Choosing a Car Battery - Guide To Finding The Right Size & What You Need

Updated on March 19, 2016

A Do-It-Yourself Guide on How to Choose Your Car’s Battery

A do-it-yourself battery replacement is a real money-saver but you also have to be responsible with the proper disposal of your old battery.

The car battery is the power underneath the hood of your car. It provides electricity needed for door locks, sliding windows, lights, and other car accessories. Your car is dead, the moment your battery dies.

You must discard the old battery properly:

  1. recycling stations (look out for the orange outposts with covered containers); and,
  2. automotive supply stores (some shops pay cash or offer discounts in exchange to old batteries).

Discard Old Battery Here (Photo from Flickr)
Discard Old Battery Here (Photo from Flickr)

5 important factors in choosing a car battery:

  1. Size
  2. Brand
  3. Reserve capacity
  4. Age
  5. Cold-cranking amps

Different Group Sizes for Different Car Models:

  1. Size 75 - General Motors cars;
  2. Size 65 - big-bodied Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury cars;
  3. Size 35 - latest Honda, Nissan, and Toyota cars;
  4. Size 34 - Chrysler cars; and
  5. Size 34/78 - with 2 sets of terminals to fit some Chrysler and some General Motor models.

Power Under the Hood (Photo from Flickr)
Power Under the Hood (Photo from Flickr)


Size or Group Size refers to the height, width and length of the battery. They come in different group sizes to fit most car's battery tray. It is important that the battery should fit snugly and securely. Always refer to your car manufacturer's manual to know your car's specific battery group size. You may also consult the reference guides, which battery retailers provide, find out the appropriate battery size for your car.

Buying a wrong-sized battery will just be a waste of money and might just set off more damage to your car.

Car Battery Brands:

Original Battery for BMW (Photo from Flickr)
Original Battery for BMW (Photo from Flickr)

In the United States, a new car battery might cost up to $200, or more. To save money more efficiently: it is best to do a research for battery prices first before buying. Also learn to remove and to install your own car battery, to save on the installation fee.


Brand refers to the trademark given to a certain product. Sometimes it is the same with the manufacturer's name (i.e. Exide company produces batteries with same name).

Buying the battery brand specified in your owner's manual is the best way. But if that particular brand is too expensive and you want to do some cost-cutting, follow the specification requirement also found in the owner's manual.

Do not be tempted to buy the cheapest brand because it could turn as the most expensive battery you've ever bought. Cheap batteries may also be loaded with defects and can also be poor performers. A frequent battery change, which also entails repeated installation, will just definitely sucks up the money you've initially saved when you chose a cheap car battery.

Battery Service Centers that Install and Sell Reasonably-Priced Car Batteries:

  1. Firestone
  2. Goodyear
  3. Pep Boys
  4. Sears

3 Battery Manufacturers and their Battery Brands:

  1. Delphi - AC Delco and some EverStart;
  2. Exide - Champion, Exide, Napa, and some EverStart; and
  3. Johnson Controls Industries - Diehard (Sears), Duralast (AutoZone), Interstate, Kirkland (Costco), Motorcraft (Ford), and some EverStart.

You can also buy car batteries from local service stations and tune-up shops; however, the selection is limited and the stocks may not be fresh.

Battery Stores that Sell Very Low-Priced Car Batteries but sometimes No-Install:

  1. Kmart
  2. Target
  3. Trak Auto
  4. Wal-Mart
  5. Sam's Club

Car with Dead Battery Getting Towed (Photo from Flickr)
Car with Dead Battery Getting Towed (Photo from Flickr)
RC rating on Battery Label (Photo courtesy of diynetwork)
RC rating on Battery Label (Photo courtesy of diynetwork)

Reserve Capacity

Reserve capacity rating (RC) refers to the battery's ‘standing power'. This is the amount of minutes the battery can continuously supply minimum voltage needed to run a car should the car's alternator or fan belt fail. With an excellent reserve capacity rating, your car can run on the battery alone when the alternator stops working.

The RC rating of a battery is listed in minutes. You may not find the RC rating on the battery because it is not usually printed on the label. Check the product literature or ask the store assistant to find out the true RC rating of a particular battery.

The longer the operating time of the battery' reserve capacity, the better; because this is the one quality of the battery that could save you from getting stranded. Consider the RC rating as your car's emergency kit. In times of unexpected trouble, you can still run to safety instead of getting stuck somewhere.

