The 10 Best Car Battery Chargers
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in April of 2015. Whether you work in an automotive shop or just want to be prepared at home, something from our selection of chargers may save you from having to buy a costly replacement by keeping your car battery in good shape or safely and efficiently bringing a battery back to life after winter storage. Many are equipped with convenient features to prevent you from accidentally damaging your cells. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 15, 2020:
Removed the Noco Genius G750 and the Ctek Multi US 3300 because of availability issues. Removed the DieHard Compact Wifi because the app feature that is meant to justify its cost is unreliable and is often offline. Added the Noco Genius G750, the Ctek56-865, and the DieHard DH137.
Car battery chargers are importantly different than jump starters. For one, jump starters are not meant to charge the battery, they merely provide enough energy for your starting and ignition systems to work so that the engine can crank, so that the fuel pump can send fuel, and so that the spark plugs can ignite the fuel. Once the engine is on, your car's alternator takes care of charging the battery. If what you need is to charge the battery itself or if you suspect that the alternator has failed and you need to test it, pick up a charger like the Schumacher SC1280 or the BatteryMinder 128CEC1. Both chargers can service lead-acid and AGM batteries. Most likely, your car comes with a lead-acid battery but if you decide to upgrade to AGM batteries because of their superior vibration resistance and anti-leak features, either charger will help you bring them back to charge. As a bonus, both the Schumacher and the BatteryMinder will tell you if your battery is damaged and requires replacement.
Lead-acid batteries may produce hazardous gases if overcharged or charged too quickly. Make sure your area is well-ventilated and that you disconnect your battery once it has fully charged. Reversing the polarity on your car's electrical system can permanently damage it - make sure you connect positive to positive and negative to negative.
May 09, 2019:
When it comes to reliability and functionality, the Optima Digital and BatteryMinder 128CEC1 still come out on top. Although they have a range of features, they aren't complicated to use, especially since both have a display that is relatively intuitive. Neither is particularly cheap, however, although they should last. If it's something simpler you're after, the Pulsetech Xtreme, Ctek Multi US 3300, or Noco Genius G750 are all fine options. That said, the Pulsetech model is more expensive than many comparable models and seems overhyped to some. And speaking of overhyped, we considered removing the Deltran Battery Tender Plus; while it does work, the 10-year warranty is often a source of frustration that causes owners to abandon the brand. For this reason, we considered removing it, but it does have a generous following of loyal users. Finally, we decided to add the DieHard Compact Wifi. You can download an app and monitor it from your smartphone, but this particular feature tends to have issues. If you enjoy playing with technology, it may be worth it; if you don't have the patience for troubleshooting, you'll probably want to skip it.
On Being Prepared For All Things Automotive
Next comes assessing whether or not you can really solve the issue.
Most people tend to take their vehicles for granted. We only truly pay close attention to our car or truck when something is not going right. The failure of a brake light, the need for a new timing belt, or just that pesky, ubiquitous check engine light blinking in the corner are reminders that, in fact, the modern automobile is a remarkably complex piece of machinery. The average car produced in the last few years contains no fewer than 30,000 different components, as it turns out, when you count every last nut, bolt, cylinder, and wire. The fact that most motor vehicles work well for many years across many thousands of miles is a testament to great engineering and manufacturing.
The fact is, though, that eventually any car is going to have its share of issues which need maintenance and repairs (or else that necessitate the replacement of the vehicle entirely). For many people, the solution to any automotive issue is to simply get the car to the shop and let a professional mechanic figure out what is wrong with it. And while serious automotive issues are best left to the professionals, there is much the average Do It Yourself minded individual can do when it comes to caring for his or her car.
The first step in DIY automotive repair is always diagnostics: you can't remedy a problem if you don't know what's wrong. Next comes assessing whether or not you can really solve the issue. And third, prior to any actual work commencing, comes making sure you have the right tools for the job. At a bare minimum, taking care of your car at home involves a good oil pan, a great jack, a set of torque wrenches, and a car battery charger.
Proper automobile maintenance, both at home and in a professional shop, should also always involve safety gear, including gloves and protective eyewear at the minimum, with thick and durable coveralls, sturdy boots, and potentially respiration gear, ear protection, and even head protection for the truly well prepared person.
Choosing A Car Battery Charger For Professional Use
Breathing new life into a dead car battery isn't an act of sorcery, it's an act that professional mechanics complete countless times each and every day. Recharging a dead battery can save a mechanic's customer huge amounts of money, earning the shop lifetime loyalty. It's also the ecologically responsible approach to recharge a battery rather than replacing it in the event that the battery still has a valid service life left.
Car battery chargers run the gamut when it comes to prices, with some units costing less than a tank of gas and others costs two hundred dollars or more. The speed with which some of the higher end units work helps to compensate for their cost, as their efficiency allows you to move on to other tasks more quickly. Many of the high end charges also feature built in monitoring equipment and displays that let you diagnose the condition of a battery and monitor the progress of the charge, helping you to avoid overcharging and potentially damaging a battery. (These features are also helpful for the DIY mechanic, of course.)
Make sure to consider the size and weight of a car battery charger, as you will likely have to move it around your shop frequently. Larger units may offer more power, but if they're a pain to get into position, the frustration may not be worth the few minutes you save.
The Right Car Battery Charger For Home Use
Contrary to common misconception, simply jump starting a car is not a way to recharge its battery. The car will keep running well until it is turned off, and may even be able to start itself up again later if the battery is relatively new and in good condition, but more often that not, if a car battery dies once, requiring a jump, it's going to happen again sooner than later. A car keeps its battery charged while its engine is running, but most cars can't reliably recharge their batteries to anywhere near their full capacity after a total drain.
Think of it like this: even if you only use your moderately priced car battery charger one or two times, chances are good that it will still have saved you money.
That's why many people, especially those with older vehicles, choose to buy their own car battery charger. A car battery charger can cost well under fifty dollars, which is about half the price of the average car battery. A one time purchase of your own car battery charger, therefore, could save you from buying new batteries many times over.
And even if you car battery charger only breathes enough life into your vehicle's battery to let you drive it to the shop, you will still save money as compared to having the "dead" car towed there, so these units still make savvy investments. Think of it like this: even if you only use your moderately priced car battery charger one or two times, chances are good that it will still have saved you money.
Just make sure to exercise proper caution around a car battery: there is ample opportunity for injury or property damage if you mishandle a battery, especially if it is in a compromised state.