What every best Car Batteries has:
- A strong warranty.
- Good reserve capacity.
- Ample cold-cranking amps.
Best cheap car battery
Price doesn't guarantee quality when it comes to car batteries. As a rule, cheap batteries – $110 or less – aren't the absolute top performers in professional tests, but they aren't consistently the worst either. It's not unheard of to find a $90 car battery that scores higher overall than rivals costing twice as much.
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. Unfortunately, Costco has quit selling them. The stores now offer Interstate brand batteries in their place. Interstate is a well-respected name in the car battery arena. In professional tests, several Interstate batteries score either at or near the top of their size groups. Even the ones that don't get great overall scores receive high marks for their ability to survive repeated charging and discharging cycles at high temperature.
However, the batteries that have been reviewed by experts are those sold at independent Interstate dealers, and are not the same as what you will find at your local Costco. Specifications are generally lower for the Costco versions, and the warranty is shorter -- a still substantial 36 months as opposed to Interstate's more typical four years. That doesn't mean that they are bad batteries, but the lack of independent expert reviews, and an absence of any large repository of user reviews, makes it impossible for us to currently recommend a Costco battery. That said, if you want to see what's available for your vehicle, and its pricing, you can visit the Costco Interstate battery site.
Fortunately, car battery buyers on a budget have a suitable replacement in the Walmart-exclusive EverStart Maxx line. These batteries are made by Johnson Controls, the same company that makes Optima batteries and that used to produce Costco's Kirkland line. EverStart Maxx batteries are very affordable, with several sizes priced under $100, and several of them are among the top scorers for their size group in professional tests. They don't score quite as high as premium brands like DieHard and Interstate, but they're not very far behind. However, EverStart Maxx batteries aren't all created equal. Several other batteries from this line finish at or near the bottom of the rankings for their size group – so if you're shopping for a battery from this line, the size and climate designation matters.
All EverStart Maxx batteries come with a special five-year warranty plan. If your battery fails to hold a charge within the first three years after purchase, Walmart will replace it for free. If it fails within the next two years, you can get a replacement at a discounted price, which is pro-rated based on how old the battery is. This is actually better than the standard 3-year replacement warranty offered on some leading brands, including DieHard, Bosch, and Optima. Most owners who have made claims under this warranty say Walmart replaced the batteries with no problems. Another perk: unlike some retailers (including Costco), Walmart installs batteries for free.
Among all Everstart Maxx batteries, the one that scores best in professional tests is the EverStart Maxx-24F (Est. $95). The battery that was included in ConsumerReports.org's test is a slightly different model, the EverStart Maxx 24FN, which is now discontinued. However, the new 24F has the same specs, including size (Group 24/24F) and claimed CCA (750).
The old EverStart Maxx 24FN got top marks in all three tests conducted by the pros: reserve capacity, CCA, and lifespan after repeated cycles of charging and discharging at high temperatures. The new EverStart Maxx 24FN has only a handful of reviews at Walmart.com, but they're all highly positive, with an overall rating of 4.9 stars out of 5. Owners praise the battery's great warranty, high CCA, and low price. The only quibble we saw was from a user who says that the battery's actual CCA is only 725, not 750 as Walmart claims. However, that number still puts it on a par with the top-rated DieHard Gold 50823 (Est. $125), our Best Rated car battery overall.
Another battery from this line, the EverStart Maxx-65S (Est. $95), also does quite well in professional tests. This Group 65 battery earns a top score for longevity and a very good rating for reserve capacity, but only a middling score for CCA. The battery's claimed CCA is 700, which is a bit on the low side for its size.
Users at Walmart.com are only moderately enthusiastic about this battery, giving it a good but not great overall rating of 3.8 stars in around 35 reviews. Though they all like its long warranty, they disagree over its lifespan. We saw many positive reviews saying this battery lasted well past the 5-year warranty period, actually doubling it in a couple of cases. However, there are also several saying the battery failed within the first five years – in one case, after just four days. It's worth noting that this is a "South" battery, designed to perform best in high temperatures, so it's possible the poor reviews came from people in northern climates. However, it seems unlikely that this would affect the battery's actual lifespan, as batteries generally last longer in cold temperatures than hot ones.
One other EverStart battery, the EverStart Maxx-35N (Est. $95) is not included in the latest round of professional tests, but is fairly popular with owners at Walmart.com. This Group 35 battery with a CCA of 640 earns an overall rating of 4.1 stars in about 35 reviews. This is a "North" battery, designed to start well on cold days, and users say it starts up easily enough in temperatures as low as 15°F. However, a handful say that things can get a little dicier at lower temperatures. Also, like the EverStart Maxx-65S, this battery gets mixed reviews for overall lifespan. Several owners say it lasted over six years, but others say it died within two.