Deep cycle vs Regular battery –is there a significant difference between the two?

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If you are reading this, you are probably wondering why there are different types of batteries for your car, and what the differences even are. You might even wonder whether it is wise to use all of them interchangeably, since the differences are not so obvious in some cases. However, that is not the case, as you will see from this article of deep cycle vs. regular batteries.

Did you know that car batteries are of different types, and the battery that you are using for powering your car is not necessarily the best for it? Did you know that each battery serves a different purpose, depending on its build, type, and specs?

Yes, all these things matter. Nowhere is this stark difference more apparent than when you compare regular car batteries to deep cycle ones, as your choice will depend on the output of power you require, and the length of time you need the power source, in order to make the most from your battery.

If this all sounds confusing to you, then read on – we hope that this article will shed some light on the comparisons between these two battery types, and help you make an informed decision.

What are the differences between deep cycle and regular batteries?

Battery type
Deep cycle
Regular
Cold Cranking amps
800 to 1000
500 to 1000
Voltage
12V
6-12V

Deep cycle vs. Regular batteries – how they compare

If you know someone who owns a boat or a RV (recreational vehicle), then they are likely familiar with a deep cycle battery, which are also common in large solar power systems and golf carts. Both battery types are lead-acid types, and the chemistry behind the operation is exactly the same. All car batteries have 2 types of ratings, and these will determine the specs of the battery:

  • Reserve Capacity, or RC – this is the number of minutes that the battery uses to deliver 25 amps, while still maintaining its voltage higher than 10.5 volts.
  • Cold Cranking Amps, or CCA – this is the amount of amps which the battery can generate at 0OC (or at 32OF), while maintaining its voltage higher than 10.5 volts.

There are 2 main differences here, and they are:

Mode of operation

This involves their optimization of their operation. Regular car batteries are meant to give large amounts of current, but only for a short period. This current surge is necessary for the engine to turn over when you want to start the car or machine. The moment the engine revs up, the alternator will then take over and do the job of giving the car all the power it needs.

Because of this, the car battery can go through its entire life cycle without emptying more than 20% of its capacity, and it can last quite a number of years because of that. In addition to this, the car battery needs to find a way of achieving large amounts of current, and it does this through its thin plates, which increase its surface area.

On the other hand, a deep cycle battery is meant to give an engine or the car a steady amount of current, spread out over a long period. While it can give surges when needed, it cannot provide the same surge of current in the same way a regular battery can.

Discharge capacity

Moreover, deep cycle batteries also have a design that allows them to go through deep discharge repeatedly without suffering damage, something you cannot attempt with a regular battery, and their thicker plates help them to withstand the damage of repeated drains.

Usually, deep cycle batteries will have their RC greater than regular batteries by 2 or 3 times, but their CCAs are lower by half or three-quarters. Other than that deep cycle batteries can go through several hundred recharge and total discharge cycles without ruining their structure or operation, while car batteries should never go through total discharge.

RV batteries are deep cycle batteries by necessity, because they need to provide large and steady amounts of current over long periods. Marine batteries are also deep cycle batteries, but they tend to release slow trickles of energy that may be insufficient for your car or RV – which is why you need a stronger deep cycle battery option if you own a car.

Types of each battery

The deep cycle battery will come in one of these forms:

  • Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) – in these types, the glass mat is responsible for giving the battery its internal structure, while also supporting the lead plates and making the battery resistant to vibration. Since this is the case, it allows the plates to consist of purer lead compared to other battery types, therefore giving AGM batteries a better weight to power ratio (in other words, greater power density).
  • Gel batteries – these are not a recent development, as they started showing up in the 1930s. The reason behind their popularity is the less vulnerability to leaking issues, since the electrolyte is in solid form from the addition of silica.
  • Flooded – are the most common type of deep cycle battery, and it has a similar appearance to the standard car battery.
  • Li-ion – are the non-rechargeable version of the deep cycle battery.

On the other hand, regular car batteries come in form of:

  • SLI – these are the most common type of regular batteries, and many cars will use them by default.
  • Deep cycle – they have a greater power output over a longer time.
  • Li-ion – These are considered as more of auto batteries, as they store larger amounts of energy, can recharge quickly, are compact, and lightweight.
  • VRLA – these are a sealed battery type, which means that they will not need maintenance.
  • Wet cells – these are among the most affordable options of car batteries.

Deep cycle vs. regular batteries – a comparison review

Deep cycle battery – Overview and key features

Deep cycle batteries come in several typeswith different manufacturing processes, and the types are:

AGM (Absorbent glass mat)

AGM batteries are of 2 types:

  • Flat plate – they look like flooded battery types, and will have their plates arranged in a 6-piece set in rows, but their disadvantage is the heavy weight. Their main advantage though is the long operation lifespan, because of the arrangement of the plates.
  • Spiral/tubularbatteries – in this battery, the cells are packed closely together in order to prevent the lead plates from coming into contact. Their structure allows them to have faster recharge times and longer lifespan compared to the flat plate AGM batteries. The disadvantage though is their expensive cost.

Gel batteries

Their structure is similar to that of the spiral AGM battery, but the difference is that the AGM battery is more of a wet cell battery.Another difference that makes gel cells stand out is the use of calcium to replace the antimony (which you typically find in the lead plates of flooded batteries).

Flooded batteries

They are strong enough to go through nearly complete regular discharge, making them a good choice for use on a camper or trailer. They are also affordable, and can last for many years as long as you maintain them properly.

