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Can bulk buying batteries really save you money?


Whenever I pass batteries in the supermarket, there’s usually a Bogof offer on display. These often tempt me bulk buy, with the assumption that my battery stockpile would work just as well if I held on to them.

So I was surprised to hear from our battery lab experts that most batteries will have lost about 10% of their capacity in 12 months.

The maximum expiry date for the alkaline batteries we’ve recently tested is 10 years, and the minimum is six years. So if you’re going to stock up on several packs, is it worth going for a slightly more expensive battery that’s better at holding its power?

‘Longer lasting’ batteries

We’re currently testing the Duracell Ultra Power AA and AAA batteries, which both come with a new feature called ‘Duralock’. Duracell says this new power-preserving technology guarantees that its batteries will stay powered for up to ten years in storage.

This should put them up at the top of long-lasting batteries among the alkalines we’ve recently tested, but still four years behind the best lithium batteries.

Duracell says this is down to making them from ‘pure ingredients’ and adding barriers like an acid-resistant layer to stop power leaking out.

So, if you’re planning to bulk buy and usually choose alkaline batteries, then the Duracell Ultra Power with Duralock might stay powered up in storage a bit longer than other brands. We’re currently testing these claims in our labs.

Batteries on special offer

Supermarket shelves stocked with battery offers make bulk buying almost inevitable – when you’re buying a single four pack, getting another pack free is a bonus.

But if they’re almost always on offer, are they really such a steal? That’s why I want to know where you buy your batteries and how cheap you think they are. Do you bulk buy? Have you ever bought so many that they lie in a forgotten drawer for years? And do you worry about your stored batteries losing charge over time?

Do you bulk buy batteries?

No - I buy batteries, but I don't bulk buy (51%, 214 Votes)

Yes - I bulk buy batteries (46%, 194 Votes)

I don't buy batteries at all (3%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 421

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I buy batteries when they are on special offer and always look for ones with a long ‘use by’ date.

Which? tests non-rechargeable batteries under high drain and very high drain conditions. This is useless for me because I always use rechargeable batteries for these purposes. What I want to know is how batteries perform under low drain or very low drain conditions. Uses such as clocks, remote controls and LED torches come to mind.

I agree. I don’t understand why anyone buys disposable batteries for high drain devices. They’re suitable for remote controls and clocks, but for most other devices rechargeable batteries are better for the environment and the consumer’s pocket. I was going to suggest that there should be a hefty tax on rechargeable batteries given many consumers’ unnecessary reliance on them, but this would also penalise their purchase for suitable devices such as remote controls and clocks.

I meant – “I was going to suggest that there should be a hefty tax on disposable batteries …”

I used to keep a box of spare batteries but they went out of date or the one you wanted just wasn’t there so nowadays I tend to buy new batteries as and when I need them in the smallest quantity available. We don’t have many articles that require a cell or batteries. Some batteries seem to last an incredible length of time. With batteries available in just about every shop it’s not the end of the world if a clock stops ticking . . . although it could be I suppose.

Gerard Phelan says:
25 September 2013

I have over 140 ‘things’ that require 9 different types of batteries (over 250 cells). My biggest challenge is regularly checking every one of those cells for leakage, because when I started my log in 2012 I found 16 ‘things’ contained leaking cells. Two of them, a camera flash gun and a small radio were completely destroyed by the leaking chemicals. I keep finding forgotten ‘things’ in drawers and cupboards and of course I continue to buy new battery driven devices.
Anyway I keep stocks of AA, AAA in alkaline and rechargeable formats and buy those stocks when on offer. Robert Dyas seem to have the best offers locally of branded batteries. The worse bulk buy I ever made was a box of about 20 Ikea own brand AA, which did not last long in storage or in use before leaking.

Leaking batteries/cells is one of my concerns. Like Gerard, I make regular checks for leakage. Since leakage is more common with age, I put new batteries in expensive electronic items, particularly if it would be difficult to clean the contacts in event of leakage. The older batteries are used up elsewhere. I sometimes remove the batteries from things that I do not use regularly.

Thankfully, the electrolyte from alkaline batteries is not nearly as corrosive as that from the older zinc carbon and zinc chloride batteries, which have become far less common. I have never had anything destroyed by leaking alkaline batteries, but it remains an annoying problem. Duracell were particularly prone to leaking in the 1980s but nowadays I have not seen much difference between brands.

I buy Duracell Procell AA & AAA alkaline batteries online through an Ebay shop about 25p each inc postage.
They get good reviews and with delivery in a couple of days an easy option when you dont live near any large supermarkets.

I no longer use Duracell premium paying more
than twice the price….. ordinary cheaper alkaline
will do the job effectively at much lower costs.
Rarely use rechargeables.

Have a simple measuring device that confirns
what I say.

