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Best Marine Battery Chargers Reviewed
Marine battery chargers are one of those essential pieces of kit anyone who regularly sails require.
Today, the vast majority of boats have onboard batteries. And so they need chargers that can restore power after a long stint at sea. But how do you distinguish which battery chargers are worth investing in?
We here at RowingInc.com scoured today’s saturated market to help you find the best marine battery chargers. Our team has reviewed our top 5 picks that we believe will be the perfect fit for your boating needs.
You should note that there are some considerable differences between marine chargers on the market today. For starters, there’s a degree of variation in cell compatibility. Not all chargers will work with your boat’s battery.
There are also vast differences in quality. Ideally, you want a charger unit that will be able to withstand months of vibration and conditions at sea, not something made of flimsy plastic with poor seals that fail after a couple of weeks.
High-quality units sometimes come with the ability to select and change different battery types by their power banks, which is helpful if you need added flexibility. Other models also provide you with helpful indicators, telling you whether you are over-or-undercharging.
Check Out Our Favorite Marine Battery Charger
As with anything, you get what you pay for. However, thanks to advances in manufacturing and the underlying technology, you now get a lot more for your money when you spend on marine battery chargers than you ever did in the past. Perhaps the greatest improvement is in the onboard electronics themselves, providing you with all kinds of helpful readouts.
Ultimately, the purpose of a marine battery charger is to ensure that your boat’s battery remains nicely topped up when you’re at sea. It’s fundamentally a safety device that ensures that your vital systems don’t go down.
Top Marine Battery Chargers Comparison Chart
Best Marine Battery Charger
When Minn Kota was designing its Precision On-Board Marine Battery Charger, it’s goal was to provide boaters with more power and reliability than was believed possible for a marine battery charger. And, in a sense, they achieved their goal. Minn Kota designed the unit to get you back in the water as quickly as possible and, hopefully, stay there for longer.
So what makes this device so special? How will it keep serving you for years to come?
The key to the success comes down to some of the technologies included as standard in the device. For instance, it comes with multi-stage charging which means that the unit will actually adjust the amount of energy your batteries receive, depending on the phase of the charge cycle. And depending on the type of batteries you use, you can also get custom charging depending on the type of battery pack you use.
Remember, not all boats use flooded lead acid batteries. Some use AGM. Others use gel lead-acid. The Precision On-Board Marine Battery Charger allows you to switch between different modes, depending on the type of battery that you use.
What about battery equalization?
Again, the Minn Kota performs well here too. The brand’s range of Precision chargers do it automatically whenever you plug them in. But there’s also a button you can press to do it manually. Remember a clean battery is a healthy one.
So ultimately, this battery charger is for people who want a charger that’s going to protect their batteries for years to come and ensure their longevity. You get helpful readouts and plenty of options depending on the type of batteries you’re using.
ProMariner clearly employs people who understand sailing and how boat battery technology works. Traditional chargers distribute amperes between batteries according to a robotic scheme. If one battery is full and another requires additional charging, they won’t direct power to the one that needs it: they’ll send it equally to both.
That’s not the case for the ProSportsHD Series Marine Battery Charger. This unit will actually redirect surplus power between battery units to ensure that the ones that need the juice get it. This way, the charger protects those already charged and provides an additional boost to those that require more energy.
Just describing the system in this way sounds a little abstract, but the benefits for sailors are quite extraordinary. The charger allows you to fill all your cells quickly so you can get back out on the water without long delays.
Let’s get into some specifics. What does the ProSport Series actually offer? Well, for one, you get battery size compatibility running from group 24 to 31. You get fast-charging that takes just 8 to 10 hours for your boat’s entire power bank. And, just like the Minn Kota, it’ll charge a variety of different battery types, including AGM.
ProMariner also recently upgraded the battery type selection button on the charger, so it’s now much more conspicuous than it was in the past.
Who’s this charger for? Primarily it’s for people for whom time and battery longevity is a real concern. The rapid-charging technology means that you can hook your boat up to the mains late in the evening and be ready to sail again early the next morning. Now that’s freedom!
NOCO developed the Genius GENM2 Smart Marine Battery Charger for use in extreme conditions. As a result, they spent an inordinate amount of time investing in technology to help the unit withstand both the wind, rain, and general conditions that you’re likely to experience while sailing.
The device is 100 percent waterproof and completely sealed all the way around to protect the delicate electronics inside.
It’s also rated for use in extreme working environments, making it suitable for non-recreational uses such as fishing.
NOCO includes ignition protection as standard, providing temperature control for relatively worry-free operation.
