Having a good deep cycle battery can make the difference between a successfully day of fishing vs. a shortened return to the dock. In this article, we identify the most popular and top rated Deep Cycle batteries based on our recent survey of 233 boat owners.
Types of Deep Cycle Batteries
Deep Cycle batteries are typically made with thick lead plates that deliver moderate amounts of energy over an extended period of time. There are three major types of Deep Cycle batteries. The difference is largely what is in between the lead plates.
- Flooded or “Wet Cell”: By far the most common, these batteries use liquid sulfuric acid that submerge or “flood” the lead plates. They might require periodic maintenance (adding distilled water) to extend the battery life and are more sensitive to vibration than the newer battery types. Seven out of ten boaters in our survey (70%) currently have a flooded deep cycle battery.
- AGM: Stands for “absorbed glass mat”. These use an acid-saturated glass mat between the lead plates. As such, they don’t require topping off, they discharge at a lower rate (will last longer) and can handle vibration better than a flooded battery . But, these are typically 2-3 times more expensive. Currently, 1 in 5 boaters (20%) use an AGM battery for their deep cycle needs.
- Gel: As the name implies, these batteries use a gel-like substance between the lead plates. These are similar to AGMs in that they are also non-spillable and more vibration resistant than flooded batteries. And, they do even better than AGMs in warm climates but don’t perform as well in below freezing temperatures. Plus, they are more susceptible to overcharging which could greatly reduce the life of the battery. Only 7% of boaters in our survey use a Gel deep cycle battery in their boat.
There is actually a forth battery type: lithium-ion. These are super expensive (in some cases, over $1,000) and therefore are quite rare at present (only 2% currently use one). But they have some very desirable characteristics – they are much lighter weight, recharge faster and last longer. These should become much more popular if and when the price comes down.
As can be seen from the above chart, an increasing number of boaters plan to move to one of the newer battery types with their next purchase. However, because of the cost advantage, at least half will continue to stay with a conventional flooded deep cycle battery.
Is the higher cost of a Gel or AGM battery worth it? Well, according to our survey, owners of AGM and Gel batteries are more satisfied and do expect their batteries to last a little longer. But, given the price disparity, a flooded battery is still likely the best value for most boaters. An exception would be for serious tournament anglers (where you might boat in rough conditions), your livelihood depends on it (fishing guide or pro), or if you can afford the very best.
Most Popular Deep Cycle Batteries
As was the case with marine starting batteries (see our report on the Top Rated Marine Starting Batteries), there is one deep cycle battery brand that dominates the rest – Interstate. Over one-third (34%) of boaters in our survey use Interstate Deep Cycle batteries for their trolling motors. The vast majority of these are flooded batteries. The next closest competitor is the Wal-Mart brand, Everstart, at 11%.
However, when you look at the data by battery type, the results vary. While Interstate is king of flooded batteries, Optima is actually the most popular brand of AGMs among survey participants. Of those with an AGM deep cycle battery, 33% had Optimas (not shown). The next most popular AGM battery was Duracell at 11%.
Top Rated Marine Deep Cycle Battery
In our survey, we asked boaters to rate their satisfaction with their current battery and whether or not they would likely repurchase it next time. Optima batteries came out on top with an impressive rating of 9.5. And, they had the highest percentage of customers who said they would likely repurchase the same brand (79%). However, it is important to keep in mind that these are the more expensive Gel or AGM batteries.
Interstate came in second with a respectable score of 8.7 followed by Deka. Further, 70% of Interstate owners said they would repurchase the same brand – not far behind that of Optima.
Satisfaction with the popular Everstart brand was a bit lower at 8.3. However, 68% said they would still purchase the same brand. This is likely attributable to its value pricing and broad availability.
The following is an overview of the top rated marine Deep Cycle batteries and why owners like each:
Optima offers three battery varieties – the “Red Top” batteries are their starting batteries; “Yellow Top” are dual purpose (starting and deep cycle); and “Blue Top” are marine deep cycle batteries. These Blue Top AGM batteries receive exceptional high marks because of their dependability and the “peace of mind” they provide. Because of this, 84% of Optima owners have owned this brand of battery before – the highest of all the brands in our survey.
- Very dependable with many discharge/recharge cycles. (Sat:10, Dennis B.)
- It retains its charge well for long periods of time and gives long discharge time. (Sat:10, Gary S.)
- Reliability & safety. (Sat:9, Rick W.)
- Never had an issue with my battery. (Sat:10, Billy A.)
- Dependable & trust. (Sat:10, Darryl S.)
Most of these are flooded batteries but a few were AGMs as well. Customers like them because they hold a charge for several hours and the batteries last several years. As a result, owners are very loyal to the brand. Three out of four current Interstate Deep Cycle battery owners (77%) have owned this brand previously – second only to Optima.
- The batteries last me the whole 8 hrs I’m on the lakes fishing. (Sat:10, William S.)
