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The Best AGM Battery No One Knows About

Back in the summer of 2013, we sang the praises of the Drakon labeled Pure Lead Acid AGM battery. It was indeed among the best AGM batteries in the world and went head-to-head with the undisputed king-of-the-hill EnerSys and their Odyssey Extreme battery. However, after some mergers and acquisitions, the brand owner, Universal Power Group, restructured and decided to consolidate labels creating greater continuity for their organization. The Drakon name no longer exists and has been transported into the very popular Kinetik battery family. Incidentally, Kinetik Power now has a full line of batteries for powersports, car audio, backup systems and even consumer alkaline and button cell batteries. Their HC-PRO series still utilizes the thin plate pure lead AGM technology first introduced under the Drakon label.

I say all this because there is a very distinguished battery factory in the heart of this great nation that produced the inner workings of the Drakon battery and very few consumers know about them. Their facility is state-of-the-art and the envy of the battery world. They established their presence in 2000 and focused initially on the telecom industry. They then began to private label AGM pure lead dual purpose automotive batteries for various multi-nationals and big box stores as well as for other independently owned and operated battery brands. But a couple years ago, they had an epiphany.

Without much fanfare, NorthStar Battery Company began placing the NorthStar name on their deep cycle marine and automotive batteries. They started marketing their line direct to consumers and businesses. They obviously still private label for companies, and still dominate in their core market. They recognized the world needed to know they truly are the leading manufacturer of all types of sealed AGM thin plate batteries. No longer did they wish to reside in the shadow of Enersys.

The Best AGM Battery Contenders

Optima Blue Top BatteryMany people trumpet the spiral celled OPTIMA as the best AGM battery. They have an eye catching unique shape and employ a color scheme that is almost a brand unto itself: RED Top, YELLOW Top, and BLUE Top. OPTIMA batteries are loved by many people. They are widely distributed and spend a lot of money on marketing. There is no doubt they have some great aspects such as being one of the most resistant to vibration damage. The tightly bound spiral cells are extremely vibration resistant perhaps making them the preeminent choice. But when it comes to overall power density for traditional BCI Group sizing’s they lag behind the industry titans.

Odyssey Group 31 BbatteryAs alluded to earlier, Odyssey Batteries (Enersys) are widely acknowledged to be the best AGM sealed lead acid battery available. The core of their business grew from supplying these pure lead AGM batteries to power the US military’s rolling stock. Their advantage has always been the use of pure lead ingots vs. utilizing some sort of lead alloy. There is no disputing that the Odyssey battery lineup is indeed amazing, but they can no longer claim dominance alone!

NorthStar Best AGM BatteryLike Odyssey, NorthStar uses 99.997% pure lead to manufacturer their batteries. The lead is compressed into a reinforced ABS plastic shell to increase power density and prevent case cracking. The industrial and commercial users are still the primary focus as they realize the value in lowering their overall cost of acquisition. When you calculate the total cost of ownership inclusive of purchase price, labor for maintenance and replacement, and costs associated with a vehicle being out of service, corporations quickly realize how inexpensive these pure lead AGM batteries are and see the savings go straight to the bottom line.

Back in August we asked the question “Who Makes the Best Group 34/78 Battery?” The three brands talked about today were on that list. The analyses looked at each battery from different viewpoints to help shine some light on some overlooked factors. Today we will compare the BCI Group 31 marine battery for only these three top brands.

Comparing OPTIMA, Odyssey and NorthStar Group 31 Marine Batteries

Best BCI Group 31 AGM Marine Battery Comparison
Part NumberNSB-AGM-31M8052-161 or D31M31M-PC2150
Dimensions - Inches12.91 x 6.77 x 9.7812.81 x 6.56 x 9.3813.00 x 6.80 x 9.39
Capacity 20 Hour103 Ah75 Ah100 Ah
Reserve Capacity220 Min155 Min205 Min
CA / MCA1370 CA1125 CA1370 CA
CCA at 0°F1150 CCA900 CCA1150 CCA
Approx. Weight Lbs75.0 Lbs59.8 Lbs77.8 Lbs
Warranty36-48 Mo.12-36 Mo.36-48 Mo.
Retail Cost*$379.99$314.99$403.36

*The retail cost is taken from the manufacturers online store. Those prices may or may not include freight charges.

The side-by-side AGM battery comparison reveals some interesting observations. OPTIMA lags behind in top line metrics because, as the weight hints at, it cannot produce enough output with the limited shape. The cylindrical shaped cells do not use up all the available space of a rectangle meaning it has less active material in comparison with its competitors. But in relation to a conventional marine battery it would be preferred.

