Unless you actively go camping, then you may not have heard of something that is known as a leisure battery.
These devices perform a very important role in both caravans and motorhomes, but a lot of people don’t even know what these devices are.
No matter where you go camping, whether you go off-grid or prefer caravan parks with mains power, you will need your leisure battery to be performing well. And something that is just as important as the leisure battery is the leisure battery charger.
In particular, leisure battery chargers are incredibly important during the winter months when you use your caravan less regularly and the leisure battery is more prone to dying.
Even if you do not need to use it, a leisure battery charger is always great to carry around with you to maintain your leisure battery and restart it in the unexpected event that it should fail.
But finding the best leisure battery charger for your leisure battery can be difficult, especially when you have very little knowledge about what these devices are.
But there’s no need to worry because we’re giving you this complete guide to the best leisure battery chargers available with all the information you need to know about them, and suggestions of some of the best that are available on the market. So let’s get started.
Portable or Onboard Chargers
We’ll take a look at some of the best leisure battery chargers available a little later on, but let’s begin by looking at some of the different types available.
Pretty much all of the leisure battery chargers on the market can be divided into two categories: portable and onboard chargers.
We will take a deeper look at what these two types of chargers are a little later on, but for now, let’s take a quick peek at the differences between them.
One of the major differences between portable and onboard chargers is the maximum power that they can provide. While you might expect that an onboard charger can provide more power due to its built-in design, this is not the case.
An onboard charger has a maximum power output of 13.8V and they will never be able to output more than this amount. Whereas portable chargers have the ability to output up to 15V of electricity which is significantly more than the output of an onboard charger.
The other major difference between the two is that the onboard charger is safe to be used while the battery simultaneously provides electricity to 12V electrical appliances within your caravan.
This means that the battery can safely charge while you use the power already stored on it to power your lights and allow you to make a cup of tea.
Similarly, portable chargers can theoretically be used while you are using the devices in your motorhome, however, this is not advised. The excess power provided by the portable charger can cause damage to these appliances or a power outage which is completely counterproductive.
To avoid this, you should only use a portable battery charger when the battery is disconnected from the 12V devices within your caravan.
Identifying the State of Charge
Another very important thing that you need to know before considering buying a leisure battery charger is how to check the capacity left on the battery and whether or not it requires charging.
This is usually pretty straightforward as the majority of caravans and motorhomes come with a control panel. On this control panel, you will find the current charge of your battery which is a quick and easy way to find out if it needs charging.
In some caravans, this will be displayed in analogue form, but in some of the newer models, this will be displayed in digital form.
If you find it difficult to locate the battery charge on your control panel or believe that the number displayed on the panel is incorrect, there is another way which you can identify the state of charge of your battery.
You can do this by using a portable voltage meter. This meter will give you a voltage reading which can then be converted into a battery percentage.
If you use the portable voltage meter and get a reading of 12.6V or more, this means that your battery is fully charged and does not require charging. If the reading is approximately 12.5V then your battery is at about 80% capacity.
At 12.1V your battery is at a half charge (50%) and when it reaches 11V or less your battery is empty and it requires re-charging immediately.
There are some factors which can affect the reading of your battery charge. The main factor that can impact the reading of your battery is if it is connected to the caravan.
You might think that simply switching off all of your 12V appliances is enough to get an accurate reading, however, it is incredibly easy to leave one device on without realizing and this can impact the reading.
For the most accurate reading of your battery’s charge level, you should disconnect your battery completely from your motorhome. This ensures that absolutely no devices can be pulling electricity from your battery at the time that you check the charge level.
From this reading, you can then work out the percentage at which your battery is operating and calculate whether or not it requires charging.
While you do not need to be checking your battery level constantly, you should be checking it at least once a month. This will allow you to monitor the performance of the battery and calculate when you need to charge.
Some manufacturers recommend that you recharge your battery every 6 weeks regardless of the battery charge to maintain the battery and its performance.
Finally, you should never put off charging if your battery is already at a low percentage. Failing to charge your battery when it is low can cause irreversible damage to the battery and be costly and inconvenient in the long run.
What is an Onboard Charger?
We briefly touched on both portable and onboard leisure battery chargers earlier, but now let’s take a deeper look at what these devices are. Onboard chargers are a lot easier to explain so let’s begin with those.
Onboard chargers are leisure battery chargers which, as their name suggests, are built-in to the design of your caravan or motorhome.
