I was answering a question over at the Garage Journal forum, about battery pack bang for the buck, and thought it might make for a good post. I also became curious to see if you guys had any battery pack size preferences.
A few years ago, we were all led to believe that bigger = better. And for the most part, it’s true. Greater battery capacity means longer runtime. There are other benefits as well, but the main benefit is longer runtime.
So 6.0Ah is better than 5.0Ah, which is better than 4.0Ah, which is better than 3.0Ah. Yes? Well, let’s take a look at pricing.
Let’s look at Milwaukee battery pricing. For easier comparison, let’s look at the MSRP price for a 2-battery pack, or single pack, whichever is more readily available.
- 3.0Ah: $139 for a 2-pack, ~$70 each
- 4.0Ah: $119 for 1
- 5.0Ah: $129 for 1, $189 for 2, ~$95 each ($199, or $100 each at HD)
Their 6.0Ah packs aren’t available yet that I can find. Even if they were, I imagine that the 5.0Ah packs would still offer greater bang for the buck.
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Let’s look at Bosch 18V high capacity battery pack pricing.
- 3.0Ah: No longer readily available
- 4.0Ah: $149 for 2, or ~$75 each (via Amazon)
- 5.0Ah: $109 (via Amazon)
- 6.0Ah: $90 (via Amazon)
Hmm, that 6.0Ah battery pack pricing is surprising.
To be frank, I am somewhat skeptical of 6.0Ah battery packs. The last few times I checked, individual 3.0Ah Li-ion cells were not rated as highly as 2.5Ah cells, in terms of current draw. This makes me believe that they might not endure high demand use as well as. High power output can degrade battery life, and it is my understanding that, the higher you go towards the peak specified output, the more heating you’ll get.
I cannot shake the assumed conclusion that 4.0Ah and 5.0Ah battery packs, built with higher rated cells, might last longer than 6.0Ah battery packs – unless something changed and they were now built with similarly spec’ed cells – resulting in greater long-term durability, at least with regular heavy duty use.
Even if all brands’ 6.0Ah battery packs were available right now, I probably wouldn’t buy one, unless I absolutely needed the longest runtime possible.
When I checked a few months ago, going from 5.0Ah to 6.0Ah resulted in a greater than 20% jump in price.
Considering the prices above, Milwaukee’s 5.0Ah battery pack is “the sweet spot,” at least if you need two. With Bosch, curiously, the 6.0Ah pack is on sale, making it lower priced than the 5.0Ah pack. It seems that this might just be at Amazon, but it doesn’t look to be a fly by night price.
Looking at the Bosch pricing, it would come down to 4.0Ah for $75 each if buying a 2 pack, or 6.0Ah for $90 each individually. That’s a 20% increase in price for 50% greater capacity.
Even if a 6.0Ah pack might not last as long as a 4.0Ah or 5.0Ah battery pack under frequent heavy demand use – and again, this is my spec-based belief and not something I have proven or disproven – the pricing is hard to argue against.
Recently, Bosch announced new connected tool details, and also announced a new 18V 6.3Ah EneRacer battery pack. That makes my understanding, assumptions, and doubt about 6.0Ah battery packs a little more believable. Would they go through all the effort to bump up battery capacity by just 5%? I doubt it. But I’m assuming that by going with a different form factor than 18650, they were able to spec out higher rated cells that more closely match up to or exceed the specs of the cells used in 4.0Ah and 5.oAh battery packs.
I talked more about battery cell tech last year in a post: 18V Batteries are Now at 6.0Ah – How Much Higher Can They Go?
Let’s also take a look at Dewalt high capacity battery pack pricing:
- 3.0Ah: $99 for 2, or ~$50 each (via Amazon)
- 4.0Ah: $129 for 2, or ~$65 each (via Amazon)
- 5.0Ah: $150 for 2, or ~$75 each (via Amazon)
The 5.0Ah 2-pack is often over-sold, speaking to its popularity.
Going from 3.0Ah to 4.0Ah, you get around 33% more capacity for an around 30% higher price. Going from 4.0Ah to 5.0Ah, you get 25% greater capacity for an around 15-16% higher price. From 3.0Ah to 5.0Ah, the difference is around 67% higher capacity for about 50% higher price.
That’s what you want to see, and is what you also see with Milwaukee. Bosch’s 6.0Ah pricing, which is higher than their 5.0Ah pricing, is different from what I expected.
If you ask me, I’d say that 5.0Ah battery packs are the way to go, at least as far as higher capacity packs are concerned. I haven’t done the math recently about compact battery packs recently, but I think I would go for 2.0Ah or 2.5Ah packs, whichever had better pricing in a 2-pack.
Have you wondered why brands haven’t come out with 3.0Ah compact battery packs yet? Well, Milwaukee is coming out with M12 compact 3.0Ah and XC 6.0Ah battery packs, but I don’t think I have seen 18V compact 3.0Ah battery packs.
I think part of the reason is the confusion it would create between compact and higher capacity battery packs with the same 3.0Ah capacity, but also because the 3.0Ah cells on the market that I’ve seen have lesser ratings compared to 2.0Ah and 2.5Ah cells. Costs could also be a factor.
With all that said, is there a battery size that you’ve found to have higher bang for the buck? I don’t think anyone will argue in favor of 3.0Ah battery packs, and from what I’ve seen the jump from 4.0Ah to 5.0Ah makes sense unless you’re on a tighter budget.
I didn’t touch upon Makita’s battery pricing because they’re harder to follow. In addition to single and double battery packs, they now have packs with built-in battery fuel gauges, and not all dealers carry all the different SKUs, resulting in hard-to-compare figures.
Metabo has moved to higher capacity cells, and Bosch is moving to higher capacity cells in their EneRacer pack. It will be interesting to see which direction Dewalt, Hitachi, Makita, Milwaukee, and other professional brands will be moving in.
In the meantime, I’m sticking to my opinion that 5.0Ah is the best to buy right now.