If your household goes through a lot of AA or AAA batteries, you may not realize how quickly the cost can add up. Instead, consider switching to rechargeable batteries. While the startup cost may seem a little overwhelming, the rechargeables will more than pay for themselves over time. 

I compared the current prices of disposable and rechargeable batteries as well as their lifespan to see exactly how much you can save by making the switch. 

Rechargeable Batteries vs. Disposable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries have increased in both popularity and quality over time. Now, it’s common to see rechargeable batteries guaranteeing life up to 10 years after purchase if they’re used and charged correctly. While disposable batteries have a much shorter lifespan while in use, their low per-battery cost can make them hard to pass up. For that reason, I wanted to see which batteries will help you save the most money over time.

Of course, the environmental implications are something else to consider when deciding whether you want to use rechargeable or disposable batteries. Rechargeable batteries are ultimately better for the environment but only if used for their entire lifespans.

Whether you’re considering making the switch to rechargeable batteries to save money or to help the environment, you’ll ultimately achieve your goal by investing in a quality setup and using the rechargeables for as long as possible.

Which Is The Most Cost-Effective?

A 5-year price comparison of disposable vs. rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries are going to be the most cost-effective over time — but not right off the bat. You are going to spend more on rechargeable batteries than you would spend on regular batteries during the first year. Rechargeables cost more per battery: Expect to pay more than $3 per battery on a long-lasting, quality brand. Plus, the charging station is going to be an additional cost. Still, you’d be surprised at how much you can save over time by making the initial investment.

When it comes to finding an exact savings figure, that’s tough, because many factors come into play: whether you buy cheap or brand-name batteries, where you buy them, how many you use at a time and how often you replace/charge them. For that reason, what you spend and what you’ll save will vary. But generally speaking, you can expect to see rechargeable batteries pay for themselves within two to three years

In my apartment, we have approximately 12 batteries in use at a time between game console controllers, TV remotes and wall clocks. I would estimate that we replace approximately four of those batteries each month. Of course, if you have kids with toys and electronics or a hobby like photography, you’re probably using a lot more batteries at a time. 

For the sake of the price comparison, let’s assume a household replaces 6 batteries each month, or 72 batteries annually. Here’s how much that household will spend on batteries each year:

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Disposable Batteries Charger + 8 Rechargeable Batteries
Year 1: $23-$31 $41
Year 2: $23-$31 $0
Year 3: $23-$31 $0
Year 4: $23-$31 $0
Year 5: $23-$31 $0
Total: $115-$155 $41

Amazon is one of the best places to buy batteries with low-to-average prices, so I looked at the current prices of disposable and rechargeable AA batteries there to get an idea of how much they cost.

If you use store-brand batteries, AmazonBasics will run you about $0.32 per AA battery. If you prefer brand-name batteries, you can find AA Energizer batteries for as low as $0.43 each. At 72 new batteries each year, that means you’re looking at an annual cost of $23.04-$30.96 for disposable batteries.

When it comes to rechargeable batteries, you’ll see a higher cost during the first year. Each year afterward, you’ll have no additional cost beyond the pennies that the charging station adds to your electric bill. 

At Amazon, I found the highly-recommended eneloop rechargeable batteries. You can get a charging station with four rechargeable eneloop batteries for $21.73. Additional 4-packs of the batteries cost $18.99, and the product page claims the batteries will maintain up to 70% charge after 10 years of storage. So if you want to begin with a charging station and eight rechargeable batteries, you’re looking at an initial startup cost of $40.72. 

Of course, rechargeable batteries and charging stations vary greatly in quality and price. You can find chargers from as low as $10 to as high as $40 on Amazon, so taking the time to research and find a happy medium between price and quality is important. You’re making an investment with rechargeable batteries, so you want to make sure they last as long as possible.

Should You Switch to Rechargeable Batteries?

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it for you personally to invest in rechargeable batteries, the short answer is most likely “yes.” Rechargeable batteries are almost always going to be cheaper over time. Even if you replace as few as four batteries each month, you’re still looking at a savings of $36.08-$62.48 over the course of 5 years. 

If you have kids who use batteries in their toys or if you have a battery-powered camera you use daily, know that the initial cost for rechargeable batteries will be significantly higher, but your savings over time will be even greater. Let’s say you do replace 10 batteries every month/120 every year. If you buy an eneloop charger with four rechargeable batteries plus an extra 12-pack, you’ll spend $61.72 the first year, but you’ll save $130.28-$196.28 over the course of 5 years.

Of course, you don’t have to use rechargeable batteries in all of your battery-powered electronics. If you have batteries in a wall clock or TV remote that you only have to replace once every year or two, it may be worth it for you to stick to the $0.32-$0.43 per battery cost as opposed to using a $3.33 rechargeable. Instead, you could save the rechargeable batteries for those devices that go through batteries like crazy: game console controllers, kids’ toys, cameras, etc.

Should you switch to rechargeable batteries? They will pay for themselves in a few years and help you save big over time.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, rechargeable batteries are going to cost more initially, but the investment will be worth it. In fact, you’ll start seeing significant savings within 2-3 years of making the switch. Over the course of 5 years, you’ll have saved a minimum of $36. Of course, more frequent battery users will see a much bigger savings of nearly $200 in the same time period. 

If you’re ready to move away from disposable batteries, make the switch to rechargeable batteries as smooth as possible by following these tips: 

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  • Buy quality batteries and a quality charger. Chargers range from $10 to $40 on Amazon, and it’s worth spending a few extra dollars initially to get the right charger and batteries. You want them to last as long as possible. Take the time to research, read reviews and make a purchase you’ll be happy with.
  • Have backups. Be sure to buy enough rechargeable batteries that you can keep a few on standby in case you need them. For the same reason, keep a small pack of disposables ready to go in case of an emergency. 
  • Change the batteries strategically. When you first buy your rechargeable batteries, don’t just throw away all of the disposables you’re currently using. Get your money’s worth and switch to rechargeable batteries only when those disposables die. When you do start using rechargeable batteries, make sure they’re totally drained before putting them on charge.

Lastly, keep in mind that you don’t have to use rechargeable batteries in all of your devices in order to save money and be environmentally conscious. If you only have one or two devices that use a lot of battery power, switching those to rechargeable batteries will still make a big difference over time. 

Do you use rechargeable batteries? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments below!

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