If you’re trying to decide on one of the many car battery chargers, this article is for you. Car battery chargers have come a long way in just a short while going from dumb trickle chargers to completely automatic, microprocessor-controlled smart chargers that can actually communicate with your battery.
What does it take to be one of the top-rated car battery chargers?
It’s not good enough anymore to just be powerful and reliable. Users demand smart features that make the whole process of charging and maintaining their batteries as easy and worry-free as possible. That means they want a smart charger. Car battery chargers with smart features have a built-in computer that controls all aspects of the charging process and then can automatically switch to a float mode to maintain the battery at the right charge level.
Do you have both 12-volt and 6-volt batteries you need to charge? It’s not essential, but it’s a sign of a flexible car battery charger if it has the ability to charge both 6- and 12-volt batteries.
Interested in learning about other battery charger solutions? Be sure to see our other articles about some of the best!
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Besides voltage flexibility, there is battery type flexibility. There are lots of different types of lead-acid batteries and now there are Lithium-Ion batteries. A 12V battery charger that can charge a variety of battery types is more valuable than one that is limited to just standard lead-acid batteries.
It’s no mystery that lead-acid batteries lose their capacity over time and the number one reason is sulfation. During long periods when the battery is not fully charged the battery’s plates can become coated with lead sulfate which reduces their ability to accept a charge.
A modern computer-controlled auto battery charger has a recovery or desulfation mode where the battery pulses electricity through the plates to dislodge the sulfates. This can prolong the life of a battery that would otherwise have to be discarded before the end of its useful life.
We searched automotive forums, manufacturer sites, consumer sites, retail sites, customer review sites, and social media to find the most popular and highly-rated car battery chargers.
Take a look at our list and see if one of these smart chargers is the best car battery charger for your needs!
BatteryMINDer makes some great car battery chargers and their BatteryMINDer 2012 Battery Charger is one of the most popular. It features advanced SmarTECHnology microprocessor control that controls a fully automatic, 7-stage charging program that adjusts its output several times per second to maximize your battery’s life and storage capacity. It actively monitors your battery’s voltage, amperage acceptance, and temperature at all times so that your battery chargers properly every time. The number one cause of lead-acid battery failure is sulfation and this model uses patented full-time high-frequency pulse desulfation to prevent it in new batteries or eliminate it in older batteries. Flexible enough to charge all sizes and brands of standard 12-volt lead-acid batteries.
Car Battery Chargers: Features
- 12-volt, 2-Amp, microprocessor-controlled, automatic battery charger, maintainer, desulfator
- 7-Stage charging and diagnostic program adjusts its output several times a second based on sensor readings
- Temperature-compensated battery maintenance long-term maintenance stage will add years of service to your batteries and protects against overcharging or undercharging regardless of temperature
- Patented full-time high-frequency pulse desulfation prevents battery sulfation on new batteries or eliminates it in older batteries
- Plug ‘n Run technology means “no buttons to push”
- Easy-to-understand diagnostic LED indicators display your battery’s condition and actual state-of-charge profile including power, polarity reversal, battery weak, load, bad cell, testing, desulfating, temperature compensation, charging stage, and charge level
- Active battery voltage, amperage acceptance, and temperature monitoring insures your battery is charged correctly every time
- Automatic disconnect and resume if AC power interrupted
- Tough polycarbonate case is IP65-rated to be weatherproof and resistant to water and intrusion
- Safety features include spark-prrof connections and protection against short circuit, reverse polarity, and thermal runaway
- Unit can maintain up to six 12-volt batteries at one time when connected in parallel by using BatteryMINDer SmarTECHnology Y-Connectors 210AY or customer-supplied 18-gauge insulated wire
- Worldwide compatible 100-240 VAC and 50/60 Hz input
- Designed to charge all sizes and brands of standard 12-volt lead-acid batteries including, but not limited to, flooded, filler cap, maintenance-free, valve regulated lead-acid (VRLA), sealed lead-acid (SLA), starter, deep cycle, and hybrid
- FCC certified
- Dimensions are 5.5L x 3.75W x 1.75H inches
- 3-Year limited warranty
- Ambient temperature sensor (installed)
- 2-foot battery clip cord set with quick connector
- 2-foot fused ring terminal cord set with quick connector
- 6-foot AC cord
- 6-foot DC cord with quick connector (SAE)
- Compact, but powerful
- Reliable design
- High-quality construction and materials
The Black & Decker BC6BDW 6-Amp Waterproof Battery Charger and Maintainer operates in wet conditions like the marine, automotive, water sports, motorcycle, lawn, power sports, and recreational equipment environments. Its a fully automatic charger and maintainer that produces a full 6-Amps of power which is one of the highest output powers in our list. It automatically detects battery type and required charge rate for easiest operation. Compatible with any AGM, GEL, or Wet Cel 12-volt automotive or marine battery, its IP67 rating certifies that it is completely sealed, waterproof, and dust-proof.
