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jimh posted 05-05-2014 09:12 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I plan to buy a new starting-lighting-accesory (SLA) lead-acid battery for my truck. Last summer I noticed the battery was showing some sign of age. This Spring I found the paperwork--it is eight years old. That is enough service life for me, and I will get a new battery.

In the past eight years battery retailing seems to have changed. Most battery retailers seem to be selling no-brand or house-brand batteries. The eight-year-old battery was an AC-Delco and had an 84-month or 7-year pro-rated warranty. The retailer where I bought it has been sold off to a national chain, and they now carry some house-brand of battery whose name is unknown to me.

There is a battery retailer called Batteries-Plus that is selling national brandname batteries, but in my experience with this outlet, their prices are the highest possible retail prices in the free-world.

This leaves SEARS as perhaps the only battery retailer selling batteries as they were eight years ago. I have used SEARS Die-Hard batteries before. Now they seem like they're about the only alternative if seeking an established brand and not willing to pay boutique-store prices.

I realize that some of the brands I bought in the past, such as MotorCraft (FORD) or AC-Delco (GM) were not actual battery manufacturers, and were re-labeled batteries made by another company, probably Johnson Controls. I used to see retail distribution of those brands in auto parts stores, not just at car dealerships. But now the store retailers are all selling their own brand, or, as I see it, no-brand batteries.

I do prefer to get a branded battery with some sort of national or at least regional distribution, for the purpose of allowing better fulfillment of any warranty replacement. But in the present marketplace, it looks to me like SEARS is about the best option. I am skeptical of WALMART house-brand batteries, as they seem to be aimed more at the lowest price point rather than at premium quality.

If you needed a new car battery, what brand would you buy and where would you buy it?

bdb posted 05-05-2014 09:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for bdb  Send Email to bdb     
Check Consumer Reports. You may be surprised to see how many Walmart batteries are top rated.
Robert V posted 05-05-2014 10:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     
I buy my boat batteries from a local vehicle fleet supply company, Tidewater Fleet. I just got pricing for Group 27 Deka M6 (1080 CCA) batteries and was quoted $111.00 per each, which I thought was an excellent price.

I buy my auto batteries from the local (non-chain) auto parts store and usually purchase the GM OEM battery, AC-Delco. Good decision to stay away from the Batteries Plus franchise, they re-label Deka batteries and put a hefty mark-up on top. The same Group 27 batteries were about $50.00 more at Batteries Plus. You might check around to see if there is an Interstate Battery retailer near you, they are good batteries as well.


Jerry Townsend posted 05-05-2014 11:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Jim - stick with the Die-Hard from Sears. You have had good service from them. I have been using Die-Hard batteries for the last 40+ years - and needing a new battery, head for Sears.

I remember many years ago, after hunting elk in the bowels of Idaho, I had everything loaded, horses loaded and hopped into the cab of my pickup, turned the key on - and nothing! Bad - and particularily since it was snowing real hard and a storm starting to move in. But, this was not a problem as I had a second Die-Hard under the hood. When I got to town, stopped at the Sears store to get another battery. During the process, I commented that there should still be warranty protection for the bad battery. The installer cleaned off the info tag on the bad battery and said "You gotta be kidding. This thing is 10 years old". Stay with the Sears Die-Hard. --- Jerry/Idaho

David Pendleton posted 05-05-2014 06:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
For the boat, I buy Exide deep-cycle batteries from Menards. I replace them every couple of years.

I've not had to replace the batteries in the truck, so they are MOPAR OEM. I don't know where I'd go to replace them, probably the dealer.

6992WHALER posted 05-06-2014 08:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for 6992WHALER  Send Email to 6992WHALER     
Costco, if they have your size.
I replaced my truck's battery in January.
Costco beat Sears in price, CC amps and warranty.
And gave me $9.00 cash for the old one.

jimh posted 05-07-2014 11:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
This weekend I got many emails from Sears touting a sale. It looked like the batteries were marked off $20 and, on top of that, there was a special 15-percent extra discount. On Tuesday morning I drove to the nearest Sears, which is about ten miles away.

I got there about 10 a.m. The auto department had very little traffic. There was only one clerk on the floor. One customer was ahead of me. He wanted to buy an oil change service.