LFP/Lithium-ion

They use LiFePO4 as their cathode, and a graphite carbon anode. They resemble the batteries that electronics such as laptops use, though they do not heat up as much.

There are some good options for deep cycle batteries, which include:

Deep cycle batteries

Battle Born LiFePO4 deep cycle battery

Battle Born LiFePO4 Deep Cycle...
  • BUILT-IN BMS: BMS stands for "Battery Management System" -...
  • LITHIUM ION TECHNOLOGY: Unlike Lead Acid batteries, Battle...
  • GREEN ENERGY BATTERIES: Made from 100% safe, nontoxic,...

This is among the best AGM batteries around, with a rating of between 3000 and 5000 cycles, as well as a 3-year full replacement warranty from the manufacturer.

View Price on Amazon

Lifeline Marine AGM battery

Lifeline Marine AGM Battery -...
  • Voltage: 6 Volts
  • Amp. Hrs. 20 Hr Rate: 220
  • Minutes of Discharge @ 25 Amps - 492

This battery will allow you to support applications using low amperage, and it does so for long periods. The design also meets the strict specification of the U.S. military and Coast Guard; which says many things about its quality.

View Price on Amazon

What we like

  • They are quick rechargers compared to other battery
  • Have a strong build that makes them durable
  • Have a steady power supply and high DOD (depth of discharge)

What we do not like

  • Tend to be expensive
  • Less specific energy output

What can you see with the deep cycle battery?

  • Able to handle deep discharge without damage
  • Usually maintenance free (except for some types)
  • Do not have issues with spillage of electrolyte

Regular batteries – Overview and key features

Regular batteries all have the same purpose, and that is to power up the engine of your car and keep it running for whatever time you will use it. However, their mode of accomplishing this is slightly different, and therefore leads to them being of different types.

These types are:

SLI (starting, lighting, and ignition)

As their name suggests, they assist you to start the car and give power – not just for the engine, but also for the radio, lights, and so on.

There are not meant for very heavy use, so will have a shallow charging cycle. They also provide power in short bursts, so that means you need to charge them on a frequent basis.

Deep cycle

These can go through deep discharge fairly frequently. Due to this reason, they work well for cars, as well as electric vehicles, golf carts, and some marine vehicles.

Li-ion (Lithium ion)

They are not as common (and can be quite expensive) because of their incompatibility with various cars. Their structure makes them a good battery option for electric and hybrid cars though.

VRLA (Valve-regulated lead acid)

These are a great choice due to their zero maintenance. However, their drawback is that you cannot service them, so you will have to replace them if they begin developing issues.

They come in 2 forms: AGM batteries, and gel cell batteries.

Wet cells

These will not offer the same life span as VRLA batteries, and will also need regular maintenance to replace any lost electrolytes.

Some of the best regular batteries you can use include:

Optima RedTop 8004-003 34/78 starting battery

Optima Batteries 8004-003...
  • 12-Volt, 800 Cold Cranking Amps, Size: 10" x 6 7/8" x 7...
  • Reserve capacity of 100 minutes for constant performance
  • Optimal starting power even in bad weather

This is understandably one of the popular options, since it can start a car even in bad weather. The battery is also of good quality and can withstand a variety of problems such as vibration and leaking, making it suited to a variety of cars.

View Price on Amazon

Odyssey PC680 car battery

Sale
Odyssey PC680 Battery
  • 170 CCA; Better warranty: Limited 2-year full replacement...
  • Longer cycle life: 70 percentage longer cycle life compared...
  • Faster recharge: The highest recharge efficiency of any...

This is a part of the Extreme Series of batteries, which are meant for use in power sport cars – especially with the CCA rating of 170. It is also spill-proof and resistant to extreme heat.

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Mighty Max ML35-12 12V solar AGM battery

Mighty Max Battery ML35-12 -...
  • ML35-12 SLA is a 12V 35AH Sealed Lead Acid (SLA)...
  • Dimensions: 7.68 inches x 5.16 inches x 7.13 inches. Listing...
  • SLA / AGM spill proof battery has a characteristic of high...

This is a deep cycle battery, but lends itself to a wide variety of uses, making it one of the best solar batteries. It is also durable, due to the calcium-alloy grid and the AGM technology in use.

View Price on Amazon

What we like

  • Relatively affordable
  • High CCA ratings
  • Can power cars and electronics quickly
  • Great for general purpose use

What we do not like

  • Some of them are high maintenance
  • Low durability

What can you see with the regular car battery?

  • Some are easy to mount in many ways
  • Affordable compared to other batteries
  • Meant to power an engine
  • Not good for deep discharge (unless they are deep cycle batteries)

Verdict: So which is better? The Deep cycle or the Regular battery?

The answer to this will depend on the use you have for the battery, since they will be best in certain instances. For a long term view of usage though, the deep cycle battery is the better option: it may be more expensive, but goes a longer way than the regular battery and is much stronger.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best battery type for an RV?

This will depend on the power consumption you use, as well as your budget and the space you have. As a general rule, it is not good to use lead-acid batteries because of safety concerns and the short operation life, especially for cases of deep discharge.

Can deep cycle batteries start engines?

Depending on the engine, yes they can. However, this does not apply to deep cycle marine batteries – so if you want to start your boat, you are better off getting a dual purpose model.

What about the maintenance of batteries?

The flooded battery will need greater maintenance and ventilation, as well as regular checks for corrosion. Generally, keep your batteries charged to prolong their lifespan.

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