Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more here.
Welcome to our new post. This time, we’re here to help you choose the best battery charger for car. If you have driven a vehicle long enough you know that your battery will begin to go. Sometimes you know that it is coming and you are able to swap out a new battery, but other times it might just sneak up on you.
It could be that someone left the lights on or it could be something as simple as a very cold night. Either way, when you turn your key and your car doesn’t start up, you need a solution,.
Yes, if you have another car you could pull out a set of jumper cables. But what happens if you are on your own? A battery charger or battery tender will give you the ability to recharge your battery so that you can get on with your errands.
In this article, we’ll not only give you some battery charger reviews, but also a buyer’s guide giving you all the information that you need to know about these devices. We want you to choose the best car battery charger for your needs, and we hope you’ll find this post valuable. Let’s start, shall we?
Best Battery Charger for Car – Our Top Picks Compared
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
|item-title||NOCO Genius G3500 6V/12V 3.5A UltraSafe Smart Battery Charger||Schumacher SC-1200A-CA SpeedCharge 12Amp 6/12V Fully Automatic Battery Charger||Battery Tender Plus 021-0128 – Best Battery Tender||BLACK+DECKER BM3B 6V and 12V Automatic Battery Charger / Maintainer||Optima Digital 400 12V Performance Maintainer and Battery Charger||Schumacher SE-4022 – Best Manual Wheeled Battery Charger and Tester|
6 or 12 Amp
4 Amp max
6 and 12 Volt
6 and 12 Volt
6 and 12 Volt
6 and 12 Volt
|• For starter and deep-cycle 12V and 6V lead-acid batteries|
• Cold/AGM Mode
• 12V Lithium Mode
• Small Battery Mode
• 12V Repair Mode
|• Multiple Charging Modes|
• Sturdy, Built-In Handle
• Microprocessor Controlled
• Fully Automatic Operation
|• Perfect for ATVS, Cars, Lawn Mowers, Motorcycles, and Scooters|
• Charges at 1.25Amps
• Temperature Compensated
• Spark Proof, Reverse Polarity Protected
|• Charger / Maintainer|
• Sealed for protection against moisture, dust and oil
• Mounting brackets
• 1 year limited warranty
|• Battery health mode|
• Hybrid LED battery charging gauge with LCD display
• Spark-free connection technology
• Multipurpose charger
• Dual purpose hook and tilt stand
|• Equipped with cooling fan for high-performance and long life|
• Easy-to-read, color-coded meters
• Analyzes electrical and starting system problems
|editors-choice||Best Product||Best Value|
Car Battery Charger Reviews – Which one is the Best?
Before we launch into anything else, let’s take a look at some of the best models that are available on the market today. For each of these, Garage Chief will not only give you the important parameters and the cost, but we’ll also give you a write up highlighting the best points of each model as well as some areas that they might fall a little bit short.
We’ve also flagged our picks for the best product (our choice for the best car battery charger) and the best value (our pick for a high-quality budget option). Any of these six could be a great choice, depending on your particular needs and how you will use them.
So let’s dive in.
NOCO Genius G3500 6V/12V 3.5A UltraSafe Smart Battery Charger for Car
- Price: Approx. $60
- Compatible Voltage: 6 and 12 Volt
- Amperage: 3.5 Amp
We’ll start off our list with the NOCO Genius G3500 6V/12V 3.5A UltraSafe Smart Battery Charger. One of the first things that you’ll notice is how small this model is. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that this model isn’t powerful enough to handle just about anything that you throw at it. It makes it easier to take with you so you are never without the ability to charge a battery, even if you are away from home. You’ll also find that this model has a healthy display of LED lights on the front to let you know the charge level and other important details.
NOCO Genius G3500 6V/12V 3.5A UltraSafe Smart Battery Charger is water resistant and no slip, so even if the worst weather conditions you don’t have to worry about being able to get a charge. This model is also covered by a 5-year warranty so you know that you’ll have a good product for years to come. It is also set up so that it can help recover your battery if it has been mischarged in the past.
With all of that packed into an impressive small package, it is no doubt that this is the best car battery charger on our list.