IMPORTANT: You cannot just pick and buy a battery with the longest reserve capacity you can find. Consult your owner's manual to learn the recommended reserve capacity rating for your particular car model. It is best practice to choose the exact RC rating that your vehicle can handle.

Fresh Car Battery (Photo from Flickr)
Fresh Car Battery (Photo from Flickr)

If you see this date code on a battery ‘L7', which means December 2007, grab this battery because it is really fresh. (It's only 4 months old, if you're buying this April 2008.)


The age of the battery gives you an idea on how long it should be able to perform. A battery is considered ‘fresh' if it is less than 6 months old.

Look for the manufacturing date. Most date codes are stamped on the battery case or label. Important battery information usually starts with 2 characters:

  1. Letter - indicates the month (Example: A is January; B is February; C is March...), and
  2. Digit - indicates the year (Example: 9 for 1999, 0 for 2000, 1 for 2001...)

A Snow-Covered Car (Photo from Flickr)
A Snow-Covered Car (Photo from Flickr)
Cables of New Battery (Photo from Flickr)
Cables of New Battery (Photo from Flickr)

Cold-Cranking Amps

Cold-cranking amps (CCA) measure the battery's ability to start your car even on an extremely cold weather. During freezing condition, your car will be hard to start (or to ignite) because the car's engine oil thickens and chemical reactions, in turn, slow down.

The cold-cranking amps also refer to the number of amps a battery will be able to support for 30 seconds at 0 degree temperature (until battery voltage reaches below minimum level).

Choosing a battery with a high number of CCA is better; particularly to those vehicles being driven in a cold climate. A higher cold- cramping amps assure that your car's engine will start obediently even on snowy mornings.

CCA and CA ratings on Battery Label (Photo Courtesy of diynetwork)
CCA and CA ratings on Battery Label (Photo Courtesy of diynetwork)

Car Battery - is a type of battery that can be recharged. Its main purpose is to supply electricity to a vehicle. Car battery is also referred as an SLI battery. Starting-Lighting-Ignition: to give power to the starter motor, the lights, and the ignition system of a car engine.

A Dirty Battery is Weak (Photo from Flickr)
A Dirty Battery is Weak (Photo from Flickr)

Cranking (starting) - also known as shallow cycle type, intended to release rapid surges of energy to start a vehicle's engine.

Obviously, you won't have to bother with much CCA if you're living in a tropical or warm climate. Since the sole purpose of your car battery is to spurt electricity to crank your car's engine and also to supply power other car's accessories.

Difference between CCA and CA

CCA (cold-cranking amps) - indicate how much electrical power the car battery can deliver to the car's starter engine, at zero degree Fahrenheit.

CA (cranking amps) - This is another measure of electric current in the battery, taken at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or at freezing point. When seen on battery case or label, the CA rating is usually higher than the CCA rating.

Tips on Choosing the Suitable Cold-Cranking Amps Rating for your Car Battery:

  1. Check your owner's manual and follow the CCA rating specified for your car battery.
  2. Do not choose batteries with CCA rating which is much lower or much higher to the rating recommended by your car's manufacturer, as well as those CCA rating of 200 amps or more.
  3. If both your car's battery brand and exact CCA rating level are not available, you may choose a bit higher (not much and not lower) your car's CCA requirements.

A Vintage Car Battery (Photo from Flickr)
A Vintage Car Battery (Photo from Flickr)

More Tips on Car Batteries:

  1. Warranty-covered cars and trucks - If your battery is covered by your vehicle warranty, go to your car dealer to claim some discounts. You must check thoroughly that everything is in order before buying though. Otherwise, the discount you got will be paid for purchase and re-installation fee of replacement battery.
  2. Older models of cars and vehicles which should be beyond their warranties must go to any service centers which could cater to all your battery needs at reasonable prices. If you have no choice but go to your car dealer, prepare a higher budget for your new automotive battery because these services tend to be more expensive.
  3. Do not install used batteries. It will be extremely dangerous.
  4. When your car coughed during start-up, pull over to a garage and ask a mechanic to ‘load' your battery. It should be able to hold a charge properly.
  5. At first sign of battery trouble, start scouting around for a new car battery. You won't get a good buy when you're stranded with a dead car battery.
  6. A new car will normally need a battery change after more than 3 years.
  7. If your battery's the unsealed type, you must add water to avoid drying up. Here's how to put water in the battery: twist open the cap and top up with distilled water. This will give your battery a longer life.
  8. Put back the battery hold properly to secure the car battery on its tray, if your car has one.
  9. Car batteries are NOT ‘maintenance free'. You must check the battery regularly. Keep the terminals, cables, and connectors clean and free from corrosion. Here's how to clean the battery: use a wire brush and baking soda/water mixture to scrub away the growth of whitish, greenish, and bluish stuff on the battery terminals.
  10. Check the battery connections. Make sure that the cables and posts are well connected. To keep off corrosion much longer, rub a bit of petroleum jelly to each battery posts. This will help the cable slip back easily.
  11. Carry a portable battery charger inside your car for emergency use, but be sure to know how to use the gadget.
  12. ‘Jump starting' a dying battery is known to save a car battery-and some money, too; but do not attempt this without complete knowledge on the correct procedure. Wrong wiring connections will cause damage to engine control and other electronic parts of your car.

