Jump-starting your car battery every time you want to drive is a pain. For one thing, it requires a second vehicle, which is a luxury many people don’t have in their moment of need. Luckily, there are plenty of portable car battery chargers on the market that can not only keep your battery charged but ensure it’s operating at optimal efficiency. Here are some top-rated models we recommend.
Why buy a portable car battery charger?
Car batteries degrade over time and usually seem to fail when you need your vehicle the most, forcing you to grab your jumper cables at the most inconvenient of times. However, many portable car battery chargers can not only jump-start or charge a dead car battery but recondition a compromised battery to improve its long-term performance. Most car battery chargers also offer excellent safety features that prevent sparks, explosions, and other threats that can jeopardize your car battery as well as your health.
What should you look for in a portable car battery charger?
- Compatibility: Depending on the type of vehicle you use, not every car battery charger will be up to the task. Most commuter vehicles (including cars, trucks, and SUVs) run on 12-volt batteries, so make sure the portable car battery charger you choose is suitable for your car’s battery. If your new charger will be used for jump-starting batteries and charging them, be sure it packs enough cranking amps for your vehicles.
- Charge Speed: A portable battery charger’s amperage will help determine how quickly your battery gets charged. A 1-amp mini-charger might be able to charge your large 12-volt truck battery, but expect this to take quite a few days. If time is of the essence, choose a multi-stage battery charger with plenty of amps for a reliably quick charge.
- Features: Look for a portable car battery charger that features smart charging technology. This allows the charger to make minute changes to prevent overcharging or undercharging in certain climates. Smart chargers are also known to automatically switch from regular charging to trickle charging in order to protect your battery and often come equipped with advanced modes that can detect issues with your battery or restore a compromised battery for better performance.
What is the difference between a portable car battery charger and a portable jump starter?
Car battery chargers and portable jump starters are sometimes used interchangeably but are two different products. Portable car battery chargers must be paired with a stable electricity source in order to charge your vehicle’s battery. This makes them perfect for charging and maintaining older batteries or revitalizing a battery after a vehicle’s lights have been left on overnight. On the other hand, portable jump starters are pre-charged in order to jump-start your battery without the use of an electrical outlet. As such, these are extremely useful for roadside emergencies when your car fails to start. However, you will need to drive around in order for your battery to recharge or charge it once you get home with a car battery charger.
NOCO Boost HD GB70
Once charged, this handy device can jump-start larger gas engines and some diesel engines with ease.
Pros: If your car’s battery is prone to dying at the worst times imaginable, the NOCO Boost HD GB70 can save you a lot of time and trouble. This highly-rated product packs 2,000 amps, making it powerful enough to jump-start more demanding engines, such as 8-liter gas engines or 6-liter diesel engines. It also holds its charge extremely well and gets up to 40 jump starts per charge, meaning you won’t need electricity in order to get your car started. This product can also be used as a power bank to charge your phone and other electronics, making it a stellar value for the price.
Cons: Unlike the other products featured in this guide, the NOCO Boost HD GB70 requires you to drive your vehicle around after jump-starting it so that your car’s alternator can replenish your battery’s charge. Thus, while this product will get your vehicle running, it isn’t designed to charge your car’s battery for long periods.
Bottom Line: While this product is more expensive than other top car battery chargers, its usefulness in emergency situations and impressive power make it a must-have for those who frequently experience dead car batteries.
STANLEY BC25BS Smart 12V Battery Charger
This car battery charger stands out for its simple three-stage charging and its handy reconditioning mode.
Pros: If you’re seeking a portable car battery charger that can extend the lifecycle of your car’s battery, the STANLEY BC25BS Smart 12V Battery Charger is a wise choice. This car battery charger features three-stage charging, so it switches from its fast charging mode to top-off or trickle mode automatically in order to prevent damage to your battery. It also sports a handy reconditioning mode (among other nifty features) that can turn back the clock on an old battery that’s well past its prime. Factor in its robust safety features, and you can see why so many reviewers rave about this charger.
Cons: This car battery charger received some polarizing reviews in terms of its ease of use, with some reviewers noting that the included instructions are confusing. While not everyone will struggle using this product, those who are new to the world of car battery chargers should take their time when reading the product’s instructions and learning about its various modes and features.
Bottom Line: While this charger won’t get your car running in the middle of nowhere (it needs electricity in order to do its job), it’s a dream come true for garages that are no stranger to project cars and faulty car batteries. It’s also extremely well made for the price, making it one of the most durable options at its price point.
NOCO GENIUS1 Smart Charger
This compact car battery charger is a budget-friendly way to charge car batteries at home.
Pros: Looking for a great value? The NOCO GENIUS1 Smart Charger costs less than a date night but packs some serious functionality. Despite its compact size, this portable battery charger can be used to charge 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries, including heavy hitters that power big 8-cylinder engines. Its trickle-charge functionality and maintenance mode also ensure that it can be hooked up to your car battery when you are out of the room, making it a great option for those who plan on charging their car battery overnight.
Cons: Ultimately, this is a 1-amp car battery charger, so those with big, demanding car batteries will need to exercise some patience when using this product. If charging speed is a primary factor for you, a heavy-duty bulk charger is probably a better (albeit more expensive) product to invest in.
Bottom Line: While this product won’t win many competitions in terms of charging speed, it’s hard to fault it, given its budget price point and dependable performance. It’s also easy to use compared to similar car battery chargers, making it an enticing option for those seeking something safe and affordable.
Schumacher SC1280 Fully Automatic Battery Charger
This portable car battery charger sports a speedy 15-amp rapid charge mode to get the job done fast.
Pros: Featuring an easy-to-read LED display and multi-stage charging, the Schumacher SC1280 Fully Automatic Battery Charger can get the job done quickly, thanks to its speedy 15-amp rapid charge capability. It also sports reverse-polarity protection to keep things safe for newbies, and a handy START/STOP button so that you can instantly stop charging at the first sign of a problem. If you’re looking for a car battery charger that is fast, effective, and affordable, this one is worth considering.
Cons: Some reviewers were not fond of how this charger’s display enters sleep mode while the charger is still doing its job, and it’s easy to see why. Others noted that the battery clamps are slightly undersized when working with larger batteries, although they should be an ideal fit for most car batteries.
Bottom Line: Overall, this charger brings a lot of value to the table for those seeking a product with a more detailed display. It also charges batteries considerably faster than many other options at its price point, but still has multi-stage charging to help prevent overcharging your battery.
ABLY Car Battery Charger
This highly-rated car battery charger works with 12-volt and 24-volt batteries, making it perfect for heavy-duty applications.
Pros: This highly-rated and budget-friendly portable car battery charger from ABLY scores points for its high-quality clamps and powerful charging options. In fact, it’s one of the few chargers in its price range that can charge 24-volt batteries. Of course, it also works well with standard 12-volt car batteries and sports enough safety features (including short circuit, low voltage, and overcurrent protection) to make it an amazing value for your money.
Cons: Unlike many portable battery chargers, this one will not work with 6-volt batteries, so those seeking a portable charger for their golf cart’s battery will probably have to look elsewhere. It’s also worth noting that some reviewers struggled with this product’s instruction manual.
Bottom Line: Although this portable battery charger would greatly benefit from a clear instruction manual, its design is intuitive enough for most to grasp quickly, assuming they have used a car battery charger in the past. That being said, it’s not the speediest charger on the market for those who want their car battery charged as quickly as possible.
Replacing a car battery can be incredibly expensive, and with so many affordable car battery chargers on the market, it’s easy to see why some folks opt to simply charge and maintain their battery with a charger. These options will do the job well.