Are Name-Brand Batteries Better Than Generics?

Photo (cc) by Jami3.org

My father and I have been debating batteries since I was a kid. I’d quickly run through every battery in the house playing my Discman (remember those?) and then blame my dad for buying the cheaper generic batteries. I swore the generic batteries didn’t last as long as the name-brand ones.

When I moved out of the house I started buying name-brand batteries (much to my dad’s dismay). He still buys the generic ones from dollar stores and drugstores.

For years, I’ve sworn my brand-name batteries outlast generics. But I’ve never actually tested them. So am I right? In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson talked with some people who did test battery performance. Check out the video, then read on for more…

As Stacy said in the video, my dad and I could both be right depending on what types of batteries we buy and how we use them. Here are the details…

Comparing non-alkaline dollar-store batteries to brand-name alkalines

While I never put much science behind my decision to buy the name-brand batteries, some people have. Rhett Allain, a physics professor from Southeastern Louisiana University, compared dollar-store non-alkaline (zinc chloride) batteries to Duracell and Energizer alkalines. He then published the results, along with lots of formulas and graphs in this article on Wired. What he told Stacy in the video above:

If you buy the cheaper batteries, you’re paying a little bit now and then you’ll pay a little bit later. It’s thinking more short-term. If you buy the more expensive batteries, you pay more up front but they last longer. In the end, there’s not that big a difference – it’s the same amount of energy per price.

The professor compared three batteries: a 20-cent Dollar General zinc chloride battery, a 68-cent Duracell alkaline battery, and a 65-cent alkaline Energizer. The Duracell and Energizer cost three times more and lasted three times longer. So the cost per amount of energy purchased was roughly the same.

The professor pointed out, however, that along with the added convenience of not having to change batteries as often, the more expensive batteries offer another advantage. From his Wired article:

There is a bit more to batteries than just the energy stored in it. It depends on what you are using it for. Suppose that I was using these batteries for a flashlight. In this case, it wouldn’t matter too much which battery I used. If I used the cheaper (Dollar General battery), I would just have to replace the batteries more often. However, suppose that I am using the batteries for my Wii remote. For this electronic device, if the voltage drops too low it might not work properly. Yes, the battery will still have energy in it, but if it won’t run the device correctly, who cares?

In other words, when the voltage drops off with a flashlight, the bulb dims, but the flashlight still works. But when the voltage drops on more sensitive devices, like a camera or Wii remote, they stop working.

The professor’s conclusion? If you can get alkalines cheaper by buying in bulk or stocking up when they’re on sale, do it. But if you’re running out to the store for batteries for a kid’s toy or flashlight, dollar-store batteries will do the trick.

Alkaline batteries: name-brand vs. generic

So now we know we’d rather have alkaline batteries than cheap non-alkalines. But are name-brand alkalines better than generic?

The website Dealnews sent a collection of alkaline AA batteries – including Duracell, Energizer, and generics – to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute for testing. Here’s what Lindsay Sakraida of Dealnews had to say about the results in the video:

Our exclusive test results gathered by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute show that in terms of power over time, there’s no discernible difference between expensive, name-brand batteries and cheaper generic ones.

Dealnews didn’t compare every generic, so it’s possible some might not work as well as name brands. But the bottom line is that when it comes to alkaline batteries, as with so many other things we buy, paying for a name is not money well spent.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership
7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership

You don’t necessarily need to join to get in on the warehouse store’s savings.

15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales
15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales

You can save a ton of money — especially if you spot any of these items.

7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement
7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement

It often makes financial sense to not pay off your mortgage before retiring.

9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price
9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price

If you’re willing to pay a little more for these products, you may never have to shop for another again.

How to Save Up to 70% on 7 Everyday Purchases
How to Save Up to 70% on 7 Everyday Purchases

Stop getting sucked into paying a premium when good alternatives are available at huge savings.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination
This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination

Avoid doing this before you get vaccinated.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.