Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Car battery brands — Who makes the best car battery

Learn about car battery brands and why brand isn’t all that important

In the U.S. 90% of all car batteries sold in auto parts stores, big box stores, and repair shops are made by just three companies;*

1) Clarious Advanced Solutions, formerly known as Johnson Controls makes half of all batteries sold in the U.S. They make the Clarios brands and private label for retail sellers.
2) Stryten Manufacturing, formerly known as Exide Technologies. Exide brand as well as private label for retail sellers.
3) East Penn Manufacturing. Intimidator and Deka Gold brands as well as private label for retail sellers.

Those three manufacturers offer their own brands as well as private-label batteries under many different store brands like Duralast for AutoZone, AutoCraft for Advance Auto Parts, DieHard for Sears, Duracell for Sam’s Club, EverStart for WalMart, and Interstate for Costco.

The manufacturers offer the retailers a selection of quality levels and warranties. Each retailer chooses a quality level to meet a certain price point. In other words, the actual brand name is meaningless. Consumer Reports tested many brands of batteries and found that even within the same brand, the battery quality differed based on the auto parts store or big box store that sold it.

So don’t get hung up on brand name. Instead, rely on the battery’s specifications like CCA, Reserve rating, and warranty. Period.

The car battery’s warranty is a measure of quality

Some car batteries have a set period for an over-the-counter replacement, while others have a two-stage warranty. A two-stage warranty will have a set period for an over-the-counter replacement and a longer period for a “pro-rated” replacement.

The longer the longer over-the-counter, the better the battery. Costco, for example, offers a 3-year over-the-counter warranty. That means you get a brand new battery at no charge if it fails to hold a charge during the 3-year warranty period.

Other sellers offer a shorter over-the-counter warranty, along with a pro-rated period.

What is a pro-rated car battery warranty?

After the initial over-the-counter period expires, you pay a fee for a replacement battery, and the fee is based on the length of the remaining warranty. For example; you buy a battery with a three-year free replacement and a five-year (60-month) pro-rated warranty. If the battery fails to hold a charge in the first three years, you get a new battery for free. If it fails after 40 months, you’ll have used up 66% of your warranty and will have to pay 66% of the price of the new battery. That’s 66% of the list price of the new battery today, NOT 66% of the price you paid for the original battery 40 months ago.

Be smart about this because in many cases, you can find a new battery on sale for less than the pro-rated price of a replacement battery under warranty. Remember, the pro-rated price is based on the list price of the battery, not the sale price.

When a seller offers a 3-year free replacement period, it’s a pretty good sign you’re getting a better battery, and that makes it a better value overall.

test your car battery

Find the car battery group size for your car

Start by determining the recommended “group size” for your battery. Getting the recommended group size is critical to ensuring the battery will fit in the battery tray and the battery terminals will be in the right location for the battery cables. Next, make sure the replacement battery has the same CCA rating (or as close as possible to the recommended CCA rating). Installing a battery with a greater CCA rating may sound like a good idea, but it’s not. To get more CCAs out of the same size battery, the manufacturers must use either thinner plates and more of them, or thicker plates with less electrolyte (battery acid). So the larger CCA battery may not perform as well over the long term as a battery with a lower CCA rating.

What does the term Cold cranking amps (CCA) mean?

This number represents the number of amps a battery can deliver at 0 ° F for 30
seconds without dropping below 7.2 volts. Buy a battery with the highest CCA rating for your group size.

What does the term Cranking amps (CA) mean?

The number of amps a battery can deliver 32 degrees F. This is also called marine cranking amps (MCA).

What does the term Hot cranking amps (HCA) mean?

This term isn’t used much anymore but represents the number of amps a battery can deliver at 80 ° F.

What does the term Reserve Capacity (RC) mean

The number of minutes a fully charged battery at 80 ° F will discharge 25 amps until the battery drops below 10.5 volts. This rating is usually found on deep-cycle marine batteries as amp-hours (AH). This represents an amp draw for 20 Hours.  If you have a 100 AH rated battery and draw 5-amp and the battery provides that draw for 20 hours, it’s a 100AH battery.

Just be aware that current draw and draw time isn’t a linear relationship. For example, if you draw 100 amps from a 100AH battery, it will NOT provide power for 1 hour. As the draw increases, the actual AH rating decreases. In the case of a 100 amp draw, a 100AH battery will really only provide 64AH.

Next, review the battery CCA ratings. You want the battery with the highest CCA ratings available for your group size. A car battery with a higher CCA will cost more than another battery with a lower CCA. Don’t cheap out at this point. The lower CCA-rated battery will let you down. Finally, buy the battery with the longest warranty. Yes, it will cost more. But it’s a better battery. Keep this in mind: the price difference between the lowest-priced battery and the battery with the longest warranty and highest CCA rating will only be around $20. But the better battery will last longer and start your car better. How much is a no-start, late-for-work morning going to cost you? A single service call will eat up the price difference.

Some people buy the largest battery that will fit in their battery tray. If the

car battery hold down bracket

This coat hanger isn’t an acceptable battery hold-down

battery is retained by a bottom hold-down and the flange on the larger battery corresponds to the old one, that’ll work. Where people get into trouble is installing a larger battery that’s too tall (the terminals come in contact with the hood) or the old battery hold down doesn’t fit.

Remember, heat and vibration kills batteries. There’s enough vibration under the hood of a car the way it is. The last thing you need is to introduce battery movement by not securing it properly.

So ignore the brand and read the specs. Follow this procedure before disconnecting the battery terminals. And KEEP THE RECEIPT in case the battery fails.

Want to know the average life of a car battery?

See this post

*AC Delco makes batteries for all GM products and sells some batteries through their distribution network. However, as far as I know, they do not private label to their products for auto parts stores.

©, 2015 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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