Best Car Battery Chargers For 2021

Contributor
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
Forbes Wheels independently tests and reviews cars and automotive accessories. We may earn an affiliate commission from links on our site. The analysis and opinions are our own.

The humble battery charger has evolved to a smart, microprocessor-controlled battery charger-maintainer, able to detect weak batteries and—to an extent—“repair” them, alert the operator to dangerous

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Best for Dependability
Deltran Battery Tender
Why We Picked It

The Plus 1.25 will fully charge the battery, then switch to a float (or maintenance) mode. Fully charging a mostly depleted battery will take two to three days—remember, this is not primarily a single-purpose battery charger, but more of a keep-it-ready device. The red light indicates charging in progress, and the green that float mode has been reached. Reverse polarity, and the red and green lights flash alternately—if you miss that signal, you’re not paying attention. There is a quick-disconnect harness for emergencies, and to switch between the included ring terminals and alligator clips.


Pros & Cons
Best for Features
Schumacher SC1281
Why We Picked It

Many people carry battery-pack jump-starters as insurance against cold-weather disaster, but here’s a maintainer/charger that can also supply 100 amps to jump start a large truck or SUV even in cold weather (if you’re near an electric outlet). The unit is hefty amongst its competition, weighing in at 12.65 pounds, but there is a range of features. The Schumacher charges a wide range of battery types, includes an alternator tester and automatic repair of sulfated plates. A digital readout shows the state of charge.

Other features include multi-stage charging and auto-voltage detection. When the battery is fully charged, the Schumacher unit puts it through a full rest cycle and cool down (claimed to be superior to mere float mode). That’s followed by a partial drain to “exercise” the battery before it’s fully charged.


Pros & Cons
Best Value
Black+ Decker Battery Charger/Maintainer
Why We Picked It

This isn’t the fullest-featured maintainer, but it does what most of the other ones do at a price under $20. It charges six- and 12-volt batteries, includes both battery clips and O-ring terminals, charges fully then goes into float mode, and has built-in protection against overcharging, polarity reversal and short circuits. Users report good durability.


Pros & Cons
Best for Fast Charging and Cold Climates
CTEK MUS 4.3
Why We Picked It

Attention all polar bears (or people who live like them): The water- and dust-resistant CTEK maintainer was specially developed for very cold weather. When the thermometer drops, this charger offers “snowflake” mode, and it’s also protected against overcharging in very hot climates. The charging process proceeds through desulfation, soft start, bulk, absorption, analyze, recondition, float and pulse modes. Very lightweight at two pounds, CTEK is also a very fast charger that can revive a dead battery in 12 hours. It is short-circuit proof, offers automatic battery diagnosis, and is protected against reverse polarity.


Pros & Cons
Best for Safety
Griot’s Garage Charger/Maintainer
Why We Picked It

At a price around $125, it should be, as Griot’s Garage claims, “the Rolls-Royce of battery maintenance.” There are indeed a lot of features, including three charge rates, from two amps to 20—boat and lawn mower batteries can be accommodated. Voltage or percent of charge display on the LED. There are a lot of safeguards. If the battery is seriously
compromised, both “error” and “charging” lights will flash. The charging process includes an exercise phase (as does the Schumacher) to maintain battery health. Should the owner reverse polarity, power is cut to the output cables and the “error” light comes on. If the unit detects a battery that should charge at a voltage other than the one selected, the display flashes an alert. The clamps aren’t powered unless they’re properly connected.


