Best Trickle Chargers

Updated January 2021
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

51 Models Considered
22 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best trickle chargers

Most people don’t realize that the battery in a car is constantly draining, even when the vehicle isn’t being used. If a car is placed in storage, the battery will be dead in as little as a month or two. That's when a trickle charger comes in handy.

A trickle charger delivers a slow and steady charge to keep a battery operating at its peak. However, you must take care not to overcharge the battery because overcharging will damage it. The best trickle charger is designed to eliminate the possibility of overcharging the battery.

If you'd like to take a closer look at trickle chargers to learn about their important features, how they work, and how to safely operate one, continue reading our buying guide. If you already know the essentials and are just looking for some specific recommendations, consider the quality trickle chargers that we've spotlighted in this article.

I1 
A healthy car battery has 12.4 to 12.7 volts. Once it drops below 12 volts, you may not be able to start your car.

Key considerations

There are two main areas to consider when shopping for a trickle charger. You need to know the type of battery or batteries you’ll be charging (for example, car, motorcycle, snowmobile, marine, 12 volt, 6 volt) and how quickly you want your charger to work.

Battery type

In most instances, you’ll need a trickle charger that’s designed for a 12-volt lead-acid battery. This is the type of battery that’s normally used in automobiles. However, that isn’t the only type of battery that could benefit from a trickle charger. If you have a different type of battery in your snowmobile or motorcycle, for instance, you'll want to purchase a trickle charger that’s designed to accommodate all of your battery charging needs.

Charging speed

The average trickle charger is designed to work slowly because it’s safer to charge a battery slowly. The greater the number of amps, the faster the unit will charge. Most models are 2 amp. Some higher-end models boast a 3-amp or 4-amp charging speed. For more information on amps, see the FAQ section below.

Dyk1 
Did You Know?
If you go for extended periods only using your car for short trips (less than 30 minutes at a time), you could be unintentionally decreasing the life of your battery.
Staff
BestReviews

Features

Trickle chargers have a number of features that are designed to make them safer and easier to use. Unfortunately, these features can vary greatly from model to model, so you'll have to do your research to make sure the one you're considering has all the features you desire.

Modes

Overcharge protection: Trickle chargers feed a slow and steady charge to a battery, but even a glass that’s filled one drop at a time can overflow. To protect your battery, look for a model that has some type of overcharge protection or tender mode. If you don't, you'll need to keep an eye on the charging process and manually shut off the unit when it's done. This isn't hard, but if the battery has been charging for 18 hours, it's a task that’s easy to forget.

Besides overcharge protection, some trickle chargers feature modes that are unique to the model. Since the modes can vary from model to model, look for a charger that features modes that match your needs.

Recovery: One example is a recovery mode. This allows you to essentially bring a battery back to life after it has been discharged beyond typical levels.

Lithium-ion: Other models have modes that make it possible to charge a lithium-ion battery as well as a lead-acid battery.

Smart features

Trickle chargers are not "smart" in the way that home appliances are smart. They currently don't connect to your phone and allow remote access. When a trickle charger is labeled as smart, it means that the device has fail-safe features built in to monitor such items as charge level, temperature, and other critical factors. A model that isn't considered smart just means that it's fully manual.

Diagnostic features

On the higher end of the price scale, you can purchase a trickle charger that does more than charge. Once connected to your system, these models can diagnose and check other components in your vehicle, such as your alternator, to be sure a low battery charge is really what your problem is.

Protective features

Reverse polarity: If you connect your charger incorrectly and turn it on, you run the risk of damaging the charger, the battery, and any components that are connected to your vehicle's electrical system. Reverse polarity protection prevents your trickle charger from operating if it isn't properly connected to your battery.

Spark: Sparks can be dangerous. Beyond a shock hazard, sparks around a car battery could cause gases to combust. Some models have built-in technology to reduce or eliminate sparking that may occur when connecting the leads from the charger to the battery.

Indicator lights

The more information that's available at a glance, the more safely you can operate your trickle charger. Indicator lights can tell you when the unit is on, what operating mode it's in, the level of charge in the battery, and if there are any problems with the charger or the battery.

