If your car won’t start or if you simply keep it in storage over the winter, a battery charger will be necessary to get it going again. Well, unless you want to buy a new battery that is (trust us, you don’t). Car battery chargers work in a similar manner to your regular phone charger, in that they attach to the main electricity household socket at one end and the battery terminals at the other. They can charge a battery which is running low or maintain one which isn’t being used. Also, if you have a motorcycle, we’ve written a best motorcycle battery charger article before!
Most battery chargers offer three basic features. The first one we already mentioned, and it’s maintenance charging. Sometimes referred to as ‘trickle’ charging, with maintenance charging the charger sends a small amount of electricity to the battery, keeping it healthy and in good shape for long periods of time. Then we have conventional charging. In this case, the charger sends all of its available power to the battery to charge it up from a low amount of power. Although the process can take anywhere between 6 and 24 hours, on average 10 hours will be more than enough. Last but not least, you can use a charger’s engine start function to practically jumpstart the car back into life. Because it requires a lot of power, you’ll mostly find it on heavy-duty chargers though.
Determining Battery Size
By size we mean the amount of amp hours your battery can store, not its actual, physical size. Most full-size car batteries store about 50 amp hours, so a 10 amp charger will recharge it completely in 6 hours. Larger pickup or truck batteries can offer as much as 100 amp hours of power. A 10 amp charger would need 11 hours to fully charge it, so you’re better off getting a larger charger as well. A good rule of thumb when calculation charging time is to divide the amp hour rating of the battery with the charger rating and add about 10 percent on top. Although you can technically recharge any battery with any charger, it will take a long time in some situations.
Best Car Battery Chargers
|Car Battery Charger||Brand||Power|
|NOCO Genius G3500 UltraSafe||NOCO Genius||0.75-26 Amp|
|Schumacher SEM-1562A-CA Speed Charge||Schumacher||1.5 Amp|
|Schumacher SE-5212A||Schumacher||2-50 Amp|
|Battery Tender Plus 021-0128||Battery Tender Plus||1.25 Amp|
|Black + Decker BM3B 6V and 12V||Black+Decker||1 Amp|
Lastly, if you currently have an old car battery that just won’t charge anymore, it might be the battery instead of the charger. In that case you might want to check out our best car battery guide.
NOCO Genius G3500 6V/1V 3.5A UltraSafe
If you want the best car battery charger on the market, look no further. NOCO really is a ‘Genius’ when it comes to battery chargers. They’ve been in the market for as long as anyone else, earning most people’s trust and loyalty with powerful, reliable and efficient products. Products like this Genius G3500 for example. The unit itself is incredibly compact, fitting in the palm of your hand very easily. It feels like a high-quality product as well. You can tell a lot of research and development went into it, as it feels like it was meant to last a long, long time.
NOCO Genius G3500 UltraSafe Key Specs
- Power: .75-26 Amp
- 7 Different versions available
Available in seven different versions, the weakest .75 Amp unit is also the most affordable one. Charging takes considerably longer compared to the 15 or 26 Amp chargers for instance, but if you don’t mind a longer wait, it’s basically the same charger inside. Want out recommendation? Go for the 3.5 Amp or the 4-Bank 4.4 Amp version. They don’t call it a golden middle for nothing.
The G3500 is well suited to both drained lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries up to 120Ah, including ones designed for ATVs, motorcycles, cars and trucks. The charger monitors battery activity to ensure safe and efficient charging, automatically minimizing energy consumption and switching off when not needed. The simple yet elegant LED indicators give you real-time feedback and diagnostic information, even when the charger is in maintenance mode. Add the fact that it comes with a five-year limited warranty, and there are no two ways about it: it’s the best car battery charger on the market hands down.
Schumacher SEM-1562A-CA 1.5 Amp Speed Charge
Choosing to name your company after the most successful racing driver of all time takes a bit of bravery. You have to be certain your products will deliver and won’t disappoint. Thankfully, we can confirm that the Schumacher battery charger won’t let you down at all.
