When it comes to our caravans or motorhomes, finding the correct leisure battery can be challenging, can’t it? There are so many types on the market, ranging in price and features; it can be overwhelming to find the best one for you.
Especially if you are a first-time caravan or motorhome owner, the leisure battery world can feel murky and uncertain. But there is no need to panic! For today, all your battery related stress can be solved!
Today we are going to look at the best leisure batteries for caravans and motorhomes. We will cover what a leisure battery is, how to make the right choice, and answer all your burning questions!
Keep reading to become the leisure battery expert you were born to be!
What is a leisure battery?
Let’s have a quick recap for the newbies in the room before we get into the batteries! A leisure battery for your caravan or motorhome will provide a steady flow of current for a prolonged period of time.
Leisure batteries usually need to produce less power than a standard car battery but will need to sustain it for a longer period. A leisure battery is designed for deep-cycling. This means it can cope with being discharged down to 50% without too much damage to its lifespan. This does vary depending on the type of leisure battery, but don’t worry, we will cover that later on!
A leisure battery is different from a car battery, which needs to quickly provide a lot of power, usually for one job, to start the engine. Once the engine is running, the alternator puts the lost power back into the battery. This is referred to as micro-cycling.
Your leisure battery will use a process known as deep cycling. We will take a closer look at this now.
What is a deep cycle battery?
Those of you who may have never heard the term ‘deep cycle battery’ let’s look briefly at what this is. A deep cycle battery can be frequently discharged and recharged to a significant portion of its capacity. This capacity varies from type to type, which we shall look at shortly.
It is essential to note the capacity it can be discharged to avoid causing permanent damage to the leisure battery. The most advanced are lead crystal or lithium batteries, which can be discharged to near zero capacity without causing permanent damage. It’s worth considering the capacity of these batteries when making your purchase.
Best Leisure Batteries for Caravans and Motorhomes Buying Guide
Not too sure what you need from your new leisure batteries? Use our handy buyer’s guide for some top tips!
How to choose?
We will get onto all the various factors you will need to consider when purchasing your leisure battery in a moment. Before that, to make your decision easier, we have compiled a series of questions.
Asking yourself these will help make the decision process easier and narrow down your choice of leisure battery as you read. Consider the following:
- How often do you wild camp ‘off-grid’?
- Do you have a motor mover on your caravan?
- What is the power rating of your motor mover?
- Does your caravan or motorhome have an alarm tracker fitted or the campervan security methods ?
- Does your tow car have a Euro 6 Engine?
- Do you want a dual leisure battery set up?
Keep these questions in your mind as we continue, trust us, they will help you make your decision today!
When it comes to leisure batteries, there is a range available these days. You must select the right one for you and your caravan or motorhome. Let’s take a look at these types in closer detail to help you make your decision!
Open Lead Acid Leisure Batteries
Open lead-acid batteries, or flooded batteries, were some of the first leisure batteries made. The lead plate sits in a solution of liquid sulphuric acid. These heavy batteries feature removable caps to top up the electrolyte (usually distilled water), to maintain the battery's performance.
The number of times the battery will need to be topped up will depend on the usage. When using an open lead-acid battery, you will need to check that the electrolyte covers the lead plates’ top. Failing to do so can lead to the plates being exposed and damaging.
Maintenance is critical with these batteries. You will need to avoid discharging the battery below 50% of its capacity to prevent irreparable damage. Despite needing a great deal of attention, they are a cheap option if you only frequent sites with electrical hookups or don’t own a motor mover.
Sealed Lead Acid Leisure Batteries:
These sealed batteries require much less maintenance than the open batteries we just looked at. These batteries will still cause permanent damage below a 50% discharge and cost more than open lead-acid batteries.
However, sealed lead-acid batteries or VRLA batteries, let gasses escape during the changing cycle. Because of this, with proper maintenance, an open lead-acid battery can have a longer service life.
These batteries, like open sealed batteries, can be quite heavy.
AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) Leisure Batteries:
AGM batteries are a form of VRLA (valve-regulated lead-acid) batteries. These batteries contain lead and an electrolyte but feature a slightly different construction. The electrolyte is contained within a fibreglass mat designed to stop a build-up of pressure within the battery.
AGM batteries can cope with vibration better than the others we have looked at. This gives them an advantage when we consider the number of potholes on the roads these days! The ability to cope with vibration makes them an excellent choice for caravans and motorhomes.
Thanks to their design, they are virtually leak-proof too and can be mounted on their side. This offers the potential for installing two batteries into your caravan or motorhome.