- 6-Amp, fully-automatic, smart charger
- Automatically detects and sets battery type and charge rate required by your battery
- IP67 rated to be sealed from dust, oil, and moisture to prevent corrosion, this model is a great choice for operation in demanding outdoor environments
- Built-in safety protection against overcharging, reverse polarity, short circuit
- Perfect for maintaining the batteries of stored lawn equipment, motorcycles, RVs, power sports, water sports, and antique vehicles
- Better capable of handling the low-voltage problems of extension cords using AC low-voltage compensation
- ETL-certified for performance and safety
- Hanging hook provides convenient, hands-free operation
- Connect via battery clamps or a 12V DC accessory plug
- 1-Year limited warranty
- High quality construction and materials
- Budget priced
- Compact and lightweight
- Plenty of charging power
- Leads are short
Schumacher makes a variety of popular car battery chargers including their Schumacher SP-1 2/4-Amp 6/12-Volt Automatic Battery Charger/Extender which has a built-in microprocessor that provides smart, multi-stage charging that is more precise, safer, while extending battery life beyond what a manual charger can do. It has the ability to automatically detect battery voltage providing a 4-amp charge for 6-volt batteries and a 2-amp charge for 12-volt batteries while using advanced technology to charge up to 3X faster than other models.
- 2/4-amp, microprocessor-controlled smart 6 volt battery charger and 12 volt battery charger
- A built-in microprocessor controls multi-stage charging that can charge your battery up to 3X faster than similar models
- Automatic voltage detection selects the proper battery charging voltage without manual intervention
- It provides 4 amps of charging power at 6 volts and 2 amps at 12 volts
- Quick Connect Harness easily changes between clamps and ring terminals
- Schumacher is the official supplier of chargers, jump starters, and inverters for NASCAR
- Simple to use
- Value priced
- Quality construction and materials
- None noted
An advanced technology battery charger, tester, and maintainer billed as the most advanced fully-automatic 12V battery charger, the Optimate 6 Ampmatic TM-181 9-Step 12V-5A Battery Saving Charger Tester Maintainer features a comprehensive 9-step computer-controlled charging program. It’s capable of charging, testing, and maintaining the lead-acid, AGM, and GEL-cel 12V batteries of a variety of vehicles. Perfect for months-long maintenance of any size 12V lead-acid battery, deep cycle, automotive, marine, motorcycle, and many others. With advanced-technnology multi-stage desulfation this Optimate can restore neglected batteries from as low as 0.5 Volts.
- 12-volt, 5-amp, fully-automatic, computer-controlled, 9-step, battery charger, tester, and maintainer
- Restores stored batteries from as low as 0.5 volts and saves batteries other chargers can’t using a comprehensive 9-step computer-controlled charging program that can distinguish between a healthy discharged battery and a sulfated battery that needs recovery
- Automatically adjusts current to suit any battery size from 3 to 240Ah or conditions the battery for the fastest and most complete charge using Ampmatic Charge Control
- Correctly prepares new batteries for first use and optimizes battery performance using Cell Voltage Balancing Mode
- Daily Battery Condition Tests & Interactive Float Charge maintains battery at full charge virtually indefinitely without risk of overcharging, damage to the battery or vehicle electrical system, and without intervention
- Safety features include spark-suppressed connections, short-circuit protection, and automatic battery-disconnect power shutdown
- Durable, sealed weatherproof case with built-in wall mounts
- Compatible with 100-240V, 50-60Hz power
- 3-Year limited replacement warranty
Comprehensive 9-Step Computer-Controlled Charging Program
- Low Volt Start (0.5V)
- Test Before Charge
- Pulse “Wake Up”
- Turbo Save
- Pulse Save
- Controlled Charge
- Test After Charge
- Optimate Maintenance
- 1 – 6-foot power cor
- 1 – 6-foot charging cable with SAE connector
- 1 – Weatherproof battery lead and standard battery clip set
- Weatherproof case with wall mounts
- CANBUS option is simple mode switch
- Simple to setup and use
- Perfect for BMW motorcycles
- Set and forget
- Complaints about manual being hard to read and understand
The Battery Tender Plus 021-0218 1.25-Amp Battery Charger Maintainer is a 1.25-amp battery charger designed to fully charge a battery and maintain it at proper storage voltage without the damaging effects caused by trickle chargers. Temperature compensated to ensure optimum charge voltage according to ambient temperature. Automatically switches from full charge to float charging mode. Battery Tender at 1.25-amp will charge as fast or faster than any 3-amp charger available. Reverse Polarity Protection and spark-proof connections ensure user safety. Red & Green Lights Alternately Flash in this condition. Complete 4-step charging program (Initialization, Bulk Charge, Absorption Mode, Float Mode). Perfect for cars, trucks, RVs, ATVs, power sports vehicles, lawn equipment, motorcycles, water sports vehicles, scooters, and more, you will find plenty of uses for this reliable charger.
