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Car batteries Buying Guides

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Consumer Reports has no relationship with advertisers on PriceGrabber

Getting started

Throughout the life of your vehicle, you will probably have to replace your car's battery a number of times. Either it gets old and has to be replaced, or it is drained unintentionally when lights or another electrical accessory are left on. A dead battery can be a hassle, especially if you cannot find jumper cables or have to wait for roadside assistance. Being proactive in replacing your battery can ensure that your car is ready to go when you are. Through this battery buying guide, we will advise on considerations for battery ownership and replacement.

Battery maintenance

With a maintenance-free or sealed battery, you don't have to check or refill the electrolyte levels. While most have a flat top, some batteries with caps also are claimed to be maintenance free.

While manufacturers claim that absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries are safer, they cost more than conventional batteries that perform almost as well or better in our car batteries comparison. It might make sense to consider a top-scoring AGM battery only if your car's design makes the battery difficult to reach.

Make sure the battery fits your car and driving needs

When the time comes to buy a replacement battery, make sure you get the right size and design (or type) for your vehicle. Check your owner's manual or an in-store fit guide before shopping.

Choose a battery that fits your climate and driving conditions. A model that did well in our battery-life testing, for example, is critical if you live in a warmer climate. Frequent high temperatures are very tough on batteries, increase corrosion of plates, and more quickly vaporize the electrolyte that is needed for current. Long life is also important if you make many short trips that don't allow much time for recharging.

Along with good life-testing performance, choose a battery that scored well in our cold-cranking amps and reserve-capacity testing. Most products in our car batteries comparison have proved to be at least adequate in both of those tests, but there is performance variation.

How to choose the battery

All batteries lose strength over time, even when idle. So choose one no more than six months old. Most have a shipping code on the case. Some use a letter for the month ("A" for January) and a number for the year ("8" for 2008); others use a numeric date.

All things being equal, favor a model with a helpful plastic loop. Such a handle makes it easier to lift and carry batteries, which weigh about 40 pounds, and just as important, aids in lowering the battery onto the tray in tightly packed engine compartments.

Battery recycling

A battery's toxic lead and acid can easily be recycled, and most retailers will dispose of the old one for you. You might pay a charge that's refunded if you bring in the old battery after installing the new one.

Visit ConsumerReports.org for our latest information on Car batteries

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Getting started

1. Getting started

2. Types

3. Watch the Video


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