How Much Does a Replacement Car Battery Cost?
Canada’s climate extremes place strain on a vehicle’s 12V battery. Even when it is properly cared for, repeated cold starts and the high power-draw of our electrically powered creature comforts take their toll on the battery, which has a life of around 3-5 years in provinces that see the toughest winter conditions.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the different types of 12V battery and how much it costs to replace. Before we look at costs, let’s look at the role of a 12V battery.
But if you’re not sure whether it’s time to replace it, read our full battery buying guide here, and take a look at our graphic below:
First, what does a 12V battery do?
In most cars and trucks, a 12V battery provides power to crank the engine and start the vehicle. Once it’s running, the battery then powers the electrical systems, including lights, audio, heated seats and more.
The battery’s charge is topped up by the alternator when the engine is running but particularly in cold weather, short journeys are not always enough to replenish the power used to start the car. Battery performance can deteriorate over time and should be checked at least once a year, for example at the same time as an oil change.
Lead-acid 12V batteries
Most automotive 12V batteries use traditional lead-acid chemistry. Lead-acid is proven, low-cost and surprisingly sustainable. Most of the content of a lead-acid battery can be recycled and reused in the manufacture of new batteries.
Note that a ‘core charge’ (currently $20) applies to sales of new 12V batteries, to encourage the return of the old one for remanufacture. It’ll either be waved at the time of purchase if you have the old battery to hand or refunded later if you subsequently return the old battery.
AGM 12V batteries
A newer form of lead-acid battery is absorbent glass mat (AGM). AGM batteries are often made with virgin lead and provide a slightly higher voltage than a regular lead-acid battery, so are well suited to new vehicle technologies such as auto stop-start systems. They are also used in situations where the battery is located somewhere other than under the hood, such as in the trunk or under a seat, because they are completely sealed with no risk of leaking.
If your car was fitted with an AGM battery from new, you must refit a replacement AGM battery. If it didn’t, you can still fit an AGM battery. It will be more expensive than a regular lead-acid but should have greater resistance to extreme cold, frequent short trips and accidental discharges, and increased ability to handle high electrical loads from in-car amenities.
Lithium-ion 12V batteries
Lithium-ion batteries power electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones, as well forming the high-voltage drive batteries in the new generation of electric cars. However, very few cars – including the latest Tesla Model S and X, some Hyundai plug-in hybrids and a handful of high-end sports cars – are sold as standard with lithium-ion 12V batteries.
Retrofit 12V lithium batteries provide benefits that include long life, less weight, much higher cold-cranking amperage and onboard battery management systems that prevent a full loss of charge. However, their high performance comes at a price: you can reckon on paying around $1,000 for an Li-ion battery in a popular automotive size.
Car battery price examples
Like anything else, 12V batteries vary in quality, specification and price – anything from $100 to $1,000. A more expensive battery – even a lead-acid one – will generally offer longer life and higher cold-cranking amps (CCA), a measure of how much current a new battery can deliver for 30 seconds at -18°C. Larger engines usually require bigger, more powerful, and thus more expensive batteries.
We’ve compared some sample 12V battery prices for several popular vehicles that use standard 12V battery sizes.
2011 Subaru Impreza (size 35)
- Budget lead-acid - 650 CCA: $100
- Branded lead-acid - 540 CCA: $135
- Premium lead-acid - 640 CCA: $255
- Branded AGM - 620 CCA: $325
2013 GMC Terrain V6 (size 48)
- Branded lead-acid - 655 CCA: $195
- Premium lead-acid - 680 CCA: $290
- Branded AGM 760 - CCA: $295
2015 Ford F-150 V8 (size 94R)
- Branded lead-acid - 790 CCA: $250
- Branded AGM - 800 CCA: $325
- Premium AGM - 800 CCA: $475
The CCA rating provides a like-for-like comparison between models but is a specific test that may not always equate to the battery with the best long-term performance, nor the best performance in each use case.
Residual capacity for example, which is how many minutes of power are available with the engine off, might be important if you spend a lot of time sitting in a vehicle waiting or working.
We recommend a battery with a multi-year guarantee and checking reviews from independent review sites such as Consumer Reports.