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What’s the Difference Between Car Batteries and Marine Batteries?

Batteries Plus Blog - Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 7/6/2022

White Pickup truck with a boat on a trailer

While they look the same on the surface, automotive and marine batteries are very different. Can I use them interchangeably? What makes them unique from each other? Using them incorrectly or in the wrong application could mean spending hundreds of extra dollars that could have been easily avoided. Keep reading for valuable information on the inner workings of these common batteries.

Is a Marine Battery the Same as a Car Battery?

If you are new to boating, or even a seasoned veteran, you may wonder what makes these batteries so different. To the naked eye, both batteries look the same, but you will be surprised to find out that marine batteries have quite a bit more to offer than your traditional car battery.

Automotive

  • Made with more lead plates but also thinner to allow a higher discharge current to crank the engine.
  • Generally used only to start the engine.

Marine

  • Made with sturdier, thicker lead plates to withstand the shaking and vibrations of a harsh boating environment.
  • 15x more vibration resistant than traditional car batteries.
  • Terminals are designed specifically with boats in mind.
  • Comes in many forms: Starting, Deep Cycle, Dual Purpose (Starting and Deep Cycle) and Lithium Deep Cycle.

Are Marine Batteries Better Than Regular Batteries?

Marine batteries are designed for a specific purpose. They are not necessarily better or worse than other batteries, they are just meant to be used in a very specific application. Marine batteries are designed to be used in the harshest conditions when out on your boat. They will be able to withstand the bouncing, vibrations, and shaking that is common while out on the lake enjoying a day of watersports or fishing.

Marine batteries also come in different designs to suit your needs. Marine Starting batteries are designed to provide that jolt of power to start your boat's engine and then will recharge as you are out boating. If you need a workhorse battery that will start your boat and power the electronics, then the Marine Dual Purpose batteries are for you. For boats that have a lot of power demands, trolling motors, fish finders, etc. Marine Deep Cycle batteries will provide the power you need to run all of those toys.

For the relentless power to run your electronics longer and harder than ever before, check out the X2Power line of Marine Lithium Deep Cycle batteries that are only available at Batteries Plus. With 10x longer life and the ability to use the full power of the battery all the way down to 1% life, these batteries will provide you with the power you need to stay out all day with no worries about the battery draining.

Can You Use a Regular Car Battery on a Boat?

Marine batteries are designed and engineered for boats. Featuring threaded studs for eyelets to be connected easily, like your onboard chargers, and are constructed using materials that are suitable for the extreme conditions on the water to make them 15x more vibration resistant than traditional car batteries. Marine AGM batteries are also completely sealed so battery acid won't spill when hitting those big wakes.

There are almost as many applications for marine batteries as there are for automotive batteries. While some boat engines do not require a lot of power to start, other engines may require multiple batteries to start and operate all of the electronic accessories on the boat. It is ideal to look at the power demands for your boat and purchase a battery that fits those needs.

Is It Okay to Put a Marine Battery in a Car?

Marine batteries, or boat batteries, are built specifically for the harsh environments that boats are traveling through. That being said, technically, yes they can be used to power your car or truck. However, marine batteries are not always designed for cranking only. Marine batteries are also designed for deep continuous cycling. This means they are designed to be charged fully then discharged to 50% then charged back up to be used again. A car's alternator works to charge the battery every time the engine is started regardless of charge level.

Marine batteries, if used in a car or truck, will not last as long as traditional car batteries by charging the marine battery when it shouldn't be charged. In rare cases, using a marine battery in a car could potentially even reduce the lifespan of the electronics of the vehicle. While marine batteries are generally built better, they are not the ideal battery to be used in your car or truck.

What Is Special About a Marine Battery?

  • Marine batteries are built using stronger materials to be able to handle the rough environment inside a boat and make marine batteries 15% more resistant to vibrations.
  • Feature threaded terminals to easily connect electronics to the battery.
  • Boats don't drive on smooth roads or have suspension systems to keep the bumps at bay and therefore are built with a larger, stronger polyurethane casing to withstand the extra bumps.
  • Marine batteries also display different ratings. Your standard car or truck battery will be measured using Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) which tells you the Amps delivered at 0℉ whereas marine batteries list the Marine Cranking Amps (MCA) which tells the Amps delivered at 32℉ as well as the Cold Cranking Amps.
  • Marine batteries come in several different types to fit whatever need your boat has. Starting, Deep Cycle, Dual Purpose (Starting and Deep Cycle) and Lithium Deep Cycle are all available to address any power need on your boat.

