For the best charge on the go, you need the best rechargeable batteries. Ordinary single-use batteries consume resources (nickel, manganese, and steel), and add volume to landfills. Rechargeable batteries reduce waste and can save you money in the process, but they also contain some toxic substances, as do car batteries.
AA batteries and AAA batteries are used to power a wide range of devices, but even eco-friendly, rechargeable units can still cause harm to the environment. To help you buy batteries that are greener and better for the environment, we’ve put together a list of the best rechargeable batteries on the market, and a buying guide about what to look for if you’re not wild about our selection.
Here are our top choices for the best rechargeable AA and AAA batteries.
Best Rechargeable AA Batteries
The Best Overall: Panasonic Eneloop Pro
Panasonic is a brand name that everyone should recognize. It’s been a big player in the electronics industry for years! Their rechargeable Eneloop Pro batteries are some of the best in the business: they’re durable, have impressive statistics, and offer excellent value for money.
Advertised with a 2100 cycle life-span, and a capacity between 1,900mAh and 2,000mAh, these batteries are strong and durable, and can even retain up to 70% of their charge if stored for 10 years!
Independent tests have seen these batteries power small lights for up to 120 hours and power RC toys continuously for over 15 hours. They’re impressive but they are a little expensive. Still, if you want a quality product, you have to pay for it.
What we liked: Impressive battery life that makes them ideal for emergency prepping.
What we didn’t like: They are expensive, especially when compared to similar products.
Best Budget Option: Amazon Basics AA Batteries
If you’re looking for cheap rechargeable batteries, check out these from Amazon Basics. Despite being labeled as a budget product, these batteries are actually some of the best performing rechargeable batteries on the market.
The advertised specs include a capacity of 2000mAh, the ability to hold 80% of a charge for up to 24 months, and 1000 charge cycles.
Tests have shown that the claims are fairly accurate, though it has been mentioned that the average capacity was more like 1,800mAh. Still, they offer great battery life at a very affordable price point. Plus, they ship pre-charged and ready to rock and roll.
What we liked: They’re very affordable and available in different options.
What we didn’t like: The capacity can be lower than advertised.
Best Greener Choice: Energizer Recharge Universal
If you want to buy an environmentally-friendly battery (or as close as possible) then Energizer’s Recharge Universal batteries are what you need. They are the world’s first rechargeable AA batteries made from recycled batteries. Though only 4% of the batteries use recycled parts, it’s better than 0%.
Energizer states that these batteries can handle 1000 charge cycles, store a charge for up to 12 months, and deliver a capacity of 2000mAh. Those specs are pretty average, but these batteries have a secret.
Unlike any other company ever, Energizer’s published stats understate their performance. In reality, these batteries have a capacity that’s more like 2300mAh, which is significantly more than advertised. They’re strong, eco-friendly, and have a life expectancy of about 5 years. Not bad at all.
What we liked: They’re more environmentally-friendly than other brands.
What we didn’t like: They could be cheaper.
Best High Capacity Batteries: Duracell NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
Duracell is arguably the most famous name in the battery game, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see a Duracell product on this list. Curiously, Duracell’s rechargeable batteries don’t offer the most impressive specs, but what the brand does offer is a high capacity output.
On paper, Duracell’s rechargeable batteries have a capacity of 2,650mAh capacity. In reality, the capacity is a little lower, hovering around the 2,400 or 2,500mAh marker. Still, it’s far higher than many other products out there.
The main drawback of these batteries is their 400 charge cycle lifespan, which is much lower than products from other manufacturers. Plus, they’re not particularly cheap either. However, if you’re looking for powerful batteries that won’t see everyday use, these are great options.
What we liked: They’re ideal for use in digital cameras.
What we didn’t like: 400 charge cycles is pretty low.
Also Worth Considering: Tenergy Premium Rechargeable Batteries
Tenergy’s Premium Rechargeable Batteries are good options for those looking for NiMH AA batteries with a high capacity at an affordable price point. These batteries have a decent shelf-life, impressive charge cycles, a UL safety rating, and a 12-month warranty.
According to Tenergy, these batteries have a claimed capacity of 2500mAh, making it one of the most potent cells on our list. They also boast an average of 1,2000 charge cycles, and the ability to hold an 85% charge if left in storage for up to 12 months. The company also claims that the batteries effectively pay for themselves after 10 uses.
All told, these are great batteries for the price, which is surprisingly low. The low cost is even more impressive considering that these batteries are UL certified, use no toxic metals, won’t leak, and can be recycled.
What we liked: Affordable and powerful non-toxic batteries.
What we didn’t like: The company’s customer service could be better.
Best Rechargeable AAA Batteries
The Best Overall: Panasonic Eneloop
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see that Panasonic’s Eneloop cells are also some of the best rechargeable AAA batteries too. This time, we’ve decided to look at the plain Eneloop batteries rather than the newer and more expensive AAA Eneloop Pro versions.
The standard Eneloop AAAs offer an output of 800mAh, dipping to a minimum of 750mAh, and up to 2100 charge cycles. These batteries will last a long time, and to prove that, Panasonic claims that these Eneloop batteries will maintain 70% of their charge after 10 years!
Each battery arrives pre-charged using solar power, which gives them a slightly green-focused edge. Couple that with this battery’s long life, and you’ve got a fairly environmentally-friendly battery. As much as a battery can be.
What we liked: These batteries have a very impressive shelf life.
What we didn’t like: Customers advise that you check to ensure that you’re buying the right batteries with the advertised specs.
