How Long Does A Leisure Battery Last?

A warm welcome to Off Grid Power Geek. Today we’re asking the question: how long does a leisure battery last?

There’s a never-ending war of attrition between battery makers and technology makers. The tech manufacturers want to cram energy-guzzling feature after energy-guzzling features into their products. And battery manufacturers have to try and keep up with this never-quite-quenched thirst for power.

So our leisure batteries run down faster then we’d like them to. But until something better comes along, we still need them!

In this article, we’ll break down how long you can expect your leisure battery to last. As you may have expected, it depends on the type of battery and how much power you use.

As the asker of this question, you may be looking for either: 1) how many years you can expect the leisure battery to last AKA the battery lifespan or 2) how many hours of useful power usage you’ll get on a full charge of the battery.

So we’ll answer both these questions below. Read on!

How Long Does A Leisure Battery Last

So then, how long does a leisure battery last?

Well, you can check out the forums and you’ll see that most people say 4-5 years, some will say as little as 3 years, a few will say 8-9 years and beyond.

This is our experience too – basically, it can be anything within this range.

However, here at Off Grid Power Geek, we can do a little better than just tell you that it can vary hugely within this range. We’ll discuss why there’s such a huge variance in battery lifespan.

We’ll inform how long your leisure battery is likely to last based on your circumstances.

And we’ll tell you exactly what you can do if you want to achieve the higher end of this range.

If you do most of the list below your leisure battery will last towards the higher end of the range we mentioned. If you don’t, then it’ll be on the lower end of the range.

This article will discuss lead-acid Leisure batteries. The fact is that Lithium leisure batteries will last you considerably longer, easily 10 to 15 years and you need to do almost none of the things on this list – they pretty much take care of themselves. Read our article on the best Lithium Leisure batteries to check them out.

How to Maximise Leisure Battery Lifespan?

Take care of the battery during winter breaks

Winter temperatures are tough on your motorhome, caravan or campervan leisure battery.

If you’re taking a break from your motorhome for the cold winter months, you’ll need to take steps now to make sure you return to a nice healthy leisure battery.

Don’t let the battery get too cold!

The power a battery can deliver reduces significantly when it gets too cold. If your motorhome allows for in-board battery storage then that helps – external battery storage is not what your battery wants, it’s going to get cold.

So if you’re not using your motorhome during winter, then you’ll need to disconnect it from the vehicle and store it in a dry place, indoors. Firstly, make sure your motorhome’s security functions, like the alarm system or tracking device, aren’t powered by the battery.

Smart charging

One of the best ways to keep your battery healthy is to use a smart charger.

Modern smart chargers can be kept connected all the time, with no danger of overcharge. The sophisticated charger technology will deliver the right amount of charge at all times.

Even though your leisure vehicle comes with a charger, it’s really just to power on-board equipment. It’s not powerful enough to charge your leisure battery properly. So you need a charger if you want to maximise the leisure battery’s lifespan.

If you are planning an extended period where you won’t use your caravan, campervan or motorhome, then it’s best if you use a smart charger at all times to keep it fully charged. If not, then make sure to charge it fully, remove it, and store it in a warm, dry place (remember though, don’t remove the battery if it powers your vehicle’s security systems!).

Use a charger with high enough amperage for your battery. We recommend at least 10% of the battery’s capacity. So a 100Ah battery needs a charger with 10A charging.

If you don’t have a smart charger, don’t keep it permanently on charge or hook-up. Instead, top up the charge once per month, making sure to give it a full charge each time.

Here are the best leisure battery chargers UK.

It’s also a good idea to get a DC to DC charger, also called a battery to battery charger, or B2B charger. This allows you to charge your leisure battery from your auxiliary battery, with very high efficiency. And from your solar input as well. Check out our CTEK D250SE review, for the best example.

Get the right type of battery

Leisure batteries may look similar to car batteries, which start the car engine, but they’re very different. Car batteries are designed for a large burst of energy to provide the spark that starts the engine. Leisure batteries are designed to provide a longer, steadier power supply. So they have a much longer charge/discharge cycle.

Most leisure batteries today are still the lead-acid kind (for the best traditinal lead-acid battery check out our Superbatt leisure battery review). They self-discharge over time, that is, they discharge themselves even when you’re not using it to power anything. Long periods of discharge are not good for battery health so make sure to top up the battery with charge regularly.

