If you’re new to the world of RVs, you might just assume that you can throw any old car battery into your RV and call it a day. And while a motorhome definitely will need one of those for starting the engine, motorhomes and towable trailers both need deep cycle batteries to power everything inside.
These are specifically designed to output a smaller, steadier flow of electricity for extended periods of time. Starter batteries, on the other hand, are only meant to discharge large amounts of energy for a quick time while starting your vehicle before the alternator can power the electronics. In an RV, you need a battery that can power your lighting, water pump, and fans while you are away from shore power.
Here’s what you need to know about finding the best RV batteries.
There are four main types of deep cycle RV batteries: flooded lead-acid batteries, gel cell batteries, absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries, and lithium iron-phosphate batteries.
Flooded lead-acid batteries have a positive and negative terminal made of lead suspended in a bath of electrolytes dissolved in water. You do have to maintain the liquid levels in this, so you should periodically fill flooded batteries with distilled water. You also need to keep an eye out for corrosion on the terminals. This type of battery is typically the heaviest and might not last as long as the other types, but they are the least expensive.
Gel batteries also use lead terminals and electrolytes to hold electricity, but they have silica mixed in with the electrolytes to form a gel, rather than a liquid. This gel is then sealed into the battery unlike a flooded battery, which isn’t sealed and can be opened. Because they are sealed, you can keep gel batteries upside down or on their side. Flooded batteries must be kept upright or else they leak.
The silica-based gel has a lower freezing point and higher boiling point, making these batteries better suited for extremely hot or cold environments. While more stable than flooded batteries, gel batteries are more expensive.
AGM batteries use a fiberglass mat saturated in electrolytes to carry electricity. These batteries are good for use in cold temperatures, they can be left on their sides without leaking, and they typically last longer than flooded batteries. While more expensive than flooded batteries, they are less pricey than gel or lithium batteries.
These are the longest-lasting batteries, and the most expensive. Lithium iron phosphate batteries are able to survive up to 5-10 times as many charge and discharge cycles as lead-acid batteries, but they can also easily cost five times as much.
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Battle Born is one of the most widely respected names in deep cycle batteries, and the lithium iron phosphate battery is exemplary.
It features its own battery management system to ensure that the battery won’t die in dangerous conditions and won’t charge or discharge too suddenly. It is rated to last anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 recharge cycles, which should have you covered for years to come. Battle Born is so confident in their product that they back each battery up with a 10-year warranty.
The initial investment may be high for some—the retail price comes in at around $950. But with how long this battery can last, you will be saving money and hassle in the long run.
For more information on the Battle Born lithium battery’s features and price, check out their listing here.
If paying $1,000 for a battery isn’t an option for you, then an AGM battery from the Universal Power Group might be right up your alley.
At $180, this battery is rated for 500 charge cycles, is spill-proof, is shock-proof, and can safely be left unused for extended periods of time, losing less than 3% of its charge per month. This battery offers great value with an affordable price for a battery that should last you several years.
The specs for this excellent battery can be found here.
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Another great AGM option, the Odyssey PC680 has excellent value for a long-lasting battery.
It is fairly lightweight by deep cycle battery standards, coming in at just over 15 pounds. But just because it’s lightweight doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy-duty; its fiberglass plate is designed to protect the battery from shock and vibration, while also providing plenty of power for a long time.
It isn’t rated for as many cycles as the Universal AGM Battery or the Battle Born lithium battery, but it still offers up to 400 cycles at 80% discharge and costs under $150. This little battery is ready to hit the road without hitting your wallet too hard. For full specs on this battery, check out Odyssey’s website.
Unlike the other batteries on this list, the Optima 8016-103 battery is dual purpose. What that means is that this battery can be used as a deep cycle battery like the rest of the options, but it also functions as a starter battery.
This type of battery is primarily used in boats, but its rugged design makes it perfect for operating an RV, especially in cold conditions. They are a little bit pricier, but they offer dual-purpose use, excellent reliability, and a two-year warranty. For full specs, check out Optima’s website.
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If you’re looking for a flooded lead-acid battery, the Trojan T-105 is one of the best you can get, with a rating of up to 1,200 deep cycles.
One unique quirk of the T-105 is that it is actually a 6-volt battery, not a 12-volt one. What this means is that you will need to buy two of them and wire them together in series to combine their voltages. This means connecting the RV’s positive wire to the positive terminal of your first battery, and the negative lead of your first battery to the positive lead of your second battery, then the negative lead of your second battery to the negative wire of your RV.
If you’re worried that the process sounds a little complicated, don’t fret. You don’t need an electrical engineering degree to learn how to do this, just a quick YouTube video.
The advantage to this is that if one battery goes bad after the warranty expires, you only have to replace one and can keep the second around until it also needs to be replaced. This can be a good system as long as you keep track of when each battery is installed. For more information on the T-15 and other flooded batteries from Trojan, check out their website.
Choosing the right battery can help you get on the road— and stay on the road— with all of your creature comforts. Always be sure to read your RV’s manufacturer's instructions before installing a battery for any special requirements or procedures.
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