Your guide to buying a leisure battery for your caravan or motorhome

01 April 2015

Leisure batteries are a must for anyone wanting take their caravan off the beaten track and experience life on the move with all the comforts of home.

You might think that the days of the leisure battery are dead and gone. Most caravan sites have EHU (Electric Hook Up) by individual pitches, so what’s the point in investing in one? After all, they are extra weight you really don’t need, aren’t they?

Well, no, not at all. Certainly not if you’re fond of off-the-beaten track, back-to-basics sites. And if your EHU fails through a fault or power cut, you’ll certainly know it!

Trying to find a campsite with an EHU? Use Pitchup to filter your search results, available for iPad for free

What does the leisure battery power?

Your oven ignition, fridge, heater and lights, for example, will all powered by the battery if you’re not at an EHU-friendly site. And for security and insurance purposes, your alarm or any GSH tracking system will be powered by the battery, too, when disconnected from your towing vehicle or EHU.

Newer built caravans won’t necessarily come with a battery supplied, surprisingly, so that is another outlay to be added to the budget.

The difference between a car battery and a leisure battery

Don’t try to cut the cost of a leisure battery by trying to use a car battery for power. A car battery is designed to give a boost of power, not to provide a constant, steady power source which is the role of a leisure battery. 

A leisure battery’s power is measured in Ah (ampere to hours); the greater the Ah, the fewer times you’ll have to recharge it. 

The downside is that the more Ah, the bigger the size of the battery, an understandable concern when caravan space is tight and weight-load is an issue. But this must also be measured against power needs for those who prefer off-road caravanning rather than EHU sites.

So, while you may think a lighter design of leisure battery will suffice, think about your own caravan needs.

Read our guide to caravan accessories

The different types of leisure battery available

There are three types of leisure battery: ‘wet’, lead acid; Gel; and AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat). All three have their pros and cons. 

The traditional ‘wet’ battery is the best known. They are usually the cheapest and the most common type on the market and very simple to maintain. But they do have to be fixed securely in an upright position.

Gel batteries are liquid free and so you needn’t worry about acid spillage; though, like all sealed batteries, you must be aware of not overcharging them. They are, however, more expensive than ‘wet’ batteries.

AGM batteries are the new kids on the battery block in leisure and caravan batteries. Overcharging can lead to battery failure and they are more costly than ‘wet’ batteries. However, they are much safer and more environmentally friendly.

Find out how to keep your caravan secure

Keeping your leisure battery charged

Check your battery charge levels on a regular basis and don’t let it drop below 50%. If you fail to maintain charge then it will almost certainly lead to sulphation, which you’ll recognise by tiny powder-like deposits forming on the top. In this event, you can almost certainly say goodbye to the battery and have to fork out for a new one. 

And always buy a new battery, never secondhand.

If you have any doubts or queries about the electrics of your caravan, then consult an expert. Power is not a convenience nor a safety issue to be taken lightly.

For comprehensive insurance check out Saga Caravan Insurance and Saga Motorhome Insurance.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.