Unless you’re a self-confessed petrol head, or earn a living as a mechanic, you probably don’t give much thought to your car battery - until you have to.
Much like the rest of us, you drive your car, you keep it clean, top it up with petrol and go through the general car maintenance checklist. You probably don’t think about the mechanics of your car … until it starts making a rattling noise.
So, our question is this - do you know how long your car battery should last? The likely answer is no, so we’re here to help you so you can make the most of your car.
And just to be clear, we’re not talking about electric vehicles, we’re talking about regular petrol and diesel engine car batteries and their life spans. But, if you want to know how long an electric car battery lasts for, we’ve already got that covered.
How Often Should You Change Your Car’s Battery?
In our opinion asking “how often should you change your car’s battery?”, is the same as asking “how long does a car battery last for?”.
There are warning signs when your battery is near its end (which we discuss later in this post). If your car isn’t showing any signs of death, or isn’t already dead, then you probably won’t consider pre-emptively replacing it.
It is helpful to know the rough lifespan of your car’s battery so you can plan for the future. The average lifespan of a car battery is 3-5 years, however with good care and ideal driving conditions (no extreme temperatures), they can last as long as 6 years.
How Long Does a Car Battery Last Without Driving?
Found yourself with an injury or illness making you medically exempt from driving? Recently moved somewhere where the public transport system makes more sense than driving? Or maybe you’ve bought a surprise car for your 17 year-old and they’re taking a little longer to pass than you expected?
Whatever your plans or situation may be, you have found yourself with a car that you can’t drive and you want to know how long the car’s battery will last if you don’t drive it. Unfortunately, not driving it at all will cause damage to your car’s battery, and possibly lead to an untimely death.
Basically, your car’s battery survives on being driven, as driving the car allows the battery to recharge itself - which is why it is also important to take it for longer drives, to allow the battery to stretch its legs if you will.
But, your car will not die if it’s not driven for one day - with modern batteries they can survive up to a month without being driven, but some manufacturers such as Mercedes and BMW have been known to die after a fortnight of sitting idle.
Again, the survival rate of your car battery if you’re not driving it is dependent on various factors such as the climate in which it’s sitting and the age of the battery. Stating the obvious, if your battery is “old” (6+ years) and you leave it sitting undriven for over a month, expect your car to struggle to start, if at all.
Therefore, alongside the AA’s suggestions, we recommended - where possible - to not leave your car undriven for more than 2 weeks, and for you to take your car for at least a 15-minute drive to keep your battery healthy and alive.
How Do I Know When I Need A New Car Battery?
To kick things off, let us paint a picture to help you understand the importance of your car battery.
If the car battery was a vital organ in your body, it would be the brain, sending signals all around the car and being responsible for getting things started. So, when you start having problems with the battery, you will start to notice problems everywhere else.
The car battery is in charge of powering the ignition system, radio, lights and computer system - which is why when it dies, the car refuses to start.
It is frustratingly common for your car's battery to cut out and die without any warning signs, leaving you stranded in your driveway. But we’ve rounded up some of the signs to be aware of to notice when your battery is about to die:
- Difficulty Starting Your Car: One of the first tell-tale signs of the end of your car battery’s life, is regularly feeling your car struggle to start. If you’re having to turn the key and hold it down for a while for the engine to kick in, or you hear a clicking sound as you try to turn on the ignition, it’s a sign your battery is beginning to struggle*.
- Dashboard Alert: Modern cars are equipped with sensational technology to give you a more enjoyable experience, but also a safer one. If your battery is struggling, it will send a signal to your car's computer, and it will alert you on the dashboard. This is likely to be the result when you have a loose starter terminal, failing alternator or potential damaged cabling. This light will stay on whilst you’re driving.
- Failing Electrics: Like we said, your car’s battery is connected to your radio, lights and computer system. So, the chances are if you notice any issues with your radio, heaters/AC, electric windows or lights, take these as warning signs of your batteries' impending doom.
*It must be noted that, particularly in colder weather, that your car’s battery may struggle to start. This is purely down to the cold temperature and is normal, so don’t race out to replace your battery, or drive around thinking it’s going to die any second because it probably won't.
How Much Does a Car Battery Cost?
There are various factors that are taken into consideration when determining the price of a new car battery such as: make and model of the car, the year of the vehicle and where you’re purchasing the battery from.
In the UK, the average price range of a new battery can be anywhere from £60 to £321. Stop/start technology is the main factor considered in this pricing, as it can increase the price by around 20-25%.
The price of a new battery is often not inclusive of the labour cost to have the battery fitted to your car, which you absolutely do not want to do yourself.
There are various ways to have the battery purchased and then installed; a high-street store (i.e. Halfords), roadside recovery service (i.e. RAC or AA), an independent retailer or a main dealership - your choice affects the price you pay. We recommend shopping around until you find the right price and person for you.
Is My Car Battery Covered Under Warranty?
Since a car battery is considered to be a “consumable component”, meaning it will definitely need to be replaced every few years, they are generally not covered by your warranty.
Some warranties offer a limited period of full warranty cover for your battery, so it’s best to check the specific policy for your car.
If there is a factory fault with the battery, then it would be covered by your warranty.
Despite the growing concern for the environment and the increased popularity of electric vehicles, there are millions of drivers and petrol/diesel car owners out there who need to know the lifespan of a car battery and how long it will last, before we all eventually transition to electric cars.
So, whether you needed to know for peace-of-mind, budgeting or planning a long trip away and need to know you won’t be coming back to a dead car, we hope we’ve provided you with enough insight and knowledge to know when your battery needs replacing, how much it’ll set you back and how often you’ll need to replace it.