Best Car Batteries for the Money

Consumer Reports' tests highlight the batteries that balance performance and price

A car battery being installed

Car batteries are essential—and expensive. The average price in our latest car battery ratings is $150, with one model costing more than $300. Taking the time to research the best car battery for the money can truly pay off.

We recently posted our ranking of the best car batteries, highlighting the top-rated choice in each size we test. With this list, we’re looking at value—factoring performance and price—for our CR Best Buys.

“Often the smart money may be on choosing a strong performer that can be had for much less than the cost of the top battery,” says Peter Anzalone, who oversees testing of car batteries at Consumer Reports.

Identifying the CR Best Buys highlighted in our ratings starts with our test results. Each year, we purchase 150 individual batteries and put them through a grueling series of tests, measuring how they perform in extreme cold and heat, and how long they will last if you leave your headlights on.

Our testers go to great lengths to evaluate the batteries. For example, battery life is measured by repeatedly discharging and recharging each battery about 3,000 times at a test temperature of about 167° F for 15 weeks or until performance drops to unacceptable levels. This simulates the hot underhood conditions a battery can face during the summer, the toughest time of year for batteries because of the heat.

MORE ON CAR BATTERIES

Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries tend to dominate our ratings. These pricey, maintenance-free batteries use a glass mat separator to move the electrolyte solution between the thin battery plates. AGMs are built to better stand up to repeated draining and recharging cycles than traditional lead-acid (aka “flooded”) batteries. AGMs are becoming standard equipment in more cars because modern features such as fuel-saving stop-start systems, electronic safety and convenience features, and power outlets for mobile electronics increase the demand for power. You should replace the battery in your car with the same size and type, but you can upgrade from a traditional battery to an AGM battery.

“If you live in an area with extreme temperatures and are looking for a maintenance-free battery, consider getting an AGM,” says John Banta, one of the CR engineers who test car batteries. “High heat can affect the life of AGM batteries, much like flooded batteries, but they tend to perform better overall in our tests.”

If you don’t need the capability to meet those demands, you can find traditional flooded batteries that are a better value. Our analysis has found that a traditional battery is the better buy in 6 of the 7 categories that we rate.

Below, we present CR Best Buys—the best car batteries for the money—in these sizes: Group 24/24F, Group 35, Group 47 (H5), Group 48 (H6), Group 49 (H8), Group 51R, and Group 65. These group numbers indicate battery sizes, in the same way AA and AAA indicate the sizes of batteries you’d use to power home electronics.

Size 24/24F (top terminal): Fits many Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Nissan, and Toyota vehicles.

Size 35 (top terminal): Fits most Japanese nameplates, including many recent Honda vehicles, most Subaru vehicles, and most Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota vehicles.

Size 47 (H5) (top terminal)
: Fits many Buick, Chevrolet, Fiat, and Volkswagen models.

Size 48 (H6) (top terminal)
: Fits many vehicles from Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Volkswagen, and Volvo.


Size 49 (H8) (top terminal): 
Fits many vehicles from Audi, BMW, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz.

Size 51R (top terminal): Fits many vehicles from Honda and Nissan.

Size 65 (top terminal): Fits large cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles from Ford or Mercury.

In our list of select car batteries, we show their Overall Score, plus ratings for cold-cranking amps (how well the battery starts an engine during extreme cold weather), life (how the battery performs through repeated draining and recharging), and reserve capacity (how long it can supply energy if the car’s charging system fails).

Group 24/24F