AGM batteries have some advantages over lead-acid batteries. Normal lead-acid batteries have lead plates with a solution of free-flowing sulphuric acid around them. AGM batteries have fibreglass mats which have absorbed the sulphuric acid. That’s why they’re called AGM – it stands for Absorbent Glass Mat. Similarly, Gel batteries do not have free-flowing sulphuric acid within the battery.

A high quality Gel leisure battery is likely to last longer than other kinds of lead-acid batteries. That’s because they are better able to cope with higher discharge and have lower self-discharge rates.

Lithium batteries are growing fast in popularity, and decreasing in price too. They have extremely low self-discharge, are much faster charging, deliver much more power and last considerably longer between charges. For a long time they were prohibitively expensive but since the latter part of 2021, that has now changed. Even though they’re still more expensive than lead-acid batteries, they now work out far, far cheaper in the long run, and with many advantages.

We’ve done an all-encompassing, in-depth review of the best Lithium Leisure Batteries.

NCC Scheme

To combat battery suppliers who wrongly claimed their batteries were good for leisure vehicles, the National Caravan Council (NCC) started the Verified Leisure Battery Scheme.

Class A batteries have high storage capacity, they’re for those who frequently spend long periods in their motorhome, campervan or caravan, away from mains hook-up charge.

Class B batteries are for frequent users who also use mains hook-up charge at times, and have some power-hungry devices.

Class C batteries are for people who’ll spend most of their time with hook-up charging, and only need occasional short periods without mains power.

Fit the battery properly

And with the correct wiring, according to the needs of your specific leisure vehicle.

Regularly charge the battery

Especially before use, you’ll want to make sure the battery is fully charged.

Keep the battery terminals dry and rust-free. 

Rub a little petroleum jelly or Vaseline on them to prevent corrosion.

Don’t allow the battery to discharge too much

As much as possible, keep the battery close to full charge. If you ever allow it to discharge more than 50%, you’re damaging the battery and it’ll die quicker. And the more discharged you allow it to get, the worse the effect on long-term health.

On forums, you may see people advising not to discharge below 25%. This is too low, and if you let it discharge that much it’s harming your battery. That said, it’s up to you. It depends on your attitude to the effort required to charge more often vs. the expense and hassle of replacing a battery more often and having trouble with power degrading.

 If you’re happy to let it discharge to 25% then you may only get a couple of years life out of the battery and you’ll find that the battery’s power dips more quickly each year. If you’re more diligent and almost always recharge after a 50% discharge, you can get closer to 6 or 7 years, and power will remain stronger and not dip so sharply.  

Set it up in the correct position

Lead-acid batteries should always be stored in the upright position and attached with sufficient security that it can’t move about, even on rougher terrain. (Lithium batteries, however, can be stored in other positions without problems.)

Invest in a higher quality battery

The battery the battery quality, the more charge/discharge cycles.

For example, the Silver 9000 range by Superbatt, which includes the DT120, LM110, AGM1100 and AGM1000 models, has an excellent reputation for longevity and reliability. Check out our Superbatt Silver 9000 Review.

Don’t overcharge the battery

Make sure you don’t over-charge the battery. A smart charger will ensure this doesn’t happen. If you don’t have one, then you can use a simple voltmeter to check the battery voltage, it should be 12.6-12.7V when fully charged.

Don’t allow the battery to discharge too much.

This will cause the battery to sulfate (sulfation is when lead sulfate builds up on the battery plates). This harms the battery and reduces its lifespan.

Make sure you don’t allow the battery to be kept in a discharged state for a long time. Again, sulfation will rear its ugly head in a big way.

Attach your charger clamps correctly

Don’t use the positive and negative battery charger clamps on the wrong terminals of the battery – it’s dangerous and could permanently damage the battery and the charger.

Don’t allow lead-acid batteries to dicharge below 50%. Lithium batteries (LiFePO4) are different and can cope with much higher levels of discharge, even up to 90% plus.

Battery performance will erode over time, and leisure batteries can have a lifespan as short as 4 years, especially if you over-discharge it or have extended periods where it’s lies unused and doesn’t get a maintenance charge.  

If you use a battery charger to top up the charge, get a leisure battery charger instead of a normal car battery charger.

Don’t use the vehicle’s alternator only to charge the battery 

It won’t give the battery enough charge and your battery will suffer. Lead-acid batteries have a “memory”, that means if your battery has consistently only been charged to 75%, then the battery will “remember” 75% as its new maximum charge level!

