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How to Choose a Car Battery: A Beginner’s Guide

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 12/28/2023

Duracell Auto battery on a shelf

Shopping for and buying a new car battery can be a stressful thing. Knowing which battery to buy isn't as complicated as you might think and can actually be a pretty simple task if you know what to look for. Follow these four simple steps to make buying your new car or truck battery a breeze.

When You Should Replace Your Battery

To start, it's important to know when you need to replace your car or truck battery. In addition to noticing the telltale signs of a weak battery (dimming lights, trouble starting, etc) there are a few additional things to look out for that may require a new battery to be installed.

  • A cracked battery case
  • A bulging battery, usually a sign of the battery freezing
  • The battery won't accept a charge
  • Loose battery terminals
  • Missing filler caps (if applicable)

Step 1: Find the Correct Battery Size

Car batteries are all categorized by size. The Battery Council International created the BCI Group size to make finding the exact size of battery for your car easier. Car and truck batteries come in all shapes and sizes, so it's important to make sure you get the right one for your vehicle.

Different types of SLI batteries

The battery group size will be stated on the label of the battery currently in your car, usually on the top or side of the battery. The easiest and best way to determine the proper battery for your car or truck is to use our handy license plate lookup tool on Just enter your license plate number and state to pull up all batteries that are an exact fit for your car. If you prefer to enter your Year, Make and Model, feel free! You also have the option to enter your VIN if you know it.

Step 2: Find the Minimum Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) for Your Car

All cars and trucks are designed and built with specific power requirements to start the car, especially when in cold weather. This is known as the Cold Cranking Amperage or CCA. If you don't use a battery that is at least the minimum CCA recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, you could be unable to start the car due to a lack of power.

You can find your vehicle's minimum CCA rating and more by using a few different methods:

  • The label of the existing battery will state the CCA rating.
  • The owner's manual for the vehicle will provide the required battery specifications.
  • Check online resources for battery minimum ratings.

You absolutely can install a battery that has a higher CCA rating than the minimum requirement from the manufacturer; however, you should never install a battery with a lower CCA rating than the minimum.

Step 3: Determine the Type of Battery Required

A lot of cars and trucks on the road today use conventional, flooded lead-acid batteries. These batteries have the cells submerged in a liquid electrolyte solution within a hard case. This type of battery does have lower CCAs and generally shorter warranties. Flooded batteries are the least expensive battery on the market and have been around for a very long time. Many vehicles come with this type of battery from the assembly line and can use this type of battery with no problem.

Many newer vehicles, especially those with a lot of power demands like heated seats, remote start or stop/start technology, will use Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries. AGM batteries are much more powerful with higher CCAs than flooded batteries and rather than using a liquid electrolyte they use fiberglass mats which are soaked in the electrolyte solution. Not having a free-flowing electrolyte solution makes them almost completely maintenance-free, extremely durable and resistant to extreme temperature variations.

Special Note:

You absolutely can upgrade from a flooded battery to an AGM battery if your vehicle comes with a flooded battery. However, you can not downgrade from AGM to flooded. If your vehicle comes with an AGM battery from the factory, you must replace it with another AGM battery.

Step 4: Select Your New Battery

Franchise owner standing in front of the auto battery racks

You've made it to the final step. You must choose, but choose wisely. It's a good idea to compare each of the batteries that you are looking at.

For example, below is a chart of the available batteries for a 2010 Chevrolet Equinox V6 AWD. Each battery has a different CCA rating, warranty length and design.

Brand Duracell Ultra Platinum Duracell Ultra Gold Duracell Ultra X2Power Optima Yellow Top
Part Number SLI48AGM SLI48H6M SLI48H6 SLI48AGMDP OPT7048-148-ASC
Lead Acid Design AGM Flooded Flooded Premium AGM AGM
CCA 760 730 680 775 800
Warranty 4 Year 3 Year 2 Year 4 Year 3 Year

All of these batteries meet the minimum requirement for CCA ratings set by the manufacturer and are all great replacement options.

A couple of things to consider:

  • For daily drivers that you will be driving for many years to come the Duracell Ultra Platinum would be a great choice as it comes with a long 4-year warranty and plenty of power.
  • For vehicles with a lot of power demands like remote start, heated seats, off-road accessories and more the X2Power or Optima may be a good choice with their higher available cold cranking amps.

A Note About Where You Live

Another thing to consider that many people forget is that the environment you will be driving the car matters.

If you live and work in an area that can get extremely hot or extremely cold an AGM battery, like the Duracell Ultra Platinum, Optima or X2Power, is recommended. AGM batteries will outperform flooded batteries in nearly every way while being used in extreme weather.

Batteries Plus is Your Car and Truck Battery Headquarters

Still not sure which battery is best for you? Stop into your local Batteries Plus and our expert associates will be there to help you determine which is the best battery for your car or truck. They'll even install it for you while you wait.

Don't forget to ask about our Premier Installation Service! Stop corrosion from the start with this simple upgrade by adding anti-corrosion compounds to the battery during installation.

Looking for some tips to keep your battery healthy during the cold winter months? Look no further than our blog article "How To Protect Your Battery Against Extreme Weather".

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