How to Change a Car Battery - Part 1

How to Change a Car Battery - Part 2

How to Jump Start a Car : Connecting Jumper Cables to the Dead Car Battery

How to Jump Start a Car : Charging the Dead Car Battery

Tips on Extending the Life of Car Batteries

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        2 years ago

        This is one outstanding article...Wish they would do it for ALL major issues like brakes, tires, belts to educate those of us NOT "in the know" !!!! Wonderful help!!!

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        If there ar no more 36R batteries in my area, what other battery would work.

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        Great info to have and use .... Thxs

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Great tips on how to choose the right car battery. Voted up for useful!

      • koustubh profile image


        6 years ago from Mangalore, India

        Nice article

        keep writing

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        I know nothing

      • profile image


        7 years ago


        I am using a 12Vdc motor on a mini truck. Connected to it is a pick and carry hydraulic power unit. The DC motor of the hydraulic power unit is 12VDC, 1.5Kw, 210A (nominal) and can be run on a maximum - 2Kw, 310Amps.

        after about 10-12 cycles (each cycle is 80 sec) the new battery drains. we are using a 70AH 12V battery.

        Please suggest suitable battery with the correct AH value?

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Hi, i have a car battery with the following specifications:

        12V 65RC 390A 43Ah. Can you explain them??

      • profile image

        μεταχειρισμενα αυτοκινητα 

        7 years ago

        I don't know how to change the battery of my ?????????????? ?????????? but thank to your hub.It gives me ideas and tips on how to choose a better replacement for my old ones.

      • profile image

        jump program 

        8 years ago

        Nice post here. I was looking also for the right battery for my car. Thanks for posting this info. I'll consider this.

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Choosing a car battery does not have to be a difficult task. You can ask for help, or find out the information for yourself. You can also replace the dead battery yourself as it is a pretty simple process. Batteries come in all sizes and are designed especially for certain cars. You can find batteries at Auto Zone, Wal-Mart and other retailers that sell car parts and accessories.

      • profile image

        Art Jewelry 

        8 years ago

        My battery was dead today.

        It was only two years old. I thought that it should last longer, but after reading your article I realize that it is normal for a cheap battery like the one that I bought.

        Thanks for the great info.

      • profile image

        Jump Manual 

        8 years ago

        Very informative blog nd it really help me in selecting my Car battery.

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Hello sales,

        I am Interested In Purchasing some Items Product In your Store,And I want to know If you ship to Australia,and I will like to know If you accept Credit Card for the Payment of the Order,So I need to read back from you and I will be glad if you can assist me with these Purchase of my Order,Also e-mail me back with your Website Store,So that I can take a look for what I will Purchase in your Store.

        Looking to read back from you soon.

        Thank you.

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Besides a low starting price repossessed cars on sale auctions offer quality cars in a lot of ways, most of the cars are in top condition and will look quite new with the warrant still on. There are no pieces of junk in fact, you will be amazed at how unbelievably good and well maintained these cars are being sold at a price that even teenagers can afford.

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        My ex husband left a new auto battery sitting in the storage barn. How long will a new battery hold it's charge?

      • snow2010 profile image


        8 years ago from New York

        great hubpages car battery, if you want to change your auto batteries, here is a video tips for you to learn.

      • profile image


        8 years ago


        It sounds to me like your choice of the primary "value" rating (amp-hours) is based on the assumption that the value comes from how many amp-hours the battery can put out before it runs out of sufficient voltage. However, your typical vehicle user depends on the alternator to put out ALL of the amps used (except during starting, but even those amp-hours get recharged by the alternator). Battery amp-hours are only important if you plan on running your battery for extended periods, right? That is something that perhaps an RV'er might be interested in, but other vehicle owners only need enough amp-hours to get their engine cranked, plus a safety margin.

