RV batteries are crucial to the operation of a motorhome, camper and even campervans. They also dictate what kind of camping experience you’ll have based on the battery type, condition and energy storage capacity. But, because there are 4 different types of RV batteries and a plethora of battery brands on the market today, it’s easy to be confused on which RV battery type you can install in your motorhome, camper or van.
Your RV batteries are crucial to the operation of any motorhome or camper. They also dictate what kind of camping experience you’ll have based on the battery type, condition and energy storage capacity.
However, before buying just any batteries for your RV, you should know the difference between each type of RV batteries out there. This will help you decide which is best for your electrical use and energy management.
Let’s charge into this article to see which types of RV batteries are right for your unit and for your electrical needs!
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Which Types of RV Batteries are Right for Your Motorhome or Camper?
Why the right type of RV battery matters
Unlike regular car batteries, deep cycle batteries are designed to provide power over an extended period of time. They can be discharged and recharged over and over again.
This makes deep cycle batteries the ideal battery for your RV and its everyday power needs. They can be used for both, motorhomes and campers alike.
But, there’s a few important factors to take into account before purchasing any type of RV battery. You’ll need to consider:
- How you will be using your RV – pedestal vs. boondocking
- How much energy do you need
- How much money you’re willing to spend.
How many amp hours do you need?
First, you’re going to see the word amp hours or the abbreviation Ah.
Amp hour or ampere hour is a rating term for the number of amps your battery will provide per hour before it is discharged and will need recharging.
The unit is a useful metric to determine the capacity of an energy storage device, such as a rechargeable battery or deep-cycle battery.
The higher the amp hour capacity, the greater the amount of available energy in the RV battery.
How much weight can you afford in your RV for batteries (and how many)?
Most normal size RV batteries weigh anywhere from 65-70 pounds each.
However, there are other RV batteries that may weigh as little as 32 pounds and some over 150 pounds depending on type of RV batteries and battery capacity. And because weight is critical in RVs, you need to be conscious of how much each type of RV battery weighs.
✰ RV PRO TIP ✰ Weight is critical in all RVs. Read about it Understanding RV GVWR: How to NOT OVERLOAD Your RV
So, let’s charge into learning some battery basics.
We’ll discuss which RV battery type requires battery maintenance and how long you want your batteries to last under each RV battery type contender.
Finally, we’ll see which RV battery type is best for your motorhome or towable camper…and your wallet!
RV Battery Type: Deep Cycle Flooded Lead Acid Battery
The most basic type of RV battery is the deep cycle flooded lead acid battery.
RVers choose this type of battery because of its low cost as well as being readily available most anywhere.
Because of their weight, it’s more advantageous and may be cheaper to just purchase flooded lead acid batteries at brick and mortar stores such as Walmart, Batteries Plus, Sam’s Club, Costco, etc. You my also purchase them at specialty stores like RV and camping supply stores.
However, there’s a few drawbacks to flooded lead acid batteries for your RV. They are extremely heavy and require regular maintenance. It’s important to keep them topped off with distilled water. Also lead acid batteries need to be in a vented space.
Lastly, lead acid RV batteries require constant monitoring. You’ll need to watch the depth of discharge for flooded lead acid batteries in your RV to make sure they to do not fall below 50% state of charge.
If you do discharge your flooded lead acid batteries below 50% of their amp hour capacity, you’re looking at permanently damaging them which depletes their lifespan.
PROS of Deep Cycle Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
CONS of Deep Cycle Flooded Lead Acid Batteries
RV Battery Type: Gel Cell Batteries
Gel Cell batteries are similar to flooded lead acid batteries. However, they are manufactured with silica gel instead of liquid battery acid. The gel coagulates; turning the acid inside the battery into a thick liquid. This makes them virtually spill-proof.
However, that gel is volatile. High amperages and/or high temperatures can cause the gel to harden. Thus, shrinking away from plates which eventually depletes the discharge and recharging capabilities.
This is a big reason why gel cell batteries aren’t as popular as other RV battery type contenders.
On a good note, they require no maintenance and do not need to be in a vented space. And, because gel batteries are sealed, they don’t require routine monitoring or maintenance like standard lead-acid options. Also, they do not expel gas which makes them ideal for non-ventilated spaces.
But gel cell batteries cost more than flooded lead acid or AGM batteries. They also weigh in the same and are still subject to the same depth of discharge levels of only 50%.
PROS of Gel Cell Batteries
CONS of Gel Cell Batteries
RV Battery Type: Absorbant Glass Mat (AGM)
Absorbant Glass Mat or more commonly referred to as AGM batteries, are probably the most common batteries in RVs today.
They are similar in design to normal flooded lead acid batteries. The positives are that AGM batteries are maintenance free. They also do not need to be in a vented space nor do they require adding any water. And, they typically do not require a special type of converter charger.
On the flip side though, AGM batteries weigh the same amount as flooded lead acid batteries and have almost the exact same charging profile.
Also, like flooded lead acid batteries, Absorbant Glass Mat batteries should not be discharged to below 50% of their Amp Hour capacity.