What’s excellent about AGM batteries as they can be discharged lower than 50% without causing damage. There is a downside, though. These batteries are more expensive and have a shorter lifespan than other batteries.
AGM batteries are a good option for those driving on uneven roads or intend to do infrequent off-grid camping. They are also good options for those with a motor mover.
Gel Leisure Batteries:
Similar to AGM batteries, Gel leisure batteries are leak and maintenance-free. They use VRLA to control the pressure, opting to use a thick pasty gel as their electrolyte.
These batteries’ main attraction is that they can be discharged as low as 80% without causing permanent damage, making them an excellent option for off-grid campers!
Gel Leisure batteries have a longer service life too when used over 25 degrees celsius. If you are only using your caravan or motorhome in the UK, the chances of seeing these temperatures are rare, unless global warming does a number on us!
These batteries are expensive compared to AGM leisure batteries and do not handle high discharge or recharge rates very well. If you intend to travel to warmer climates with your motorhome or caravan, then Gel Leisure batteries are an option to consider.
Lead Crystal Leisure Batteries:
Lead Crystal leisure batteries are similar to AGM but have a few crucial differences. The first is the construction of the mat and electrolyte.
The battery does not suffer from sulfation, allowing you to use the battery without the worry of permanent damage. That's right. You can discharge it down to 0V and charge it up fully from 0V! This provides you with less hassle when maintaining your battery.
You can also leave the lead crystal battery at a partial charge rate without any damage to it! Compared to the other batteries, it has triple the lifespan and performs well in hot and cold temperatures.
There is a downside to these batteries, though; they are roughly double the cost of an open or flooded battery. They are also difficult to purchase these days, compared to open batteries that are more freely available.
Lithium (LiFeP04) Leisure Batteries
Lithium batteries are more commonly found in devices such as your phone or laptop. They are also used mainly in hybrid and electric cars these days. The lithium batteries used in caravans or motorhomes are known as LiFeP04 batteries and have many benefits.
Compared to lead-acid batteries, lithium has double the energy density and half the weight! These batteries will last longer, with some users getting up to 10 times longer using lithium batteries!
Lithium batteries can also cope well with frequent discharges at around 80% capacity. You don’t get the issues you would see surrounding discharge with lead-acid batteries, although you will still need to be careful.
When fully discharged, damage can be caused in Lithium batteries. These days they are fitted with electronic controllers that will stop full discharges and protect your battery.
Lithium leisure batteries are expensive, unfortunately. They cost more than lead-acid batteries which can put users off. However, as electronic car sales rise and the cost drops, many anticipate that lithium batteries’ cost will also fall. They will likely become standard in caravans and motorhomes as we move to a more electric-based world.
Used 12V Lithium batteries:
And we have arrived at our final type of leisure battery. 12V lithium batteries have some great features when used as a leisure battery, but they are expensive. A way around this high cost is Valance 12V lithium batteries.
These batteries are common in commercial EV vehicles and other commercial applications. Commercially, these batteries are replaced every couple of years, but many still have over 90% of their capacity remaining when they are removed!
The solution many people find is to buy these used 12V lithium batteries. These can be cheaper and still provide years of use for your caravan or motorhome! Remember that the amount of time will depend on how often you use your caravan or motorhome.
At present, there aren’t enough used 12V lithium batteries to meet the demand, but as electric vehicles grow in popularity, we expect this won’t be the case for long!
When it comes to selecting your leisure battery, it is essential to consider the size to purchase the best one for you and your caravan or motorhome. When we talk about a leisure battery’s size, we are talking about two sizes: its physical size and their amp-hour (AH) rating.
You will first need to measure the battery tray in your caravan or motorhome. You might be able to fit a larger battery than your current one depending on any spare space you might have.
As a rule of thumb, the higher a battery's AH rating, the larger the battery. The lowest AH rating fitted in caravans these days is 70 AH. If you have a motor mover, you will need 70 AH as a minimum, although most manufacturers and users would recommend closer to 100 AH.
When choosing the right size for you, there will be some differences depending on if you have a caravan or a motorhome.
If you have a caravan without a motor mover a 70 AH battery will be sufficient, especially if you only use mains hookup sites. If you are considering purchasing a motor mover, you will need to upgrade your battery. Anywhere between 100-150, AH will provide enough power for your caravan and motor mover.
You can get insanely huge batteries with an AH of 330! These are very expensive, and heavy, weighing roughly 90kg in some cases! Be sure to consider the weight of your battery too when purchasing it. You will need to lift it to install it, and you might need to keep a record of the caravan or motorhomes weight.
For those of you with a motorhome mainly used at mains serviced areas, a 70 AH battery should be perfect for you! If you are going to dabble in off-grid camping, you can size your battery up to 100 AH.