Depending on the age of your caravan, these devices might be more or less efficient, but they do one primary job, and that is to keep your battery charged.
Despite being referred to as chargers, a lot of people do not actually see these devices as chargers in the same sense as they see their portable counterparts.
This is primarily because onboard chargers will never take a battery to full charge like a portable charger will. By full charge, we mean the maximum battery capacity of 15V which a portable charger is able to reach.
However, this doesn’t mean that an onboard charger will prevent your battery from being able to provide electricity to the 12V devices in your caravan.
The full capacity that an onboard charger can reach is more than enough to safely power your devices while also charging the battery to ensure that it never runs low.
Even though this type of battery charger is constantly connected to your battery, it is common practice to still regularly disconnect your battery and charge it using a portable charger.
The main reason behind doing this is to complete regular maintenance on your leisure battery and ensure that it will last for years to come. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what a portable battery charger is.
What is a Portable Charger?
We briefly mentioned a portable leisure battery charger earlier on when we compared it with the onboard charger, but let’s take a deeper look at what a portable charger is.
As their name suggests, a portable battery charger is an independent device to your caravan. Its portability means that you can easily transport the charger when required and that it is very simple to use when your battery requires recharging.
While the onboard battery charger is constantly connected to your battery, ensuring that it will never go dead as long as the charger is running correctly, a portable charger can only be used when the battery is disconnected from the caravan.
Despite the fact that caravans and motorhomes are manufactured with the built-in ability to keep the battery charged, portable chargers are something that has significantly grown in popularity.
We mentioned earlier that portable chargers play an essential role in maintaining the health of your battery, and this is the main reason that portable chargers have grown in popularity.
Additionally, a lot of people with older caravans and motorhomes also choose to use portable chargers as well as their onboard charger. Over time, the effectiveness of your onboard charger is guaranteed to reduce as wear and tear damages the device.
This might mean that it will not keep your battery fully charged, or it could also mean that the level that qualifies as “fully charged” reduces. This will prevent the battery from running at full charge and mean that it may not be able to provide enough electricity to supply your 12V appliances.
By regularly charging the battery using a portable charger, as well as using the onboard charger, your battery will always have enough power to run your appliances. This is why it is recommended that you charge your battery with a portable charger every 6 weeks to keep it maintained.
Different Types of Portable Charger
Earlier on we mentioned that onboard chargers are easier to explain than portable chargers. When you read that sentence you might have been thinking ‘what?’ so let’s explain what we meant.
While there is only one type of onboard charger which will be the type that was built into your caravan at the time of manufacture, there are actually a few different types of portable chargers available.
While they all complete the same job, there are some differences between them so we will take a look at them all in turn.
There are three different types of portable charger which we will cover in this guide, they are unregulated voltage battery chargers, semi-automated battery chargers, and fully automated battery chargers.
First, let’s take a quick look at unregulated voltage battery chargers. These are by far the cheapest type on the market, but before you jump to buy one, you might want to take a look at what their cheapness means.
Everybody loves to save money, but electricity can be dangerous so it is best not to cut any corners when buying a battery charger.
As we mentioned earlier, portable battery chargers have the capability of hitting 15V of charge, and this is true of unregulated voltage chargers.
As we have said, there is a reason why this type of battery charger is the cheapest on the market, and that is because it is unregulated. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it will impact what you can do when you are charging the battery.
The “unregulated” in their name means that these battery chargers do not come with the ability to drop the voltage when the battery is nearing full charge. This means that you have to keep a very close eye on this type of battery charger, especially when it is nearing full charge.
As soon as the battery reaches 12.6V (full charge) you should unplug it from the charger immediately, otherwise, you might damage the battery. Allowing the battery to overcharge could burn the battery out, or it could limit the capacity that the battery can reach each time it is charged. So monitoring is key if you choose this type of charger.
The next option that you have is a semi-automated battery charger. As you would expect, this is the next step up from the unregulated charger, and due to this, it has a fairly mid-range price point.
This type of charger completes the same job as the last type that we looked at, but it also comes with the ability to kill the charger once the battery hits full capacity.
This means that your battery is always protected and that you will not need to sit around waiting for the battery to charge. Instead, you can simply plug it in, safe in the knowledge that the charger will simply switch off once it completes its designated job.
Finally, you have a fully automated battery charger. Again, as you would expect by its name, this is the most expensive type of portable charger on the market and the most advanced that money can currently buy.