It took about ten minutes for the clerk to process this. The clerk had to get the car keys from the customer in order to get the VIN of the vehicle and do an extensive survey of the vehicle, to see if it had air conditioning or other accessories that would be completely unrelated to an oil change. The clerk explained that this was necessary because the work order must be filled out with all this data, or else it could not entered "into the system." The customer also had to supply all kinds of personal data, such as his address and his telephone number.

During this process, the telephone would ring. The clerk would immediately stop working on the customer's work order and would answer the telephone. The telephone was a cordless telephone, and the clerk would then walk away from the sales counter and wander about the department, checking things for the telephone caller.

Eventually, the telephone stopped ringing long enough for the clerk to complete the entry into her terminal of all the data that had been collected from the customer. Once this was completed, the work order could be printed. The printer was located at another counter. Four or five pages came out. I was pleased to see the printer actually worked, as, considering how things were going, I expected it to run out of toner or paper at this point in the transaction.

The clerk returned with the four or five sheets of paper. She put some of them into a large clear binder, apparently to pass on to the shop floor. She handed several sheets to the customer. Then she told him the work would take about one hour to accomplish.

The customer took cash from his wallet to pay. The clerk cannot except payment. This can only be done when the work is completed. The customer senses that this means an additional ten minutes of delay in completing the transaction will be appended on the back end, once the work is done. He sighed and walked away. He's got to wait an hour--at least--to get his car serviced.

The telephone rang again. The clerk answered the telephone. Those four sheets of paper in the plastic binder sat on the sales counter. I was wondering when and how that paper was going to get carried to the mechanic who would change the oil.

Finally, at least fifteen minutes since I walked in. it was my turn. I explained I was there to buy a battery that Sears had just told me was on sale. Several minutes later, after the clerk got all sorts of information from me about my vehicle year, model, engine, two-wheel or four-wheel, air-conditioning, and on and on, the clerk determines the proper battery. This was the battery that I already knew I wanted, because I had copied the Group Number from the present battery. But, no, you can't just ask for that battery, you have to do through the data entry form on the sales terminal.

Now that the battery Group size and tier of models available is decided, I ask the price. The price is the full retail, everyday price. There is no sale, no bonus discount at the actual retail store and in-person. All of that was only for on-line orders.

"Wait a minute," I say, "are you telling me that if I clicked on some screen button on my computer last night, I could have bought this battery for $40 less than I can buy it now, here, today, in-person?"

To make a long story shorter, that is the situation. The clerk runs this up the chain of command, and the department manager comes over to explain that, indeed, this is how it works. He is powerless to implement any sort of discretionary adjustment in price to offer me the same deal that my email offered me last night. Today, in the store, for me, the price is $40 more than it was about ten hours earlier on my computer.

I have now been in the Sears store for about 30-minutes. During this time, there have been only two people in the store, me and the other customer. The other customer is a really old guy, probably about 80-years old. This makes the average age of a Sears customer in the auto-battery department this morning about 70-years-old.

I left without buying a battery. When I left, that plastic binder with the four sheets of workorder for the oil change was still at the sales counter.

What I learned from this experience:

--the only people who actually come to Sears to buy something are really old people; the average age of people who actually shop at Sears must be over 60-years-old. They are probably coming to Sear out of habit, as they probably have shopped at Sears for years. Sears is doing its damdest to make sure they never come back.

--the clerks at Sears give a telephone call the highest priority, so be sure to call them before going there. They will answer any telephone call instead of waiting on customers already in the store, and will do anything the caller wants immediately. If you are in the store you have to wait your turn, and any caller on a telephone jumps to the head of the queue.

--a sale offer at Sears may only last a few hours. It may only be applicable if you enter the order on-line. If you go in person to a store you will likely miss out on the best offers and best deals. So never go to the store. Buy from Sears on-line, like it was, I guess.

Also, I discovered that the DieHard brand of batteries is now being sold at other retailers. My local Meier's store has them. This is apparently a recent development in which Sears is allowing other retailers to sell some of their branded products like Craftsmen tools and DieHard batteries. This is another attempt to stop people from coming to Sears in person. Get those favorite Sears brands at other retailers.

I hope this works out for Sears, trying to turn away real customers in their stores with cash in hand and competing head-to-head with Amazon. I don't see it being a good strategy for them.

