The best type of battery for a travel trailer is a deep cycle battery. Deep cycle batteries are designed to handle the frequent starting and stopping that occurs when boondocking, which is what we call camping without hookups to shore power or electricity from solar panels.
Deep Cycle RV Battery
The inherent design of a deep cycle battery enables it to withstand the constant abuse from surges in electrical current caused by starting and stopping those deep cycle batteries are perfect for.
When compared to a cranking or starting battery, deep cycle batteries have the ability to be drained, recharged, and drained again many more times before they need to be replaced.
The life span of a deep cycle battery is typically twice that of an automotive type (cranking) battery. There are many varieties of deep cycle batteries on the market, some meant for certain uses and others designed with features suitable for other usages.
For example, some are better suited to stationary use than others which would be useless if frequently moved about by trailers on jacks. It’s important to carefully match the needs you have and the properties offered by each type available in order to make informed decisions when purchasing them.
NOTE: Matching your usage to the features available is far more important than the actual brand you buy in my opinion.
Some deep cycle batteries are sealed and others have removable caps so that water can be added which is essential for their continued operation.
This feature is also convenient when it’s time to refill with distilled water if your battery has an electrolyte level indicator window.
Versions made specifically for marine use will have a threaded post fitting on top to accept the positive and negative terminals of a charger, as opposed to having these cables attached directly onto the cells inside the battery case like other models.
All deep cycle batteries contain lead plates immersed in sulfuric acid solution. The three main types of these batteries manufactured today include Flooded, Gel, and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) types.
Flooded RV Battery
The Flooded battery is the most common type of deep cycle battery manufactured today and can be identified by removable caps that are located on top or to the side of each cell inside the case.
These batteries must remain upright at all times due to the weight of the fluid contained inside them and should never be allowed to sit for long periods in a horizontal position, as this may cause leakage from the cells.
All parts must be checked periodically for corrosion which is likely if you live in an area with high humidity, including dew forming overnight, especially during fall and spring weather conditions when metals tend to corrode more easily.
The advantages of flooded batteries are that they’re relatively inexpensive with prices starting around $100 for marine models and can be found in a variety of sizes suited for many different uses.
The main disadvantage is that if they’re overcharged, the fluid inside them will spill out through their caps which must be checked regularly and replaced at least once every 2 or 3 years.
Leakage may also occur from damaged plates caused by high loads applied to them but this can be prevented by using a good battery maintainer while your trailer is stored away unused during the winter months.
NOTE: I do not recommend investing in a battery maintainer; they are very expensive, essentially the opposite of what solar should be (cheap) and I think all batteries should just wear themselves out naturally as part of the total cost.
Gel RV Battery
The Gel type deep cycle batteries are relatively new on the market but are well worth considering if you plan to store your travel trailer not likely to be used for long periods of time.
They’re sealed and don’t have removable caps so they can’t leak acid when placed in a horizontal position. Their electrolyte is contained within glass mat separators rather than being mixed in with the sulfuric acid solution found in Flooded batteries.
This makes them ideal for use inside smaller spaces such as under seats or floorboards of travel trailers that don’t allow enough room for a larger AGM type battery.
NOTE: I would not want one of these, personally.
The Gel battery’s main advantage over other deep cycle types is that its freezing point is much higher – from minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit upwards — which makes it suitable for much colder climates.
They’re typically more expensive than Flooded models but may be a better investment if you live in an area with extremely cold winter weather conditions where the temperatures often drop below freezing for long periods of time every year.
AGM RV Battery
The AGM deep cycle battery is sealed and doesn’t contain any liquid acid so it can’t spill or leak, which are two major problems that plague normal flooded batteries when they’re temporarily stored in a horizontal position during travel trailer set-up.
Their positive and negative terminals are attached directly to each cell inside the case rather than have cables connected to them as non-AGM types do, which makes this type ideal for use with solar panels due to their lightweight and their compact size that fits easily under seats and in any tight, confined area found inside all travel trailers.
The main disadvantage that AGM batteries may have over other types is their relatively high price with prices starting at $150 for a medium-sized model suitable for most RV camping applications.
