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Best car batteries for heavy-duty use

High-performance batteries are pricey, but are worth it for heavy-duty use. You might choose one of these if you have a custom sound system that draws a lot of power, or if your kids like to watch your car's DVD system while the engine is off. Many users consider Optima -- with its standout bright lids in yellow and red -- to be the leader in this premium category.

There are two Optima batteries available for personal vehicles: the RedTop starting battery and the YellowTop high-performance option. The YellowTop is often used for vehicles with lots of electronics. It's "fantastic for heavy-drawing power accessories like 3 amps and subs," says one user at Amazon.com.

The Optima YellowTop D34/78 (Est. $210) shines in reviews. Depending on the retailer or the reviewer, this battery is also known or marked as the 8014-045, 9014-045, 27991, D34-78, D34/78-950, YEL34/78, 989237, SC34DU, 3478DT or N9934/78YEL; all are the exact same battery. It excels in one leading test, landing just behind the winning DieHard Advanced Gold 50778 discussed in our Best Car Batteries section. Like the DieHard, the YellowTop plows through blistering heat and bitter cold with ease. Interestingly, the DieHard delivers a bit more power when the vehicle is off, known as reserve capacity, than the YellowTop in that test. But in real life, owners say the YellowTop is king for power-hungry accessories and lights. With its unique sturdy interior coils, the Optima also stands up to the vibrations of off-roading better than regular car batteries.

The YellowTop is a combination of a starting battery and a deep-cycle battery. Draining a standard car battery of all of its charge can shorten car battery life. On the other hand, a deep-cycle battery can withstand that type of abuse, even if done on a somewhat regular basis.

User reviews are mostly strong. For example, the Optima D34/78 earns nearly perfect ratings from more than 170 owners at AdvanceAutoParts.com. Plenty say that one YellowTop has lasted through a decade or more of hard use; it carries a three-year warranty. Still, the pricey YellowTop is probably overkill for the average car, says Sajeev Mehta at TheTruthAboutCars.com. He has personally had a couple of Optima batteries conk out early, but he is sold on them for racing, off-roading and power-gobbling extras.

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