If you are a full-time off-grid camper, it is best to get a larger battery for your motorhome. Here, it is worth purchasing the largest size battery you can fit into your motorhome to ensure you have plenty of power!
When it comes to selecting your new battery, its weight is an essential factor to consider. A leisure battery’s weight will vary depending on two factors: its size and the technology used. As a general rule, leisure batteries are heavy. When selecting your new battery, it is vital to consider the weight of it.
You will need to be aware of your caravans MTPLM weight and be mindful not to hit or exceed the weight. Overloading a caravan can cause serious problems, especially when towing it at high speeds. We all remember those awful theory test questions, don’t we?
As a general rule, a 100 AH lead acid leisure battery will weigh around 25kg. You can get batteries that weigh up to 90kg, as we mentioned earlier. The lightest leisure batteries are lithium batteries, where you can get a 100 AH battery weighing just 13kg!
Another factor you will need to consider when it comes to your battery’s weight is where your leisure battery will be stored on your caravan. The closer the battery is to the caravan’s nose will impact the nose weight of your caravan.
Generally, the leisure battery will be located over the axel to avoid adding unnecessary weight to your caravan's nose, but this is not always the case. If your leisure battery is located over your caravans nose, then be sure to pay extra attention to its weight and size.
When it comes to your battery’s weight for a motorhome, you will also need to make the same considerations.
How do I charge my leisure battery?
You may be wondering how you are going to charge your battery. Depending on your caravan or motorhome, you might be able to charge your battery while you tow or drive.
Otherwise, you will be able to charge your battery plugged into the mains at home or the pitch. Let’s take a look at these charging methods in closer detail.
Charging via the mains hook up:
The rate of charge at a mains hookup varies depending on your onboard charger and the mains’ rated supply. Sites range from as low as 6A to a full 16A charging power. The rates will vary across Europe; it is always worth checking this when you arrive!
Charging while driving and towing;
Usually, your car can maintain the charge of your leisure battery while towing. In some cases, it can also charge it, but the rate will be very slow. Also, if you have a Euro 6 engine, your car might not maintain the battery.
This is because the regenerative braking is used to charge the leisure battery instead of the alternator. The issue became obvious when caravan owners reported their fridges not working while they were towing it. This issue was not reported by all Euro 6 engine users but is worth considering when charging your leisure battery.
When purchasing your leisure battery, it is always worth checking if it charges or maintains the battery. An excellent place to find this information is the customer review section, where you can find honest views about the charging rates of batteries depending on engines and cars used.
Other charging methods?
There are some other charging methods available to you for charging your caravan or motorhome. Let’s take a quick look at these methods now!
Portable Leisure Battery Chargers
Portable chargers are convenient, and one we think every caravan or motorhome owner should have. These can be picked up for a reasonable price and provide a great deal of flexibility when it comes to charging your caravan or motorhome. Infact we wrote an guide to leisure battery chargers, because we're kind like that!
Fitting solar panels to your caravan or motorhome has become popular in recent years. These provide you with the advantage of charging your leisure batteries while you drive or are parked up. The more solar cells, the faster the recharge rate would be.
When considering adding solar panels, be sure to measure the size of your roof accurately. These can be installed yourself, or you can have a professional to do so if you wish.
When it comes to purchasing your leisure battery, you may be wondering which brand is the best to use? There are so many options on the market; for first-time battery buyers, it can be an overwhelming choice to make.
To make a choice a little easier for you, we have broken down the brands into battery types. So once you have decided what type of leisure battery you are purchasing, you can find the best brand here:
Open and Sealed Lead Acid Batteries:
For these types of batteries, any of the following Brands are fantastic options:
If it's an AGM battery your heart desires, there are fewer brands to choose between. The following are the best brands to buy from:
If you want a gel leisure battery, there are only two brands that stand out. Choosing from either will guarantee an excellent gel leisure battery:
For those of you after a lead crystal leisure battery, there is only one clear choice! Betta Batteries are the best for your new lead crystal leisure battery.
If you are after a lithium battery, there are a few choices on the market for you. Remember, to save on money it is worth considering a used 12V lithium battery. If that does not appeal to you, the following brands are the best for lithium batteries:
When purchasing a second-hand battery, it is a good idea to stay within these brands too, to assure you are not missing out on high-quality batteries!
As you can see, some brands are repeated across multiple types of batteries. It is a good idea to purchase your leisure battery from one of these brands. They are known for their excellent quality and consistent performance. What more could you want from your new leisure battery for your caravan or motorhome?
