- The best rechargeable batteries are high-quality, ready to use out of the package, hold charge after months in storage, and are economical in the long-term for powering various devices.
- The Panasonic Eneloop 2100 Cycle Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries are our top pick because they are affordable, come with a one-year warranty, and have demonstrated consistent quality and performance.
- Once your batteries run out of juice, you'll need a way to recharge them. Check out our guide to the best rechargeable battery chargers you can buy.
There's no getting around the fact that the best rechargeable batteries are much more expensive than single-use lithium or alkaline batteries. Sometimes the cost is three or four times as much. This in itself might be enough to turn some of you off the idea of using rechargeable batteries. And, if you are just buying cells for a low-drain device, such as a remote control you rarely use or clocks, then it makes financial sense to choose a single-use option since you would not recharge the batteries enough to recoup the additional initial investment.
On the other hand, if you are a photographer, RC race car enthusiast, or regularly use devices that require a lot of battery juice, then rechargeable batteries are worth the cost. With most brands, you will make back your extra upfront cost after five charges. Not only that, but you'll be helping Mother Nature.
In our guide, we are focusing on AA and AAA batteries because these are by far the most popular rechargeable battery sizes. Many of the brands we cover also offer their batteries in C and D sizes. In fact, Eneloop even offers C and D spacers that make it so you can use AA batteries in devices that require C and D batteries.
We also focus on nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) low self-discharge (LSD) batteries. Just about all rechargeable AA and AAA batteries use NiMH because of its large capacity, and LSD batteries are the best because they hold the charge for longer when your device is not in use.
Battery capacity is measured in milliamp hours (mAh). And, most standard rechargeable AA batteries are rated for 2,000mAh and AAAs are 800mAh with slight, generally insignificant differences between brands. This is why many of the experts recommend simply paying attention to the per-battery costs and going with the cheapest name-brand cell. You should avoid knockoffs and discount brands. They rarely deliver quality and could potentially harm your devices and charger.
If you want to prolong the life of your batteries, choose the "slow" or "gentle" charge mode on your charger and avoid fast charging. Also, if you have a charger that features a "conditioning" function, use that every 10 to 15 charging cycles. This is a slow process that charges and discharges your batteries to erase any use "memory" that could reduce the permanent capacity.
While researching the best rechargeable batteries, we looked at thousands of buyer and expert reviews and ratings of several brands. Our guide features batteries that are affordable, deliver on their capacity ratings, and will withstand hundreds of charge cycles.
Here are the best rechargeable batteries:
- Best overall: Panasonic Eneloop 2100 Cycle Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries
- Best eco-friendly rechargeable batteries: Energizer Rechargeable Batteries
- Best on a budget: Tenergy Rechargeable NIMH Batteries
Prices and links are current as of 9/11/20. We removed our previous pick for the best overall rechargeable batteries, AmazonBasics Rechargeable Batteries, and our previous pick for the best high-capacity rechargeable batteries, AmazonBasics High-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries, due to recent reports of AmazonBasics electronics catching fire. Though these batteries have had no such reports, there have been several reviews that mention the batteries leaking. We are currently looking into new rechargeable batteries for possible inclusion in this guide.
The Panasonic Eneloop 2100 Cycle Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries are ideal for devices that drain your batteries on a daily basis.
Eneloop is legendary in the rechargeable battery industry. Introduced in 2005 by Sanyo, Eneloop batteries are made in Japan and are in their fourth generation, the first since Panasonic bought Sanyo for $4.6 billion in 2009. And, it appears the quality continues.
What sets the Panasonic Eneloop 2100 Cycle Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries apart from other brands is the advertised 2100 cycle lifespan. This is virtually impossible to test at this point since the batteries have only been on the market for about four years now, but Eneloop does have a track record of durability.
The AA batteries have a 2,000mAh capacity with a 1,900mAh minimum, and the AAAs have 800mAh capacity with a 750mAh minimum. These batteries are pre-charged using solar power and can maintain 70% of their charge when left in storage for 10 years.
Wirecutter listed these batteries as runner-up. The reviewer was particularly impressed with the AAs' ability to hold 82% of their charge capacity after sitting idle on a shelf for nine months. The reason it wasn't his top choice was that the price tends to be more than other brands.
Since there are differences in the various generations of Eneloop batteries, you'll want to pay attention to the model numbers and specs of each generation. The latest fourth-generation batteries have a "BK" prefix in their model number, have the same capacity as older generations, and are capable of more charging cycles.
Pros: Holds charge after months of nonuse, can be recharged up to 2,100 times
Cons: Relatively expensiveThe most eco-friendly rechargeable batteries
The Energizer Rechargeable Batteries not only perform well, but they are also the first cells to be partially made of recycled batteries.
When it comes to performance, the Energizer Rechargeable Batteries are on par with the other major brands. What sets them apart is that they are made of 4% recycled batteries. This makes them even better for the environment. Other than that, the batteries come pre-charged. The AAs have a 2,000mAh capacity, and the AAAs are rated 800mAh. And, since they are low self-discharging, they can last for up to a year in storage without losing their charge.
Wirecutter recommends the Energizer Recharge Universal batteries because they performed well in each stage of testing, including initial capacity, self-discharge, capacity after 48 charges, and remote-control car racing. Reviewed stopped short of recommending the Energizer batteries because the price was more than the AmazonBasics cells, and they didn't perform as well in their fan test.
Pros: Made with 4% recycled batteries, pre-charged, five-year usable battery life
Cons: More expensive than some brands that perform betterThe best on a budget
If you don't plan on charging your batteries more than 500 times, the Tenergy Rechargeable NIMH Batteries perform just as well as the major brands but cost less.
While the Tenergy Rechargeable NIMH Batteries are the most cost-effective in our guide, they still have many of the same features as the more expensive options. The AA Tenergy batteries are rated at a 2,000mAh capacity (which tends to be closer to 2,100 in reality), and the AAAs have an 800mAh rating, but according to buyers who have tested the batteries out, it tends to be more like 900 mAh.
Tenergy advertises that the cells can only last for up to 500 charging cycles, which is half that of the next lowest brands. So, this may not be the best alternative if you plan on recharging your batteries on a daily basis.
Light and Matter compared the Tenergy Centura Rechargeable NIMH Batteries to nine other brands. The mAh rating and possible charge cycles were on par with the other standard capacity options. However, Tenergy was among the least expensive and held on to more charge after a year.
Tenergy batteries arrive about 30% charged and will need a few use cycles to reach their full charging capacities. After that, they tend to live up to their low self-discharge claim.
Pros: Inexpensive, higher than advertised capacity, retains 85% of charge after a year in storage
Cons: Can only be recharged up to 500 timesCheck out our other great buying guides
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