Best car battery chargers 2022: Avoid a flat battery and time-consuming car trouble
That sinking feeling when your engine won’t turn over is one of the most unwelcome of emotions, but almost every driver has been there at some point or another. While a call to your breakdown service wll fix the issue, the best car battery chargers can help you mitigate the disruption to your day, at your own will.
But buying a car battery charger isn’t the most straightforward task. Firstly, there are different types of car battery chargers to choose from. There’s also a choice of connectors, depending on whether you’re regularly maintaining your car battery or just recharging as a one-off.
From traditional car battery chargers to portable and solar powered ones, there are options available to suit a range of budgets. However, buying the cheapest doesn’t always mean bagging a bargain. If you’re caught with a flat battery, the very last thing you want to find out is that the tool you’ve invested in to remedy the matter is a dud.
With that said, read on for our buying guide on how to buy the right car battery charger for you, alongside our roundup of some of the best options available.
How to choose the best car battery charger for you
How do car batteries work?
The electronics in our vehicles are configured in a very smart way, in that they are almost always powered by the engine. As the crankshaft spins, not only does it force the pistons to propel the vehicle, but it also turns an alternator at the other end. This creates electricity to power the lights, computer units and put charge back into the car battery.
When a car isn’t driven, low-power features, such an immobiliser or alarm, continue to draw from the battery since there’s no power being generated by the alternator. At the end of lockdown restrictions, many drivers found that their car batteries were dead from their vehicles not being driven for several weeks.
Car batteries are not power banks, so they don’t store electricity. Without going into the science of it all, they generate the energy needed through lead-acid chemical reactions. When a car is started, a very high current is sent in a very short burst to the crankshaft to get it moving. The alternator then does all the work on the electricity front.
It’s important to note that car battery chargers are not jump starters. A jump starter will offer the engine the short burst needed to get it going, but from that point on, it’s the alternator that recharges the battery. This is why, if you’re ever jumpstarting your car, you’re asked to run it for a good while to replace enough of the battery, so that you don’t require a jump start when you come to drive again immediately after.
Which car battery charger is best?
The first question you should ask yourself is what you plan to use a car battery charger for. If you have a motorcycle or classic vehicle, you might wish to purchase one with eyelet connectors. These hook onto the positive and negative terminals of the battery permanently and are secured with nuts. The battery is then connected and disconnected from the charger through a cable, which enables easy access.
If you’re only needing a one-off charge, then easy-snap-on crocodile clips might be better. If you’re a flat dweller or your off-street parking doesn’t have a convenient access to mains power, you might need to consider a portable or solar power charger.
For more information, see our extended buyer’s guide below our mini-review roundup.
The best car battery chargers you can buy in 2022
1. NOCO Genius10 Smart Charger: Best portable car battery charger
Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon
One of the best names in the business, NOCO has a reputation for delivering innovative features with its battery devices. The compact NOCO Genius10 offers great value for money, and it’s smart enough to monitor the ambient temperature and adjust its charging rate to avoid degradation of the battery.
With a comprehensive array of modes, terrific build quality and intuitive functionality, the Genius10 is a bit of a, er, genius. If the price is a little bit beyond your budget, or you have a smaller vehicle, there are other NOCO Geniuses (Genii?) with lower amperage that will deliver enough for your needs.
Key specs – Size: 18.3cm x 9.4cm x 6cm (LWH); Weight: 1.5kg; Voltage: 6V, 12V; Max current: 10A; IP rating: IP65 Crocodile clips: Yes; Eyelet connectors: Yes; Torch feature: No; Mains or Portable: Portable; Battery Compliant: Lead-acid/AGM/Lithium+; Stop/Start compliant: Yes; Maintaining: Yes; Jumpstarting: No; Operating temp: 20-40°C
2. AA 12V Solar Trickle Charger: Best budget solar panel maintainer
Price: £43 | Buy now from Amazon
Got a vehicle that sits in the sun a fair bit between uses? This is a brilliant battery charger that uses solar power, so eventually it’ll earn its keep. While it won’t save you from an immediate flat battery situation, the solar panel sits on the dash, collecting sufficient energy to trickle charge the battery.
Now low-power functions, like the immobiliser, don’t have such a frustrating effect when you do come to start the car (after disconnecting first). What’s more, it switches into maintenance mode to protect the battery once it has been fully charged.
