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Car Battery Reviews

By: Angela Stringfellow on November 07, 2016

Editor's Note:
Our research revealed that for most drivers, a DieHard battery is most likely to please -- but shop carefully as not all DieHard batteries are created equally. If you are on a budget, Walmart's EverStart MAXX is almost as good, but quite a bit cheaper.

DieHard Gold 50865 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Group size -- 65 Cold cranking amps -- 880 Reserve capacity – 140 minutes

Best car battery

Outclassing nearly all other batteries in its size group in a leading test, the DieHard Gold 50865 won't let you down even on scorching or frigid days, and it will soldier on for more than two hours when you forget to turn off your headlights. It has a strong warranty, too: Sears will replace the battery for free if it won't hold a charge within 36 months of purchase.

Optima Yellow Top D35 Review
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Group size -- 35 Cold cranking amps -- 620 Reserve capacity – 100 minutes

Quick-starting car battery

Optima YellowTop batteries are dual-purpose batteries, offering both deep cycling capabilities for a longer lifespan and the cranking power needed to start your vehicle reliably in any weather. It carries a 36-month warranty, but some owners report getting 8 years or more out of their YellowTops. Optima batteries aren't covered heavily in many expert tests, but stellar user recommendations make them worth considering.

Buy for $179.99
Interstate MT7-34 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Group size – 34/78 Cold cranking amps -- 800 Reserve capacity – 125 minutes

High-performance car battery

With plenty of power and a healthy reserve capacity, the Interstate MT7-34 is a great choice for those that need a high-performance car battery. With a rating of 800 CCA, it's a solid cold-weather performer, too. Sold at Costco and elsewhere, this absorbed glass mat battery earns high praise for longevity, and should it fail prematurely, Interstate's 48-month warranty is longer than average.

EverStartMAXX-35N Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Group size -- 35 Cold cranking amps -- 640 Reserve capacity – 100 minutes

Best cheap car battery

Walmart's EverStart MAXX-35N finishes just behind the top batteries in expert tests, holding up well to repeated cycling and performing decently even in cold temperatures. Largely well-received by owners, the EverStart MAXX-35N carries a three-year free replacement warranty with an additional two-year prorated warranty. Most owners report that their EverStart MAXX batteries as long lasting; those with batteries that fail prematurely say that Walmart stands behind their warranty, hassle-free.

Car batteries aren't one size fits all

When looking at the engine in your car, truck or SUV, it can be easy to overlook the plain little box that sits quietly in the corner: your car's battery. Car batteries generally last between three and eight years, so unless you plan on buying a new car every year or two, chances are you will need to buy a new battery at some point.

There are more than a dozen car battery brands, but three manufacturers make almost all of them: Johnson Controls (DieHard, EverStart, Interstate and Duralast batteries), Exide (Exide, Orbital and Marathon batteries) and East Penn (Deka batteries).

Unfortunately, you can't just shop by brand to find the best car battery. In ConsumerReports.org's latest car battery test, every chart-topping brand had some mediocre batteries, too. Brands periodically switch manufacturers, so top-rated brands and models change from year to year. Shopping by car battery prices isn't much help, either. In expert testing, it's not unheard of to find a $90 car battery that beats rivals costing twice as much.

Types of Car Batteries

Passenger Car Batteries

A good passenger car battery should start right up -- year after year -- whether it's blisteringly hot or blustery cold outside. It should also have plenty of juice to spare (for those times when you accidentally leave your lights on).

High Performance Batteries

High-performance batteries are pricey, but are worth it for heavy-duty use. You might want such a battery if you have a custom sound system or other accessories (like winches) that draw a lot of power, or if your kids like to watch your car's DVD system while the engine is off.

Cheap Car Batteries

While performance might be a step or two behind -- or not, according to some tests -- if your car isn't loaded down with gear, and cost is an important consideration, a cheap car battery is very much worth considering. Buy from a reputable dealer, and make note of user feedback regarding performance and value, and some surprisingly inexpensive batteries could do the trick.