The Odyssey battery and North Star battery in Group 31 seem to go tit-for-tat matching each other's metrics except for two. The Reserve Capacity (RC) and Amp Hour (AH) rating are both slightly higher for NorthStar. So the question was asked: Who makes the best AGM battery? Based on these observations and the price the manufacturers are selling the batteries for we have placed NorthStar battery ahead of Odyssey as the best AGM battery brand in the world. The slightly higher RC and AH with all else being equal made the price the ultimate tipping point. Two incredible brands making dual purpose starting / deep cycle batteries right here in the USA!

If you are interested in purchasing one of these featured best AGM marine batteries they can quickly be accessed by clicking on the image in the top left corner of this blog page. Feel free to submit comments or questions.

  • steve

    How do Lifeline AGM batteries compare?

  • willis fath

    Optima is the best! They can be mounted upside down or sideways and not leak! Spiral cells is said to be the best idea out there today! Optima is the only batteries I use in my vehicles period! They are not cheap but from the looks of it they are a bit less pricey than their competitors!

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  • Crypto Gigolo

    Beware of the Northstar / X2 battery. The warranty is a total scam! I purchased one with a 4-year warranty from Battery and Bulbs Plus however, when I returned it for warranty purposes, they stated it had under 10 volts so they did not want to honor the warranty. What good is a battery warranty on a battery that can be invalidated for low-voltage? If a battery did not have low voltage there would be no reason to warranty it. Email me for more details if you are interested Dan:

  • Steven Adams (Fire Rescue Kits

    2000 Crown Vic Police Interceptor running Red-Top Optima had it for 2 years so far and it's powers everything full 47inch Abrams Led Light Bar with takedowns and alley spot lights , Abrams 360 headlight lens hide aways front and rear and a Dual - Band Radio 75watts VHF / 55watts UHF + Vehicle Tablet Computer and Go-Pro Dash camera system

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  • Paul Weber

    Hi, I agree. A long term test is very important. I work overseas where any good quality things must come by sea container and take 6months + to get here. I have had 2 Optima yellow tops in my Land Cruiser for the last 4+ years, one of which the vehicle just sat with no activity. I have had no troubles to speak of to date. My driving consists largely of driving on pot-hole riddled pavement (or dirt holes with intermittent pavement ;) )so they have experienced a lot of physical abuse. The ambient daytime highs here are over 40C 6 months of the year (with under-hood temps far beyond that) and they have held up fine. I cannot speak for the other brands as I have not had the opportunity to get any. The warranties look better however that is meaningless when you are in Africa! The just have to work... no going back. It reminds me of when I worked for a place where we sold Jet tools. They had a lifetime over the counter warranty. We tried to get the mechanics to switch as Snap-On's warranty took time for us to get the parts to repair the tools. The mechanics said, "sounds good but Snap-On tools don't break" Actual bottom line was less down time due to actual quality vs warranty/specs.
    Just my 2c worth.

  • Abbey Kroeter

    Though nothing is 100% trustworthy when it comes to reviews, because that's just the way life is when it comes to rating products made by imperfect beings, I very much appreciate the straight-forward and comprehensive comparison this article shares, as most comparisons out there drivel on and on about things circumstantial, subjective to objective and back, and maddeningly spend exhaustive amounts of information we just can't use in a practical situation. The nerds have taken over.
    I am a nerd too, a biology nerd that also happens to love off-roading for wildlife photography with a background that included a grandfather that was a master mechanic-- this does not mean I know anything about fixing an automobile, but it does mean that I am very picky and somewhat observant when it comes to finding the truth about what's actually wrong or right with quality products and repair.... and if it was truly an improvement. I won't forget about it either.
    I rather see a long term test included, so a line-up of the abilities of the batteries is nice to see, but many products today, whether a dishwasher, battery, or plumbing parts, often have new-age features and gadgetry influenced by the game-boy generation that just doesn't work after only a couple years. The product may be able to send a message about its feelings to your phone, boys, but I rather not have to think about repairs, adjustments and applications for once.

    So let us see a comparison after 2 years of abuse, shall we? Or maybe even stage some crazy tests of your own? Throw those batteries in freezers, tumble them, leave them in Death Valley for a month, all under strict safety levels of course. Run them down and re-charge them, or don't.... and see how they perform. You might have to test at least three of each, to have a hint of consistency from the factory. I know that if we wanted to test that consistency with any meaning it would probably demand hundreds tested, but I'm still interested in more than just the numbers supplied by the companies.
    Good job so far though-- the clarity you offered is miles beyond what I usually read. Thank you!