Pros & Cons


SaleBestseller No. 1
5,753 Reviews
Schumacher SC1281 100 Amp 30 Amp 6V/12V Fully Automatic Smart Battery Charger 100A Engine Starter and 30A Boost Maintainer and Auto Desulfator Advanced Diagnostic Testing
  • VERSATILE COMPATIBILITY: Charges compatible battery types, including standard, AGM, gel, and deep-cycle batteries
  • MULTIPLE MODES: Features 30 Amp quick boost and 100 Amp jumpstart, powerful enough to start SUVs, trucks, and large batteries
  • FULLY AUTOMATIC: Microprocessor-controlled system automatically adjusts amperage; includes LED indicator lights
Bestseller No. 2
7,391 Reviews
NOCO GENIUS10, 10-Amp Fully-Automatic Smart Charger, 6V and 12V Battery Charger, Battery Maintainer, Trickle Charger, and Battery Desulfator with Temperature Compensation
  • GENIUS10 - Similar to our G7200, just better. It's 17% smaller and delivers 115% more power. It's the all in one solution battery charger, battery maintainer, trickle charger, plus battery desulfator.
  • Do more with Genius - Designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries, including flooded, gel, AGM, and maintenance-free, plus lithium-ion batteries.
  • Enjoy precision charging - An integrated thermal sensor detects the ambient temperature and alters the charge to eliminate over-charging in hot climates and under-charging in cold climates.
SaleBestseller No. 3
19,107 Reviews
NOCO GENIUS1, 1-Amp Fully-Automatic Smart Charger, 6V and 12V Battery Charger, Battery Maintainer, Trickle Charger, and Battery Desulfator with Temperature Compensation
  • Meet the GENIUS1 - Similar to our G750, just better. It's 35% smaller and delivers 35% more power. It's the all-in-one solution - battery charger, battery maintainer, trickle charger, plus battery desulfator.
  • Do more with Genius - Designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries, including flooded, gel, AGM, and maintenance-free, plus lithium-ion batteries.
  • Enjoy precision charging - An integrated thermal sensor detects the ambient temperature and alters the charge to eliminate over-charging in hot climates and under-charging in cold climates.
SaleBestseller No. 4
7,511 Reviews
NOCO GENIUS5, 5-Amp Fully-Automatic Smart Charger, 6V and 12V Battery Charger, Battery Maintainer, Trickle Charger, and Battery Desulfator with Temperature Compensation
  • Meet the GENIUS5 - Similar to our G3500, just better. It's 34% smaller and delivers 65% more power. It's the all-in-one solution - battery charger, battery maintainer, trickle charger, plus battery desulfator.
  • Do more with Genius - Designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries, including flooded, gel, AGM, and maintenance-free, plus lithium-ion batteries.
  • Enjoy precision charging - An integrated thermal sensor detects the ambient temperature and alters the charge to eliminate over-charging in hot climates and under-charging in cold climates.
SaleBestseller No. 5
3,175 Reviews
2/10/25A 12V Smart Battery Charger/Maintainer Fully Automatic with Engine Start, Cable Clamps
  • Fast, Smart Battery Charger: The Battery Charger can charge all types of 12V Lead-acid Batteries, including GEL, AGM and STD. It is perfect for charging Automotive, Motorcycle, Marine, RV, PowerSport, Lawn & Garden, etc. Do not charge a frozen or dead battery that has gone below 3V.
  • 7-Step Charging Program: Desulphation, Soft Start, Bulk Charge, Absorption, Battery Test, Recondition and Floating. This allows for optimization of battery power, without overcharging or damaging.
  • Advanced Start Aid: Engine Start Aid feature can help start your vehicle in about 120 seconds.
Bestseller No. 6
1,063 Reviews
Schumacher Battery Charger with Engine Starter, Boost, and Maintainer - 200 Amp/40 Amp, 6V/12V - for Cars, Trucks, SUVs, Marine, RV Batteries
  • RELIABLE POWER: 40 Amp quick boost mode and 200 Amp engine start for cars, trucks, SUVs, marine vehicles, and RVs; compatible with standard and AGM batteries
  • AUTO AMP ADJUST: Microprocessor-controlled to automatically adjust the amperage rate to charge and maintain
  • BUILT-IN TESTER: Battery and alternator tester provides charge level and helps diagnose electrical problems; auto voltage detection feature identifies 6V or 12V batteries
SaleBestseller No. 7
6,930 Reviews
Schumacher Fully Automatic Battery Charger and Maintainer 15 Amp/3 Amp, 6V/12V - for Marine and Automotive Batteries
  • RELIABLE POWER: Delivers 15 Amp rapid charge and 3 Amp maintain to automotive and marine batteries; compatible with standard, AGM, gel, and deep-cycle batteries
  • SMART CHARGING: Microprocessor-controlled automatic amperage rate adjustment and multi-stage charging for added precision, safety, and battery life
  • DIGITAL DISPLAY: LED display, indicator lights, and simple button controls for ease of use
Bestseller No. 8
45 Reviews
Schumacher 225/50/25/10 Amp 6/12V Manual Wheel Charger
  • 12 ft. Total Reach – 6 ft. power cord and 6 ft. front-mounted output cables
  • Solid State Circuitry – with silicon diodes for optimum performance
  • 135 Minute Timer – for precision control over the charging process
SaleBestseller No. 9
3,814 Reviews
BLACK+DECKER BC15BD Fully Automatic 15 Amp 12V Bench Battery Charger/Maintainer with 40A Engine Start, Alternator Check, Cable Clamps
  • 15 amp bench battery charger maintains and charges any AGM, GEL, or WET automotive or marine 12V battery
  • Fully automatic high frequency charging delivers 3 stage charging, automatically switching from fast charge, to top-off, to trickle charge
  • Battery reconditioning feature helps extend battery life; 40 amp engine start helps start your vehicle in about 90 seconds
Bestseller No. 10
810 Reviews
Schumacher DSR131 DSR ProSeries 250 Amp(12V) 125 Amp(6V) 50 Amp 6V/12V Fully Automatic Pro Smart Battery Charger with Engine Starter, Boost, and Maintainer for Automotive Shop/Dealer Use
  • Charges standard, AGM and Gel and deep-cycle batteries
  • 50A boost mode quickly brings deeply discharged battery back to life
  • 6V/12V 250A Voltage

Methodology

Forbes Wheels surveyed dozens of battery chargers and battery charger-maintainers for features and capabilities. We focused on charger-maintainers that trickle charge a battery to full charge, then maintain the battery charge indefinitely (for weeks or months) without damage. They’re more advanced and don’t cost more than charger-only devices.

We narrowed the field to companies with strong reputations, including one that produces charger-maintainers for automakers, with prices ranging from less than $20 to more than $120. They were compared for rate of charge, informative front panels, protection against accidentally crossing cables, vendor reputation, special features including jump starting a car with a dead battery, and owner ratings. We also compared them for price-performance. The choices represent charger-maintainers well suited for features, vendor reputation, safety, fast-charging, jump-starting, and cold climates.


What Is a Battery Charger-Maintainer?
Can I Leave the Charger Attached for a Long Time?
Why Buy a Higher-Price Charger-Maintainer?
What Do I Give Up Buying a Low-Cost Charger-Maintainer?
What Is “Battery Float”?

Jim Motavalli Contributor
Jim Motavalli is a veteran automotive journalist and author of nine books whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Barron's Penta, Car Talk, Autoweek and Media Village.