Campervan batteries are an essential part of your van setup whether you plan to use electric hook-ups for your campsite holidays, park up in fields for weekend-long up festivals or live off grid with a solar kit set up.
However you plan to harness energy for your appliances, it’ll need to be stored somewhere and that place is your campervan battery.
Delving into the subject of batteries for your campervan can subject you to a whole new world of words and numbers which are sure to get you glazed over quick time. Phrases like deep cycle and amp-hours, series or parallel can be a bit overwhelming at first glance.
However, in this guide I hope to simplify the science and provide you with the best camper van leisure batteries options in 2021.
So, let’s get stuck in!
- 1 A Buyers Guide To The Best Campervan Leisure Batteries
- 2 The Science Bit…
- 3 Whats the difference between a starter battery and a leisure battery?
- 4 What is Depth of Discharge and Battery Cycle?
- 5 Types of batteries for your campervan
- 6 Things to consider when choosing your camper van leisure batteries
- 7 The Best Leisure Battery For Campervans Review
- 8 1. Platinum AGM 12V 100Ah – Overall Winner
- 9 2. Renogy Smart Lithium Iron Phosphate 100Ah – Best Lithium Battery
- 10 3. Energy Expedition Plus Semi Traction 110Ah– Best Dual Purpose Battery
- 11 Campervan Battery Summary
A Buyers Guide To The Best Campervan Leisure Batteries
If you’re short on time here are my top picks for a campervan battery setup. For full product reviews, read through to the end.
- The overall best campervan battery is the Platinum 100Ah AGM Plus leisure battery, since it provides the best value for money.
- If you have a bigger budget, the best lithium campervan battery is the Renogy 100AH Smart Lithium Iron Phosphate.
- If you just need a battery for occasional use, the best dual purpose battery is the Energy Expedition Plus Semi Traction leisure battery.
|Battery||Platinum Plus||Renogy Smart lithium|
|Warranty||3 years||5 years|
|Cycles||350 @ 50% DOD||4000 @ 80% DOD|
The Science Bit…
Whats the difference between a starter battery and a leisure battery?
First of all you should note that batteries designed to start up your vehicle (crank or starter batteries), work differently to batteries intended to run appliances on your van (leisure or deep cycle batteries).
Starter batteries require a big surge of power to get the engine running whereas leisure batteries release energy slowly, over a long period of time. Stater batteries can run van appliances but leisure batteries do a much better job of it.
There are also batteries that can do both jobs and are known as dual purpose batteries. These have enough surge power to start the vehicle as well as providing light usage for appliances.
Since most appliances will run off 12V, all the batteries I’m reviewing are 12V batteries.
What is Depth of Discharge and Battery Cycle?
Leisure batteries are designed to discharge power at a slow, steady rate over a long period of time. They are known as deep cycle batteries. They are designed so that they can be discharged to a certain amount, (known as depth of discharge: DOD) hundreds of times in their lifetime.
One discharge is known as a cycle. The level a battery can be safely discharged and then recharged will vary depending on the type of leisure battery being used, but is typically around 50% for lead acid batteries and 80% for lithium batteries.
Leisure batteries should never be completely drained of all power.
Leisure batteries can be charged by an alternator (via your engine whilst driving), solar power or from an electric hookup.
Types of batteries for your campervan
In the world of batteries there are two broad types of lead acid batteries: open (vented) lead acid batteries (also known as flooded or wet batteries) and valve-regulated (sealed) lead acid batteries.
Open lead acid batteries emit gases (hyrdogen and oxygen) which need to be adequately ventilated, they have to be refilled with deionised water and must be kept securely in an upright position to prevent leaks. For these reasons, open lead acid batteries are not recommended for camper vans or motorhomes.
Valve-regulated lead acid batteries are sealed so do not require ventilation or the need to be mounted upright and do not need topping up with deionised water. For these reasons they are well suited for camper van life.
There are two types of valve regulated lead acid batteries: Absorbent glass mat (AGM) and Gel.
AGM batteries are the cheapest type of valve regulated lead acid battery. They are completely sealed which means that no nasty acid can spill out and no harmful gases are released. They can be mounted in various position (except upside down!) and require very little maintenance.
They are also resilient to vibrations, charge well off solar power and have a fast charge speed. For these reasons AGM batteries are popular in the camper van and motorhome world. Their biggest downside is that they are heavy and they don’t function as well in very cold climates.
Gel batteries have all the benefits of an AGM battery and typically have a longer lifespan if they are adequately cared for. Their biggest downside is their weight.
Lithium batteries are found in almost everything these days. There are different types of lithium batteries but the most commonly used type is LiFeP04. Lithium batteries can provide as much energy as a lead acid battery for half the size and weight. These are two huge bonus points when it come to van life.
The life span of a lithium battery is 10 times that of a traditional lead acid battery and has a DOD of upto 90%. Since there is no liquid in a lithium battery they can be mounted in anyway (including upside-down!) and again require little maintenance. They also charge much faster than lead acid batteries.
Their biggest downside is the hefty price tag attached. However, since lithium batteries have a much longer life span, in the long run (by this I mean 10 years or more) the price difference will even itself out.