I was surprised to hear of people leaving batteries in things not in constant use, like flash guns. I guess my Dad’s insistence on taking batteries out of everything after you finished with it paid off. Older battery types certainly could leak nastily. Ever Ready used to be great but were wiped out by Duracell’s blanket advertising. I keep a small supply of AA/AAA batteries (Plus one for the smoke alarm) in the meter cupboard so I know where to find them if I want to use my cassette recorder/map reader/radio/travel alarm.
The last thing I found had corroded beyond the use of a scouring pad on the contacts, was one of my solar lights. These have such small slots you can’t use a lot of battery makes in them so I had resorted to “panasonic” ones from the 99p shop.

Just read the Which? report on batteries (Dec 2013). Sorry, but I can’t see the logic of making the Duracell AA batteries a Best Buy, when the table shows that they are clearly the WORST value for money of all the batteries tested. Even in a bogof deal, they would still be more expensive than some of the others at full price.
Best Buy = Worst Value? Doesn’t make sense to me!

Michael E. Whitaker says:
6 October 2014

My three Duracell Ultra AA batteries with March 2016 expiry dates leaked in September 2014. They were removed the day after the screen of my £50 Efergy energy monitor went blank but much damage had already been done. The battery contacts were thoroughly cleaned with abrasive and the alkaline was neutralised with vinegar without immediate success. The meter (without batteries) was put under the heat insulation of the hot water cylinder for a couple of days. On replacing the batteries the screen image was restored but only lasted a few hours before fading again. I have now repeated the warm up procedure but this time I have wrapped the whole meter with cling film which I hope will exclude all moisture. Four hours later it is still working well. I am hoping for success this time. I shall not be buying Duracell batteries again.

Paul says:
30 June 2015

I read your review in the July magazine, but although you tested the average life time per charge I think you should also test how many times a battery can be charged before it fails. i.e the true life time of a battery

Hi Paul, Thanks for your comment. We’re constantly looking to improve our testing so it’s useful to know what extra information you’d value.

The overall lifetime of rechargeable batteries varies depending on the manufacturer and the chemistry and construction of the battery. Generally hybrid rechargeable batteries are better than those with very high stated capacities at retaining their charge over long periods and can be recharged many times. Some manufacturers now claim as many as 300 recharges, or five years of battery life.

Steve G says:
7 November 2015

As with most households, we have a good number of devices needing batteries. I tend to hold a stock of four or more AA and AAA in reserve, and check the use-by date on packaging before buying. I buy with a target price of £1 per pack of four (or more) as a maximum, so usually these are from the “Home Bargains” type of retailer. I am generally very satisfied with brands such as Energiser, Panasonic, Kodak, Maxell, JCB and the like, but I have misgivings about the hype around Duracell. In two instances recently I have had Duracell leak, the latest being in a remote control used daily, and found by chance as I only opened the compartment to check their use-by date. These are Ultra AAA fitted in October 2013 and having an expiry date of March 2016. One cell is fine (1.485v) and still registers a 100% level of charge (!) on the inbuilt Powercheck, whilst the other has leaked at the negative end (1.469v) and yet shows no charge at all on the Powercheck (which I assume has packed-up as a result of the leakage). Granted these batteries were fitted with only two and a half years left on their use-by date, but after growing up in the era of Ever Ready zinc chloride and being grateful that alkaline battery manufacture had sorted the problem of leaking electrolyte, it saddens me that Duracell batteries are not capable of being leakproof as a minimum expectation. As some suggest, batteries could be removed when devices are not in use, but some battery compartments are not rugged enough to withstand this level of intervention. Thankfully the remote contact corrosion has responded to cleaning and WD40. I have no confidence in Duracell batteries now, no matter how persuasive their Pink Bunny advertising!

If you buy Duracells in the US you have the protection of a guarantee if a product is damaged by leakage:

Guarantee: If not completely satisfied with your Duracell battery product, call 1-800-551-2355 (9:00AM – 5:00PM EST). DURACELL BATTERY GUARANTEE Guarantee: If not completely satisfied with your Duracell battery product, call 1-800-551-2355 (9:00AM – 5:00PM EST). Duracell guarantees its batteries against defects in materials and workmanship. Should any device be damaged due to a battery defect, we will repair or replace it at our option. Leaking battery and damaged device must be provided as proof of claim. Duracell may deny claims of damage caused by misuse or modification of the batteries or device.

We encourage you to recycle packaging as well.

As part of our commitment to preserve the environment, we use only nontoxic inks in our packaging and the card portion of our package is made from 55% recycled material. The plastic portion is made with 30% recycled plastic. The battery “can” is made with 40% recycled steel to reduce environmental impact while still maintaining strength.

In the UK, the guarantee has the guarantee part missing. 🙂

We encourage you to recycle packaging as well.

As part of our commitment to preserve the environment, we use only nontoxic inks in our packaging and the card portion of our package is made from 55% recycled material. The plastic portion is made with 30% recycled plastic. The battery “can” is made with 40% recycled steel to reduce environmental impact while still maintaining strength.

The Duracell brand is now owned by Procter & Gamble.