Size

Most trickle chargers have a compact design, so size isn't a huge factor. However, some of the higher-end models — the ones that offer greater versatility — can be a bit larger. If you're looking for something small that will fit in the trunk or even the glove compartment yet still offer advanced features, that option is available, but it will cost considerably more than a basic trickle charger.

Weather

A trickle charger should only be used in areas with adequate ventilation that also provides shelter from the elements. Some individuals may not have a carport or garage that's readily accessible for their needs. They should seek a water-resistant trickle charger that's designed to operate in more extreme temperatures.

Connectivity

Not all battery terminals are the same. While alligator clips are remarkably versatile and allow you to connect to a wide variety of batteries, sometimes, such as when you need to charge a motorcycle battery, they’re just too large to fit. In that instance, you need a charger that also includes ring terminals.

To get the longest life from your car battery, always start your vehicle with all the accessories off.

Staff
BestReviews

Trickle charger prices

Inexpensive: In the $10 to $20 range, you’ll find basic trickle chargers. These will do the job, but they’ll probably only do it on one type of battery and only have one or two indicator lights.

Mid-range: From $20 to $50, you can get a trickle charger with a battery tender that works on both 6-volt and 12-volt batteries. These models also typically offer a wider array of indicator lights.

Expensive: If you move up into the $50 to $100 range, you'll find trickle chargers with a variety of bells and whistles. These units may feature advanced diagnostics, more detailed status indicators, and even jump-start capabilities.

Dyk2
Did You Know?
If you have seasonal vehicles, such as a boat or motorcycle, it's best to place the batteries on a trickle charger during the off-season to be sure the battery will still work when you need it.
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

If you've never used a trickle charger before, you might be a little unsure of how to operate one. The following is a short list of steps to help you.

  • Park your vehicle in a covered, well-ventilated area.
  • Turn off the engine and remove the key.
  • Before plugging in the trickle charger, securely connect the red clip of the trickle charger to the positive terminal on the battery.
  • Securely connect the black clip of the trickle charger to the vehicle's chassis or engine block in an area that isn’t close to the battery. Don't attach the clip to sheet metal, plastic, belts, or fuel lines. Also, never connect the black clip to the battery because this could cause a fire or explosion.
  • Plug in the trickle charger and turn it on. Don't let the black and red clips of the trickle charger touch once the charger has been turned on.
  • Check to make sure the trickle charger’s settings are set for the type of battery that you're charging.
  • Check to make sure the trickle charger is functioning properly. If it isn't, shut it off and unplug it before disconnecting the clips.
  • Check your owner's manual to see how long you can safely leave the trickle charger connected to your vehicle's battery.
I2 
You don't need to remove the battery from your vehicle when using a trickle charger.

FAQ

Q How long can a car sit before the battery dies?

A. This varies from car to car and from battery to battery. A good rule of thumb is a maximum of two months. If you have an older battery or a car with a lot of devices that drain the battery — even when the car isn't running — you may only get one month. That's why it's very important to put your car, motorcycle, or boat battery on a trickle charger if it won’t be used for an extended period of time. It's possible for a battery to get so drained that it can’t be started, even after a charge.

Q. What are amps?

A. In layman's terms, amps simply relate to how fast electricity is flowing. If you want to get technical, 1 amp means that 6.24 quintillion electrons are flowing past a single point every second. Most trickle chargers are 2-amp chargers.

Q. How long does it take for a 2-amp trickle charger to charge a 12-volt car battery?

A. Trickle chargers don't charge very quickly. It can take up to 24 hours for a 2-amp trickle charger to charge a 12-volt car battery.

Q. Can I leave a battery on a trickle charger for extended periods of time?

A. The answer to this varies depending on the features found on your trickle charger. A basic one may not shut off after your battery is fully charged, so you run the risk of overcharging your battery. Thoroughly read the owner's manual and understand the features your model has before attempting any type of long-term charging.

Q. What happens if the battery gets overcharged?

A. In the best-case scenario, an overcharged battery just dies and becomes unusable. In the worst, gases build up from the boiling fluid inside, and swelling, leaking, or even bursting becomes a possibility.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
See more
Our Top Picks