Schumacher SEM-1562A-CA Speed Charge Key Specs
- Power: 1.5 Amp
- Both 6 and 12 volt available
Sold as a 6-volt and 12-volt charger, the SEM-1562A will effectively charge any car battery. It automatically monitors the state of the battery, changing from full-charge to float-mode monitoring in order to prevent overcharging. The 1.5 Amp of available power makes it more than decent at charging batteries from low power, but it really shines at keeping them charged while the vehicle is in storage. There’s a disconnect harness for easy removal and reverse hookup protection in case you accidentally connect the wrong terminals. The only reason it got second and not first is because it only comes in a 1.5 Amp version. The bang for buck factor is probably greater than that of the NOCO Genius, but it doesn’t provide as much feedback and the 1.5 Amp power rating might prove to be a bit too low for some people.
Schumacher SE-5212A 2/10/50
The SE-5212A is the SE-1562A’s bigger brother, offering the same image and reliability with increased capabilities. The handheld battery charger comes with a built-in, automatic 12-volt battery charger and LED lights to keep the user informed of the charging operation. As a portable charger, it’s probably one of the best.
Schumacher SE-5212A Key Specs
- Power: 2-50 Amp
- Most powerful battery charger
Power is perhaps the Schumacher 5212A’s strongest side. It comes with three different power ratings, switchable through the unit’s interface. The 2 Amp mode is ideal if you want to use it for maintenance applications, but it’s the 50 Amp power rating which really impressed us. It is the most powerful car battery charger here, but power isn’t everything. It isn’t as well built as the NOCO, but comes close nonetheless. The Genius’ superior warranty and user interface means Schumacher has to settle with third.
Battery Tender Plus 021-0128
Battery Tender Plus’ 021-0128 Smart charger is a ‘plug it and forget it’ type of deal. Out of all the chargers on this list, it’s by far and away the easiest to use and get to grips with. The friendly, minimalist design with just two LED lights doesn’t provide a lot of feedback, but it also means you can’t mess things up, no matter how hard you try.
Battery Tender Plus 021-0128 Key Specs
- Power: 1.25 Amp
- Temperature compensated
It comes with a variety of features to protect both you and your battery. For starters, it’s temperature compensated to ensure optimum charge voltage according to the ambient temperature. Like most smart chargers, the Battery Tender Plus will automatically switch from full-charge mode to float-mode to prevent overcharging. It boasts reverse-polarity protection to ensure the user’s safety, and a really appealing green/yellow color combination.
The premium price it commands would have been justified had it not been for the fact that it can only output 1.25 Amps of power. It’s more than enough for most people, but the car chargers we mentioned earlier all offer more raw power for a whole lot less. If an hour or two aren’t that important to you, go for the Battery Tender Plus and you’ll never worry about your car’s battery ever again.
Black + Decker BM3B 6V and 12V
Black and Decker is a well-known power tools manufacturer, but they aren’t afraid to get involved in other markets. The BM3B is a great charger if you want an inexpensive option which won’t let you down. It’s suitable for 6V and 12V batteries, and is easily connected thanks to the included battery clips, O-ring terminals/vehicle DC plugs.
Black + Decker BM3B 6V and 12V Key Specs
- Power: 1 Amp
- Slow but steady budget model
The BM3B is by far and away the least powerful of the bunch, but it gets the job done… eventually. Black & Decker make more powerful 15 and 25 Amp chargers as well, but they’re in a different price bracket, at which point you’re better off with the Schumacher or NOCO charging solutions. It does come with a one-year warranty to offer you peace of mind.
NOCO’s Genius really is the do-it-all car charger. If you don’t mind the small premium associated with it, it’s a no-brainer. Both of Schumacher’s offerings come in at a close second and third, just shy of beating the NOCO. The Battery Tender Plus is as close to a ‘plug and play’ charger as you’re going to get. It doesn’t get the fancy LED lights, but it is bulletproof thanks to several safety features. Lastly, if you’re on a limited budget, we recommend the Black and Decker BM3B. It’s the best ‘budget’ car charger, but you will have to deal with a slightly longer charging time due to its 1 Amp maximum power output.