Jerry Townsend posted 05-07-2014 12:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Now Jim - you are really getting just a bit askew. My gosh, saying that an 80 year old guy is really old - is nothing but mean. And to think that in 20 years or so, you will be a really old guy too - that's scary.

But, aside from that garbage, I have noticed the same things regarding the telephone call interuptions, and increasingly poorer service. Fortunately, I have only had to wait maybe 10 minutes.

In your case, I can think of no rational reason that they would only honor the discounts if the order were placed on the internet. That doesn't make sense. A call to the overall store manager - or even a district manager would be in order. ----- Jerry/Idaho

jimh posted 05-07-2014 01:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Another learned behavior as a result of my experience at Sears:

--the prices of anything at Sears varies by the hour and place, so if you want to get a good price on something sold at Sears you have to camp out, waiting for the very best moment and place to buy it. Don't think you can just walk in to Sears and get a good value--not going to happen. Someone might walk in to the same store and pay 40-percent less for the same item because hours earlier they clicked on some link on a webpage.

The effect of this for me is to drop Sears off the list of places to shop. It takes too much work to constantly monitor the price and where to buy in order to get the best price. When there is a 40-percent swing in price in a matter of an hour, it is just too crazy for me. Based on the barrage of email that Sears sends me daily, the price of everything is constantly in flux. It's too confusing. I don't want to participate in buying a battery as an internet game.

swist posted 05-07-2014 01:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for swist    
Many years ago, Sears made this big announcement that they were going to end all their "sales" and their constant moving prices around. Everything was to have a fixed "lowest price".

It was a colossal bomb. People need to think they are getting a deal even if they are not. They stopped doing it almost immediately after they started.

We use to joke that the selling price never actually changes, they just keep adjusting the "regular retail price" to give the appearance of a deal.

Sears remaining walk-in customers are people who are too dumb to figure this all out, which isn't many - there is rarely anyone in any Sears store I've been in lately.

They must do an incredible Internet or reseller business to keep all those fancy stores and staff around.

6992WHALER posted 05-07-2014 05:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for 6992WHALER  Send Email to 6992WHALER     
Jim same thing happened to me when I purchased a battery for the boat last summer. Received an email from Sears with a great sale price. Went to the store to get one. Sorry the online price is not the store price.

I asked to use their computer, and ordered the battery online for pickup at the store I was standing in.
2 minutes latter I "picked up" the battery for the sale price.

The counter people thought the situation was just as ridicules as I did. They said it is a constant problem for them.

Go to Costco, if they have the size they have great customer service. T purchased three deep cycle batteries a few years ago.
One of the batteries failed, I brought it back to Costco with no receipt. They pulled it up on the computer and gave me a new one.

Chuck Tribolet posted 05-07-2014 06:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
There are quite a number of people over on
who swear by the Walmart batteries. And these are folks who
care at least as much about their 'vettes as we care about
our Whalers. I haven't personally tried one, but given there's
a Walmart store a block and a half from our weekend place,
it's definitely on my short list.


blacklab posted 05-07-2014 08:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for blacklab  Send Email to blacklab     
If you have a membership at Costco you may want to check out their selection. Their "Kirkland" brand is just a rebranded national brand. I have purchased several for both my auto and marine deep cycle use.
ALAN G posted 05-07-2014 08:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for ALAN G  Send Email to ALAN G     
Jim, I too have had it with Sears and my story is similar to yours but also included a tire story.

Battery story: Went to Sears as I used to buy only Diehards. 20 mile one way drive for me. 3 people in sales clerk who disappeared for 15 minutes. 15 minutes later, two more people entered. Sales clerk still working on customer number one. I waited another 10 minutes, then walked out, as did three other customers. Went to COSTCO and never bought another Sears Battery.