Batteries are further broken down by the climates where their use is most appropriate:

  • Hot-weather car batteries -- often labeled "South" or "S" -- are designed to endure scorching heat that could fry a car battery that's not designed to handle that.
  • Cold-weather car batteries -- often labeled "North" or "N" -- have higher cold-cranking amps (CCA). But don't just go by the battery's claimed CCA: In ConsumerReports.org's cold-cranking test, some batteries with modest CCA ratings beat the ones with sky-high CCA claims. Some of the best cold-weather car batteries don't even identify themselves as a "North" model.
Finding The Best Car Batteries
Our Sources
"Car Batteries"
"Beware: The Best and Worst Replacement Car Batteries Can Be From the Same Brand"
"The Best Car Battery Brand to Use for Lasting Performance"

To find the top car batteries, we researched how each performs, its dependability, and how much bang you get for the buck. To learn all that we looked to what experts say, and ConsumerReports.org is by far the best source for professional car battery reviews. Editors stress-test dozens of car batteries to judge their performance in three areas: cold cranking, heat endurance and reserve capacity (the oops-I-left-my-lights-on test). Experts at CarsDirect.com and Autos.com recommend their favorite battery brands, as well. Owner reviews are another essential piece of the puzzle, especially for figuring out which car batteries truly last under real-world conditions. We found hundreds of owner reviews at AdvanceAutoParts.com, and Amazon.com, with smaller numbers at Walmart.com (which sells EverStart batteries), AutoZone.com and Sears.com (home of DieHard batteries). Additionally, we found feedback from owners and car enthusiasts in discussion threads at ConsumerPete.com and CarTalk.com helpful.

Best all-purpose car batteries

Impeccable in most ways, the DieHard Gold 50865 (Est. $145) scores highly in ConsumerReport.org's test comparing 64 car batteries. It gets the highest scores in every category: reserve capacity, or how long it will run with the engine off, such as if you accidentally leave your lights on; hot-climate endurance; and cold-cranking performance at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. T

With 140 minutes of reserve capacity, the DieHard Gold 50865 will keep your lights and other electronics running even when the vehicle is off. More pluses: a sturdy design and a strong warranty. If your DieHard Gold battery fails to hold a charge within three years (as determined by Sears' testing), Sears will replace it.

One drawback: Sears charges an extra "nominal fee" for battery installation, according to Sears.com, which typically ranges between $10 and $20 but may vary depending on how easy your battery is to access. Plenty of other stores -- including Walmart, auto-parts chains and some garages -- will install your battery for free if you buy it from them.

The top-rated DieHard Gold 50865 is a "North" battery, designed to perform particularly well in cold climates. It and other DieHard Gold models are standard lead-acid batteries. Sears also offers the DieHard Advanced Gold series. These are an absorbed glass mat battery (AGM), which typically "better stand up to repeated draining and recharging cycles than standard batteries," ConsumerReports.org says. This type of battery is a good choice for vehicle owners who don't use their vehicle for long periods of time, which can cause a battery to lose its charge.

However, in testing, it is not unusual to see batteries in the Gold series outperform those in the Advanced Gold series. A case in point is the DieHard Advanced Gold 50765 (Est. $175). It scores just a few points lower than the 50865, though still well enough to earn Excellent scores across the board and Recommended status. The key difference is that this is a "South" battery, with a lower cold cranking amp rating (775 CCA vs 880 CCA for the 50865). Still, ConsumerReports.org notes that the 50765 is "Good for both cold and temperate climates "

Different cars take different size batteries, of course. The best-reviewed version of the DieHard Gold is a Group 65 size that fits many large cars, trucks and SUVs by Ford and Mercury. A few other DieHard Gold and DieHard Advanced Gold batteries do nearly as well in tests, including the Group 34 DieHard Advanced Gold 50734 (Est. $160), Group 24F DieHard Gold 50823 (Est. $125), Group 35 DieHard Gold 50835 (Est. $130), and Group 24 DieHard Gold 50923 (Est. $130). But be careful: A few smaller Group 48 versions of this battery land at or near the bottom of the pack in expert testing, earning lower scores for hot-climate endurance or cold cranking amps performance.