PROS of Absorbant Glass Mat (AGM)
- Fairly low cost
- Maintenance free
- Requires no ventilation
- Cold weather does not affect discharging/recharging of batteries
- 3-5 year lifespan
CONS of Absorbant Glass Mat (AGM)
- Extremely heavy – approximately 65 pounds each
- Discharging below 50% of Amp Hour rating causes significant damage to battery
- Curved voltage loss as battery discharges
- Won’t power some appliances as voltage drops
RV Battery Type: 6 Volt Golf Cart Batteries
6 Volt golf cart batteries are a popular choice for many RVers. They are usually maintenance free and have a proven track record for reliability.
And, 6V golf cart batteries will last a little longer than flooded lead acid; up to 5-7 years if you properly use and maintain them.
That said, the installation of 6 volt golf cart batteries may require a little more prep work and cable routing. But, installations are pretty straight forward.
When installed in pairs, two (2) 6V golf cart batteries can provide a higher number of usable amp hours than a single 12 volt battery.
Now, you’re probably wondering how that works.
Say you install two (2) 6V golf cart batteries at 200 amp hours each. You now have a combined 400ah’s.
However, like lead acid batteries, you can only bring them down to 50% state of charge. Thus, you really only use up to 200 of those 400ah’s.
Now, say you install one (1) 200ah 12 volt battery instead, you will get to utilize only 100 of those 200 amp hours. Again, remember you can’t take them below 50% state of charge.
So, in this regard, choosing two (2) 6 volt golf cart batteries essentially provides you more energy storage. And remember, the more amp hours equals more energy.
This is why those who don’t see the need or can afford lithium batteries for their RV, choose the 6 volt golf cart batteries instead.
Some popular brands of 6 volt golf cart batteries are Trojan, Crown and DECCA to name a few.
But, while you can order 6V golf cart batteries online, it may be easier to just pick them up at a local golf cart dealership or golf cart service center.
PROS of 6 Volt Golf Cart Batteries
CONS of 6 Volt Golf Cart Batteries
RV Battery Type: Lithium-Ion Batteries (LiFePO4)
One of the best types of RV batteries is lithium ion for several reasons. In fact, we’ll go as far as to say that lithium is the RV battery of choice! It’s precisely why we have been using lithium ion batteries in 2 of our 3 our RVs for 6+ years.
Why lithium is the best type of RV for all energy usage and storage applications
“Buy once, cry once” -Always On Liberty
First, lithium ion batteries typically weigh about half of a flooded lead acid battery of the same size. For example, our Battle Born GC2 100ah lithium batteries weigh in at 32 pounds each.
One of the best reasons why lithium is one of the best types of RV batteries is they occupy the exact same physical footprint of a flooded lead acid battery. Yet, lithium batteries are only half the weight but with ALL of the usable energy.
Lithium ion batteries are maintenance-free and can be installed in any position; even stacked. They can be deep discharged on a continuous basis with no damage to the batteries.
Even better, lithium ion batteries have twice as much usable energy as a flooded lead acid battery of the same size.
They can be recharged at a higher amperage rate than flooded lead acid batteries. Thus, shortening the time it takes to recharge.
And, lithium batteries typically have a life span of 10-20 years. In fact, Battle Born is proud of their ten year warranty (up to 8 year full replacement or repair; years 9 and 10 are pro-rated) because they’re confident in their product knowing they’ll last even well past the warranty.
Seriously, we have nothing but great things to say about our Battle Born LiFePO4 batteries. That said there are a couple of things you need to make sure of before you go with lithium ion.
You need to make sure your converter charger or what ever means you are going to use to recharge them will charge between 14.1 and 14.4 volts.
You also need to think about where in your RV that you’re going to place your lithium ion batteries.
Be aware that lithium batteries cannot recharge below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you need to keep them warm.
On a good note, there’s three ways you can do this. You can keep them either in a semi-heated outside compartment. Install them inside your RV under the bed, dinette bench or other accessible space. Or, you can simply purchase Battle Born’s heated LiFePO4 batteries.
If you are storing your RV for the winter, you’ll need to either disconnect them and store them on a shelf in a warm garage or basement.
PROS of Lithium Ion Batteries
CONS of Lithium Ion Batteries
Let’s just say, we think lithium IS the ultimate battery choice for RVs; albeit motorhomes, towable fifth wheels and travel trailers, truck campers and vans. And in fact, they’re also tapping into the boat community.
While good quality lithium batteries do cost more, they are well worth the long term investment. As the saying goes, “buy once cry once”.
Our #1 Pick for RV Batteries
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Wrapping up the different types of RV batteries
As you see, deciding on which types of RV batteries for your motorized RV or towable camper is really up to you. It depends on how you use your RV, your energy needs and the depth of your pockets.
If you mostly boondock or rarely plug your RV into an electric source, definitely go lithium. Lithium ion batteries are maintenance free and have a longer usage and charge depth. Speaking from experience, they do last longer and have a higher success rate.
If you spend most of your time in a park with full hookups then flooded lead acid, AGM or even gel cell batteries will meet your electrical needs just fine.
But, as mentioned earlier, those types of RV batteries require maintenance and you’ll be replacing them more often.
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