- 1.25-Amp, 12-volt, fully automatic, microprocessor-controlled, multiple mode, temperature compensated battery charger and maintainer
- Smart Charger will Fully Charge and Maintain a Battery at Proper Storage Voltage without the Damaging Effects Caused by Trickle Chargers
- At 1.25 amps, it will charge as fast or faster than any 3 amp charger available
- Automatically switches from full charge to float charging mode.
- Temperature compensation insures charging at the right voltage at any ambient temperature
- Included quick connect harness makes it easier to access batteries in hard to reach areas
- Safety features include spark-proof connections and protection against reverse polarity
- Red and green indicator lights provide charging status
- 10-Year limited warranty
- Solid construction and materials
- Set and forget automatic operation
- Reliable charging for a variety of battery types
- Budget price
- Included connections are too short
- Indicator lights difficult to see in bright light
If you need a smart charger with faster charging capability, but still need a safe maintainer that will keep you battery charged automatically at the right voltage, the Battery Tender 022-0186G-DL-WH 12-Volt 5-Amp Battery Charger and Maintainer is an excellent choice. It features fully automatic operation and high-frequency switch mode charging along with an integrated smart 4 stage charging (Qualification, bulk, absorption and float) program that is designed to properly charge and maintain 12-volt batteries. When the charge is complete the charger will float (maintain) the battery for an extended period of time at full state of charge. It is specifically designed for AGM batteries, but will easily recharge all lead acid batteries from small Powersports batteries up to and including large deep cycle batteries for automotive, marine, agriculture, and contruction use. It is completely safe and includes a 72 hour timer to prevent further damage to marginal batteries. It is fully approved for the California and Oregon markets. It is a smart charger that you just put on and leave on until you are ready to use the vehicle. Ideal for cars, trucks, RVs, ATVS, Boats, Generators, Lawn Mowers, Motorcycles, Motorhomes, RVs, UTVs, Power Sport Applications, and more these car battery chargers are truly flexible.
- 5-Amp, 12-volt, fully-automatic, high-efficiency, microprocessor-controlled, high-frequency, switch mode, battery charger and maintainer
- Fully charges and maintains 12V batteries at the proper storage voltage without the damaging effects caused by trickle chargers
- 4-Step Fully Automatic Charging (Initialization, Bulk, Absorption, Float) automatically switches to float / maintenance voltage after fully charging the battery
- Factory installed gasket provides water resistance
- Higher 5-Amp output charges faster, but still automatically switches to maintenance mode
- Infinite Sequential Monitoring (ISM) technology
- Safety features include spark-proof connections, a 72-hour safety timer, and protection against reverse polarity and short circuit
- Listed in California Appliance Efficiency Database
- UL/CSA, CE and BC approved
- Dimensions are 3.99W x 8.26L x 2.34H inches
- 5-Year limited warranty
- Easy to use
- Dependable operation
- 5 Amps provides faster charging in addition to tending
- Good value
- Larger than other Battery Tender maintainers
Optima produces high-end batteries and battery chargers like the popular, high-performance Optima Digital 400 12V Performance Maintainer and Battery Charger. It’s capable of recovering discharged batteries that other chargers cannot. Beyond charging and maintaining, it has a built-in health mode designed to maximize battery life automatically. All this capability doesn’t come cheap, but the quality and performance appeals to many off-road enthusiasts and may justify the price.