Fully automated means that you are not required to do anything when this battery charger is doing its job, all you have to do is connect the battery.
But the great thing about this type of battery charger is that you don’t even need to disconnect your battery from your caravan, all you need to do is connect this charger and you can leave it there.
These types of chargers are sometimes known as multi-stage chargers due to their fully-automated design. The main issue that people have with portable chargers is that you have to disconnect your battery from the caravan to be able to use the charger.
Most portable chargers run the risk of frying the electrical appliances in your caravan if you don’t disconnect the battery before attaching it, however, fully-automated chargers are the exception to this rule. These battery chargers are incredibly intelligent as they can tell when your battery requires charging and when it does not.
In a way, they work similarly to the onboard chargers that we spoke about earlier, except they do so without any of the drawbacks that onboard chargers face.
So in short, this type of charger is able to reach the peak voltage of a portable charger without requiring you to disconnect your battery every time that you want to charge it. With this in mind, it is easy to see why this is the most expensive type of charger on the market.
When would you use each type of charger?
We’ve explained what both an onboard and a portable charger is, so let’s take a look at when you would use each type.
As you already know, your onboard charger is constantly running, ensuring that the charge of your battery does not fall below the 12V required to provide electricity to the lights and appliances in your motorhome.
However, as you are aware by now, these onboard chargers have their limitations and so sometimes they need a little top up to help them keep the charge of the battery up. This is where portable chargers come in handy.
It is recommended that you top up your battery by charging it with a portable charger every 6 weeks to ensure that the battery level which the onboard charger maintains is always above the required 12V.
Another common time where you will need to use a portable charger is during the winter months when you are keeping your caravan or motorhome in storage.
There is no doubt that caravans are a summer thing, and due to this, it is very common for the leisure battery to run low during the winter months.
Ironically, batteries require regular use for them to be able to maintain their battery, and so this period of disuse can be enough for your battery to die.
Another reason why leisure batteries commonly run down during the winter months is due to the inbuilt security measures that most caravans have.
While these security measures will not use as much electricity as your regular 12V appliances, over time it will run down the battery which is why regular charging with a portable charger is required. Even in the winter months.
Best Leisure Battery Chargers
Now that we have covered almost absolutely everything that you need to know about leisure battery chargers, it’s time for us to take a look at some of the best options on the market.
To help you out we’ve shortlisted 5 leisure battery chargers which we believe are the best that money can buy.
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The price of this battery charger might seem expensive, but it is a fully automated charger, so as you will know from our earlier explanation, it is definitely worth the money.
Not only is this charger incredibly easy to use, but it is also compatible with lots of different types of batteries. This means that you can use this charger with other devices when you aren’t using it with your leisure battery.
So it is clear that this is a great battery charger for your leisure battery.
- Simple to connect and easy to use: Fully automatic, spark free, reverse polarity protected
- Tough and reliable: Designed for outdoor use in even the most extreme temperatures. Developed and tested in Sweden
- Flexible: Compatible with many different types of lead-acid vehicle batteries
- Reconditions: dedicated reconditioning programme to restore battery life and recondition flat batteries
- Supply: can act as a power supply (up to 7A) if the battery needs to be removed from the vehicle, protecting electrical settings.
Another wonderful choice is the Buddy Go Car Battery Charger. This device is almost three times cheaper than the CTEK battery charger which we just looked at, but it is also fully automatic meaning that you have to do minimal work.
As well as being able to charge your battery easily, this charger also comes with protection guards to ensure that your battery will not burn out or become damaged by continual connection to the charger.
Finally, this charger is designed for 12V batteries making it perfect for your leisure battery whenever you need to charge it.
- ➤【Multiple protection】Built in circuit protection guards against reverse polarity, sparks, overcharging, over-current, open-circuits, short-circuits and overheating.
- ➤【Wide range of applications】3-stage chargers are suitable for most battery types including Calcium, Gel and AGM, Wet batteries. They may also help restore drained and sulphated batteries. For Car, Truck, Motorcycle, Lawn Mower, Boat, RV, SUV, ATV and More.
- ➤【12V 8Amp/24V 4Amp 】This charger is design for 12V and 24V batteries, Wide voltage support 110-265V input current, automatically adjust the charging current, easy to deal with a variety of harsh voltage environments.