Tire story: I normally buy Michelin tires, either the Michelin brand direct, or the Sears Road Handler, which was made by Michelin for a number of years. Went in to Sears, bought a new set of Road Handlers...then started having trouble with them...unusual wear, balance did not seem to hold. Through several trips back to Sears, I did not get satisfaction (ie problems continued). Then I find out that the Road Handlers I got were made by Firestone not Michelin. Sears made the switch but did not publicize it. Now I was really steamed, because some years ago, I bought a used car with the infamous Firestone 500 tires (the ones that self destructed at high speed on a number of cars...or at normal speed on many more). My Firestone 500's were not covered by the recall campaign serial numbers and I could not get any credit for exchange. One by one, the Firestone 500s self splitting the tire casings. (Lest you think I am a hot rod, the tires were on a Mercedes 200D...a diesel that might get to 70 MPH flat out after a couple minutes acceleration!) I will never buy another Firestone tire while alive, and not likely to buy one from Sears either.

I lament because Sears was a great store with good stuff. I still buy Craftsman tools. Sears was perfectly positioned for the Internet age with their catalog sales set up, but somehow missed the boat (like Eastman Kodak with digital cameras). So I will likely never go back to Sears for batteries or tires...and I used to be a steady customer.

Now we can also talk about what happened to another great American company: OMC. But that may take another thread.


RMS posted 05-08-2014 08:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for RMS  Send Email to RMS     
Given your past good luck with AC Delco batteries I would suggest you stick with them. If you access AC's online website, you can determine the closest retailer. Call them up and order the battery. Last time I did this it took a day to get the battery. Good luck.
Jefecinco posted 05-08-2014 10:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Consumer Reports tests batteries annually. The results are in their magazine and posted on-line.

The results differ quite a bit depending upon the Group and CCA ratings.

Sears DieHards are frequently the top rated batteries but these are usually very high priced and often AGMs. Walmart's store brand also scores consistently well as does Costco's. AC Delco batteries are seldom among the higher rated batteries.


blacklab posted 05-08-2014 10:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for blacklab  Send Email to blacklab     
Johnson Controls makes most of them. power_solutions_presskit/about_power_solutions.html

Mambo Minnow posted 05-09-2014 06:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow  Send Email to Mambo Minnow     
West Marine is running a sale right now, about $30 off price of a Group 24, MCA 1000 battery. That makes it about $104, which is a competitive price when I have compared at Bass Pro, Sears and others.

I alternate changing out one of two of these batteries on my boat.

I find it very hard to find this many cranking amps in a Group 24 case, which is what my battery trays are set up for in a confined space in the aft bilge of my boat. Most manufacturers only make this powerful a battery in Group 27 case.

jimh posted 05-09-2014 02:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I will probably go to WALMART for a battery. Their battery was highly rated by Consumer Reports, which does not, in contrast to what is reported here, have their test result on-line. (They just have teaser articles that entice you to subscribe to the test results.) The price at WALMART does not change by the hour or day or method of purchase, which suits me better than this crazy model undertaken by Sears.

AC Delco is no longer sold by the many auto part stores around me.

I need a side-terminal battery for my GM truck. Side terminals seems to be a favorite of GM vehicles. I was thinking about why a side terminal battery might be preferred. I could only come up with two ideas:

--a side-terminal battery has a lower profile, which, in designing cars, might be helpful to keep the hood profile lower;

--a side-terminal battery puts the electrical connections farther from any area of gas venting. It seems like the positive terminal on a top-terminal battery is often subject to some corrosion, which I believe is probably due to out-gassing. By moving the electrical connection away from the vent areas, this may be reduced.

ConB posted 05-09-2014 03:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
Bought 4 deep cycle batteries at Walmart this week. They say nothing about a core battery in exchange until they ring you up at the cash register. $12.00 extra without a core.


Jefecinco posted 05-09-2014 07:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Sorry for the misinformation on the web site article. As a subscriber I get access to the web site. Some of their ratings are available to the public but battery ratings I now know are not.


frontier posted 05-10-2014 01:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for frontier  Send Email to frontier     
We've got Interstate marine batteries in the boats - never failed.
Just bought a new Interstate battery for our Camry - it was rated #1 by Consumer Reports for it's group size. Interesting, but the same battery in a different group size was rated lower.
jimh posted 05-12-2014 01:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have also had good experience with Interstate batteries in my boat. But I can't find a retailer for them now. I used to buy them from my local marine dealer, Lockeman's Hardware and Boat, but a year or two ago they stopped carrying them. Apparently there was some change in policy implemented by Interstate with their retailers that made it unattractive for Lockeman's to carry their batteries. The lack of really wide distribution tends to disfavor Interstate compared to other brands like DieHard (Sears) and EverStart (Walmart).
Robert V posted 05-12-2014 10:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     

