OPTIMA Batteries Suck? The Truth

Tips & Support
OPTIMA Batteries
Milwaukee, WI

"OPTIMA batteries suck!" or so we've heard over the years. OPTIMA is the biggest brand in absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries in the world, so it's inevitable that millions of opinions about OPTIMA batteries would be formed, to match the millions of batteries we've sold over the years. When and why some people believe OPTIMA batteries began to "suck," may vary, based on who is telling the tale.

For some, it started with a change in ownership, but which change? Some will say OPTIMA hasn't been the same since they were sold by Gates, others will point to Gylling's sale. In a few more years, when people start to realize Johnson Controls no longer owns OPTIMA, perhaps they'll point to that sale? (if they even know when the sale took place or who owns the brand now).

Others will attempt to make a connection between where our batteries are produced and a decline in quality. Still others will relate stories about their own experiences or those of their friends, relatives or friends of relatives and try to make a connection. We've heard the blatant lies about the components we use in our batteries and where they are produced (not China) and we can understand the confusion all these stories might create for consumers who are unsure about whether they should purchase an OPTIMA battery.

So let's indulge the critics, don a tinfoil hat and pursue their contention that OPTIMA batteries suck. If OPTIMA batteries did suck, how long has that been the case? One year, five years, ten years or more? We know some of these claims started the day the second AGM battery brand came to the market and continue to surface with each new brand that shows up. If your brand has no history and no reputation, how do you sell your product? The answer for some is to bash the leader and hope to survive long enough and sell enough batteries that someone else will someday put the "suck" target on their back.

From a realistic standpoint though, how long could OPTIMA batteries survive in the ultra-competitive automotive battery space, if OPTIMA batteries really did suck? To answer that, one should know that some of OPTIMA's biggest customers require us to provide large quantities of OPTIMA batteries for testing, before they ever agree to purchase a single battery from us. We don't have "special" lines to give one customer the ringers and someone else the lesser builds, so if OPTIMA batteries really sucked, it would show up in that testing. OPTIMA would then lose our biggest customers, before we ever had a chance to sell them a single battery. Even if we earned their business through testing, if the subsequent batteries we sold them didn't meet or exceed their expectations, we'd lose their business going forward.

The truth is, OPTIMA is often the only battery that can pass these tests before an order is placed and these customers typically test a lot of different batteries in search of the one that will meet their standards at the lowest possible price (we are typically not the least-expensive option). But what about retail chains who sell our batteries? If our true warranty rates were through the roof, a competitor would come along and snap up our retail business in a heartbeat. The truth is, many of the "bad" batteries returned to us under warranty are just deeply-discharged and work fine, when properly-recharged.

Discharge-only warranty returns are not an issue unique to OPTIMA either. In fact, it is so common in the AGM battery space, that some other brands will actually void their warranty, if their batteries are been found to be discharged below a minimum voltage level. We don't do that with the OPTIMA battery warranty, but we always encourage consumers to read battery warranties before they make a purchase...if they can find them. If they can't easily find a battery brand's warranty terms and conditions, perhaps that should tell them something about what they might experience if they ever need warranty service on that battery?

But what about the OPTIMA batteries factory? Contrary to Internet speculation, it's not in China, but it is in Monterrey, Mexico and they make the best batteries in the world there. We're not sure why that is even confusing for people, because we proudly promote that production facility and the batteries made there. We know some other brands are more evasive about where their batteries are made and who actually manufactures them, because both of those answers may change from time to time. 

OPTIMA is not just a battery brand, we are a battery manufacturer. We manufacture all of our own batteries in our own production facility and they are the only batteries produced there. We never re-brand, re-spec or otherwise re-label our batteries for any of our retail partners. As of this writing, we've been building batteries there for more than a dozen years. While our quality has always been outstanding, the OPTIMA batteries we are producing today are the best we have ever made. Our team is constantly pursuing ways to improve the consistency and reliability of our products, but let's put that tinfoil hat back on.

How long can a business that supposedly sucks stay in business? Whether someone wants to point to a change in OPTIMA's ownership, a change in the location of where OPTIMA batteries are produced or some other theory, at some point, the rubber in those claims needs to meet the proverbial road. Plenty of battery brands have come and gone in the last 30 years, but we're still here and we're still the market leader.

Does that mean we have a perfect track record? Absolutely not. Anyone who manufactures millions of anything will readily admit their defect rate is not at 0%, but it is an endless goal every great manufacturer actively pursues. So why would some say OPTIMA batteries suck, if that really wasn't the case?

If we've learned anything about the Internet, it's that a lot of people like being right and others don't care much whether they are right or wrong, as long as you click on a link to their website or watch their video, which generates income for them.

If someone is telling you about their battery woes with any brand and their story includes "I had three bad batteries in a row," they definitely have an electrical issue, but it is probably not their battery causing their problems. All those discharge-only warranty returns also tell us there are a lot of people who are replacing batteries unnecessarily, sometimes through no fault of their own.

Did you know some battery chargers on the market will not deliver current to batteries that have been discharged below a specific voltage level, typically around 10.5 volts? The thought process behind this cut-off is that any battery that has been discharged below 10.5 volts must have "lost a cell." That makes sense on the surface, as 2.1 volts per cell times 6 cells equals a fully-charged battery at ~12.6 volts.

However, what the manufacturers of those battery chargers don't take into consideration is that many batteries can become deeply-discharged below 10.5 volts and still be recovered. There are also a lot of older style battery chargers that have been in someone's garage for decades and those chargers may not recognize or charge deeply-discharged batteries either.

While OPTIMA chargers and maintainers can recover batteries that have been discharged down to 1.25 volts, we didn't build OPTIMA batteries in a specific way to force anyone to buy our chargers or maintainers. In fact, most chargers work just fine on our batteries and we even created a video, explaining how you can recover many deeply-discharged batteries with one of those older-style battery chargers. We also won't void your warranty like some other brands, if you don't use an "approved" charger, because we know using just about any charger is usually better than not using one at all.

We also see a lot of OPTIMA batteries being sold online and elsewhere, that are described as "new," but are anything but new batteries. We have a specific blog where we talk about authorized OPTIMA retailers, but the unfortunate reality for a lot of people upset with their OPTIMA battery experience, is that they purchased a used OPTIMA battery with an unknown service history. Others may have received damaged batteries from unauthorized retailers, who may have shipped an OPTIMA battery in a box without proper protection (batteries are really heavy and need special packaging). 

While we understand individual experiences can vary, we've found customers who purchase OPTIMA batteries from authorized retailers & take good care of them tend to be very happy with their purchases. As for the dissenting opinions, if OPTIMA really sucked as badly as some people want you to believe for as long as they've wanted you to believe them, we wouldn't have a website where we could even post this blog.