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How Long Do Car Batteries Last?

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 11/30/2023

A store employee checking an auto battery while talking to the car owner.

Buying and replacing car and truck batteries has become so common that we never really think about how long they should last. Are you replacing your batteries earlier than you need to? Find out by reading more below.

How Long Does A Car Battery Last?

Generally speaking, a car or truck battery will last on average 3 to 5 years. This can vary depending on how it's used and maintained. Many factors affect battery life and if you have been replacing your battery sooner than that, you might want to follow our tips below to get the most life out of your battery.

What Can Affect Car Battery Life?

There are countless things that can drain your car battery to the point of replacement. Here are some of the most common.

  • Temperature / Climate
    Extreme winter cold and scorching summer heat can have an impact on your car or truck's battery. Modern batteries, especially AGM batteries, generally exhibit greater resilience to extreme seasonal temperatures. However, if your car or truck is using an older battery, severe cold or heat might reduce its effectiveness or even lead to complete failure. If you see signs of your battery struggling to handle these conditions, feel free to visit us for a complimentary battery test. Our auto battery experts will assist you in identifying and resolving any issues.
  • Corrosion
    You've learned several times over the last few years that battery corrosion kills car and truck batteries. If left unattended, corrosion will build up and prevent a secure connection to the battery terminals, resulting in a loss of power and eventually, a battery failure.
  • Faulty Charging System

    When you start the engine, your car depends on the battery. However, after your vehicle is started, the battery relies on the alternator to maintain its charge while driving. If the alternator is not operating correctly, it may struggle to charge the battery, resulting in potential difficulties starting your car, even immediately after driving.

    If your car experiences starting issues following a drive, there's a possibility that the alternator could be the culprit and you should have a mechanic look at it as soon as possible.

  • Parasitic Draws

    Even when your car is turned off, the battery supplies power to the clock, radio, and alarm system, which generally have little impact on the battery's charge. However, items like interior lights, door lights, or malfunctioning electrical relays can be potential causes for draining a car battery when it's not in use.

    While your engine is running, the alternator actively recharges the battery, which is why you typically don't need to be concerned about the battery running out of power while you enjoy the radio during your commute. Nevertheless, when the engine is off, the alternator is unable to recharge the battery, leaving room for minor electrical issues to deplete the battery entirely. This electrical strain on the battery due to these unintentional drains is referred to as a parasitic draw.

    You can help prevent parasitic draws by ensuring that all lights are turned off and that your trunk, glove box, and doors are securely closed and latched before leaving the car.

  • Personal Driving Habits

    I used to only have a mile-and-a-half drive to work. It usually only took me 5-6 minutes to get from my home to the office. Was this good for my battery? Absolutely not.

    Cranking the engine uses a tremendous amount of power from the battery. While you drive, the alternator recharges the battery to replenish what it used to start the engine. When you take consistent short trips, like I did, you will be wearing down your battery faster by not letting it charge completely.

Tips To Make Your Battery Last Longer

It's easy to add some much-needed life to your car battery with a little preventative maintenance. These are all tasks that you should be doing during the lifetime of your battery.

  • Test Your Battery Often
    Testing your battery at home or at one of our Batteries Plus stores is important no matter how old your battery is. As your battery ages, this becomes an absolute necessity to stay on top of potential issues.
  • Clean the Terminals
    Keeping your battery terminals clean and free of corrosion with a terminal cleaning kit is easy and an excellent way to add extra months or years to your battery.
  • Don't Let the Car Sit For A Long Time
    One of the worst things you can do for your battery is to let your car sit for a long period unused. Leaving your car sit, even with a new battery, can leave you with a dead battery in two weeks. If you do intend on letting your car sit unused for a lengthy period, connect your battery to a battery maintainer to keep the battery optimally charged while being stored.
  • Make Sure Everything Is Tight
    The tip is two-fold. Check to make sure the battery itself is tightly secured and check the connections on the terminals. A loose battery can damage other components of your vehicle if it's jostling around. Loose terminal clamps will restrict the flow of electricity from the battery, causing the battery to work harder.
  • Avoid Short Trips
    Driving too short of trips may not give the alternator enough time to adequately charge the battery. This can be a big problem in the winter when you try to start your car in the morning on a cold day.
  • Drive Longer Distances
    On the flip side, driving longer distances will keep your battery charged. If you drive about 30 minutes at highway speeds, most vehicles will be able to recharge the battery to full. Taking a few longer trips will be cheaper than buying a new battery in the long run.
  • Turn Off Lights and Accessories

    We're all guilty of it. It's bound to happen. Leaving the lights on or accessories plugged in will cause unwanted consequences, a dead battery in the morning. It's always best to do a quick double-check when you are getting out of the car to make sure the lights are off and all items are unplugged from the 12V outlet and USB ports.

    Some newer vehicles have USB ports and 12V outlets that do not supply power once the vehicle is off. However, you don't want to find out by accident if that's the case for your vehicle. It's a best practice to just unplug.

Need A New Car Battery?

Are you starting to notice some signs that your battery might be on it's last leg? Maybe it's slow to start or you're having a hard time starting in the cold? Drive on over to your nearest Batteries Plus to have our battery experts inspect your battery and see what the problem is.

If you see a new battery in your future, we have a large selection of car and truck batteries from amazing brands like X2Power, Duracell Ultra and Optima to keep your vehicle powered all year round.