You may also check if your vehicle has a smart alternator, and find out what charge it can deliver = make sure it’s high enough to charge the battery fully.

Instead use a DC DC charger (what is DC to DC charging?), which will give it a full charge at high enough voltage and amperage. This means you’ll reach 100% charge more often, with efficient charging, that’s what your battery wants.

Charge with Solar Panels

Many motorhome, caravan and campervan owners find solar panels a worthwhile investment (and it can be a small investment too).

Solar panels are a great way to maintain the battery charge if you’re not using your leisure vehicle for a few months.

You don’t want to connect the solar panels directly to the battery – you need to use a regulator or charge controller. These will effectively stop the charge when a particular level of charge is reached, and then turn back on when the charge level has dropped. This is the simplest system, but not energy efficient.

A more sophisticated charge controller is called an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controller. This controller will keep charge levels around 90-95%, and is more energy efficient and keeps your battery more healthy.

Use proper equipment with solar panels

If you’re using solar panels to charge your leisure battery, make sure you don’t over-charge. The panel’s regulator should prevent this, but lower cost regulators may not. If it’s okay, and the panels are in a place where daylight reach them, they can be sufficient to maintain the leisure battery charge level.

Manage Long periods of Disuse

Extended times out of use is not ideal for your leisure battery. Even though it’s not in use, you may still need it to power tracker systems, or security systems, like alarms. So how can you maximise the condition of the leisure battery when you need to use it again.

It used to be dangerous and harmful to the battery to charge a battery all the time. However, smart chargers have changed all that. These clever devices are constantly monitoring the power being delivered to the battery, and will never overcharge it. In fact, the most sophisticated chargers are constantly analysing your battery and will customise the type of charge required for your specific battery and its specific state at that moment.

This way, you can keep the battery in your leisure vehicle without the hassle of removing it – and therefore your trackers and security systems can remain on at all times.

Not only that, the best chargers have a desulfator mode – this mode removes sulfation from the battery. Sulfation is the build-up of lead sulfate on the battery plates, and it happens to all lead-acid batteries. The more sulfate, the less power the battery can deliver; and if you don’t take action to remove it, the sulfate will harden and block more and more power.

A smart charger, then, is the perfect way to optimise your battery health over the winter.

Don’t use more power than the battery can handle

The larger your battery or battery bank capacity, the more power consumption it can handle. If you use an 85Ah battery, for example, it’s not going to cope well with a drain of more than 5 Amps per hour.

Leisure Battery Performance Is Also Affected By:

Temperature

Much like humans, batteries don’t like being too hot or too cold. While too hot is rarely a problem in the UK, too cold is the more pertinent concern. The Ah rating of a battery is not actually a constant, it depends on temperature. The Ah rating refers to the capacity in Amp-hours of a battery at 25°C. Each degree below that reduces the battery’s power performance by 1%. So at 0°C, we’re talking about a huge 25% dip in performance.

The more power your devices consume, the harder the battery has to work.

Be aware that higher power consumption will reduce the actual usable capacity of the leisure battery. Therefore, power performance will be reduced. It also means that the battery will get discharged faster, and will require more recharges more often. This charge-discharge process is called a cycle, and each battery has a certain number of cycles that it can deliver before it dies. So the more cycles you go through, the faster the battery will die.

Age

Again, like humans. The older a battery gets, the poorer the power performance. You’ll find that power will dip more sharply after a few years of usage. As we said earlier, the steepness of the dip, depends on how well you’ve treated the battery. Too much discharge (over 50%) too many times, and you’ll find this dip in power can be very sharp.

Cycle life and Depth of Discharge (DoD)

Most lead-acid batteries will give you a cycle life between 300-600 cycles, depending on the quality of the battery (an £80 normal lead-acid battery may deliver a maximum of 300 cycles and a £300 AGM battery may deliver up to 600 cycles.

To improve your chances of reaching this maximum cycle life, you’ll want to keep your Depth of Discharge (DoD) to 50%. That is, you don’t allow the battery to discharge more than 50%. If you do this, an average campervan, caravan or motorhome owner can get 6 to 8 years or even more out of their battery.

If you regularly allow your battery to reach 80% Depth of Discharge, you’ll be lucky to get 150 cycles out of a cheaper battery and as little as 300 cycles out of even an expensive AGM battery. That means an average leisure vehicle will use up the battery in 3-4 years or even less.

Every time you allow a heavy discharge to occur, you’re reducing the lifespan of the battery.

