Before you pick up another blister pack of disposable AA batteries, stop to consider whether rechargeable AA batteries may be a better value. While they can get a bad rap, the latest and best rechargeable batteries can be just as good as their traditional counterparts. And though they're still more expensive than disposable batteries, prices are going down.
But are rechargeables the right choice for you? Let's go over what you need to know to get the best rechargeable batteries.
What Are Rechargeable Batteries?
Rechargeable batteries are batteries that can be used hundreds or thousands of times, while disposable batteries need to be tossed out when they've drained. Today's rechargeable batteries are typically nickel-metal hydride, or NiMH, and they can have as much — or even more — power than traditional alkaline batteries.
Although battery capacity varies among brands and models, NiMH AA batteries usually have 1,000 mAh to 2,700 mAh worth of power; disposable alkaline batteries tend to have around 2,400 mAh. In addition to having plenty of juice, rechargeable models are particularly good at providing power for high-power devices that can chew through alkaline batteries.
Most NiMH batteries are now low self-discharge, which means they'll hold a charge for a long time even when they're sitting on a shelf. This has been a big problem for rechargeable batteries in the past, because you could find them dead when you needed them. But today's rechargeables will hold charges for a year or more — Rayovac and Energizer even advertise their batteries will stay charged for five years. You can also expect any rechargeable batteries you buy to be pre-charged and work right out of the package.
Do Battery Brands Matter?
Brand matters, though not necessarily in the way you think. Some battery brands perform better than others, but some off-brand batteries are made on the same manufacturing lines as their brand-name counterparts.
For example, Costco's Kirkland-brand batteries are made by Duracell, and IKEA Ladda rechargeables supposedly come off the same assembly line as Panasonic Eneloop rechargeables. You want to buy a good brand, but sometimes generic battery brands are good brands.
How Much Do Rechargeable Batteries Cost?
In most cases, one rechargeable battery costs about what four or five standard batteries cost. But even though traditional AA batteries can cost as little as 30 cents each, that adds up if you go through a lot of them. Depending on how many batteries you go through a year, the best AA batteries may be rechargeable AA batteries.
What Are the Best Rechargeable AA Batteries?
To pick the best battery value, we'll compare prices and features of the common AA battery. Whether you're looking for the best AA battery or the best AAA battery, these prices should be a good guideline. So let's dive in to find the best rechargeable AA batteries.
Panasonic Eneloop AA Rechargeable Batteries
Panasonic Eneloop batteries have received good marks from several reviewers, including Wirecutter and Reviewed. The high-end (and more expensive) Eneloop Pro also has more capacity than most rechargeables at 2,550 mAh. However, it's pricey — the Eneloop Pro is the most expensive battery on this list. Both Energizer and Amazon rechargeable AA batteries perform similarly for a lower price.
Still, if you want a rechargeable battery with a long life, Panasonic Eneloops are a solid choice. And if you watch for them to go on sale, sometimes they're priced in line with the competition.
- Battery capacity: 2,000 mAh or 2,550 mAh
- 2,000 mAh 8-pack price: $26.98 ($3.37 each)
- 2,550 mAh 8-pack price: $33.68 ($4.21 each)
- 2,000 mAh 4-pack price with charger: $17.99
For comparison, Panasonic non-rechargeable AAs cost about 84 cents each, so you'd have to use four or five Eneloop charges before you matched the cost of a single standard battery. However, if you consider the cost of the charger, Eneloop comes out ahead: a 4-pack of 2,000 mAh batteries with a charger comes at a lower price than other charger bundles.
Energizer AA Rechargeable Batteries
Energizer rechargeable batteries are the top picks from Wirecutter, due to a high capacity and long shelf life. Their top capacity is 2,300 mAh, so they have a little less power than Panasonic Eneloop Pros. But Energizer promises they'll hold a charge for five years, so you'll find them ready to go even if they've been sitting in your kitchen junk drawer.
- Battery capacity: 2,000 mAh or 2,300 mAh
- 2,000 mAh 8-pack price: $18.57 ($2.32 each)
- 2,300 mAh 8-pack price: $19.99 ($2.50 each)
- 2,000 mAh 4-pack price with charger: $18.19
Energizer's standard batteries are around a quarter of the price of the 2,300 mAh rechargeables at 62 cents each, so you'd go through four charges before saving money. They offer good performance for a modest up-front price.
