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Best Cheap Car Batteries

By: Angela Stringfellow on November 07, 2016

Best car batteries on a budget

Price doesn't guarantee quality when it comes to car batteries. In fact, in testing, cheap car batteries often come close to expensive ones, and sometimes outclass them. In years past, we and other experts have lauded Costco's Kirkland brand batteries, but alas, as explained in the section on the best passenger car batteries, Kirkland batteries are no more. Costco now offers Interstate batteries instead -- and while Interstate is a widely well-regarded battery, the value isn't quite the same. That said, those interested in Costco batteries can see our take on Interstate batteries in our discussion of batteries for heavy-duty use elsewhere in this report.

Fortunately, car battery buyers on a budget have a suitable replacement in the Walmart-exclusive EverStart MAXX line. These batteries have "excellent performance and are very affordable," says Andrew Kaufman at CarsDirect.com .While various sizes of the EverStart do lag a tiny bit behind some better premium brands, such as DieHard and Optima, in testing by ConsumerReports.org, they are not very far behind. Many finish toward the top among similarly sized batteries, and some are deemed to be good enough values to earn Best Buy status.

For this edition of our car battery report, we are elevating the EverStart MAXX-35N (Est. $95) , a group 35 battery, to Best Reviewed status, but that's just one of several EverStart batteries that are worth considering, depending on your vehicle or needs. For example, in testing by ConsumerReports.org, the EverStart MAXX-65S (Est. $95) scores just a few points less than the pricier DieHard Gold 50865 (Est. $145) that we rate tops overall, and earns Best Buy status among Group 65 batteries. Similarly, the EverStart MAXX-78N (Est. $95) earns Best Buy status in the Group 34, 78 & 34/78 category. The "South" version of the top-rated EverStart MAXX-35N, the EverStart MAXX-35S (Est. $95), earns slightly lower scores than the MAXX-35N for cold-cranking performance but still earns a Best Buy designation, and is considered to be a good choice for those in temperate climates.

The MAXX-35N's cold-cranking amps (CCA) and oops-I-left-my-headlights-on reserve capacity prove very good, but not quite as excellent as the DieHard's (the EverStart claims 640 CCA, versus 880 for the DieHard). Both batteries endure repeated hot-weather draining and recharging, though.

The EverStart MAXX-35N battery has also been largely well received by owners -- albeit based on limited feedback. Users don't report the super-long life that DieHard battery owners do, and reports of batteries that failed prematurely are not unheard of, but most say they've gotten long life out of their EverStart batteries -- five years (or more) in some cases, with a few owners noting "like new" starting performance even after several years of use.

EverStart batteries are made by the same company (Johnson Controls) that makes some of the premium brands (DieHard and Interstate, for example), and is the same company that made Costco's Kirkland line. Like the DieHard, the EverStart MAXX-35N carries a three-year warranty, with free replacement if it fails to hold a charge during that time. In addition, the maker also offers a two-year prorated warranty after the initial three years are up. A few owners say they did have to make a warranty claim, and Walmart replaced the batteries with no problems -- even, a couple of times, when the battery would still start the car but capacity tested low on Walmart's meter. And unlike Sears, Walmart installs batteries for free.

A Group 35 battery, the EverStart MAXX-35N fits most Japanese vehicles including recent Honda models, most Subaru vehicles, as well as many Nissan and Toyota models. If you need a Group 48 battery, typically used in European import cars, consider the EverStart MAXX-H6 (Est. $120). In expert tests, it finishes neck-and-neck with the mAXX-35N on reserve capacity and cold-cranking performance (the MAXX-H6 claims 730 cold-cranking amps, to the MAXX-35N's 640), although the MAXX-H6 doesn't last quite as long in hot-weather drain-and-recharge testing. Still, the MAXX-H6 earns very good scores across the board, and it's also rated well at Walmart.com, though again that's not based on extensive feedback.

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Car Batteries buying guide

What every best Car Batteries has:

  • A strong warranty.
  • Good reserve capacity.
  • Ample cold-cranking amps.

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