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Your child has a doctor’s appointment, so you hurry everyone out the door, pushing shoes onto wiggly feet while you strap everyone into car seats.
You breathe a sigh of relief because you’re going to make it on time! Then you drop into the driver’s seat and turn the key and… NOTHING HAPPENS. Your car battery is dead.
Have you been there? It’s the worst, isn’t it?
What Are the Signs my Car Battery Is dying?
Although many people are surprised by a dead car battery, there are usually signs that it’s going to happen. Here are the most common signs that your battery is dying:
- Difficulty starting the car first thing in the morning.
- Trouble starting the car when it’s cold outside.
- Dim headlights.
- Battery warning light on.
- Your battery is over 5 years old (they don’t last forever!)
How Can I Jump a Car If I’m Alone?
If you’ve got a dead car battery, you’ll want to try to jump it. But what do you do if you’re alone?
It’s an awful feeling when you have a dead car battery and no one to help you. Thankfully, there’s a pretty easy solution to this.
After I was stranded alone with a dead car battery at home several times, I purchased this rechargeable portable car battery jumper. It’s similar to a power bank for a phone (and can be used for charging phones too), but much more powerful.
Where Can I Buy a Car Battery?
The most common places to buy a car battery are:
- Car repair shop or dealership.
- Car parts store (Autozone, Napa, etc)
- Wholesale club (Sam’s Club or Costco)
How do I know which car battery to buy?
You can check your car’s manual to find out which size and type are recommended for your car. If you don’t have your manual handy, you can also read the label on the top of the battery that’s currently in the car.
I find the easiest way is to just use the car battery finder tool from the store you’re buying from. There are usually only a few choices that fit your vehicle.
Every store that sells car batteries will have a battery finder tool on their website and in-store. Or just ask an associate to help you if you’re in-store.
What are the Types of Car Batteries?
There are 2 main types of car batteries available:
- Lead Acid: These are the typical “regular” batteries that have been used in cars for decades. For most cars, these are fine.
- Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM): These modern batteries are built to handle more charging and discharging of the battery. They are becoming more common in modern cars, especially those with auto start/stop features.
Your car manual should tell you which type of battery you should use, but if you have a fuel-saving auto start-stop system, then you’re likely to need an AGM battery.
How Long of a Warranty Should I Get?
The options of batteries for your car will probably be different levels of warranty. 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and 5 years are the most common options.
In my opinion, it’s best to go with the longest warranty available at the store you’re purchasing it.
Should you go to a different store because they offer a longer warranty? If they’re the same price, it may be worth it for peace of mind, but it’s probably not worth paying significantly more for it.
What Is a battery Core Charge?
A core charge is an extra fee that you pay when buying a new battery until you return your old battery for recycling.
If you’re having your battery installed or bringing the old battery with you when you buy the new one, you should not have to pay a core charge.
If, on the other hand, you’re buying a new battery and you don’t have the old one with you, you’ll have to pay a core charge. If you return your old battery later, you can get the core charge refunded to you.
How Much Is a Battery Core Charge?
Core charges vary, but most seem to be around $15-20. It’s definitely worth your time to get your core charge refunded!
Which Brand of Car Battery is Best?
There are only 3 manufacturers of car batteries, but almost every store that sells them has its own name. They’re basically all the same.
The warranty will give you an idea of how long it should last. If it doesn’t last as long as expected, you have the warranty to back it up with a free or prorated cost replacement.
Where can I Have a Car Battery Installed for free?
Many stores that sell car batteries will install them for free.
Does Autozone Install Car Batteries?
Yes, Autozone installs batteries purchased from their store for free.
Does Advance Auto Parts Install Car Batteries?
Yes, Advance Auto Parts installs batteries purchased from their store for free.
Does NAPA Auto Parts Install Car Batteries?
Most NAPA Auto Parts stores do install batteries for free, but not all. You need to check with your local store.
Does Walmart Install Car Batteries?
Yes, Walmart installs car batteries purchased from their store for free in their auto care center (only in stores that have an auto care center).
They only offer installations during the hours that the service center is open, but you can buy batteries and get core refunds any time the store is open.
Does Costco Install Car Batteries?
Costco does NOT install car batteries. If you buy a battery from Costco, you’ll have to take care of the installation yourself.
Does sam’s club Install Car Batteries?
Yes, Sam’s Club installs car batteries for free in their tire & battery center.
Where Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Car Battery?
Comparing battery prices can be a little tricky when there are so many different sizes, but if you compare one size across several stores, it becomes pretty clear.
For example, I looked at current prices for a lead-acid battery size 96R. I chose this because it fits a Ford Escape, which is a very common car.
As you can see from the chart, many stores offer very similar prices on car batteries. Although this was only one size, this pattern seems to apply to all sizes. For this size:
- Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club were all about $100
- Auto parts stores were all about $160
You could save 37% by buying your car battery at Walmart, Costco, or Sam’s Club over an auto parts store!
Where is the cheapest place to have a car battery installed?
If you don’t want to install the car battery yourself, you’re best off going to a Walmart with a car care center or Sam’s Club, since Costco doesn’t do battery installations.
Summary: Best Place to Buy a Car Battery
So, where is the best place to buy a car battery? If you’re trying to save money, I’d steer clear of the auto parts stores. The best places to buy a car battery are:
- Sam’s Club: free installation, membership required
- Costco: no installation, membership required
- Walmart: free installation at locations with car care centers