      • profile image

        John Best 

        8 years ago

        What about the most fundamental measure of battery capacity, the AMP-HOUR rating? Years ago anyone who knew the most basic things knew that to make a truly informed comparison, you looked at the AMP-HOURS compared to the prices. Just a few years ago, it used to be stamped on the battery. A high AMP-HOUR rating for the dollar is precisely the fundamental measure of battery value. Other so-called 'parameters' are at best secondary in importance. Seriously, what am I missing here?

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        Yes, a group 48 will physically fit where a group 91 was. The only possible issue with the group 48 battery, it may have less CCA than your original battery. Try it, it will be fine and will certainly cause no harm. Watch the polarity of the connections.

      • profile image

        Jim Brix 

        9 years ago

        Is a group 48 battery compatable with a group 91 battery? I was told I can use either one of these on my car. I have a 2002 Landrover Freelander with a group 91 battery on it now. It, has a bad cell. I have a group 48 battery in my garage that I can use but want to make sure before I install it.

        Thank you

      • profile image

        sunilkumar boregowda 

        9 years ago

        Thanks for the Information. Helped me a lot for buying a battery.

      • profile image

        Lori Catz 

        9 years ago

        Does every state recycle car batteries?

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        I've trusted my batteries to places like Autozone, simply because they can find the right battery for your car and insure it, so if anything goes wrong before a certain period of time, you get a replacement for free.

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        nice one, folk! i use Marathon here and it's quite durable

      • profile image

        Shannon Paulk 

        9 years ago

        Since many of us our driving our cars for a longer period of time due to the slow economy, keeping your battery healthy is an issue many are now forced to deal with. Good info.

      • profile image

        DIY Grandma 

        9 years ago

        I applaud the effort, but would suggest some improvement. For example what does "Do not choose batteries with CCA rating which is much lower or much higher TO the rating recommended by your car's manufacturer, as well as those CCA rating of 200 amps or more." mean? My car (’91 Deville - luxurious “beast”) requires 770 CCA. I put in a 36/96 850 CCA battery w/ 100 hours of RC & 3 years of free roadside battery service all for just under $55! (Black Friday weekend $10 off sale + Manufacturer’s $20 rebate + $10 core refund at PepBoys) Before that I had unfortunate experience of having an ignorant mechanic put in a battery with only 675 CCA & had nothing but trouble with it. So I decided to do it myself side-terminals & all. My car started right up - better than it had in years!

        Take a look at (starting with “Replacement Batteries” about half way down) if you need more information. (You can read about the author & website owner here: I have no relationship to him or his site whatsoever - don’t even know him. But I have found the info I’ve needed on his site many times in the past several years. I’m a grandmother (of 2 teenagers) trying to keep my car running as long as I can, not a mechanic.

        What do you think would happen if you filled the cells to the top as instructed in “Here's how to put water in the battery: twist open the cap and top up with distilled water”? Have you ever seen a battery “boil over”? I have. Spilled battery acid is bad news! Sulfuric acid is nasty stuff & it eats skin for an appetizer & steel for lunch! You only need to keep the lead plates inside the battery covered. Do NOT fill it to the top! Most batteries have a mark or some type of indicator about 1 to 1&1/2 inches below the top. THAT’s the level you fill it to. Most batteries have two rectangular caps on top. Each covers 3 of the 6 cells. These need to be carefully pried off with a flat screwdriver. (Don’t let the metal part of the screwdriver touch any metal part of the battery connections!) Be sure to replace the caps by firmly pushing them down as far as they will go.

        Don’t touch the whitish, bluish, greenish stuff with your bare skin either. If you do, you’ll definitely feel it burn. Rinse it off immediately. Think of the horror scenes in movies where someone falls into a vat of acid. Yeah, battery acid IS that stuff for real. If you mix baking soda into the petroleum jelly you put on the terminals, it will deter formation of that whitish bluish greenish stuff which is actually concentrated sulfuric acid with a very low (acid) pH of about 0.1. It only has a pH of about 0.5 diluted in water in the battery. Don’t get it on your clothes either - it will eat right through them. Be especially careful to wear eye protection. Battery acid can cause severe eye damage.

      • profile image

        car repair garages 

        9 years ago

        You'd need a car repair garage to install it though, wouldn't you?

      • Hugo Diaz profile image

        Hugo Diaz 

        9 years ago from Minnesota

        Lots of good tips. Thanks

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        Thanks for all the info. I've needed to jump my car 3 times out of the last 4 times I've turned it on. Time for a new battery!!

