Okay, let’s be honest…a solar car battery charger is not really for charging your vehicle’s dead battery. It’s best as a solar battery tender that maintains your battery’s charge after it’s already mostly charged. When you’re in a situation where it’s not convenient or possible to get access to AC power, but you need to make sure the battery is kept up to charge, then a solar car battery charger may be the right choice for you.
What should you look for in a solar car battery charger? Here are some basic tips.
You can buy a solar panel by itself and rig it to charge a battery. The problem is that there is nothing to regulate the voltage output of the solar panel or prevent overcharging of the battery and damaging it or the solar panel. That’s where a charge controller comes in. Most regulate the voltage to the battery and also provide overcharge protection. Without one, you are risking damage, possibly when you can least afford it.
The reason I bring this up is that in addition to selling solar car battery chargers, retailers also sell just the solar panels and charge controllers separately. That way, if you know what you’re doing, you can choose the solar panel and charge controller that is best for your situation, get the quality you want, and possibly save money.
If you’re the average consumer you just want to hook it up and have it work. If that’s you, you should choose a system that includes a solar panel and matched charge controller. It will take some of the headache out of the purchase and make sure that the two components will work together properly. Some of the smaller wattage solar chargers even come with the controller built-in.
It’s not always clear if you’re buying just the solar panel or both a solar panel and charge controller so be sure of what you’re getting.
For the most part, solar panels don’t care what voltage your system is. It’s up to the charge controller to output the correct voltage to your battery. With that in mind, if you have a 12-volt system like most vehicles, you should make sure that the solar battery tender you buy is matched to your voltage. If you have a 24-volt system, solar chargers are available for those as well, but this article only addresses 12V applications.
Need a plug-in battery tender instead? You must read our articles:
If it’s not important how long it takes to bring your battery to full charge or you’re just using it to keep a battery from losing charge, then a solar powered battery charger with lower power is sufficient. If you use your battery continuously or frequently with no other way to keep it charged, then you should choose a higher watt system to make sure you can keep up with the drain.
Like to read about other solar car battery charger choices? See our great articles:
Depending on your situation, you may want to also consider maintaining one or two secondary batteries with solar charging during the day and then swapping out the batteries at the end of the day. That’s because many applications for batteries are daytime applications and it may not be convenient or possible to keep the battery connected to the solar panel battery charger during the day.
Solar Panel Technology
As of the time I’m writing this there are two basic solar panel technologies with more on the way:
Amorphous (thin-film) panels work better in low light than other types and are more durable. Their lifespan is much shorter than other types and their efficiency is not as good causing them to be larger for the same power. These panels work better in high heat applications than mono-chrystalline.
These panels are heavier but, smaller in size than thin film of the same power. They are more efficient than thin film and have a longer lifespan.
You have to choose which type will work best in your specific situation.
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We took a look at the industry by analyzing forums, retailer site, manufacturer sites, and online reviews to pick what we consider to be the top 5 best rated solar car battery chargers. They each come as a system including the panel and charge controller and are designed to charge and maintain 12V vehicle batteries.
Take a look at our list and see if one of these top performers is the best solar car battery charger for your needs!
Solar Car Battery Charger: Top 5 Best Rated 5W Solar Battery Tenders
The Nature Power 6-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger packs a little more power than the others in our list and is perfect for maintaining the batteries of all types of vehicles including cars, boats, tractors, RVs, ATVs, deer feeders, electric fences, small water pumps, and more. Its high-quality amorphous solar panel is more durable with a heavy-duty aluminum frame, strong weather resistance, and includes a built-in blocking diode to prevent battery drain at night. Here’s what you need to know.
- 6W, 400 mAh, 12V solar battery charger system with an amorphous (thin-film) solar panel that includes a blocking diode to prevent battery drain at night
- Continues to charge even in low light situations
- Simple to install and easy to use
- Durable, heavy-duty aluminum frame
- System dimensions are 12.5L x 12.5W x 1D inches and it weighs only 3 lbs.
