Price doesn't guarantee quality, when it comes to car batteries. In fact, in one leading test, cheap car batteries often outclass more expensive ones. A case in point is the Walmart-exclusive EverStart MAXX-24F (Est. $105). While various sizes of the EverStart do lag a tiny bit behind some better premium brands, such as DieHard and Optima, 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 example, the cold-weather "North" version (EverStart MAXX-24FN) scores just a few points less than the pricier DieHard Advanced Gold 50778 (Est. $175) that tops our Best Passenger Car Batteries section. Ironically, the EverStart "North" doesn't do quite as well in cold temperatures as the DieHard. The EverStart'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 750 CCA, versus 775 for the DieHard). Both batteries endure repeated hot-weather draining and recharging, though. (The MAXX-24FN is no longer available at Walmart.com, although the MAXX-24F is.)
This 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 -- four years (or more) in some cases. At CarsDirect.com, Andrew Kaufman says that EverStart batteries are made by the same maker (Johnson Controls) that makes some of the premium brands (DieHard, for example). "These have excellent performance and are very affordable," he says.
Like the DieHard, the EverStart MAXX-24F carries a three-year warranty, with free replacement if it fails to hold a charge during that time. 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 24F battery, the EverStart MAXX-24F fits many Japanese import cars. If you need a Group 48 battery, typically used in European import cars, consider the EverStart MAXX-H6. In expert tests, both EverStarts finish neck-and-neck on reserve capacity and cold-cranking performance (the MAXX-H6 claims 730 cold-cranking amps, to the MAXX-24F's 750), although the MAXX-H6 doesn't last quite as long in the hot-weather drain-and-recharge test. 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.
Costco's Kirkland car batteries were once the darling of experts and car owners -- the best bargain battery around, boasting a super-long life and an equally super warranty. But Costco has quit selling them.
"Interstate batteries have replaced the Kirkland branded car batteries at your local Costco," ConsumerPete.com reports. Car owners all over the Internet confirm (and lament) the change. However, others wonder whether there's really much difference: Both Interstate and the late Kirkland batteries are made by Johnson Controls.
One area where there definitely is a difference is in the warranty. Kirkland car batteries carried a 36-month free replacement warranty, with a prorated warranty up to 100 months (you'd get a percentage of the purchase price back if the battery failed during that time). But Costco's Interstate car batteries carry a flat 42-month replacement warranty, ConsumerPete.com says.
Buying your battery from Costco has its tradeoffs: Membership costs $55 per year, and Costco doesn't install car batteries. User feedback for the Costco Interstate batteries is not available, and none appear to have undergone expert testing.
You can also buy Interstate batteries online and from car mechanics, though the specifications -- and value -- might be different. Interstate Batteries sold through independent retailers do test out well in expert reviews, but are notably pricier. For example, Kirkland's $85 Group 65 battery (used in many large vehicles) once topped the charts for that size group. Now, the much pricier Interstate MT7-65 (Est. $275) enjoys that honor.