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Best battery chargers 2023/2024

We find out which device has the power to keep your car’s battery in tip-top condition

As the temperatures drop, your battery enters the toughest time of its year. And you don’t have to wait for the dreaded click as you turn the key, signalling you’re going to be late for wherever you were going, to make buying a battery charger a good idea.

The sophisticated electronics on today’s chargers can also recondition ageing power packs and ensure they are working as they should as winter bites. And if you have a car that spends the winter locked away, a charger can keep the battery healthy.

So which is the one to keep you and your car ready for the worst the winter can throw at us? We grabbed seven best sellers and our 50-plus-point checklist to find out.

How we tested them

Getting going as soon as possible after suffering the dreaded flat-battery click sits at the heart of our test. We enlisted the help of CTEK’s Swedish R&D lab to time how long it took each unit to get our 42Ah test batteries to 80 per cent charge from 10.5V. CTEK also checked the minimum voltage each unit would charge from, and assessed electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). 

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Back in the UK, we measured lead lengths and took note of what you get in the box. Instructions and ease of use were also rated, as was the variety of battery types that could be charged. We checked for sparks during misuse too, and factored in price. We also tested a Halfords charger, but it was discontinued before publication.

Reviews

Draper 12V Intelligent Battery Charger 53491 

  • Price: Around £62 
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Time to 80%: 4h 45m 
  • Website: drapertools.com
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A spark during our misuse tests back in 2021 put paid to Draper’s chances of a win, but there was no repeat this time and it takes the Best Buy crown. 

Its 10A rating saw it finish as runner-up in the charge test by a few minutes, but it combined that with intuitive controls and decent-length leads. It breezed the EMC tests and earned points for its IP65 rating, lithium capability and good instructions. Add in a competitive price and you have our winner.

Buy now from Amazon...

CTEK CS One 

  • Price: Around £220 
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Time to 80%: 5h 36m 
  • Website: ctek.com

For those wary of using a charger, look no further than the CS One, which has two black leads, and each can be connected to either terminal. There are also no confusing modes and stages, because it delivers the precise charge the battery needs in the background. Its 8A rating made it third quickest to 80 per cent, plus you can monitor progress and charge state, and access other functions via an app. 

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It’s hard to fault technically, but that price is more than three times most rivals’, and we’d have expected a permanent connection lead for that amount.

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Buy now from CTEK...

Sealey Compact Auto Smart Charger Autocharge650F 

  • Price: Around £55 
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Time to 80%: 5h 48m 
  • Website: sealey.co.uk

This 6.5A unit proved pretty effective, thanks to getting within a handful of minutes of the CTEK in the charge test. It was also easy to use, with a clear display and simple-to-follow modes. 

Sealey’s offering is also lithium-compatible but lost marks because instructions could be clearer on the other types of battery it can charge. It starts working at less than 2V and cleared the misuse test, but was over the limit under load in the EMC test. That was a shame, because it ticks most boxes, including IP65 protection.

Buy now from DW Tool Shop...

Ring 8A Smart Battery Charger & Maintainer 

In our last test we had to contact Ring to find out how to operate this charger, because the icon for max power is a truck, not a car. The problem hasn’t been addressed, so our tester used it in ‘car’ mode, as any buyer would. 

As a result, we got a maximum 4A rate instead of its 8A capability. Using previous data, we calculate it would have got to 80 per cent at full charge in just under seven hours. Overall, this, plus good results elsewhere, would have put it on a par with the Sealey.

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Buy now from Amazon...

Yuasa YCX6

  • Price: Around £83 
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Time to 80%: 6h 54m 
  • Website: halfords.com

We sourced this charger from the Halfords online store, so it is the only product from the brand in this test. A 6A rating made it the least powerful here, so it was no surprise that the Yuasa was slowest to 80 per cent. 

The clunky European-to-UK plug adaptor is not great and you have to dismantle the large crocodile clips to get a permanent lead. Instructions are good and it passed our misuse and EMC tests, but protection was only IP44. It’s a bit pricey, too.

Buy now from Tayna Batteries...

Nexpeak Intelligent Pulse Repair Charger NC201 

  • Price: Around £26 
  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Time to 80%: 4h 38m   
  • Website: amazon.co.uk

You’d think the cheapest and quickest charger on test would be higher up the ranking than sixth, but look a little closer and you can see where that cracking price has been made possible. Straight out of the box, something is quite clearly amiss because rivals have combined charge and mains lead lengths of more than three metres, but the Nexpeak has less than half that. 

You’ll definitely need to budget for an extension lead with this, or charge on the bench. There’s also no permanent lead or IP rating, and it failed both EMC tests.

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Buy now from Amazon...

Clarke Auto Charge CB09-12 

  • Price: Around £66
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Time to 80%: 11h 15m   
  • Website: machinemart.co.uk

The Clarke started well by including four leads to allow charging through a permanent connection, cigarette lighter, and power supply for 12V kit, plus the usual clamps. It struggled elsewhere, though. We got a spark on connection in our misuse tests, although it was fine for EMC. 

The Clarke didn’t start charging until 5V and when it did, it was the slowest on test, despite its 8A rating. It also has no lithium capability or IP protection rating. There are better options out there.

Buy now from Machine Mart...

Verdict:

A clear run through our misuse tests earns the Draper the win it narrowly missed out on in our 2021 test. The CS One remains a superb charger packed with clever technology, but struggles to overcome that hefty price and has to settle for runner-up spot this time around. Sealey completes the podium with its effective 650F.

  1. Draper 12V Intelligent Battery Charger 53491
  2. CTEK CS One
  3. Sealey Compact Auto Smart Charger Autocharge650F

Battery chargers are incredibly useful, but should the worst happen you will need a jump starter pack. Click here to read our best mini jump starter packs test.

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Products editor

Kim has worked for Auto Express for more than three decades and all but a year of that time in the Products section. His current role as products editor involves managing the section’s content and team of testers plus doing some of the tests himself. 

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