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Consumer Reports: Buying the best car battery

Posted at 6:08 AM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 09:08:27-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Cars are more technologically advanced than ever, but most of them still require an old standby to get them going: a battery.

That’s why Consumer Reports recommends inspecting or testing the battery every year to see if it’s running low, and if it is, replace it before you get stranded. -- Not only will you save yourself a big headache, Consumer Reports says you can usually save money, too.

“Several top-performing batteries in our tests are cheaper because they are available at big box stores or major retailers and not limited to being sold through a car dealership or specialty shop," says Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports Auto Editor.

Since batteries look very similar on the outside, how can you know which one will go the distance under your car’s hood? Consumer Reports puts car batteries through a battery of tests, like putting them in a freezer to see how well they perform at 0-degrees, that’s to make sure you can start your car on a cold morning. And there are tests to see how long it lasts if you leave your headlights on.

“We also put a load on the batteries to simulate a vehicle starting thousands of times, just the way you rely on a car battery year after year," says Bartlett.

After all that, these are the batteries that earned a Consumer Reports Best Buy label, for solid performance and value--Two EverStart models, both under $100, sold at Walmart and an AC Delco for around $125 sold at auto parts stores and online. And before you head to the store, remember this:

“Make sure you know the correct size of your battery. You can find it on the battery that’s in your car, in your owner’s manual, at the store, or searching online by entering your car’s make and model," says Bartlett.

And batteries can lose strength when they’re stored. Look for a new battery that’s less than three months old. All batteries have a stamped date code and many have stickers indicating when they were manufactured.