This type also has a lower freezing point than the Gel deep cycle battery’s – from minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit upwards — which makes them less ideal than other models for use in extremely cold climates where temperatures drop below freezing very often.
However, if you live in an area with warm enough summer weather conditions to allow heavy daily loads on your trailer such as two or more people running large air conditioners all day long plus additional electrical appliances plugged in and operating simultaneously at the same time, this type may be a good investment if you don’t plan on storing your travel trailer outside year-round.
Pros and Cons of Gel Batteries
Gel Batteries [also known as Varta Silver batteries] are another relatively new type being offered on the market today. They’re sealed and don’t have removable caps so they can’t leak acid when placed in a horizontal position. The electrolyte inside is contained within glass mat separators rather than having sulfuric acid mixed into it as flooded acid models do.
The main advantage that Gel Deep Cycle Batteries have over other types is their extremely long lifespan of up to twice the expected service life of regular flooded batteries, which makes them a better investment as time goes by if you use your trailer on a very frequent basis during the year while storing it outside for at least six months or more every single winter.
Depending on their overall size and type, they cost anywhere from $130 – $300 with most models costing around $150 – $200 regardless of what brand name they’re made by.
Pros and Cons of Flooded Deep Cycle Batteries
The self-discharge rate for this type of RV Battery isn’t ideal when compared to other models with most losing anywhere from five to ten percent of their total power after a period of six months or more has elapsed.
The good news about flooded batteries is that they come at a more affordable price than AGM and Lithium versions which can make them perfect for someone who’s on a strict budget and doesn’t want to overpay for any type of rechargeable deep cycle batteries.
Pros and Cons of AGM Batteries
AGM Deep Cycle Battery [also known as Varta Blue batteries] is the most recent type to be introduced into the RV camping industry, with their first models appearing on store shelves about ten years ago.
They’re also maintenance-free and can last up to four times longer than flooded batteries can in extremely cold weather climates which makes them a great option for use in northern states where temperatures drop below freezing very often during the winter season.
This type has a lower freezing point than Gel Deep Cycle Batteries – from minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit upwards — which makes them less ideal than other models for use in extremely cold climates where temperatures drop below freezing very often.
The main disadvantage that AGM deep cycle batteries may have over other types is their relatively high price with prices starting around $300 for small models which may be more than some people can afford, especially if they’re on a limited budget or are trying to save money at all costs.
Most AGM deep cycle batteries cost anywhere from $130 – $300 regardless of what brand name they’re made by and can last up to four times longer than flooded models in extremely cold weather climates such as northern states where temperatures fall below freezing every winter.
Pros and Cons of Lithium Batteries
Lithium Deep Cycle Battery s [also known as Varta Yellow batteries] are relatively new compared to other types that have been available for camping use over the past few decades so not much information about them has been published as of yet.
Their biggest advantage is that they have a very low self-discharge rate which means their stored charge will last much longer than other types being sold today since most models won’t lose more than five percent of their total power after a period of six months or more has elapsed.
Depending on the size, capacity, and type you choose to buy, lithium batteries can cost anywhere from $320 – $800 with larger models costing up to $1000 depending upon what model number it is.[NOTE: This is what I would choose, personally.]
If you don’t mind paying a high price for this fairly new technology then Lithium Deep Cycle Batteries are going to be your best choice in ultra-efficient energy storage devices since they can last up to twice as long in extreme temperatures and have a much lower self-discharge rate than batteries that use lead-acid.
The best battery for any application will vary depending on a number of conditions so it’s important to consider all factors before making your final choice, especially if you’re not an expert in these matters yourself.
To find out which battery is likely going to be the most suitable one for you personally without wasting a lot of money and time later trying batteries that aren’t suited for your specific needs, call or visit any RV specialty store near where you live and discuss with them what your primary needs are so they’ll know what kind of applications should best serve them when choosing the right battery for their customers.
You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re planning on purchasing a model that’s going to provide many years of dependable service in the future such as the Super Start AGM deep cycle battery by Trojan shown above which can last for more than eight years if properly cared for.