Do I Really Need a Marine Battery for My Boat?

The most important thing to consider when purchasing a new battery for your boat is whether or not that battery fits the needs of your boat. Marine batteries come in several designs to provide a solution for your boat and are designed for the harsh environments seen with boats and are the clear choice for a replacement battery. There are four different types of batteries for marine applications: Starting, Dual Purpose, Deep Cycle and Lithium Deep Cycle that will offer a solution to any need your boat has.

Can You Jump-Start a Car With a Marine Battery?

Nothing is worse than having a fun-filled day out on the water fishing, wakeboarding, or spending time with your family on the pontoon than getting back to the car, turning the key, and finding out that your car battery is dead. You may be tempted to use your boat's battery to jump your car. While that may work, it may not be the best option. Using a marine battery to jump-start your car or truck could potentially introduce some unnecessary risks to your vehicle. Depending on the age and features of your vehicle you will be at a higher risk of damaging the electrical system in your car or truck.

The ideal choice, if another vehicle is not available, is to use a jump-pack that you can keep charged and stored in your glove box ready for use in this situation. Most newer jump-starters are small and lightweight to be transported easily and to always have on the ready.

Can I Use a Trickle Charger on a Marine Battery?

Absolutely! Trickle chargers are a great way to ensure your boat's battery stays healthy in the off-season, during long transport times and your boat isn't being used regularly. New chargers, like the NOCO GENPRO 10x1 are completely smart and automatic so not only is it a trickle charger but also a battery maintainer and desulfator. It is a single charger that can be used for many applications.

Using an onboard charger is the ideal solution for keeping your boat batteries charged and ready for the next adventure. These chargers can be permanently mounted inside your boat and are connected to the batteries at all times so when you get home after a long day on the water you can just plug in the charger to an extension cord and you are all set. The batteries will charge and will be maintained until your next trip out. Onboard chargers come in many sizes from single to four banks, charge up to four batteries at once, and are built to handle water. Check out our high-quality X2Power line of marine chargers to fit your needs.

Can a Marine Battery Charger Charge a Car Battery?

Most marine battery chargers are designed to be used with many types of batteries. You absolutely can use a marine battery charger to charge a car battery. The main difference between a marine charger and a standard charger is that the marine charger is generally waterproof and can usually be mounted as an onboard charger. Most chargers nowadays are smart and automatic so they will detect the type of battery and select the correct mode of charging to suit that battery's needs. The only consideration is that some marine chargers, specifically ones designed for use as an onboard charger, will only come with connectors for marine batteries and may not be suitable for connecting to a car battery. Look for a charger that includes interchangeable connectors, like the X2Power SLC10005, to be able to easily use it for your car or boat.

Is a Marine Battery the Same as an RV Battery?

Generally speaking, marine and RV batteries can be interchangeable. Depending on the battery, you will often see hybrid Marine/RV batteries that are designed for both applications. The most important thing is to get a battery that best suits your needs and the needs of the vehicle. If you are just looking for a cranking battery to start your RV, you will find that many standard automotive batteries will be used. In some cases, you may want a battery that can both start your RV and power the home electronics. In that case, you would want to look at our Duracell Ultra and X2Power lines of Dual Purpose Marine/RV batteries. For bigger RVs with a lot of electronics, you will see multiple batteries. One to start the RV and then Deep Cycle batteries to power the home part of the RV.

Shop Our Broad Selection of Marine Batteries at Batteries Plus

Are you starting to see less power out of your marine batteries? Bring them by your local Batteries Plus and have our Trusted Advisors test your batteries for free. If a new battery is in your future our team of battery experts will help you find the best replacement for your boat, including our exclusive X2Power Lithium Deep Cycle batteries. For more information, be sure to check out our helpful Marine Battery Buying Guide and our blog article, "Why Do Boats Have 2 Batteries".

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