Every day, the tens of thousands of parts that comprise your vehicle operate in unison to get you from point A to point B. The health of these individual pieces is easy to overlook. Until something goes wrong.
Even if you’re renting a car, the time will come when you need a vehicle battery replacement. You’ll know you’re due for a change when your engine struggles to start or your battery is a few years old.
Since you’ll be replacing car batteries for the rest of your life, it’s worth thinking about ways to save on the process. Here’s how to get the most of your car battery — and how to save when it’s due for a replacement.
Vehicle Battery Maintenance
In general, you can expect the average car battery to last four years. This estimation assumes you take good care of your car and battery. If you don’t, the lifespan of your vehicle battery may fall well below this benchmark.
And that means you’ll pay more on battery expenses overall.
Luckily, caring for a car battery doesn’t require a serious commitment. In fact, you don’t even have to open the hood to keep it maintained.
Have you ever wondered how a car battery keeps its charge? A small part known as the alternator powers the battery. But the engine belt needs to be rolling for it to do its job.
That’s why it’s important to drive your car on a regular basis. If you’ll be going on a long trip or vacation, consider unplugging the battery to conserve its charge. In some vehicles, idling is enough to charge the battery, but you should take a cruise around town for the best results.
Extreme temperatures, heat especially, further degrade car batteries. That’s because they rely on a delicate chemical reaction. Electrolytes vital to this process may evaporate in heat and therefore lower a battery’s permanent capacity.
Do yourself a favor and park your vehicle in a temperate garage rather than outside on the street. If that’s not an option in your area, get your hands on a cheap battery insulation kit instead.
For a final tip, be sure to unplug appliances when your vehicle isn’t in use. Something as simple as a cell phone connector will leech power from your car battery when not in use. And since it isn’t running, the alternator can’t replenish its charge.
This includes your interior lights and headlights. Most models disable these electronics automatically. But not all do.
Save on Your Vehicle Battery Replacement
Okay, so you’ve done everything you can to maintain the life of your car battery. That could delay the need for a replacement by a year or two. But eventually, it’ll need to go.
So, how can you save on your next vehicle battery replacement? Well, you’ve got a couple of options.
1. Swap to a Lithium Battery
There are two types of automotive batteries: lead acid vs lithium. Lead-acid batteries are the cheaper variant, but you get what you pay for. They don’t tend to last as long and they require more care to maintain.
Alternatively, lithium-ion batteries carry a high price tag, but they’re more resilient and boast longer lifespans. When the time comes to replace your car battery, consider spending more upfront on a lithium variant.
It should pay for itself.
2. Recycle at an Auto Parts Store
You would imagine that replacing a vehicle battery requires professional tools and workers. But it really doesn’t. Most auto parts stores will handle the installation for you on the spot.
In addition to skipping the line, dealing with an auto parts store is far cheaper than working with a dealership or mechanic. You buy the battery and they’ll replace it for you for free. Most auto parts stores also offer you a gift card or discount if you give them your old battery.
And why not? You have to recycle the thing anyway.
3. Buy Wholesale
For enhanced savings, put in the legwork at a wholesaler. At a place like Costco, locating the battery model for your car is more work than using an auto parts store.
But it pays off. Wholesale discounts reduce the final cost of the battery. Note that some wholesalers may offer battery installation services, but most won’t.
That means you’ll need to handle the vehicle battery replacement on your own. But by doing so, you’ll save even more than going through an auto parts store. Don’t forget you’ll need to recycle your old battery since it’s illegal to dump one in the conventional trash.
4. Contact AAA
The most convenient option is to have your battery replaced through AAA. As a member, you have access to their battery replacement services. Their roadside assistance can come to you to replace the dead battery, whether you’re stuck on the interstate or in the comfort of your own home.
This option isn’t exactly free, however. In addition to your membership fee, you’ll pay for the battery itself — but not for the manual labor. They will recycle the old battery for you, too.
It’s similar to going to an auto parts store, but you can enjoy the service at home.
Drive Into Car Battery Savings
Don’t pay more than you have to for a vehicle battery replacement. This year, avoid the dealership and head to the auto parts store for a lithium-ion battery. For even greater savings, purchase your car battery from a wholesaler and install it yourself.
Looking for more car maintenance tips? Search our site for car repair advice and savings.