How to buy the best rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries

While they may not be the most exciting item on your shopping list, batteries power many of the gadgets that make life more fun—from remote controls to cameras and toys. But do you really need to pay more for brand-name batteries? And are more expensive rechargeable batteries better than disposables? This guide will help you decide when to shell out a few extra bucks for premium batteries and when to save your cash.

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1Which batteries are better: rechargeable or non-rechargeable?

Rechargeable batteries and disposable batteries both have their place. It all depends on how you intend to use them.[1]

Rechargeable Batteries

More expensive than disposables and a hassle if they go dead when you need them most, rechargeable batteries are also kinder to the environment and may save you money over the long term if you treat them well.[2]

NiMH technology is the current standard, boasting better performance and safer materials than other types of rechargeable batteries. They’re fantastic for everything from game controllers to festive lights.[3]

NiMH Batteries

Pros Cons
Best for the environment—if they’re used to their full recharge capacity Recharge capacity decreases if overcharged
Store plenty of power Charge may decline quickly if not used
Good power output for high-drain devices such as remote-control cars Some need to be charged upon purchase

Shop NiMH Batteries and Chargers

Shop all rechargeable batteries at Walmart

Non-Rechargeable Batteries

Disposable batteries remain an inexpensive option suitable for a variety of devices. You just need to decide which type of non-rechargeable battery works best in each situation.[4] There are two common types:

  • Lithium: Known for terrific energy density and performance, lithium batteries are more expensive than alkaline batteries, but can also last much longer. They’re ideally suited for devices that sap energy quickly or emergency items such as flashlights and radios.
  • Alkaline: The cheaper disposable option, alkaline batteries don’t store as much energy or last as long as lithium. Use alkalines for TV remote controls, clocks and LED lights.

Lithium Batteries

Pros Cons
Last longer than any other disposable consumer battery Higher potential to combust, so they require special disposal
Suitable for high-drain, high-performance devices Create more waste than rechargeable batteries do
Longer shelf life than alkaline Pricey
Work well in cold temperatures

Shop Lithium Batteries

Shop all lithium batteries at Walmart

Alkaline Batteries

Pros Cons
Relatively inexpensive Occasionally leak or get crusty
Work well in cold temperatures Shorter shelf life than lithium
Lead, mercury and cadmium-free, which makes them better for the environment Not ideal for high-performance devices
Create more waste than rechargeable batteries do

Shop Alkaline Batteries

2How long do batteries last?

Buying in bulk typically results in a cheaper price per battery but you may want to keep in mind that different types of batteries begin to lose their charge if they sit unused for long periods of time. If, for example, you only use a couple of AAAs every year, you may want to buy fewer at a time so the rest don’t go to waste.

Shelf life depends on battery type. Here’s a cheat sheet you can use when you shop.

Type Technology Example Shelf Life
Rechargeable NiMH Energizer Recharge Can be recharged about 500 times
Disposable Lithium Energizer Ultimate 10 to 12 years
Disposable Alkaline Duracell Coppertop, Energizer Max 5 to 10 years[5]

3Is spending more on brand-name batteries worth it?

If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth it to pay a premium for name brands like Energizer and Duracell, the answer is… sort of.

According to a physicist writing for Wired, brand-name batteries last longer… a lot longer.[6] But since you can buy far more budget batteries (like from Great Value) for the same price as only a few Energizers, the overall price-per-watt equation often works out to be the same.

  • When to buy brand name: If you want to reduce waste and enjoy the convenience of replacing your batteries less often, then go for the more expensive batteries. They’re also better at delivering a consistently high voltage, making them a smart choice for high-performance devices like drone remote controls or game controllers.
  • When to buy budget brand: If you just need a couple of AAs for a gadget that you rarely use, go for the batteries that are cheapest per unit.