Clueless about car battery purchase!
December 7, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe

How cheap is too cheap for a new car battery: 98 Toyota Corolla edition.

My car battery has died (after a long giving life) and now I need to replace it and have no clue as to how much I should spend. At this point I am not interested in putting a lot of money into the car (I rarely drive it, have plans to sell it soonish), but I don't want to spend $50 on a cheap battery if it's going to be unreliable. I checked out battery prices on the Sears website and they seem to range from $50-$200. FWIW, the car is in Los Angeles so cold weather start up isn't a huge issue. What does the hive mind think?
posted by mandymanwasregistered to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If cold weather isn't an issue, and it's a 12 year old car, put the cheapest new battery in it you can find.
posted by mhoye at 1:39 PM on December 7, 2010

Get a major name brand, second-from-cheapest option.

Seriously, if you don't need much in the way of cold cranking amps, and it sounds like you don't, you shouldn't need to spend much beyond the minimum. However, do you know WHY your battery died? Was it old (5+ years)? If not, there may be a more serious problem, with your alternator or something, that is forcing the battery to be used too often, draining it too quickly. This would not only make you need new batteries more often, but could also lead to other expensive repairs.
posted by rkent at 1:40 PM on December 7, 2010

I bought a $60 battery from auto zone for my car and it has lasted me 2 years so far with no problem. The battery in our truck is the cheapest one auto zone carried 5 years ago and its fine. So I would assume you will be fine with any battery, especially if your going to sell the car soonish.
posted by token-ring at 1:43 PM on December 7, 2010

Thanks for the info! Bonus if Autozone works because there is one near my apartment.

rkent: I'd have to check paperwork, but the battery is at least 5 years old. I bought the car used 5 years ago and have never replaced the battery.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:56 PM on December 7, 2010

Cheap is fine as long as it is a name brand of some kind (that is known for car batteries).

Costco battery has worked fine for me, as has Sears, and a Ford battery that came new from the factory and lasted 7 Chicago winters. And even then it didn't break, I just got superstitious.

The most important thing is to pick it out yourself and pick the one with the most recent date code on it.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy from Autozone, if only because they are all over the place and if it breaks you can get it replaced.

Note: some of the cheapness in the battery will be in lack of warranty. A $50 battery might have a pro-rated 24 month warranty, while a $100 one might be 3 year full replacement.
posted by gjc at 3:31 PM on December 7, 2010

If it's a manual, you can always posh it and throw it in gear to start. You don't want to do this all the time, but it does allow you to go for dodgier batteries without worrying you will be sol.

That said, at the low low low end you can get a used battery from Pick'n'pull. They have them up front, cheap.

Myself, I'd go with Costco or Sears.
posted by zippy at 4:45 PM on December 7, 2010

posh it, posh it real good
posted by zippy at 4:46 PM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I did fine with a $20 used. Get the largest that will fit in the compartment.
posted by sammyo at 6:18 PM on December 7, 2010

I've been told that there are only a handful of car battery makers left and, for the most part, what you're paying for is the name on it (other than when the specs are different of course). I've no idea if it's true, but I decided to switch to el cheapo batteries after that and I've had no problems for at least 5 years with each cheap battery I put in my two cars. YMMV.

That also reminds me that I've been told that since the batteries are all very similar these days, it's wise to keep track of how old your battery is and replace it with another el cheapo at 5 years. Looks like I'll have to look for a place with car batteries on sale soon.

Also, 2ing the idea of a junk yard (pick and pull) if you're gonna sell the car within a year or so.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:58 PM on December 7, 2010

My battery once gave up when I was en route - it's a 2000 Corolla and the battery had done eight years. To replace it I got the cheapest battery I could at the garage I stopped in at. It still works fine two years later, even though the car is rarely used (once a week most weeks) and has had the battery drained by Mrs MM leaving the interior light on, needing a jump start.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:08 AM on December 8, 2010

The advice here is good. Just went through this with my 1998 Corolla. I opted for a $75 battery - relatively cheap - and I don't regret it. Cold weather is more of a concern for me and I went for it anyway. So far, so good (it's been about 3 months). A relatively inexpensive name-brand has worked for me, on the exact same car, and I expect it would for you, too.
posted by cheapskatebay at 7:49 AM on December 8, 2010

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