Why Are Car Batteries So Expensive?

Car battery.

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Car batteries can cost anywhere between $60 and $300, which is a fairly large amount for low- and middle-class Americans. 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.

Good Warranties

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 only last three to five years, 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. 

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 when the day their car refuses to start. 

Costly Components

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. Inflation and a shortage or resources can also cause sharp price increases. 

Strict Government Regulations 

Nearly 10 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency handed down new regulations to car battery manufacturers. This legislation was part 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. 

Low Maintenance

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. 

Essential Purchase 

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?

When you compare lead-acid batteries to the ones that power electric vehicles, a conventional battery may sound cheaper. Lithium-ion batteries fall into another category, with an average cost of about $7,350 — an 87% decrease from 10 years ago. 

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. 

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.