Best Budget Option: Powerowl AAA Rechargeable Batteries
Unlike the AA options above, we found that Powerowl’s rechargeable AAA batteries were a better budget option than Amazon Basics. For a low price, buyers can buy a pack of 16 AAA batteries with impressive stats, with a relatively environmentally-friendly focus. They don’t contain toxic metals, and they’re easily recycled.
In terms of performance, Powerowl’s AAAs deliver a capacity of 1,000mAh and 1,200 charge cycles. Each battery promises to hold a 70% charge for up to 3 years too. There are better batteries out there, but it’s hard to beat the economy and usefulness of these.
What’s more, Powerowl also gives its products a very generous 30-day money-back and 12-month guarantee for unsatisfied customers. Generally, these batteries receive positive reviews and very few customers have negative things to say about them.
What we liked: Excellent value for money.
What we didn’t like: In storage, these batteries could hold their charge for longer.
Best Greener Choice: Energizer Rechargeable NiMH AAA Batteries
Again, the best rechargeable batteries that have the smallest environmental-impact are the Energizer Rechargeable Power Plus AAA Batteries. The reason for this is that they are the world’s first rechargeable batteries made from recycled batteries, and that’s great.
According to Energizer, these AAAs also have some impressive specs. For example, they have a capacity of 800mAh, can be recharged up to 700 times, and they can hold their charge for up to 12 months.
While we like the decent capacity and the long-life, the main selling point for us is the fact that these batteries use components from recycled batteries. Unfortunately, the use of recycled materials drives the cost up somewhat, and you can only buy 4 batteries for the same price as you’d get 8 or 16 from other brands. But that’s the cost of going green.
What we liked: Environmentally-friendly recycled components
What we didn’t like: They could be cheaper.
Best High Capacity AAA Batteries: Ovonic NiMH Batteries
If you’re looking for batteries with a high capacity and a low price, then Ovonic’s NiMH rechargeable batteries are a worthy choice. Since they’re high capacity, they’re the ideal choice for video game controllers, digital cameras, and many other applications.
These Ovonic batteries have a capacity of 1,350mAh, which is fairly high when compared to other available products. They’re made from nickel-metal hydride and have a voltage of 1.2V per cell. Each battery can maintain up to 65% of its charge when in storage for up to 3 years.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information out there about these batteries. We can’t say how many charge cycles they can handle, or what kind of life-expectancy they have. However, they’re very cheap and they do offer a high output, which is pretty good.
What we liked: High-capacity, low-cost batteries.
What we didn’t like: There’s not a lot of other information out there.
Also Worth Considering: EBL AAA Rechargeable Batteries
EBL’s AAA Rechargeable Batteries offer a great balance of price and performance. These NiMH cells are tough, strong, durable, and won’t break the bank. They’re ideal for use in digital cameras, video game controllers, toys, and other high-drain devices.
EBL’s rechargeable batteries have a high capacity of 1,100mAh, and interestingly, these batteries will retain up to 90% of their charge if left in storage for up to one year. They also boast up to 1,200 charge cycles. And they’re not expensive either!
Interestingly, independent tests have shown the EBL’s batteries have been able to outperform a lot of the competition. However, they have received negative reviews on sales pages. Our experience was great, but since there are a lot of hit-n-miss reviews, we decided to add EBL’s batteries as an extra rather than as one of our top choices.
What we liked: The excellent value for money.
What we didn’t like: The number of negative reviews.
How We Chose Our Selection
To make our decisions, we trialed certain batteries in a number of tests and took data from trusted sources. In some cases, it wasn’t feasible to test some manufacturer’s claims—in an ideal world we’d love to sit through 1,000 full charge cycles or wait 10 years to see how a battery holds up, but it’s just not practical at the moment!
To test how batteries operated, we ran tests similar to a study conducted by Consumer Reports. These tests measured battery life with digital cameras, measuring their photo-taking ability and power consumption.
In these tests, Consumer Reports found that rechargeable batteries from the major manufacturers provided over 300 shots out of the box and about 400 shots on their subsequent charge.
Our tests weren’t focused on how many pictures a camera could take, but more about how true a batteries output measured up to the manufacturer’s claims. Generally, most manufacturers were accurate, unless we stated otherwise.
Naturally, the most important metric we consider is the environmental impact that a battery has. Though all batteries are bad for the environment, those that offer a good balance of value, lifespan, and performance were regarded as better choices. All rechargeable batteries are superior options to regular, disposable alkaline batteries. That’s a fact.
What To Look Out For
Know how they drain. Some products, such as digital cameras, are tougher on batteries than others. Your best battery choice will depend on how quickly the device drains the battery. In high-drain devices, rechargeables give you more bang for your battery buck.
See if the battery is replaceable or rechargeable. Before you buy a battery-powered device, check whether you’ll be able to replace or recharge the batteries. In some devices, like many electric toothbrushes, when the battery dies, so does the whole product because the battery can’t be replaced by the consumer.
Recycle Your Rechargeables!
When they no longer hold a charge, you can recycle rechargeable batteries to keep the toxic heavy metals they contain out of landfills. If your town doesn’t provide a way to recycle rechargeable batteries, it’s okay to toss them in the trash.
To find a location where you can drop off batteries for recycling, check online at: www.call2recycle.org, a website of the nonprofit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp. Just type in your zip code to see the locations near you, or you can call toll-free 877.2.RECYCLE.
Another online recycling resource is located at: www.earth911.com.
Many major retailers, including Best Buy, Home Depot, Radio Shack, and Staples, among others, will accept the batteries.