Best car battery charger 2022: Easy at-home maintenance

Car batteries don’t last forever. You can accidentally leave the lights on in your car and drain them. Or the weather and plain ole age can get to them. Whichever situation you and your car battery happen to be in, these will remedy it and get you back on the road.

Also: Best portable power station 2022: Emergency power when you need it 

Best overall


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DeWalt

Running: 30 amp | Engine start: 80 amp | Maintain: 2 amp

This is an easy-to-use battery charger and jump starter that’s perfect to keep in your garage for either regular maintenance or emergency use. It features simple, push-button controls for jump starting, charging, and checking your alternator. It even has a 120V outlet and USB port for charging mobile devices or powering small appliances. You can also easily read your battery’s voltage and charging status with the LCD screen; no more deciphering confusing meters. The 80 amp engine start mode can get you going in about 60 seconds, and there is a quick charge function for when you need to top up in a hurry. 

Pros:

  • Alternator check
  • LCD screen
  • USB port and 120V outlet

Cons:

  • No internal battery
  • 6-foot power cable may be too short for some workshops

Budget pick


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Black+Decker

Running: 1.5 amp | Engine start: N/A | Maintain: 0.5 amp

Keeping up with regular battery maintenance doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on fancy tools. This trickle charger from Black+Decker costs about $30, and it is perfect for both 6 and 12V batteries like those you’d find in lawn mowers, motorcycles, and most cars and trucks. You can connect it to the battery via clamps or rings for safe and secure charging, and a switch lets you quickly and easily select the battery type you want to charge. It also has LED indicator lights to warn you against reversed connections which can be dangerous and to let you know when the battery is finished charging.

Pros:

  • Voltage switch
  • Two connection types
  • Compact

Cons:

  • No engine start
  • May take 40+ hours to fully charge a dead car battery

Mid-range pick


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Walmart

Running: 15 amp | Engine start: 50 amp | Maintain: 3 amp

I actually own this model of charger/maintainer, and I can say with confidence that it’s a great choice for all skill levels. The backlit LCD screen makes it easy to see charging status, reversed connection warnings, and charging mode selections. The push-button controls make it quick and easy to check battery voltage, test the alternator, jump start your car, or charge the battery. With the 15 amp quick charge mode, it took just over three hours to bring my old Chevy Cobalt’s battery back to full after being drained by an interior light. The unit also automatically switches from quick to trickle charge when the battery reaches full capacity to avoid overcharging that can cause damage.

Pros:

  • Engine start mode
  • Quick charge mode
  • Alternator check

Cons:

  • Clamp cords are short
  • Power cord is short

Splurge pick


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Schumacher Electric

Running: 60 amp | Engine start: 275 amp | Maintain: 4 amp

The ProSeries from Schumacher Electric is a battery charger meant for anyone who has heavy duty vehicles like semi-trucks or diesel engine vehicles or anyone who runs an automotive shop. It has a 15-amp fast-charge mode, 275 amp engine start, and 4 amp trickle charge feature. It is also capable of flash reprogramming vehicle computers to fix minor software problems that may affect things like gas mileage and engine performance. It even has a memory saver mode to quickly reload computer settings after a battery is charged from zero or replaced.The unit has a 17-foot power cable as well as wheels and a retractable handle to make it easy to maneuver around the shop and reach just about any vehicle bay.  

Pros:

  • 17-foot power cable
  • Flash reprogramming
  • Memory saver mode

Cons:

  • Not suited for most home garages

Multi-duty pick


everstart-portable.jpg

Walmart

Running: N/A | Engine start: 1200 amp | Maintain: N/A

This is another battery charger that I personally own, and I keep it in my car for roadside emergencies. Not only can it jumpstart your car and charge the battery, it also has a 500 watt power inverter for charging mobile devices and a 120 psi air compressor if you get a flat while you’re out and about. The built-in handle makes it easy to carry around, and it’s compact enough to keep in the trunk of my Trailblazer. It has a 120V outlet, 3 USB ports, push-button controls, and an easy-read LCD screen. The battery clamp cords are a bit on the short side, but since you don’t need to keep the unit plugged into a wall to use, it’s not much of an issue. 

Pros:

  • Air compressor
  • Power inverter
  • Built-in handle

Cons:

  • Short clamp cables
  • No trickle charge mode

How did we choose these car battery chargers?

I looked at a variety of retail prices to put together a list of car battery chargers to fit almost any budget and toolbox. I considered the needs of customers who may only want to have something on-hand for emergency charging as well as anyone who is serious about at-home car maintenance.

Which car battery charger is right for you?

If you want something to maintain your car or truck battery, choose a charger that is best suited for 12V batteries and is capable of at least 15 running amps. This way, you don’t damage anything, and it won’t take three days to charge your battery. For larger vehicles, you want something with a higher running and engine start amperage, while smaller batteries like those found in lawn mowers and motorcycles require a charger that is suited for 6V units.

How long does it take to charge a car battery with a charger?

It all depends on the running amperage of your charger and the amp hours rating of your car battery. The average car battery has a rating of 70 amp hours, so if you have a charger capable of 10 running amps, it’ll take about 7 hours to bring a battery back to full if it was run down completely. 

The best way to figure out charging time is to divide your battery’s amp hour rating by the running amp rating of your charger (70ah/10amp = 7 hours).

How long can a car battery sit before it loses charge?

It takes about a week of sitting idle for a car battery to drain down to the point where it won’t start the engine. If you work from home, or just generally don’t drive that much, you should start your car once a week and let it run for 5-10 minutes to maintain the battery as well as circulate engine oil to prevent clogging. Extreme temperatures can also drain your battery, including high heat in the summer and frigid nights in the winter; you’ll want to connect a trickle charger during temperature warnings to maintain your battery or drive more often.

Is it bad for a car battery to drain completely?

If it happens once, it’s not going to affect much. But if it happens fairly often, that’s an indicator of damaged posts in lead-acid batteries or other issues. Constantly draining and charging a battery can cause it to “bloat,” which could lead to dangerous cracking and leaking (battery acid is extremely caustic and toxic), or even explosions and fires. Corroded posts are an indicator of damage, so be on the look out for white or greenish, flaky build up where the wires connect to the battery. If it’s very light build-up, you can disconnect the battery from your car and clean the posts and connections with a wire brush. But if the build-up is excessive, it’s time to change out the battery. Thankfully, many automotive retailers give you discounts on new batteries if you bring the old one in to be recycled. 

Are there alternative car battery chargers worth considering?

Here are a few other car battery chargers available:

https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-car-battery-charger/