- Very well built, holds good charge, holds charge for long time, quick recharge. (Sat:9, Rick C.)
- Work well and I have got five years of use. (Sat:9, William B.)
- Interstate batteries are fantastic batteries. They last a longtime and are very reliable. I have had the AGMs as well from interstate and they are great too. (Sat:10, Kelley Y.)
- No issues in four years for a reasonably price battery because I need four of these on my boat. (Sat:10, Dave M.)
- Last five years at lower cost than others. (Sat:8, David D.)
- It works well and lasts much longer than other deep cycle batteries I have tried. I have tried Costco because they had a high rating from Consumer reports but they did last very long, maybe 2-3 years at most while I have an interstate battery still going after 8-10 years. (Sat:10, Reynold M.)
- Long life, holds a long charge and virtually maintenance free. (Sat:10, Tom P.)
Manufactured by East Penn, a leading battery manufacturer that has been producing batteries for consumer and commercial applications for over 70 years. They offer three types. Their “Marine Master” line are flooded batteries; Indimidator are AGMs; and Dominator are Gel batteries. Of the small number of individuals in our survey who own a Deka deep cycle battery (n=12), satisfaction was moderate. And about half indicated that they would repurchase the same brand again. Despite this moderate score, most felt that this battery generally delivers the reliability they expect.
- Reliability and long life. (Sat:10, Gregory G.)
- Reliability (Sat:9, Mike B.)
- Previous success with starting battery and reviews (Sat:8, Charles G.)
- Battery charges fully and has had no issues. (Sat:8, Tony H.)
The Wal-Mart battery brand, Everstart, delivers decent power for an exceptional price. For this reason, a disproportionately high percentage of current owners would repurchase the same brand despite the fact that their satisfaction is far below that of some of the other premium brands.
- Very affordable and never let me down. (Sat:9, Chris T.)
- Like my starting battery, the Everstart deep cycle are a good value and work fine for my needs. I have talked to friends using expensive gel batteries and it doesn’t seem that they are getting more years of use from their batteries. (Sat:7, Steve C.)
- Seem to hold up for 3 or 4 years not bad for the price. (Sat:9, Kent P.)
- Good deal and last about 2 years. (Sat: 7, Richard B.)
- These are one of the cheaper batteries on the market and perform as well as any I’ve tried. I have a friend who tried to use the more expensive “Gel” batteries for this trolling motor and had more problems than I experienced with the least expensive on the market. Some of that was due to frequency of use but most came from how he treated the batteries. I’ve found that the batteries last much longer if you keep a full charge in them so I power my onboard charger as soon as I return from fishing and keep it connected till I go out again. (Sat:9, Ken L.)
Tips to Maintain the Life of Your Deep Cycle Battery
The last comment, from Ken L. above, offers some wise advice. Proper maintenance is key to the longevity of your battery. It doesn’t make sense to spend extra on a premium battery and then not take care of it since you will be disappointed.
The following are some tips to prolong the life of your battery:
- Do not mix battery types (flooded, AGM, Gel) on your boat. Each one has specific charging needs and so mixing types can lead to under or over-charging.
- Do not mix old batteries with new ones on the same battery bank (e.g., don’t replace just one of your two deep cycle batteries). The older batteries tend to pull down the newer ones to their deteriorated state.
- If you have an unsealed flooded battery, periodically check the fluid level and top it off with distilled water as needed (about 1/2″ above the lead plates). However, the water should only be added after the battery has been fully charged. Do NOT use tap water for this purpose as this could reduce battery performance.
- If you have a Gel or AGM battery, be sure you have a charger designed for these battery technologies since they like to be charged at a different rate than regular flooded batteries. Gel and AGM batteries are prone to overcharging if not done properly which can ruin your battery.
- Try not to over-deplete your deep cycle battery. 80% is about the maximum safe discharge. If you wear it down more than that, it might not recover.
- Recharge your battery quickly after using it. If you keep it in a discharged state for a prolonged period, sulfide damage could occur which would reduce your battery’s capacity. Related to this, check your battery periodically during the off-season and charge it as needed.
There are a number of good batteries on the market today. For an average boater/angler, the Interstate “flooded” Deep Cycle battery is a good choice. However, if you want to save a few bucks, the Everstart battery does a decent job as well for a more economical price.
On the other hand, if you are a hard-core tournament angler or your livelihood depends on your boating equipment, then it might make sense to upgrade to an Optima Blue Top AGM battery.
Regardless of which you use, be sure to recharge your battery shortly after using it (and check it during the off-season) and try not to draw the battery too far down to help extend your battery’s life.
Thanks to many of you who took time out of your busy schedules to share your opinions in our survey. Your input is greatly appreciated and know that you are helping to inform the overall boater community.
Please share your thoughts on this article and/or your battery experiences in the comments section below.
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