- 12-volt, 4-Amp performance-oriented, fully automatic battery charger and maintainer designed to charge and maintain performance AGM batteries used in water sports, motorcycles, and other motorsports applications
- Capable of recovering discharged batteries down to 1.25V that other chargers cannot
- Quick-set battery-type selection
- Built-in health mode maximizes battery life automatically
- Ambient air temperature compensation during charging insures the right charging voltage every time
- Hybrid LED battery charging gauge with LCD screen displays battery-connected, check-battery icon alerts, and pre-charging battery status display mode
- Safety features include spark-free connection technology and protection against reverse polarity and over-temperature
- Dual-purpose hook and tilt stand design
- Included wall organizer bracket
- Integrated cable management and cord wrap
- Interchangeable battery clamps and ring terminals
- Intuitive operation, display, and controls
- Compact and lightweight
- High quality construction and materials
- Handy cord wrap
- Lacking power switch
Swedish company CTEK AB invented the modern automotive smart charger for consumer use almost 20 years ago. If you’re looking for a versatile, compact battery charger to charge all of your household vehicles reliably, the CTEK (56-158) MULTI US 3300 12-Volt Fully Automatic 4-Step Battery Charger is a popular and highly-rated choice. This is the perfect charger for classic cars, RVs, cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, ATVs, marine sports vehicles, lawn equipment, tractors, and more. Regular use of a CTEK battery charger has been proven to extend your vehicle’s battery life by up to 3X. CTEK battery chargers can desulphate, charge, recondition and maintain all types of vehicle batteries, including wet/flooded, calcium, gel, latest Start-Stop AGM and EFB technology. Its patented float and pulse maintenance strategy ensure that once fully charged, the battery is safely maintained at maximum capacity indefinitely by the charger, which is crucial to maximize battery lifespan.
- 0.8/3.3A Max, fully automatic, connect-and-forget, 4-Step battery charger and maintainers
- Patented pulse charging process is gentle on batteries during long periods of disuse
- Smart charger monitors the battery before charging it at the perfect charge level and then uses monitoring to provide the right maintenance charge for long-term, independent charging
- Rugged, Swedish-engineered design is shockproof, weatherproof, dustproof and is able to endure extreme weather conditions with an operating range of -4 to +122 degrees F.
- Patented desulphation method reconditions sulfated batteries recovering their power and performance
- CTEK battery chargers and maintainers produce very clean voltage and current that is safe for batteries and vehicle electronics, regardless how long the charger is left connected.
- Cold Mode allows you to charge effectively and reliably even during extreme winter months
- Safety features include spark-free connections and protection against reverse polarity and short-circuit
- 5-Year limited warranty
- Easy to use
- Long cord
- Works first time every time
The NOCO Genius G3500 Battery Charger Maintainer is a popular favorite. It has a lot to offer as both a battery charger and maintainer. It’s is a fully automatic switch-mode battery charger and maintainer with 8 modes. The G3500 can restore batteries, desulfate slightly sulfated batteries, it’s perfect for cold climates, can charge fully drained batteries, and can lengthen the life of batteries by providing maintenance charging. It has very flexible charging capability to cover cars, RVs, trucks, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, and more. This unit can both charge your battery and maintain it making it a great choice for batteries that are going to sit for awhile unused such as garden tractors, boats, motorcycles, classic cars, or RVs. It has the flexibility to automatically charge and maintain both 6 volt and 12 volt units. It will also handle multiple battery chemistries including standard lead acid AGM, and Gel Cel batteries. The charger allows you to select various modes to handle all both 6V and 12V for normal conditions and cold weather or AGM batteries.
- Fully automatic, computer-controlled, 12V/6V, 3.5-Amp, switch-mode, 8-mode, battery charger and maintainer
- Its Microprocessor-control provides more accurate charging control and has powerful automatic multi-step charging that allows the battery charger to automatically switch among multiple charging for the most accurate charging
- Two charging rates, 0.9-Amp and 3.5-Amp gives you the flexibility to charge small and large batteries
- Genius Rapid Charging Technology can charge batteries up to 8X faster than regular linear chargers
- Recovery Mode can recover deeply discharged and sulfated batteries using pulse charge technology
- It automatically switches to Float Mode once the battery is fully charged to keep your battery fully charged without overcharging
- Safety features include built-in fuse protection, spark-proof connections and protection against reverse polarity, short circuits open circuits overheating, over-current, and overcharging
- Abnormality Protection automatically shuts off the charger if the charger remains in Bulk Charge mode for an extended period of time.
- It is capable of handling variable voltage input and will provide a 100% full charge under varying input voltage conditions
- Plug-n-play connectors make connection of its myriad accessories easy and fast
- It weighs in at a little more than 1 lb. and its dimensions are trim at 7.7L x 2.7W x 1.9D inches in making it one of the smallest and lightest car battery chargers for cars on the market
Automatic Charging Steps
- Step 1: Diagnostics – Checks the battery voltage to make sure battery connections are good and the battery is in a stable condition before beginning the charge process.