- ➤【Battery Maintainer】BUDDYGO Car battery charger, also battery maintenance device, Pulse repair function can help to repair your loss battery and extend battery life. Note: It can not activate a dead battery or repair a battery which is damaged seriously; it also can not repair a battery back to 100% new.
- ➤【Note】 The screen of the BUDDYGO car battery charger is covered with a protective film. After removing the protective film, you will see a brand new screen.
The next option that we are giving you is the NOCO Genius5UK smart charger which is perfect if you want a small charger that you can easily store away when it’s not being used.
This charger is compatible with lots of different batteries, meaning that you can use it with devices other than your caravan’s leisure battery too.
This battery charger not only charges the battery when it is running low, but it also maintains the battery and comes with a trickle charger to ensure that your battery will not burn out. So it is clear to see that this charger is a great choice.
- Meet the GENIUS5UK - Similar to our G3500UK, just better. It's 34% smaller and delivers 65% more power. It's the all-in-one solution - battery charger, battery maintainer, trickle charger, plus battery desulfator.
- Do more with Genius - Designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries, including flooded, gel, AGM, and maintenance-free, plus lithium-ion batteries.
- Enjoy precision charging - An integrated thermal sensor detects the ambient temperature and alters the charge to eliminate over-charging in hot climates and under-charging in cold climates.
- Charge dead batteries - Charges batteries as low as 1-volt. Or use the all-new Force Mode that allows you to take control and manually begin charging dead batteries down to zero volts.
- Restore your battery - Automatically detects battery sulfation and acid stratification to restore lost battery performance for stronger engine starts and extended battery life.
Alternatively, you could choose the Trounistro Car Battery Charger. This is an excellent choice if you want an automatic charger but do not want to pay a lot of money for it.
This charger comes with an LCD screen that allows you to easily monitor how charged the battery is.
It is designed for use with 12V batteries, making it perfect for leisure batteries, but it is also compatible with lots of other battery types too.
So if you want to be able to charge your leisure battery without having to continually monitor your battery, this is a great choice.
- Wide range use: Suitable for all kinds of vehicles, battery lead-acid 12V 4AH-100AH: cars, motorcycles, lawnmowers, and more. Perfect for keeping your vehicles fully charged and maintained during year-round battery maintenance or long-term storage.
- Battery maintainer: It provides a constant voltage charge for optimal maintenance of the battery. And overcharge protection enables optimal battery charging without fear of overcharging.
- Multiple protection: Built-in circuit protection guards against reverse polarity, sparks, overcharging, over-current, open-circuits, short circuits, and overheating. Avoid any dangerous situation. ideal for carefree long-term maintenance charging.
- Easy to use and Simple to connect: Clear positive and negative, easy to connect, and have reverse polarity protection. And with Intelligent Digital Display, displays charging status and battery status, charge voltage, charge current, etc.
- Energy-save & International Standard: Energy Saving design with one LED indicator to display the different charging statuses. Certified by CE, RoHS, UL, and CEC. UK standard plug is included.
The final option that we are giving you is the Rohr Car Battery Charger. Of the chargers that we have looked at, this is the chunkiest option.
It has a box design and because of this, it is heavier than some of the other chargers we have seen so far. This is a highly intelligent battery charger, specially designed for 12V and 24V batteries, making it perfect for your leisure battery.
It is incredibly easy to use, and a brilliant choice if your knowledge of batteries and charging them is limited. All you need to do with this charger is connect it to your battery and you’re good to go.
So if you want a battery charger that is easy to use, you should definitely consider this option.
- 12 month warranty and free to call UK based technical support line
- Turbo and trickle charge modes for charging car, bike, boat, HGV or smaller battery units
- Pulse battery repair / maintainer and jump start mode
- UK 3 pin plug mains powered, portable design with all wires and clamps stored within the unit
- Can be used for almost any leisure, automotive and domestic charging
Battery to Battery Chargers
Finally, let’s quickly touch on the battery to battery chargers. These are a rearer choice, but some people still choose to buy these so that they can charge their leisure battery while towing their caravan.
Through a normal connection, the battery of your car will simply maintain the battery of the leisure battery, it will not add any more power to the battery.
But with a battery to battery charger, you will be able to actively charge your leisure battery while your caravan is being towed. These require additional cables and other connections, but they are a great way to charge your leisure battery as you go.
In short, there are two types of battery chargers available for leisure batteries: portable and onboard chargers.
In this guide, we’ve explained what both of these are, and given suggestions of some of the best options currently available on the market.