. Plus, it works at 55 amperes per hour. However, it may not be compatible with all makes and models, so do your research before purchasing. You will also be paying quite a bit out of pocket for one as they are quite pricey.
This 12V 35Ah sealed lead-acid Mighty Max Battery is powerful and long-lasting. It may not weigh a lot (20 pounds), but it sure packs a lot when it comes to power. It’s sturdy and reliable enough to get you through chilly winters and hot summers. It is completely spill-proof, has a high discharge rate, wide operating temperatures, and lasts a while.
One downside is it will take a bit to fully charge the battery. You will be waiting around 12 hours until it’s full of juice again. It is, however, quite durable as it is AGM constructed for maximum durability. The battery is on the small side so it may not be great for larger and more robust vehicles like trucks.
NorthStar’s Pure Lead battery provides a massive 1,650 pulse cranking amps, making it one of the most powerful batteries on our list. It also provides 840 cold cranking amps. Once you add on the staggering 158 minutes of reserve capacity, this battery is even more impressive. It is rated to get started in 32 degrees Fahrenheit and has a 76Ah capacity at a 20 hour rate.
NorthStar is known for designing batteries for marine vehicles. These are built to function in colder temperatures and even colder waters, so you know you’re getting a high-quality battery here. You may find it difficult to mount properly in your vehicle as they are large batteries. It, too, is also hefty and weighs around 52 pounds.
- To avoid having trouble fitting the battery in your car, make sure you get the right size when you order it.
- Cold weather batteries usually have an ‘N’ or ‘North’ marking on the label. Batteries labeled ‘S’ or ‘South’ are for hot climates.
- The best winter battery is the one that has high cold cranking amps (CCA) and a moderate amp hour rating.
- If the battery isn’t used for a long time (like off-season storage), it will self-discharge. Consider buying a charger.
Q: When is it time to replace my battery?
A: You can tell it’s time to replace the battery when the engine crank becomes sluggish, or you keep cranking it with no result. If the battery gives off a bad odor, that’s also a good sign you need to replace it.
Q: Why does my battery case look bloated?
A: When the battery overheats for a prolonged time, the case can get bloated. If you notice a swelling in the battery, you should test it.
Q: What is a fresh battery?
A: A fresh battery is a battery that has been manufactured in the last six months. If the date of manufacture is older than that, it’s neither fresh nor new.
Q: How many cold cranking amps should a battery have?
A: On average, a battery with 650 CCA is good for the cold climate. An 800 cold cranking amps battery ensures you’ll start your car in any weather.
Our top pick for the best Car Battery for Cold Weather is the Optima Batteries 8002-002 34 Red Top. Its 800 CCA and 50-amp reserve capacity are enough to start and power your car regardless of the weather conditions.
For the best budget car battery, we chose the Odyssey PC680 Battery. Its affordable price along with its dual functionality and compact design makes it the perfect choice for many cars.