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        Costco Kirkland Brand batteries are made by Johnson Controls. I've had very good luck with them. I've tried just about every brand from AC Delco, Exide, etc. I have not had very good luck with their deep cycle boat batteries though which is where Johnson Controls built their reputation. It could have been my fault for letting it get too run down though.

      • profile image

        MarkS - Venture17 - Lafayette, etc. 

        9 years ago

        A few corrections-

        The two cranking amp numbers displayed on batteries are most often CCA (taken at 30F) and HCA (taken at 80F). HCA is not nearly as important for anyone who actually lives where the temps drop below 60F, but as you note, sounds good.

        If the battery is the correct BCI number (e.g. 24F, 35, etc.) then the higher the CCA and RC, the better. There's no "only a little higher" limit, except that it doesn't pay to spend significant change on a battery with higher ratings than specified for your vehicle, unless you have added a lot of power hungry equipment to it. But if prices are comparable, you will generally get more life (barring broken plates) out of a battery with higher CCA and RC ratings.

        Do NOT use a common wire brush to wet scrub exposed battery terminals. Accidentally shorting the battery terminals can result in burns, or even an explosion. Specialized terminal cleaners are fine, and use a fiber or plastic bristle brush to scrub the battery case. Make sure none of the baking soda you use ends up going into the cells of the battery (that will partially neutralize the battery acid).

        Topping off (only to the full level line) with distilled water IS a good recommendation. Some water is lost over time as hydrogen and oxygen (gas), as well as evaporation, even in "maintenance free" batteries. Under normal conditions, checking the levels by carefully removing the caps once every 12 - 18 months should be sufficient.

        In general automotive use, batteries will last 4 to 5 yrs -some may only go 2 1/2 yrs, some may go 7 (the extremes are rare). Greatly discharging a battery, or jostling around a discharged battery is very damaging.

        Beyond that, I think you have a great article.

      • profile image

        Philip Siddoway 

        10 years ago

        Is there a list of good, better or best batteries, so I know which ones to stay away from. Is there a list of which batteries have the most warranty batteries. Thank you. PMS

      • profile image

        vertical jump training 

        10 years ago

        Hi..Some nice writing and good information.I do agree with this.. You keep rocking..Thanks for the excellent Hub!..keep going on with the good process..I was still wondering at your info's ideas.Thanks for sharing the ideas..The videos were very helpful!Great Hub

      • Live N Learn profile imageAUTHOR

        Live N Learn 

        10 years ago from Las Vegas

        Hello, Rhys! Thank you for reading this hub. I used the phrase 'a little bit more' because I couldn't specify the figure since different cars have different auto manufacturer's manual. Please refer to your manual so that you will be able to determine what is the right capacity of battery that your car needs. I hope this reply helps. :)

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        I am living in the middle east and customer service is a mirage on the horizon. I need a group 48 battery for my Audi and the only one I could find that wasn't at the dealer was 100Ah instead of 80ah. I called a mechanic in the US and he said it doesn't matter but here you say it should only be "a little bit more." So what's a little and what could go wrong if you have too much capacity?

      • Live N Learn profile imageAUTHOR

        Live N Learn 

        10 years ago from Las Vegas

        Hello, chloesdad! Taking good care of your car is one of the real money savers. A happy car won't leave you stranded :)

      • chloesdad profile image

        Jeff M 

        10 years ago from Newington NH

        A great step-by-step hub for even the most uneducated in car maintainence! Thanks!

      • Live N Learn profile imageAUTHOR

        Live N Learn 

        10 years ago from Las Vegas

        Thank you for the warm appreciation, sherlynavia! I'm a fan of yours :-)

      • profile image


        10 years ago from United States

        This is an incredibly useful resource to everyone.

      • Live N Learn profile imageAUTHOR

        Live N Learn 

        10 years ago from Las Vegas

        Thanks! I'm happy I helped:)

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        When i go for new batteries i will surely use your tips

      • profile image

        Free Car Quotes 

        10 years ago

        Great Hub you have here :) please read my new hub about getting free online car quotes...

      • Live N Learn profile imageAUTHOR

        Live N Learn 

        11 years ago from Las Vegas

        Thank you once again, Angela Harris! Batteries provide power to our cars so we should pay special attention to them as we do to other automotive parts of our vehicles.

      • Angela Harris profile image

        Angela Harris 

        11 years ago from Around the USA

        I had no idea there was so much to know about buying a car battery. Thanks for the automotive education.


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