Battery Tender Plus 021-0128 – Best Battery Tender
- Price: Approx. $54
- Compatible Voltage: 12 Volt
- Amperage: 1.25 Amp
You might think that at 1.25 Amp the Battery Tender Plus 021-0128 – Best Battery Tender might be a little to slow to be a quality model. However, the company claims that this can charge as fast or even faster than a comparable 3 amp model. One of the best tricks that this packs though is the automatic switch from charge to float mode. Once this charger gets your battery fully charged it will stop the charge and only charge further as your battery loses charge. This means that you don’t need to worry about overcharging your battery and the damages that can come with it.
Another great thing that you’ll find in this set up is the reverse polarity protection. This keeps you from attaching things backward and causing more damage to your battery. This model comes with a 10 year warranty to let you know that the company is willing to stand behind their product. With all this, at the price point, it is no wonder why this one makes our list as the best value product.
Schumacher SC-1200A-CA SpeedCharge 12Amp 6/12V Fully Automatic Car Battery Charger
- Price: Approx. $57
- Compatible Voltage: 6 and 12 Volt
- Amperage: 6 or 12 Amp
The Schmacher SC-1200A-CA SpeedCharge 12Amp 6/12V Fully Automatic Battery Charger is in many ways two battery chargers in one. The main set up is a 6 amp charger for your battery. But there is a set up that lets you swap to a rapid 12 amp charge when you don’t have a lot of time to wait for a battery to charge. And while it is charging the percent charged is clearly displayed on the charger so that you won’t have to just stare at dots and wonder about how much your battery has charged.
It also automatically detects if your automotive battery is a 6 Volt or a 12 Volt, so all you have to do is connect it, plug it in and let the battery charge.
And once it is done charging this model will swap into maintenance mode. This means that it will keep your battery topped up and ready to go, so that when it is time to go for a drive your battery will be ready. This set up also has a setting for smaller batteries like, ATV batteries, those found on lawn mowers or other small farm equipment. This means that with a single charger you can charge nearly any battery on any of your ride on gear.
BLACK+DECKER BM3B 6V and 12V Automatic Battery Charger / Maintainer
- Price: Approx. $20
- Compatible Voltage: 6 and 12 Volt
- Amperage: 1.5 Amp
If you are looking for a small basic battery charger and maintainer that you can easily take with you on long road trips, you’ll want to take a look at the Black + Decker BM3B 6V and 12V Automatic Battery Charger/Maintainer.
This is a more basic unit that trims off the extras to save space and cost. You’ll have to flip the switch between the 6 Volt option and the 12 Volt option. On the face of the charger, there are merely a few lights to warn you of reverse polarity, other errors and then a light to let you know the battery is charging and that it is fully charged. Once it is fully charged the charger will switch a charging mode to a maintaining mode.
This set up gives you a choice of how to connect the charger to your battery. First, there are the traditional clamps that will attach to battery terminal posts. The company also gives you O-ring setups so that if you are leaving the battery on the charger for long periods of time you don’t need to worry about the clamp getting knocked off. Finally, they have a 12 V cigarette lighter plug to let you charge your battery from inside your car.
Optima Digital 400 12V – Best Portable Car Battery Charger & Maintainer
- Price: Approx. $90
- Compatible Voltage: 12 Volt
- Amperage: 4 Amp max
If you want a portable car battery charger that can be used on any number of batteries, you should take a look at the Optima Digital 400 12V Performance Maintainer and Battery Charger.
This is a fully automatic set up that lets you connect your battery and plug it in and then let it go. The charger can detect the type of battery that it is connected to and will charge at the right rate for the given situation. There is a gauge at the top that gives you a very good feel for how much the battery is charged.
You’ll find that this one comes with both the traditional battery post clamps but also O-rings to keep a good and secure long-term connection. This model also comes with a stand that can be used as a stand or be used to mount your charger on the wall. It also has a battery maintenance mode that helps to keep batteries healthy for a longer usable life.
The bottom line? We think it’s the best portable car battery charger out there. Seriously.
Schumacher SE-4022 – Best Manual Wheeled Battery Charger and Tester
- Price: Approx. $150
- Compatible Voltage: 6 and 12 Volt
- Amperage: 2/10/40/200 Amp
If you are looking for the charger that will get your battery charged the fastest on our list, you’ll want to consider the Schumacher SE-4022 – Best Manual Wheeled Battery Charger and Tester.
The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a big unit. While many other chargers are meant to be picked up and carried around, this model has a pair of wheels to roll right up to the car that you are working with. This is also a manual set up, so you have to keep your eyes on what is going on.
