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How Long Should Batteries Last?

Power - by Joe Weber - updated on 12/22/2022

Top angle of an X2Power auto battery

This is a question on everyone's mind with an answer that no one likes, it depends. Learn more about how long you can expect different batteries to last and how to get the longest life out of your batteries.

Important Battery Life Terms

Before we get into the comparison, there are a few terms that you should know. Some common things that you may see when reading about battery life are: shelf life, run time and cycle life.

Shelf Life

Shelf life refers to how long the batteries can sit without use or charging before they are no longer functional. Shelf life for rechargeable batteries refers to the length of storage before a recharge is necessary. Some batteries, like lead acid, need to be stored at a full charge in order to have the longest possible shelf life.

Cycle Life

Cycle life refers to the number of complete charges and discharges a rechargeable battery can complete before going bad. A full charge cycle would be fully using a battery to complete discharge and then charging back up to 100%.

Run Time

Sometimes confused with shelf life and cycle life, run time refers to the amount of time the device can run on a single charge before needing to be recharged or have new batteries installed. This varies from device to device as they differ in their power demands and unless the manufacturer provides a run time for a device, this is very hard to calculate.

What Are the Average Lifespans of Different Batteries?

The lifespan of each of your batteries largely depends on what device they're powering and how they're being used. Some batteries are designed and engineered for long term use, like car batteries, while others are meant to be one and done cheap throw away batteries.

Single Use Batteries

Single use batteries do not have a cycle life as they are meant to be used only once and then disposed of.

  • Alkaline
    The most common and most recognized single use battery on the market. The runtime is completely dependent on the device that it's used in. Alkaline batteries generally have a shelf life between 5-10 years when stored at room temperature. Alkaline batteries cannot be recharged.
  • Carbon Zinc (Heavy Duty)
    Cheaper and less powerful, these single-use batteries are often labeled as "heavy duty" and only have a shelf life of between 3-5 years. They are prone to electrolyte leakage due to the thin cell walls used in their manufacturing and cannot be recharged.
  • Lithium Non-Rechargeable
    Usually, the most expensive single-use battery on the market, lithium batteries have a long shelf life of 10-12 years but there have been some indications that they can last close to 20 years.

Rechargeable Batteries

  • Nickel Cadmium
    An older technology that isn't used as often anymore, Nickel Cadmium was very popular in home phones. They perform better in warmer and cooler climates than other rechargeable batteries and have a very long cycle life; easily up to 1,000 or more cycles. NiCd batteries can sit unused for around 6 months before needing to be recharged. They are, however, more toxic and need to be disposed of properly to protect the environment.
  • Nickel Metal Hydride
    While they do have a shorter cycle life than Nickel Cadmium batteries (usually between 700-1000 cycles), Nickel Metal Hydride batteries have a higher energy density so they don't need to be charged as often. After 6 months of storage, NiMH batteries should be recharged before use.
  • Lithium Rechargeable
    There are many different types of rechargeable lithium batteries. Some of the most common seen are Lithium-Ion, Lithium Polymer and Lithium Iron Phosphate. Most consumer-purchasable lithium rechargeable batteries have a cycle life between 600-1000 cycles. The shelf life of lithium batteries varies depending on the type of lithium battery and its uses. Most lithium rechargeable batteries will have irreversible damage if they are stored for longer than 1 year without charging them periodically.
  • Lead Acid
    Lead acid also has several types: flooded, enhanced flooded, absorbed glass mat (AGM) and pure lead AGM and Gel. Shelf life for most lead acid batteries is around six months and if being stored for longer, they should be charged at least once every six months. Cycle life for lead acid batteries is lower than other rechargeable batteries at only around 200 cycles depending on the application. It is important to also note that it can be harmful to the life of the battery if you completely discharge a lead acid battery.

See the below chart for an easy guide on rough estimates for each type of battery.

Chemistry Shelf Life Cycle Life
Alkaline 5-10 Years N/A
Carbon Zinc 3-5 Years N/A
Lithium (Non-Rechargeable) 10-12 Years N/A
Nickel Cadmium 6 Months 1,000
Nickel Metal Hydride 6 Months 700-1000
Lithium (Rechargeable) 6 Months - 1 Year 600-1000
Lead Acid 6 Months 200+

Can I Make My Car Battery Last Longer?

A question often asked, especially in recent years as car and truck batteries increase in price, is how to stretch a little more life out of your battery. The good news is that there are several easy ways to get a little extra life out of your car battery.

  1. Limit short trips
    Short, 5-10 minute, drives don't allow the car's charging system to fully charge the battery. If you continuously drive in this manner, consider purchasing and connecting to a battery charger when the car is not in use.
  2. Ensure battery connections are secure
    Loose connections don't provide a secure connection to the electrical system and could cause short circuits.
  3. Remember to turn off the lights
    This is one of the most common reasons for a dead car battery. Remember to shut off your lights, if they are not automatic, and accessories before exiting the vehicle.
  4. Remove and prevent corrosion
    Use a terminal brush and terminal cleaner to scrub off any corrosion on your battery terminals. Consider having your battery installed with our Premier Installation service to prevent corrosion from developing.
  5. Don't use accessories with the engine off
    Using any electronics with the engine off will drain the battery without the battery being able to charge back up.

Learn more about how to keep your batteries healthy and warm in the winter by reading our article "How To Protect Your Battery Against Extreme Weather."

If I Jump Start My Battery Do I Need A New One?

We've all been there. After a long day we step out to the car to head home and, nothing. You luckily had a jump starter in the car and quickly jumped the car and headed home. Does this mean your battery has gone bad and it's time for a new one? Not necessarily. There are a number of reasons why your battery suddenly died, anything from leaving lights on to being extremely cold. Read all about common signs of a failing battery and how you can have your battery tested at Batteries Plus by reading our blog "How Often Do Car Batteries Need to be Replaced?"

Batteries Plus Has Batteries For Every Need

Stop into your local Batteries Plus today to see our extensive selection of batteries for every need that you may have. From cordless phones to cars and everything in between, we have what you need when you need it.

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