Key specs – Size: 44cm x 34.5cm x 6.2cm (LWH); Weight: 2.2kg; Voltage: 12V; Max current: <1A; IP rating: N/a; Crocodile clips: Yes; Eyelet connectors: No; Torch feature: No; Mains or Portable: Portable; Battery Compliant: Lead-acid/AGM/Lithium+; Stop/Start compliant: Yes; Maintaining: Yes; Jumpstarting: No; Operating temp: Unspecified
3. Ring Automotive RSC806 Smart Battery Charger: Best budget battery charger
Price: £31 | Buy now from Amazon
Ring, alongside NOCO and CTEK, has a good reputation, in combining cutting-edge tech with affordability. With a clear display, the RSC806 is lightweight and fairly intuitive to use (even if the instructions aren’t the best). Configured with ‘smart’ technology, the RSC806 not only reconditions the battery, but also features ‘cold weather mode’ for drivers in cooler climes. Depending on your levels of patience, budget and type of vehicle, the Ring smart charger also comes in 8A and 4A versions, better suited to vans and city cars respectively.
Key specs – Size: 18.3cm x 10.1cm x 6.3cm (LWH); Weight: 1.13kg; Voltage: 6V, 12V; Max current: 6A; IP rating: IP65; Crocodile clips: Yes; Eyelet connectors: No; Mains or Portable: Mains; Battery Compliant: Lead-acid/AGM/Lithium+; Stop/Start compliant: Yes; Maintaining: Yes; Jumpstarting: No; Operating temp: 20-50°C
4. CTEK (CS FREE) 12V Portable Charger: Best battery charger for versatility
Price: £286 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re shelling out this kind of cash, you want something that will deliver. The CTEK (CS Free) is a portable charger and a power bank. A hugely versatile device, the internal power bank supporting laptops and mobile devices as well as your car battery, it can provide an ‘Adaptive Boost’ jump in up to 15 minutes and stays charged up to a year: perfect for glovebox storage.
There’s an optional solar panel accessory (albeit a not-so-budget friendly £320 add-on) but the reputation of CTEK doesn’t falter. The build quality of this 4-in-1 charger is brilliant, easily justifying the bigger price tag.
Key specs – Size: 24.8cm x 9.8cm x 7.8cm (LWH); Weight: 1.4kg; Voltage: 20V; Max current: 130A; IP rating: IP65; Crocodile clips: Yes; Eyelet connectors: Yes (extra ££); Mains or Portable: Portable; Battery Compliant: Lead-acid/AGM/Lithium/LFP/EFb+; Stop/Start compliant: Yes; Maintaining: Yes; Jumpstarting: Yes; Operating temp: -20-50°C
5. Halfords Advanced Smart Battery Charger Plus: Best charger for simple use
Price: £45 | Buy now from Halfords
Supporting a wide range of battery types and start/stop technology, what this Halfords charger lacks in clear instructions it makes up for with its intuitive functionality, decent performance and lower price. The interface doesn’t feature a fancy LED screen, just simple lights and buttons which do exactly what they say on the tin.
A nicely sized, mains-powered device, you can indicate if it’s cold weather and the device will manage power delivery more intelligently to protect the battery. What’s more, there’s a choice of eyelet or crocodile connectors.
Key specs – Size: 16.8cm x 6.5cm x 3,8cm (LWH); Weight: 0.6kg; Voltage: 12V; Max current: 5A; IP rating: IP65; Crocodile clips: Yes; Eyelet connectors: Yes; Mains or Portable: Mains; Battery Compliant: Lead-acid/gel/Lithium+; Stop/Start compliant: Yes; Maintaining: Yes; Jumpstarting: No; Operating temp: 10-40°C
Best car battery chargers: Extended buyer’s guide
What else should I consider?
You also have to consider what kind of battery you have: lead-acid, AGM (an advanced version of lead-acid) or lithium-ion. Some batteries are versatile enough to support multiple technologies, others not so much. You often find versatility has a direct correlation with price.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the maximum current the charger can support (the higher the current, the faster the charge) and what IP (Ingress Protection) rating it has. This basically tells you how dust- and water-proof the device and device casing is. For instance, IP68 is a great rating: it’s a completely sealed unit that can tolerate being submerged in up to one metre of water. IP44 can protect against dust particles bigger than 1mm, and a light splash of water.
Can’t I just replace my car battery?
The materials used in a battery are susceptible to degradation, and user behaviour (among other factors such as weather and age), can affect the life of the battery’s materials.
Charge and discharge rates of mobile phone, electric vehicle and regular 12V car batteries are heavily researched by manufacturers to best understand what kind of life expectancy consumers can anticipate from their devices. Age can give you an indication of whether the battery is completely dead, or just flat, but trying to recondition an existing battery with a smart charger is ultimately cheaper than replacing it.