This has a test mode setting so that you can figure out how charged your battery is before charging. Then when it comes time to charge your battery you have a number of settings, from a 2 amp slow charge, 10 amp fast charge or a 40 amp rapid charge. You’ll also have a 200 amp that is less of a set up for charging and more providing enough power to get your engine started.
Car Battery Charger – All You Need to Know
Any battery charger does just what its name says, it charges a battery. In terms of a car battery charger, we will be looking at charging a battery in your vehicle that has gone dead. We will go over in a little more detail how these work, below.
Generally, while you are driving your alternator will take some of the energy your car is making from burning gasoline and put it back into charging your battery. But if this stops working or you use your battery to shine your lights or run other electrical equipment for an extended time while your engine isn’t running you could end up with a dead battery.
It is important to understand that a charger and a jumper solution aren’t the same and should not be used interchangeably. A jumper, either as a set of cables to another car or to a jumper pack is used as an extra battery in order to get your car running again quickly.
A charger, on the other hand, is a long-term answer that will fully recharge the battery in your car.
Types of Battery Charger
There are battery chargers for nearly any type of battery on the market – no matter if it is a typical 12V car battery, dedicated diesel battery or motorcycles and ATV battery. But it isn’t hard to see that one designed for a household AA battery won’t do much for charging your car battery.
Often you will see battery chargers labeled as Automotive Battery Chargers. These are generally made to charge a 12 Volt battery. Since most cars made after 1955 use a 12 Volt battery it is a good place to start when you are getting a battery. If you have an older car you might need a 6 Volt battery charger, there are some models that will work with both 6 and 12 Volt setups.
Some larger vehicles or those that have been fitted with aftermarket electronics may have a 24 Volt battery, in which case you’ll need a 24 Volt Battery Charger.
Size and Speed of Charger
- Amps range
- Intelligent sensor
Once you have made sure to match the type of charger with the battery in your vehicle you’ll want to look into the amps of the battery charger. Most automotive battery chargers will fall somewhere between 2 amps and 10 amps. We will discuss below how to determine how quickly these will charge your dead battery, but it is safe to go with the bigger the number the quicker it will charge your battery. You will want to remember that the quicker the charge the quicker that your battery can be overcharged as well.
There are a couple of special cases. The first is a trickle charger. This type of battery charger will provide a very slow rate of charge and is usually employed when a car is in cold conditions that can drain a car’s battery even when the car is not in use. The trickle charger can keep your car’s battery ready to go, even if you won’t be using it for months at a time.
Another special case is at the other end of the scale. There are some battery chargers that are much bigger than the standard 2 to 10 amp sizing. Normally these are used at service stations instead of for home use, as they can be very dangerous if used incorrectly, but some can even provide enough power to power the starter motor of your vehicle (here is one of them: Schumacher SE-4022).
Features to Consider
Perhaps the most important feature that you’ll want to look for on any battery charger is some sort of sensor to determine when your battery is getting charged. Often this will be called a Microprocessor Control or intelligent sensor. These devices (Battery Tender Plus 021-0128 for example) can be invaluable as they can slow the rate of charge as your battery is reaching fulling charged and can shut off a charger as your battery is ready for service. These can keep your battery from being overcharged, which decreases the useful life of your battery.
You will also want to look into a charger that is flexible. Some chargers on the market can be used for not only your car but also ride on lawn mowers, ATVs, and other power sports equipment or any number of things that use a battery. It is best to get an idea of anything that you use that might need a charge one day and look for a charger that can work with most, if not all of these items.
If your car is outside or you feel that you might have to do some charging in poor weather you will want to pick out a charger that is waterproof (like NOCO Genius G3500). The last thing that you want is to short out more systems while trying to charge your battery back up.
How Does a Battery Charger Work?
In the case of a car battery charger, the overall process is rather simple. Power is taken from the electrical grid via a plug in your home and it is used to recharge a dead battery in your car. However, the details are a touch more in-depth than that. For starters, the power grid runs off alternating current, while the battery and the electrical system in your car run on direct current. This is the reason you don’t just have a cord with a plug on one end and clamps for the battery terminal posts on the other.
The battery charger first must convert the alternating current to the direct current and then pass it through. Additionally, you don’t really just want to let loose a fire hose of power, you want to let it flow at a controlled rate. The battery charger will also charge at a given rate of amps per hour.
While your battery charger is running electricity through your car battery, your battery will hopefully hold onto some of that energy inside the cells to store for later use, like when you are trying to drive somewhere. If your battery won’t hold the charge any longer it doesn’t really matter how long you charge your battery.