When should you charge your leisure battery?

Your target is 50% discharge.

But how can you know when the battery is at 50% discharge?

You can get a voltmeter (they’re very cheap, just a few pounds). Here’s the approximate voltage for each level of charge

Based on the voltage, you can work out the battery charge based on the approximate table below:

State of ChargeVoltage (12V Battery)
100%12.7V
90%12.5V
80%12.42V
70%12.32V
60%12.2V
50%12.06V
40%11.9V
30%11.75V
20%11.58V
10%11.31V
0%10.7V

Discharging the battery even close to 25% is harming the battery’s lifespan. And if your battery gets very heavily discharged to around 11.7V it can permanently damage the battery, and it may not be able to recover.

How to measure leisure battery voltage?

Well, use a leisure battery tester.

With a low cost voltage tester (voltmeter) you’ll be able to see the voltage, that is the current level of charge in the battery.

For a higher cost, you can get a battery capacity tester, that will also tell you the current capacity of the battery. That means, how much power the battery has left compared to when it was new. That’s telling you the real health of the battery.

Here are the best leisure battery testers 12V, which has both the types we just mentioned.

How Many Hours of Power on a Full Charge?

Well, it depends on how much current is being drawn from it.

So to work out how long you can power your devices, add up the current used by each device you want to power.

A battery capacity of 100Ah (Amp hours) means it can theoretically provide 100A for one hour, 50A for 2 hours, 1A for 100 hours, and so on. Basically multiply the number of amps by the number of hours, and it’ll always equal 100.

However, we said “theoretically” for a reason, above. In reality, your reliable power capacity from a 100Ah battery is actually 50Ah. Basically, when you’re working out what battery capacity you need, you can take 50% off that number. If you calculate that you need 100Ah of actual working capacity you’ll need a 200Ah battery or battery bank (2 x 100Ah batteries).

Need a 300Ah battery? Here are the best 300Ah Lithium leisure batteries UK.

High current draw

Another thing to bear in mind is that the higher the current drawn, the lower the actual capacity of the battery. This is due to the internal resistance of the battery. So the more current you draw from the battery, the less usable capacity it has.

This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to get a battery that meets your specific power needs.

So, if you have a 100Ah battery, consider the usable capacity to be 50Ah.

If you work out that the current needed to power your devices is 5A, then you’ll get 10 hours of usage of the devices. If it was 10A, that means 5 hours of usage.

Most simply:

Battery Capacity/Amps drawn by devices = Hours of usage

If you don’t know the Amps drawn by a device, but you do know how many Watts.

Then divide the power in Watts by 12 to get the current in Amps (because the battery voltage is 12 volts). That’s because the Current (Amps)=Power (Watts)/Voltage of battery (12V).

So for example, a 48 Watt light bulb needs 4A of charge. Since 48/12=4.

If you don’t know how much power your devices will consume, here’s a general rule of thumb –

If you’re just running a fridge, occasional usage of lights, a fully charged 100Ah battery will probably last you around a week.

If you’re watching a little bit of TV , and spending the odd few hours on your laptop, then your 100Ah battery should get you through 3 or 4 days.

If you’re using power-hungry devices, and want to have your lights on often, and the TV several hours per day, you’ll eat up the power within 1-2 days and you’ll need to recharge.

We’ve done a complete analysis on how to know what size leisure battery you need.

How about 24V batteries?

If you’re building a battery bank, there’s a possbility 24V batteries could meet your needs. Here are the best 24V 200Ah LiFePO4 batteries.

Summarising How Long Does A Leisure Battery Last?

A common way somone may answer this question is “How long is a piece of string?”.

But we at Off Grid Power Geek beg to differ. There’s a common thread running through those whose batteries last longer. And that is: they do as many of the things on our list above as possible!

So the question of “how long does a leisure battery last” can be answered thusly: in direction proportion to how much care you take of it.

Make good battery practice a habit and then it’s simple.

Good practice for maximising battery life doesn’t need to be hard. There’s a few simple steps to follow and once you’ve got it down, it’ll become habit.

It’s worth it – these simple practices will save you hassle, time and money in the long run.

After all, when you poorly manage your leisure battery, it’s not just that it could last a few years less, it’ll also give you more trouble – it’ll lose power more sharply. Leading to that annoying situation where your TV loses sound, or the picture starts to crackle.

Take these simple steps and you’ll get much longer life out of your battery.