Things to consider when choosing your camper van leisure batteries
I’ve put this factor at the top of the list for a very good reason. When it comes to batteries, more money typically means a better product. If money were no object I would chose a lithium battery, but like many people I had a limited budget when I replaced my battery so had to weigh up all the other factors.
Lithium batteries are better in every way which is why they cost more. If you plan to live in your van full time for many years to come, a lithium battery would be a good investment. If you only plan to have your van for a short period of time or are only using it occasionally, lithium batteries wouldn’t be a prudent investment.
2. Battery capacity
The power of a battery is measured in ampere-hours (Ah), 1 amp for 1 hour. For example, a battery which has a rating of 100Ah, can provide 1 amp for 100 hours or 10 amps for 10 hours. It’s just basic maths my friends 😉
It’s important to note that Ah typically increases with physical size, so if you want a lot of juice you’ll need a big battery. Alternatively, if you have the space, for more power you could get two identical batteries and run them in parallel (where two 100Ah batteries will operate as one 200Ah battery).
Deciding what battery capacity to get will very much depend on your needs. If you’re a weekend warrior who just needs power to charge a phone and some LED lights at night, then a 100Ah battery would be plenty. However, if you plan to spend more time living in your tiny rolling home with appliances such as fridges and ovens, you will need a bigger capacity battery.
A battery will have reached the end of its life when it cannot hold more than 60/70% of its initial capacity. The lifespan may be stated on the battery in years or in cycles, which if you remember from above is the amount of times a battery is discharged. The battery won’t stop working completely after the stated amount of cycles, they just won’t perform as well.
Sealed lead acid batteries typically last anywhere from 4 – 8 years whereas lithium batteries can last 10 – 20 years.
4. Temperature range required
If you’re planning on taking your van to extremely cold climates, firstly I hope you have a good heater and secondly consider a lithium battery rather than a lead acid battery, since these perform better in cold temperatures.
All van lifers will examine the weight of a product before they consider adding it to their van. It’s just one of those funny facts of life as a campervan owner. Weight increases fuel consumption by your van so if this is a big priority for your van build or conversion, consider the much lighter lithium batteries instead of lead acid versions.
If you’re replacing your current battery and it has a designated spot in your van, battery dimensions will be a hugely important factor. If you’re building a van from scratch, consider you power requirements and the battery space this will require before committing to buying a battery.
The Best Leisure Battery For Campervans Review
Now we’ve gone through the science and terminology, hopefully you’ll be better equipped to understand my campervan and motorhome leisure battery reviews below.
1. Platinum AGM 12V 100Ah – Overall Winner
For me this is the best battery for campervans and motorhomes because it has the best performance to cost ratio. It’s not the cheapest AGM battery available but as mentioned before, with batteries you tend to get what you pay for.
Platinum are a well established battery producer and this battery comes with a 3 year warranty. With this warranty you can feel confident to get at least 3 years usage from it.
This battery has been given the A class by the National Caravan Council which is the highest rating a battery can get. Boom! This basically means that this is a high capacity battery designed for users who plan to live off grid.
Since this is an AGM battery it will charge well off solar panels, will be resilient to vibrations and won’t require any ventilation or maintenance.
This is the battery I use in my van which I have been living in full time for the past 6 months. Prior to that I was only using the van part-time. I use this battery with my 325W solar panel and MPPT charge controller and it provides/stores enough energy to run a fridge, heater, lights and charge my laptop, phone and multiple other gadgets.
2. Renogy Smart Lithium Iron Phosphate 100Ah – Best Lithium Battery
This lithium battery is half the weight of the Platinum AGM battery and with 4000 cycles at 80% DOD, it should easily last 10 years. It’s small, light, robust, can be mounted in any way and will work in sub-zero temperatures.
If you’re tight on space, want to keep your weight down, want to travel to cold climates or plan to live off-grid in your van for many years to come, then this would be the top leisure battery choice for your camper.
If none of those things apply to you, then save your money and get the AGM battery instead. Even if you’re a heavy electricity user, you can get two AGM batteries and still have plenty of money to buy beers to put in your deliciously cold fridge!
If money were no object I would get this lithium battery from Renogy or possibly even two (I said money was no object right!). This battery provides an 80% DOD and an AGM battery provides a 50%, so I would get 30% more Ah from every cycle when compared to the Platinum AGM 100ah. It basically means I’d never have to worry about energy storage for the rest of my campervan life!
3. Energy Expedition Plus Semi Traction 110Ah– Best Dual Purpose Battery
If you only plan to use your van occasionally and don’t need a dedicated leisure battery, then a dual purpose battery is what you need. This is a battery that will start your van engine but also run appliances.
The Energy Expedition Plus is a maintenance free, lead acid battery with hybrid technology which makes it ideal for use as a starter battery and a leisure battery. It weighs 24kg which is pretty standard for this sized battery and provides 100Ah which is enough to charge small appliances over the course of a weekend.
At just over £100 this is also a battery that won’t break the bank. Even better!
Campervan Battery Summary
As with many things, when it comes to campervan batteries you definitely get what you pay for. However, factors such as budget, space and planned electricity usage will dictate which battery you should choose.
AGM leisure batteries offer the best performance to cost ratio and for this reason would be a smart choice for most van lifers. However, if you know you’ll have your van for a good 10 years or plan to spend time visiting very cold climates then splashing out on a more expensive lithium battery would be the way to go.