- Step 2: Recovery – Initializes the Recovery process, if needed, for deeply discharged or sulfated (desulfation) batteries by pulsing small amounts of current.
- Step 3: Soft Start – Begins Bulk charging process with a gentle (soft) charge.
- Step 4-5: Bulk – The Bulk charging process continues using both a High Rate and Medium Rate charge and returns 80% of battery capacity, indicated by the 25%, 50% and 75% CHARGE LEDs.
- Step 6: Absorption – Brings the charge level to 90%. The battery charger will deliver small amounts of current to provide a safe, efficient charge and limit battery gassing.
- Step 7: Trickle – Battery is fully charged and ready to use, indicated by the 100% CHARGE LED being a solid Green. In this step, the battery charger will only deliver enough current to keep the battery full. If the battery tells the charger that more current is needed, the battery charger will switch to Maintenance.
- Step 8: Maintenance – Continuously monitors the battery voltage to determine if a maintenance charge should be initiated. If the terminal voltage falls below 6.4V (6V) and 12.8V (12V), the charger will start the Maintenance cycle until voltage reaches 7.2V (6V) and 14.4V (12V) and then discontinues the charge cycle. The cycle between Trickle and Maintenance is repeated indefinitely to keep the battery at full charge, without overcharging. The battery charger can be left connected indefinitely.
- Microprocessor controlled with multi-stage charging
- Both charger and maintainer in one
- Small and lightweight
- Price – Around $60 online
CTEK is not a well-known name among U.S. battery charger buyers but, they offer a variety of chargers under their own name and other brands that are some of the best out there. You might be interested to know that they supply battery chargers to some of the most prestigious Automotive and PowerSport manufacturers in the world including names like BWM, Audi, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, Corvette, Camaro, Husqvarna, and many more. Their CTEK Multi US 4.3 12-Volt Battery Charger is their most popular and represents the state-of-the art in battery charging technology. This model features an eight-step, microprocessor controlled, automatic switch-mode charging program that delivers selectable 0.8A or 4.3A charging to 12-volt batteries from 1.2 – 110 Ah and is suitable for maintenance charging up to 160 Ah. A very versatile battery charger, it has the capability to charge and maintain many types of 12-volt lead-acid batteries including Wet Cel, Maintenance-Free, Gel Cel, AGM, and more. This model can actually increase battery life and recover mildly sulphated batteries using its pulse charging. It provides easy, convenient, and automatic battery charging.
- 12-volt, 4.3-Amp, fully automatic, switch mode battery charger
- Fully automatic charging and maintenance in 8 steps maximizes battery life and performance
- Capability to charge and maintain many types of 12-volt lead-acid batteries including Wet Cel, Maintenance-Free, Gel Cel, AGM, and more
- Can actually increase battery life and recover mildly sulphated batteries using its patented pulse charging
- One charger for the car, motorcycle, lawn mower, snowmobile, sump pump and tractor
- Water-resistant so that the charge can be taken to the problem even if it rains or snows
- Patented maintenance charge for a unique combination of maximized life and performance
- Can be connected for months at a time without damaging your battery, the charger, or your vehicle
- Reconditions many deep discharged batteries
- Safety features include spark-proof connection and protection against short-circuit and reverse-polarity
- Automatic detection of end-of-life batteries that eliminates surprises
- Numerous accessories simplifies using the same charger for multiple batteries
- Integrated mounting points allow permanent installation for more convenient use
- Red LED warning light display when charger is not connected properly
- 5-Year limited warranty
Eight-Step Automatic Switch Modes
- Desulphation, allowing for possible reconditioning of batteries that have lost power due nonuse
- Soft Start, which charges until the battery’s terminal voltage has risen to a preset level
- Bulk, in which primary charging to approximately 80% occurs
- Absorption, a final charging stage where voltage is kept at a preset level
- Analysis, during which charging a suspended and voltage measured
- Recondition, where the battery is fed a constant current of 1.5A and maximum voltage of 15.7V; Float, during which constant voltage is maintained
- Pulse/Maintenance Charging, in which the battery receives a pulse of electricity when the voltage drops below 95%, keeping the battery in perfect condition indefinitely when it is not used.
- Simple to setup and operate
- 8-Step automatic switching charging program
- Desulphation step recovers batteries
- Clamp quality not as good as unit
- Some reports that the unit gets very hot in use
- Complaints that leads are too short
Car Battery Chargers
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Car battery chargers are a necessity for those who own any sort of vehicle with a 12-volt or 6-volt battery. We sincerely hope that this article has provided you with valuable information that helps you choose one of the best car battery chargers for your needs!