- 1 – Set mounting brackets and screws
- 1 – Set tilt mounting poles
- 1 – 7 ft. cable set
- 1 – 12V DC power plug
- 1 – Set alligator battery clamps
- Reliable and easy to use
- Great for vehicles that sit unused for long periods
- Very durable
- Quality construction
Battery Tender is a well-known and respected name in battery chargers which includes solar car chargers like their Battery Tender 021-1163 5W Solar Maintainer. Battery Tender’s solar panels are the only ones with a built-in charge controller that controls the charge to the battery and prevents overcharging. Durable enough for outdoor installations, these solar chargers are waterproof. Using one couldn’t be easier, just plug and play. Here’s what you need to know.
- 5-Watt solar panel with built-in smart charging controller to prevent overcharging
- 3-Step microcontroller for precision charging
- Waterproof for outdoor applications
- Spark-proof connections for safe operation
- Built-in temperature compensation sensor insures proper charging
- 12V charger providing approximately 270 mA of power
- Dimensions of the system are 13.25W x 16L x 0.875D inches and it weighs in at only 3 lbs.
- 5-Year warranty included
Battery Tender 021-1163 Solar Maintainer Manual
- Charging status light is a real plus
- Good value
- Very durable and good quality
- Heavier than expected
- Some wish they’d bought the 10W version
- Cables could be longer
- Some would like the charge controller to be separate
Sunforce is another great brand in the solar power industry and their Sunforce 50022 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger is one of their most popular models. It’s easy to use, plugging directly into any 12V power port in your vehicle and has a high output, durable amorphous solar panel. It works better in low light conditions than a comparable mono-chrystalline and has a built-in blocking diode to prevent battery discharge at night. It’s the perfect charging companion wherever you have a 12-Volt battery that needs maintaining without easy access to AC power such as cars, trucks, RVs, tractors, boats, electric fences, telemetry, small pumps, and motors, and more. Here’s what you need to know.
- 5W, 350 mAh solar 12V battery charger system with built-in blocking diode to prevent battery discharge during the night
- Weatherproof amorphous solar panel is also better in low light conditions that other technologies
- Durable ABS plastic construction with thin-film solar panel can withstand one-inch hailstones a 50 mph
- Plugs directly into any vehicle 12V power port and comes with battery clamps for direct connect to the 12V battery
- Maximum temperature range of -40 to 176 degrees F
- Built-in mounting holes for permanent installation
- Unit measures 14L x 13W x 0.75D inches and weighs only 4 lbs.
- 4 – Stainless steel screws
- 1 – 9.5 ft. wire
- 1 – 12V DC plug
- 1 – Set of battery clamps and Quick Connect Technology
Sunforce 50022 Solar Battery Maintainer 2-Pack
- Good value
- Flexible connections
- Long cord
- No charging light
- Heavier than some
- Poor quality clamps
The ALLPOWERS New 18V 5W Portable Solar Car Battery Charger and Maintainer can be used for much more than to just charge car batteries. It can handle the battery charge maintenance needs of motorcycles, trucks, snowmobiles, tractors, ATVs, RVs, and many others. It’s both easy and safe to use thanks to a simple plug-in design and plenty of safety features. Featuring a mono-crystalline silicon 18V-5W solar panel, this charger is durable and has plenty of power to keep most any battery fully charged without the need for AC power. Here’s what you need to know.
- Tough, ABS plastic, weatherproof, 18W, 5V mono-crystalline solar panel does better in low light conditions
- Simple and flexible design allows you to either plug directly into any 12V power port in your vehicle or use the included alligator clips for a direct connection to the battery
- Included suction cups connect the solar panel directly to your windshield or affix it to a visor with the included back strips
- Built-in blocking diode prevents reverse discharge
- Maintenance-free charger is completely set and forget
- The solar panel measures 12.6L x 4.7W x 0.19D inches and weighs a lightweight 11.4 oz.
