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Powering Life on the High Seas: How to Choose the Best Boat Battery

Just like a car, a boat needs both a motor and a battery in order to start the motor. You can’t operate your boat without one.

And in fact, you need two different batteries in order to fully operate your vessel.

If you recently bought a used boat or inherited one from a friend, then you’re likely going to need to add some new batteries.

But how do you know what kind of boat battery to buy? And which marine battery is going to be best for your boat, and your specific conditions? Keep reading down below for tips on how to choose a boat battery that works for your boat. 

Cranking vs Deep Cycle Batteries 

The most important thing to understand when choosing a boat battery is that you need two batteries that serve different functions. One battery starts the motor so that you can propel your boat forward.

The other type of battery will keep all of your electronics and smaller trolling motors operational. 

Cranking Batteries

The more important battery on your boat is the cranking battery. This is the battery that starts the motor.

It works by generating a large amount of power in a short period of time. This gives enough juice to the motor to get it going. Once the motor is on, it can sustain itself and replenish the cranking battery. 

The battery itself transfers energy thanks to its large amount of thin metal plates. The more surface area on these plates, the faster energy can move through them. 

But these batteries aren’t designed for constant, or cyclical use. That’s where a deep cycle battery comes into play.

Deep Cycle Batteries 

Deep cycle batteries release electricity much slower than a cranking battery. Thanks to fewer, thicker metal plates, you get sustained electricity for long periods of time. The electricity trickles out at a much slower rate, perfect for powering an entire day of fishing and boating activity.

So this is the battery that provides continual energy to things light lights, sound systems, refrigerators, fish finders, and other electronics onboard.

Need a lightweight trolling motor battery? Deep cycle batteries work for trolling motors since they are small, quiet, and don’t require a ton of power. 

And deep cycle batteries are intended to run through cycles. You can drain them completely and recharge them many, many times over. With a cranking battery, you never want to drain it completely, or you’ll reduce its lifespan. 

One Battery To Rule Them All

Some DIY boat owners are tempted to rig up a single boat battery to serve both functions. After all, it would save some money, space, and weight on the boat, right?

Wrong. Using one battery can ruin your day and your boat.

If you were to use your cranking battery to continuously power your boat’s electronics after you start your boat, your battery would overheat. The power would be drained very quickly, and your battery would likely die.

Since cranking batteries aren’t designed to be drained, this could spell the end for your new cranking battery.

On the flip side, your deep cycle battery isn’t going to generate enough power in a short amount of time to start the motor. So your day on the water might never start.

Or worse, you might get lucky and start your motor the first time around. But when you go to start your motor back up after fishing, you find that it doesn’t have enough juice to start the motor back up.

Then, you’re stranded and you need to send an SOS

Of course, if you really wanted to, you could buy a hybrid or two-in-one marine battery. 

What’s a Hybrid Boat Battery?

Hybrid boat batteries sound really great in theory, but in practice, they aren’t the best boat battery.

Basically, to create a battery that can serve both functions, sacrifices need to be made. Your cranking power is going to be cut, in order to make room for cyclical power. And your cyclical battery life won’t last nearly as long, since it has to leave room for the cranking battery.

On a tiny aluminum boat, Jon boat, or even a dingy, a hybrid battery might serve you well. But on any standard-sized consumer boat, you’re going to want dedicated batteries. 

Hybrid batteries are prone to overheating and can weaken in harsh conditions. When selecting a boat battery, don’t expect much from a hybrid. 

Choosing Your Chemicals

Within the categories of cranking and deep cycle batteries, you’re going to have a few additional options to choose from. The types of chemicals inside the battery will determine its performance and functionality. 

Flooded Batteries

Flooded batteries contain liquid sulfuric acid inside. When running, these batteries produce both hydrogen and oxygen. 

There are vents in the battery that allows these gases to exit the battery. This is crucial since hydrogen can be very dangerous if left to compile inside a tight space, next to the heat. 

When your battery gets low, you actually have to add distilled water. The batteries aren’t sealed, so they aren’t prone to overheating. However, they do need to be installed upright, and onboard a boat that isn’t subject to intense vibrations and abrupt movements. 

Gel Batteries

Gel batteries are sealed, maintenance-free, leakproof, and can get wet or even submerged underwater. They are more efficient, discharging at a are of only 3% per month, as opposed to the 6% or 7% that is common with flooded batteries. 

There is no gas released from the batteries, so they are safe to sit next to. 

Other Batteries

There are a few other options when selecting your cranking and deep cycle batteries. You can choose AGM batteries TPPL, or Li NMC batteries. Each has its pros and cons and should be used in different boating environments.

Some can handle rough conditions and extreme weather, while others need to be treated a little more delicately. Make sure to choose chemical makeup suitable for your area and boating style. 

Batteries That Empower Exploration

Now that you know about the different kinds of batteries, it’s time to get your hands on a brand new cranking and deep cycle boat battery. 

These will take care of all your boating needs, ensuring you have what it takes to get from point A to B, and everywhere in between. After all, batting is all about taking the scenic route, right?

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