NOCO also advertises the fact that the device will charge batteries up to twice as fast as traditional units, which is the primary reason the unit features in this list. Its energy-routing technology directs power to the batteries that need it most, making it so that you can charge your batteries overnight instead of having to wait until mid-morning before setting sail.
The GENM2 is for two banks and provides 4 amps per bank at 12V. But there are plenty of other models in the range to cater to your setup. The biggest GEN4, for instance, provides up to 40A and more than 10A per bank.
Ultimately, this battery charger is for people operating in extreme environments who want a unit that they can trust, no matter what the conditions. It offers multiple safety features against all kinds of threats and highly durable construction.
Some boaters need budget-orientated battery chargers for their vessels. But finding units that perform to a satisfactory standard when you pay less can be a real challenge. Manufacturers will often make untenable compromises.
Good news: Guest now makes a charger called the ChargePro On-Board Boat Battery Charger which provides many of the features you’d find on a premium model, all for an affordable price, so you can have peace of mind when it comes to it’s reliability, as well as all the cash you saved.
As is now standard in the industry, you get a helpful LED display showing you the status of all your battery banks during the charging process. But you also get many of the features that you’d usually only find on premium products.
For instance, the pack includes 5-stage charging, which means that the charger reacts to the power level in the cell. You also get 100 percent waterproofing technology, which gives you peace of mind when taking the charger out on long missions.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the charger though is the heavy-duty strain reliefs you get on all the cables. This feature prevents shearing and extends the life of the charger (usually well beyond that of the batteries themselves).
The market for this unit should be clear: boaters who want a robust and affordable charging solution.
Schumacher designs its 6V/12V Smart Marine Battery Charger primarily for the entry-level enthusiast who wants a charger that they can use for everything, including their boat, truck, RV, motorcycle, snowmobile, ATV, and anything else with a heavy-duty onboard battery.
The unit is portable and features a helpful handle. There’s also a generously-sized display that tells you how much charge you have.
The device is also helpful for those rare sailors who require a 6V hookup. While many other brands will vary the amperes, almost all of them come with 12V rails. And that means that the degree of flexibility you get is somewhat limited.
Despite its inexpensive price point, this battery charger provides full compatibility with deep-cycle, gel, standard, and AGM batteries, which means it will work with the vast majority of boats. And it comes with some helpful safety features, including reverse hookup detection so that you don’t accidentally put the clamps on the wrong way around.
This charger, therefore, is for people who need something portable that they can use on a range of vehicles, not just their boats. It doesn’t have the heavy-duty construction of some of the other units on this list. But it does offer a high degree of portability.
Top Marine Battery Chargers Features To Consider
Choosing a marine battery charger can be a challenge because it’s a little technical. You have to understand how electronics and batteries work. And you need to have a basic understanding of the physics behind it to make a good choice.
In this section, we answer some of your burning questions about which unit you should buy so that you can make a more informed decision.
On-Board vs. Portable Charger
If you’re wondering whether you should choose an onboard or portable charger, you’re not alone. It’s a vexing issue for many sailors out there.
Fundamentally, it depends on the purpose. If you’re only ever going to charge a battery on a boat, then it makes sense to choose an onboard version. If, however, you have multiple vehicles you want to charge, then a portable device could be the better option for your lifestyle.
Marine battery chargers come with all kinds of features, many of which we’ve seen in this review. If you sometimes struggle to focus, you might want to pick a charger that comes with reverse clamp safety shut-offs. You don’t want to apply the current in the wrong direction and wreck your batteries in the process.
If you spend a lot of time in extreme conditions, which most boaters do, then you’ll need something waterproof. And for added peace of mind, it helps to have circuit protection features too, just in case you experience issues in other electronics.
Ideally, marine chargers should provide sufficient juice to fully recharge your boat overnight. In fact, most brands aim for this speed, providing boaters with maximum flexibility. Any longer than this, and you could find yourself having to wait around for charging.
The voltage of the battery charger you choose needs to match the cells in your boat. If it doesn’t, then you’ll either wind up damaging them or experience slow charging.
Most of the chargers we discussed above were 12V. However, you can also get 6V chargers if that’s what your boat calls for. You can also get units that offer a variety of rails, giving you additional flexibility.
It might sound like a minor point, but when it comes to chargers, size really matters. The smaller they are, the better.
Unfortunately, a lot of chargers are weighty and bulky. That’s why units that offer both lightweight and compactness are rare.
How much you spend on a marine charger depends almost exclusively on your goals. In general, though, it is a good idea to spend enough so that you get all the safety features you need.
You also won’t need to spend as much if you have fewer battery banks. Heavy-duty chargers are more expensive.