Which battery charger is best?

As more and more devices use electric power, the need for batteries — and battery chargers — has grown. Many modern devices include a battery, including cars, boats and smaller-scale items. Depending on what device you’re hoping to charge, different chargers will work best for you.

The Schumacher 100-Amp Smart Car Battery Charger is an excellent pick for charging cars and other heavy-duty devices.

What to know before you buy a battery charger

Types of battery chargers

  • Smart chargers: These include a microprocessor that automatically turns the charger off once the battery is fully charged. While safer and more useful than basic chargers, they also tend to be more expensive.
  • Trickle chargers: Some batteries lose charge when not being used, which is where trickle chargers come into play. Trickle chargers slowly deploy power, even when batteries are fully charged, preventing them from slowly losing charge. Most can’t be used on lithium-ion batteries.
  • Manual chargers: These work on a more continual basis, though they make it a little harder to avoid overcharging than smart chargers. They also tend to be cheaper than smart or trickle chargers.

Battery type

The type of battery you hope to charge can help determine which battery charger works best for you. Whether you need a charger for a car, boat or household device, you may need a specific one to charge your batteries correctly. You can ensure a universal charger will work by cross-checking your device’s voltage with the options provided by variable-voltage chargers.

Battery charger sizes

Chargers also vary in the size of battery they can charge. For example, chargers for rechargeable AA and AAA batteries usually come in a specific size to fit them. In contrast, universal chargers, car chargers and other large chargers include large clamps to be attached the positive and negative electricity ports on your battery. Make sure your charger is adequately sized for your battery or device.

What to look for in a quality battery charger

Battery compatibility

First and foremost, make sure your charger is compatible with the types of batteries you hope to charge. The most common types are lithium-ion, nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium and lead-acid. If you aren’t sure what kind of battery you have, search online or contact the manufacturer before choosing a charger.

Charging speed

If you need your battery charged quickly and frequently, it might be worth investing a little extra money in a fast-charging charger. Battery chargers have varying charging speeds. While some can charge a battery in just 15 to 30 minutes, most take between one and 10 hours to charge.

Charger capacity

While most heavy-duty battery chargers for cars, boats and other large machinery only charge one device at a time, others charge multiple devices simultaneously. Depending on the number of devices or batteries you hope to charge at a time, different charger capacities will work better for you.

How much you can expect to spend on a battery charger

For cheap chargers used for household batteries and other small-scale power storage tech, expect to spend $5-$15. Mid-tier chargers can cost $15-$40 and usually get you a smart charger. Expensive chargers may cost $40-$100 — with some costing even more.

Battery charger FAQ

Are battery chargers universal?

A. Most are not. Before buying, check that your charger supports the kinds of batteries you plan to charge.  

Do battery chargers go bad?

A. Eventually, yes. Bad batteries and bad chargers may seem similar when tested, but a charger with no power flowing through it indicates that it’s time for a replacement.

What’s the best battery charger to buy?

Top battery charger

Schumacher SC1281 100-Amp Smart Car Battery Charger

Schumacher SC1281 100-Amp Smart Car Battery Charger

What you need to know: This smart charger made for vehicles supports multiple battery types and is easy to use with its straightforward interface.

What you’ll love: It’s not only smart, it also has automatic charging. It’s designed for 6- and 12-volt batteries, and includes built-in clamps for easily connecting to batteries. It can also be used to test batteries and their charge levels.

What you should consider: Some buyers found the cables shorter than preferred.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top battery charger for the money

Noco Genius1 Fully Automatic Smart Charger

Noco Genius1 Fully Automatic Smart Charger

What you need to know: Made for automobile, motorcycle and marine batteries, this automatic charger is simple to use.

What you’ll love: It’s particularly optimized for 6- and 12-volt batteries and can detect battery levels down to 1 volt. It can also be set up to automatically kick on when it detects levels below 1 volt. It has a basic LED indicator light and two integrated alligator clips.

What you should consider: Despite the low price, some buyers complained that this charger didn’t have all the features they wanted.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Ctek Fully Automatic Battery Charger and Maintainer

Ctek Fully Automatic Battery Charger and Maintainer

What you need to know: This charger is extra safe and durable, offering defense against splashes, drops, dust, rust and short-circuiting.

What you’ll love: This is a quick-charging solution for 12-volt batteries with a minimal housing design and reliable functionality. Purchase comes with three pairs of electrical connection cables, and it has a simple display that’s easy to use.

What you should consider: It’s only made for 12-volt batteries.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Peter McGuthrie writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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