- 12-Month product warranty
- 1 – 12V power plug
- 1 – 1.5 meter 12V power cord
- 1 – Battery charging clip line
- 4 – Suction cups
- Design fits easily on vehicle dash or in rear window
- Great customer service
- Handy case
- Easy to use
Needs longer cables
The NOCO Battery Life BLSOLAR5 5-Watt Solar Battery Chargers and Maintainer is one of the best-rated solar-powered vehicle battery chargers available. With an ultra-low profile thin-film design, the tough solar panel can stand up to outdoor uses while still providing power even in low light conditions. Here’s what you need to know.
- 5W, 410 mAh, 12V thin-film (amorphous), solar panel performs well in low-light, cloudy, and overcast conditions and is completely weatherproof for outdoor use
- Protection against accidental battery drain at night
- Built-in power-level LED lets you know when the panel is generating power
- Excellent quality
- Long cables
- Easy to setup and use
- Great value
- Some reports that extreme cold weather will crack solar panel
- Wish it had suction cup installation option
- Needs OBDII adapter for those cars that don’t have a 12V power port
- No stock tender connector for motorcycles included
Solar Car Battery Charger Comparison Chart
|Title||ALLPOWERS™ New 18V 5W Portable Solar Car Boat Power Solar Panel Battery Charger Maintainer for Automobile Motorcycle Tractor Boat Batteries||Battery Tender 021-1163 5W Solar Maintainer||Sunforce 50022 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger||NOCO Battery Chargers BLSOLAR5 Solar Battery Charger and Maintainer BLSOLAR5||Nature Power 40014 6-Watt Solar Powered 12-Volt Battery Trickle Charger|
|Feature||ALLPOWERS Car battery maintainer can charge 12V batteries with the power of the sun and create 5 watts of energy|
Mono-crystalline silicon panel works in all daylight conditions and is weatherproof for added durability
Works with automobile, motorcycle, tractor, boat batteries and more
Built-in blocking diode to prevent reverse discharge
Package: ALLPOWERS car battery charger, cigarette lighter plug, clip line, clip line, Manual
|Built-in 3-step microcontroller for precise charging|
Waterproof and sparkproof for outdoor installations
Easy, do-it-yourself installation
Built-in temperature compensation sensor
12V nominal voltage 270 mAmps
|Creates 5 watts of electricity for charging and maintaining 12-volt batteries|
Works with automobile, tractor, electric fence, deer feeder, boat batteries and more
Made of durable ABS plastic and amorphous solar cells
Weatherproof amorphous panel charges in all daylight conditions-even on cloudy days
Includes 15" x 14-1/2" amorphous solar panel, 4 pre-cut holes for easy installation, 4 stainless steel screws, 9.5 ft wire, 12V DC plug, battery clamps and Quick Connect technology
|Keeps your vehicle batteries charged; works with all 12-volt rechargeable batteries including those in vehicles, boats, farm equipment|
High quality amorphous solar material will work in all light conditions even on overcast days
Weatherproof for outdoor use
Battery clamp, 12-volt car plug and flat or tilted mounting hardware included
Provides up to 6-watt or 0.4 Amp per hour of sunlight
|Warranty||5 years||5-Year limited to power output, 1-Year Limited to defects in material and workmanship, parts and labour are not covered.|
|Height||3 inch||1.25 inch||16.6 inch|
|Weight||4.5 pound||5 pound||20 pound||0.31 pound|
|Width||17.8 inch||13 inch||2 inch|
|Length||17.8 inch||17 inch||14 inch|
|Reviews||Read Reviews||Read Reviews||Read Reviews||Read Reviews||Read Reviews|
|Link||More Info||More Info||More Info||More Info||More Info|
Product prices and availability are accurate as of May 12 17:24:11 UTC but are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the merchant site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
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