I just went to the Interstate Batteries website, clicked "click located dealer", entered "Beverly Hills, Michigan" and found 37 retailers in your immediate area. There is one wholesale location as well. Firestone and Midas have multiple locations that carry the Interstate brand, as well as independent shops, all within your area.

jimh posted 05-14-2014 12:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I really don't consider a Midas Muffler shop to be much of a battery retailer. I can't imagine that obtaining fulfillment of some warranty on a particular brand battery purchased at a Midas Muffler shop would be a simple process at any other Midas Muffler shop, or at another retailer who sold the brand. For me, in order for a battery to have a warranty that can actually be useful, the retailer of the battery has to have a very wide presence.

I have purchased a new battery from WALMART. I was swayed by the following:

--the WALMART battery was very highly rated by Consumer Reports;

--the price was $20 less than the equivalent Sears battery at its normal retail price;

--the comments from Chuck Tribolet, who mentioned the popularity of the WALMART battery among his Corvette enthusiast friends;

--the ease of buying the battery at WALMART compared to Sears; I did not have to wait in line for 30-minutes to reach the head of a queue so that a sales clerk could then interview me for five minutes to determine what battery I needed, and then further interview me and extract more data in order to complete the transaction;

--I did not have to worry that five minutes after I left the store the price would be dropped by $20 to $40 dollars on some limited time and limited scope promotion;

--the WALMART battery was clearly marked as being made by Johnson Controls; and,

--the WALMART battery was clearly marked with its date of being put on the shelf without a secret coding, so it was easy to see the amount of time the battery had been sitting there.

rtk posted 05-14-2014 09:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for rtk  Send Email to rtk     
Good choice. Sears is a NIGHTMARE to deal with. My recent experience with a Sears online tool order discrepancy was painful and extremely time consuming.

I've had good results with the two batteries that I have purchased from WALMART. I had to bring one back (my fault- the vehicle ran the battery down so much due to a parasitic draw it could not be recharged). They exchanged it under warranty- no questions asked.


knothead posted 05-14-2014 10:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for knothead  Send Email to knothead     

I too have purchased batteries for all my vehicles at Walmart with good results. They include batteries for two BMW's which are exact copies of the originals and have lasted longer than the originals. One thing for sure, they are certainly less expensive.

As for boat batteries, I'm still using a six year old Optima Redtop in my Montauk. I bought that one at Sears.


jimh posted 12-08-2014 10:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As a corollary to my earlier story about the difficulties encountered in doing business with Sears, I have to add this anecdote:

I have a Sears CRAFTSMAN shop vacuum. I needed a new filter. The filter element I really wanted was the least expensive model. My local hardware store carries all sorts of CRAFTSMAN products, including shop vacuum replacement filters, but the one they had on their shelf was a more expensive model, possessing some special characteristic I did not need.

The local Sears store had the cheaper filter, but the in-store price was several dollars more than the on-line price. I decided I would play the game with Sears and their preferred way to do business--order on-line.

I ordered the filter on the Sears website. I saved $5 on a $15 item--a nice percentage. Then I drove to Sears to take delivery. They have a special on-line sales pickup department. I walked in. I had printed out some form from the on-line transaction on my printer. I handed it to the clerk. Ten seconds later they handed me the replacement filter. This was much faster than searching around the hardware department shelves for the filter, then waiting in line at the check-out counter to buy it.

padrefigure posted 12-09-2014 08:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for padrefigure  Send Email to padrefigure     
One other advantage of purchasing batteries from Walmart--if you travel, almost no matter where you are, you will still be close to a Walmart. If battery trouble strikes, it will usually be on the road. In two instances, I have limped into small town Walmarts with battery problems. Both times the service tech ran the diagnostic and in less than half an hour, I have been on my way with a new battery installed. It turned out in both cases that the batter was several years past its warranty, but the service was cheerful and prompt, regardless.
Jefecinco posted 12-09-2014 09:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Walmart does a few things well. Battery sales and service appears to be one of them.

Buying things on-line from Sears for in-store delivery is something Sears appears to do well. I keep hoping to see the Diehard AGMs on sale soon.


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