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Car batteries can cost as low as $45 and as high as $400 depending on their power, size and quality. In any case, their prices are unreasonably high for most car owners. Why are car batteries so expensive? To make matters worse, inflation is causing prices to climb continually while people’s paychecks remain the same. That fact alone could answer the question of why car batteries are so expensive. However, several other factors play into the price.
When you have to purchase a new battery, a few hundred dollars may feel like a lot. However, your battery likely comes with a good warranty covering it for a few years. Most batteries should last at least three years without much trouble, so you may luck in with a free or discounted battery next time.
A warranty may cost $50 or $100, but the high price point could be worth it. Look for distributors that offer three to four-year warranties like Walmart and NAPA. Purchasing a longer warranty will increase your likelihood of getting more for less.
Long Shelf Life
Most people upgrade their smartphones every few years because the battery starts to give out. The same is true of cars. However, replacing your car’s battery is much more affordable than replacing your phone. Car batteries might only last a few years on the road, but they have much longer shelf lives.
When you put those details into perspective, it makes sense that something that lasts a few years would cost a few hundred dollars. You think about it less than you would your phone, so most people don’t want to spend that kind of money on the day their car refuses to start.
Car batteries also have precious, costly components like lead and sulfuric acid. Harvesting and working with these raw materials require a ton of time and energy, which also contribute to the higher price tag. Essentially, you’re paying for labor and materials when you buy a car battery. That means the global supply chain can significantly affect your local prices.
Inflation and a shortage of resources can also cause sharp price increases. Inflation and high interest rates have caused a decline in car buying overall, including new vehicles and spare parts for miscellaneous repairs. Some of the reasons why car batteries are so expensive are entirely out of the automotive industry’s control.
Strict Government Regulations
From the early 2010s onward, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has handed down new regulations to car battery manufacturers. These new legislations were parts of an initiative to ensure proper production, distribution and disposal of lead-acid car batteries.
While the stricter rules were good for the environment, they required suppliers to collectively invest $600 million in their manufacturing, smelting and recycling facilities. Consequently, some companies had to reduce their capacity and raise prices to compensate for this deficit. The ripples of these requirements still reflect in the cost of batteries to this day.
While car batteries have pricey, hazardous materials, they require little maintenance, so car owners don’t have to worry about them until they die. The consumer pays for this convenience by shelling out more cash every few years.
Of course, if you want to get the most out of your battery, you should probably check the acid level once a year to ensure it’s full enough. Ask your mechanic to conduct a battery load test to determine how well the device still charges to its fullest potential. Doing so will help you prepare for your inevitable purchase while at the same time pushing it further into the future.
Your car can’t operate without a battery, and suppliers know it. Eventually, you will need to replace your vehicle’s old ticker with a new one. And you’ll have no choice but to do it because purchasing a new car is the only option. So, if you want to look at the positive side, you’re actually saving money, right?
What About EV Batteries?
The lithium-ion batteries found in electric vehicles fall into another category. The costs of EV batteries are determined by their energy output, with an average cost $153/kWh on a usable-energy basis for production of at least 100,000 units per year. This average is a 90% decrease from the first lithium-ion battery prices from the mid-2000s.
In layman’s terms, their price can range anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on the EV’s make and model. When an EV battery finally dies after a decade or so of use, its owner will likely invest in a new vehicle rather than a new battery. Just count your lucky stars that you don’t have to routinely shell out tens of thousands of dollars to keep your driving privileges.
You can also decrease your long-term EV battery costs by implementing simple energy preservation strategies such as charging the vehicle responsibly and minimizing exposure to extreme temperatures. EV batteries might have longer lifespans than regular car batteries, but they can be highly sensitive.
Why Are Car Batteries So Expensive? Invest in Quality
It’s tempting to buy the cheapest battery on the market and skip the warranty. But it’s more financially savvy to invest in a higher-quality, insured battery.
Odds are it’ll last much longer and cause fewer issues for the rest of your car. Ultimately, less maintenance means you’ll save more over time, Though you’ll spend more with up-front costs than you may have liked.