AmazonBasics AA Rechargeable Batteries
Don't discount AmazonBasics as a knockoff brand — these are great batteries for a great price. You can choose between 2,000 mAh and a high-capacity 2,400 mAh model, both of which have low prices compared to similar batteries.
- Battery capacity: 2,000 mAh or 2,400 mAh
- 2,000 mAh 8-pack price: $14.99 ($1.87 each)
- 2,400 mAh 8-pack price: $18.99 ($2.37 each)
- 2,000 mAh 4-pack price with charger: $23.98
Amazon's non-rechargeable AA batteries are pricey compared to other models, selling for about $1.75 each. But even though there isn't a dramatic difference between their rechargeable and non-rechargeable models, the rechargeables are still a great value compared to other brands — they cost 44% less than the Panasonic Eneloop.
Duracell AA Rechargeable Batteries
Duracell's rechargeable batteries have nearly as much capacity as the Panasonic Eneloop — but they're also more expensive than the 2,000 mAh Eneloops and get middling reviews after real-world testing. They're neither the best nor the worst rechargeable batteries on the market, and if you find them at a good price they may not be a bad buy.
- Battery capacity: 2,450 mAh
- 2,450 mAh 4-pack price: $14.48 ($3.62 each)
- 2,450 mAh 6-pack price with charger: $18.81
Standard Duracell CopperTop AA batteries are more modestly priced at 89 cents each, leaving them in the middle of the road pricewise. Like most other brands, you'd have to go through four AA charges before you saved money by buying rechargeable units.
Rayovac AA Rechargeable Batteries
Wondering which is the best battery in a Rayovac vs. Duracell battle of affordable brands? A low price of $1.56 per battery means Rayovac's rechargeables have a very modest start-up price. But temper your enthusiasm, because they also have a low 1,350 mAh capacity, so you can expect a shorter battery life. They might be a reasonable choice for low-power devices that don't go through batteries quickly — but that also means it'll take longer for them to start saving money. In this case, Duracell definitely is the winner.
- Battery capacity: 1,350 mAh
- 1,350 mAh 8-pack price: $12.46 ($1.56 each)
Rayovac's standard alkaline batteries are also modestly priced at 72 cents each, so you'll start saving money after three batteries. Still, if you want to power RC cars and other gadgets that burn through batteries, they may not be the best AA batteries for your needs.
IKEA Ladda AA Rechargeable Batteries
When you're shopping for batteries, you probably don't think of IKEA — but its rechargeable batteries have the best battery prices on the market. Low-power rechargeable AA batteries cost just $1 each, while beefy 2,450 mAh batteries are only $1.75 each. Their performance is on par with the much more expensive Panasonic Eneloop — possibly because they're Eneloops by a different name. While neither Panasonic nor IKEA confirm this, both batteries are produced in the same factory in Japan and have nearly identical performance.
- Battery capacity: 1,000 mAh or 2,450 mAh
- 1,000 mAh 4-pack price: $3.99 ($1 each)
- 2,450 mAh 4-pack price: $6.99 ($1.75 each)
IKEA's non-rechargeable Alkalisk batteries are also cheaper than any of the competition at just 30 cents each, so you'd have to go through six charges before Laddas cost less than their counterparts.
Don't Forget the Charger
If you're buying rechargeable batteries, you'll need a charger. Typically, these devices are universal, so you can charge any NiMH battery — including those on this list — in any NiMH charger. Most models can also handle batteries of different sizes: AAs and AAAs will often fit in the same unit. Just be sure to check the details before you click buy.
Often you'll find the best value in batteries bundled with chargers. These packages will usually include four batteries with a charger that can hold all four for around $20. If you buy a charger separately, expect 4-battery chargers to start at $10, but you can buy chargers that will hold as many as 18 batteries. They're costly, though, and can be as much as $40. But 8-battery chargers are the best value — you can find them for as little as $10, just like a 4-battery charger. For the best battery charger, however, expect to spend a little more, from $15 to $25.
Readers, what are your go-to brands for rechargeable batteries? Let us know in the comments below!