It is important to understand why you are charging your battery and look into fixing the situation, preferably before you fully charge your battery. If the problem was that you left your lights on all day and night, it is a simple fix. If the cold drained your battery you don’t have much control over the weather, but you might be able to store your car in a warmer area. However, if there is a short somewhere in your electrical system charging your battery will just end up causing it to drain out again.
How Long Does it Take to Charge a Car Battery?
One thing that you might want to think about when you are looking at a car battery charger is to look at how long it takes to charge a battery. The thing is that this question takes a few assumptions in order to get a proper answer.
First, you should think about the size battery you are looking to charge. In this, we need to look at the amp hour capacity of the battery. For most 12 volt batteries, the capacity is 48 amp hours. Since this is what is found in a majority of car’s we’ll take this number into account.
Remember that it’s very important to balance speed of charge with the health of your battery!
Next, you need to know the rate that your chosen car battery charger charges at, this will normally be expressed in terms of amps. Let’s say that you picked a charger that functions at 2 amps. This means that you’ll need 24 hours to fully charge your 48 amp hour battery. At the same point if you had a 1 amp model charger you would need a full 2 days to charge your battery, but if you could charge at 8 amps you would only need 6 hours.
Most battery chargers will run between 2 and 10 amps. As you can see above the higher the charge rate the faster the battery will charge. There is a downside to really fast charger though. This can cause your battery plates to buckle which you don’t want to happen. This means that you will need to balance speed of charge with the health of your battery.
Also, consider why you are charging your battery. If you are looking for a full battery you will be able to run the starter motor for about 10 minutes, but since you normally only run the motor for a moment or two you might not need a full charge to get your car started.
How Do You Use a Car Battery Charger?
Remember that each different model of car battery charger may be slightly different. As such you should familiarize yourself with the specifics of the model that you are using. We will provide a general overview to give you an idea of what you should be doing.
Since you are working with electricity you will want to make sure that you are in a safe environment and that everything is in good working order. Prior to making any connections, it is always a good idea to inspect the wires to make sure that nothing is worn or frayed. Additionally, check the area to make sure there are no hazards prior to charging.
In some setups, you may have to remove the battery from the vehicle prior to charging. In other set ups, you may have to disconnect other equipment from the battery to get a proper charge. If you are using a battery that needs water added be sure that each cell is topped off prior to use. For a sealed or maintenance-free battery, double check the battery’s instructions for charging.
Before you connect or plug anything in, make sure that you look over where all the wires are laying. You don’t want to have the battery on top of the charger. Additionally, you don’t want to have the wires laying anywhere that they might get caught on something, overheat or provide a tripping hazard to people. Also, you don’t want to place the cables anywhere that they might get caught and broken or frayed.
Before connecting anything, ensure that the battery terminal posts are clean and free from any build up or dirt. Dirty connections will not charge as well as clean ones.
While cleaning the battery ensure that you know which is the positive and which is the negative terminal. Connecting your charger backward can cause problems.
You should not let the clamps touch each other. Technically while in the off position this shouldn’t be a problem, but if the switch is broken then you can still run into problems. It is a best practice to make sure that prior to attaching anything to your battery, all switches on your charger are put into the off position and it is not plugged into the outlet. This ensures that if you accidentally touch the clamps on an uninsulated area you won’t end up completing the circuit with your body.
If your battery is still in your vehicle you’ll want to make sure you know which post is grounded to the chassis, normally it is the negative terminal. If that is the case connect the positive clamp to the positive terminal and then the negative one to the metal on the chassis. If your battery is out of the car to connect the positive clamp to the positive terminal and the negative to the negative.
Once everything is connected turn on your charger or plug it in. You will want to monitor the charging process to ensure that you don’t overcharge your battery. Once it is fully charged you’ll want to go through the process in reverse. You will then be able to reconnect the battery to your car and be good to go.
Automotive Battery Chargers FAQ
Charger vs Jumper – What’s the Difference?
The first thing that you might think for a difference between a battery charger and a jumper is that most people will think of a pair of jumper cables first something that gets plugged in. But the differences go much deeper. You can now find portable jumpers that have a set of cables attached to another battery, often that will be plugged in between uses. These jumpers are essentially used as an extra battery. They are made to provide the big surge of power required to get your car started. The car then uses the engine powering the alternator to recharge your battery.
