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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. To make matters worse, inflation is causing prices to climb continually, while peoples’ paychecks remain the same.
That fact alone could answer the question of why car batteries are so expensive. However, there are a number of other factors that play into the price.
When you have to purchase a new battery, a few hundred dollars might feel like a lot to drop at once. However, your battery likely comes with a good warranty that will cover it for a few years. Since most batteries only last three to five years, you might get lucky and end up with a free or discounted battery the next time around.
Thus, while it may cost a $50 or $100 to purchase a warranty, the higher 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 compared to 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 just think bout it less than you would your phone, so most people are unprepared to spend that kind of money when the day their car simply refuses to start.
Car batteries are also made out of 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 make up for this deficit. The ripples of these requirements are still reflected in the cost of batteries to this day.
While car batteries may be made of pricey, hazardous materials, they require little maintenance, which means 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’re going to 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 other 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 electrical vehicles, a conventional battery might not sound all that expensive. That’s because lithium-ion batteries fall into a whole other category, with the average cost working out to be 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.
Investing in Quality
While it may be tempting to buy the cheapest battery and on the market and skip the warranty, 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, even though you spent more in upfront costs than you might have liked.