When it comes to your leisure batteries, it can be hard deciding how much you should be spending. It is a good idea to set a budget and stick to it as close as possible.
When setting your budget, consider what factors are important to you. This will help set a realistic budget that will allow you to get the battery you need.
Remember that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good quality leisure battery! There is one to suit every budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get your last-minute queries answered here!
Do I have to use a leisure battery in my caravan or motorhome?
The short answer is no; you don’t technically need to use a leisure battery. You could fit a standard battery instead if you wish.
However, that would not be without its own set of complications. A standard battery would have a much shorter service life than a leisure battery. It would also experience sulphation quicker and cause permanent damage.
It is better to purchase a leisure battery to save yourself needing to replace the battery.
Can a leisure battery be overcharged?
You should only really experience overcharging issues if your leisure battery is not compatible with your onboard charger in your caravan or motorhome. You must choose a battery that is compatible with your charger.
The information will be available on the battery’s product description and in your caravan or motorhomes manual. If this information is not clear, contact your manufacturer for further details.
As lithium batteries are more recent, they may be compatible with your charger, but your manual might not have been updated to include this. These days a lot of manuals are available to download for free online. Simply type in the make and model of your caravan or motorhome and hit search!
Can the temperature affect my battery?
Yes, the outdoor temperature can affect the performance of your leisure battery. For example, amp-hour (AH) ratings are tested by manufacturers at 35 degrees Celsius. This is the equivalent of a warm summer day in the UK, rare, I know!
Temperatures below this will see a reduced performance from the battery. This is worsened if you use your caravan or motorhome when the weather hits freezing (0 degrees celsius). During these colder weather, your battery can lose up to 20% of its performance.
For those winter campers with a motor mover fitted, you will need a battery with a higher amp hour rating to compensate for this performance reduction.
As we mentioned earlier, sealed or open lead-acid batteries should not be used below 50% of their capacity. Doing so can result in permanent damage to your leisure battery.
It is vital that if you use a lead-acid battery to avoid using it in colder temperatures if possible. This is especially important if you have a high load device, as you risk causing severe and irreversible damage to your leisure battery.
What about security trackers?
These days, most security trackers are fitted with their rechargeable battery. They are often small and virtually undetectable. When these batteries run out of charge though, your tracker will pull power from the leisure battery.
When your caravan or motorhome is in storage during the winter months, your tracker will be using power from your leisure battery. You will need to make sure that your battery is large enough to power the tracker through these months and in instances where its battery has run flat.
What is the best battery for solar panels?
The short answer is that any of the batteries we have discussed today will be perfect for your solar panels on your caravan or motorhome.
Some users argue that Gel and Lithium are the best batteries. These types of batteries are suited to the irregular charge you get from solar panels. However, lead-acid batteries have been used in off-grid applications for years with great success.
Here, we would suggest that you select the type of battery that best suits all your needs. The choice is yours!
Can you use a leisure battery to run an electric kettle?
You can indeed! You can use a 12V kettle to run on your leisure battery. They aren’t the best kettles on the market, though. It takes on average 42 minutes to boil a litre of water using a 12V kettle.
You are better off using a gas stove to boil water instead of using a kettle that will deplete your leisure battery. Other options are refillable gas cylinders which can be a more affordable option to consider.
While we are on the subject of electrics, you can use your leisure battery to power a caravan microwave too! You would need a 12V to 230V inverter to do this and a high capacity leisure battery! It is worth considering what you may want to power your leisure battery with when making your purchase.
What leisure batteries do manufacturers fit?
Here in the UK, mist caravan and motorhome manufacturers will use a sealed lead-acid battery. This does vary, and we see top-end models sometimes fitted with an AGM battery. This is usually more common when they have a motor mover fitted too.
This varies depending on where the caravan or motorhome was manufactured. Across Europe, manufacturers seem to prefer gel batteries and your caravan or motorhome may be fitted with one of these. This is due to the low discharge on gel batteries (80% capacity), as it allows the caravan to be used at off-grid sites.
Can I fit more than one leisure battery?
You can indeed! Your ability to fit more than one leisure battery will depend on the space and weight allowance in your caravan or motorhome.
When installing more than one leisure battery, you must have a battery charger capable of charging multiple batteries evenly.
Yes, time for us to part ways is upon us. As you can see, there are many fantastic options for finding the best leisure batteries for caravan and motorhome users!
It is essential to choose the correct battery for you and your needs. Be sure to measure the battery rack and check the manual beforehand to purchase a compatible battery with your caravan or motorhome.
Make sure you use the questions we listed earlier to find the best leisure batteries for caravans and motorhomes!