The Optima YellowTop D35 (Est. $190) doesn't appear in expert tests, but it's a favorite of car owners. Between Amazon.com and the Advance Auto Parts website, the Optima YellowTop D35 earns a rating of about 4.4 stars (out of a possible 5) in nearly 350 reviews overall. A similar model, the Optima D34/78 (Est. $190), is included in ConsumerReports.org's roundup, landing near the top of the pack in the Group 34, 78 and 34/78 category. The Optima D34/78 earns excellent scores for hot-climate endurance and cold cranking performance (a claimed 750 CCA) and a very good score for reserve capacity.

The Optima YellowTop is an AGM battery and is covered by a three-year warranty. We did see complaints that Optima previously failed to honor warranties of batteries purchased online, but as some reviewers note, Amazon.com is now an authorized retailer, so warranties for Optima batteries purchased there are honored.

Both the DieHard and Optima YellowTop batteries are marketed as "deep cycle" batteries (capable of being drained and recharged, over and over). The YellowTop is also marketed as a "dual-purpose" battery, meaning that in addition to its deep-cycling capability, it also has the cranking power necessary to power accessory-loaded vehicles. Optima even recommends its YellowTop batteries to run tractors and forklifts. It's also perfect for off-roading, experts say, because instead of fragile plates inside, the Optima battery has sturdy spiral tubes that stand up to constant vibration. However, the DieHard Gold 50865 boasts a higher CCA rating (at 660 CCA, the rating for the D35 is also lower than that of the D34/78) , and the YellowTop also has a shorter reserve capacity of 100 minutes.

We give the DieHard Gold 50865 a slight nod as our Best Reviewed selection for typical passenger cars thanks to its sterling performance in expert tests, but the Optima YellowTop D35 is very much worth considering. The bottom line is that both batteries are good choices for the average vehicle: Either battery will start your car promptly, and won't conk out terribly soon if you forget to turn off the headlights.

Costco batteries come through for heavy-duty use

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, while Interstate batteries are pricier than the late Kirkland batteries (both made by Johnson Controls), Interstate batteries are emerging as a leader among automotive batteries designed for heavy-duty use.

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 48-month replacement warranty, according to the Interstate website.

Buying your battery from Costco has its tradeoffs: Membership costs $55 per year, and Costco doesn't install car batteries. Based on their performance in expert testing, however, the added cost and inconvenience might be worthwhile if you need a high-performance battery. For those that are not Costco members, you can also buy Interstate batteries from local authorized dealers, though the specifications -- and value -- might be different.

Among Interstate batteries, the Interstate MT7-34 (Est. $260) lands near the top of the Group 34, 78 & 34/78 category in ConsumerReports.org's exhaustive testing. Editors give this absorbed glass mat car battery excellent scores for life and reserve capacity and a very good score for its cold cranking. The MT7-34 has 1,000 cranking amps and 800 cold cranking amps, 12 volts, Common Code A terminals, and a reserve capacity of 125 minutes.

The Interstate MT7-34 isn't the only car battery from Interstate that does well in head-to-head testing. The Interstate MT7-65 (Est. $275) lands on top in the Group 65 category, earning an excellent rating for life, a very good rating for reserve capacity, and an excellent rating for its cold cranking amps performance. The Interstate MT7-78 (Est. $270) is also a solid contender in the same category, earning a slightly lower score for its cold cranking amps performance. The MT7-65 is rated at 770 cold cranking amps, while the MT7-78 has 800.

Interstate batteries are praised in reviews for their ample cold cranking amps, meaning that Interstate car batteries will start your vehicle reliably without repeating cranking in cold temperatures. The 48-month warranty, while shorter than Costco's former Kirkland batteries, is among the longest car battery warranties available. Plus, Interstate batteries earn high marks for longevity in reviews, so you won't need to replace your vehicle's battery as often.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Car Batteries buying guide

What every best Car Batteries has:

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

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