A charger as we have stated above takes on the whole job of recharging your battery but is not set up to get your car started again quickly.
What Happens if You Overcharge a Battery?
Some battery chargers are set up with an intelligent sensor that will stop charging a battery when it is fully charged. The easiest way is to think of a pitcher. The battery charger is like turning on the tap to start filling the pitcher. An intelligent sensor will turn off the tap as the pitcher gets full, otherwise, the water will keep running and overflow and make a mess.
However, instead of overflowing, you get a battery that is overcharged. When the battery is overcharged the fluids inside can get hot enough to boil. If this happens in an older style of battery the fluid will boil off, this is since the battery is vented. However, this leaves the plates in the battery exposed to air and that will damage them beyond repair. Newer batteries are sealed, so the fluids won’t boil off, but it is possible to build up enough pressure for the battery to burst.
Can You Overcharge a Battery With a Trickle Charger?
A trickle charger is a type of a charger that provides a very low amount of power to your battery in order to keep it charged and ready. Many people will use this type of charger when the battery is left in a cold environment. The cold weather can drain the battery even if it is not used and the trickle charger can make sure the battery keeps getting charged.
However, if the charger is not fitted with a sensor set up it will keep charging the battery. This could mean that if the battery is not loosing charge as fast as it is being charged you can end up with a battery that gets overcharged, just rather slowly.
Can a Dead Car Battery Explode?
A lot of this will determine what happens to the battery. Charging a battery can produce hydrogen and if enough is concentrated in a given area then a spark is introduced an explosion could occur.
Additionally, overcharged a sealed battery can build up pressure inside, generally, there are relief valves to vent off that extra pressure, but they can become clogged. If enough pressure builds up it is possible that the battery could burst and even burst violently enough that one might call it an explosion. If you keep your battery in good condition and don’t overcharge it you should be alright.
How Much is a Battery Charger for a Car?
Now that you know what you should be looking for in a quality battery charger for your car you no doubt have a couple more questions. Likely how much is this going to set me back and where can I get the best car battery charger? Well, as with so much in life, it depends.
First, we’ll have to look at the price. There are some good ones, including ones that have found their way on to our list, that are available for about $20 (Black + Decker BM3B). At the same time, you can easily spend $150 or more on a charger. You’ll want to look at the one that strikes your fancy and see if there is a reason it is that price, does it have the features you want?
Next, you’ll need to consider the best place to buy ones of these. Often times you can find a model or so in a big box store or an automotive store. These are alright if you need it right away, but they tend to only carry a model or two. You might luck out and end up with a model that does everything that you want at a good price. Or you might not.
In today’s marketplace often the best place to make a purchase is online. These retailers, like Amazon, tend to have a much broader selection with a very competitive price. Often times you can find a set up that will have low-cost fast shipping, so you don’t need to wait for weeks for your new charger to arrive.
In a perfect world you won’t need to charge your battery, even in normal use you normally don’t have to charge your car’s battery often. This makes it even more important to follow the proper method when you are going about charging one.
First off remember that electricity can easily cause substantial damage and even death, as such you will want to make sure that everything is properly connected before plugging your system in. Additionally, over charging your battery can not only shorten the life span of the battery, but also create a hazard. Make sure you monitor the charging process and disconnect prior to over charging your battery.
Best Car Battery Charger – Conclusion
And with that, you should have all the information that you need to pick out the best battery charger for a car. We started off going over our top six picks, our best product when to the NOCO Genius G3500 while we found that the Battery Tender Plus 021-0128 gets the nod for the best value. You’ll want to go through each of the models that we have highlighted though, as a different option might be the one that works best for you.
After going through best car battery reviews, we dove into our buyer’s guide. We went through the basics from what these devices do and some of the features that you’ll want to make sure you have in the one that you pick. We also went over the basics of how to use these devices to keep you safe.
Lastly, of course, we’d love to hear from you! Do you have experience with any of our picks? Which product do you think is THE best battery charger for car? Please let us know in the comments section below.
OPTIMA Digital 400 Maintainer and Charger
Last update on 2020-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
All product names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners. All company, product and service names used in this website are for identification purposes only. Use of these names, logos, and brands does not imply endorsement.
It is our policy to make every effort to respect the copyrights of outside parties. If you believe that your copyright has been misused, please provide us with a message stating your position and we will endeavor to correct any misuse immediately.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we may receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep this website alive. Learn more here.