Power When You Need It: Best On-Board Battery Chargers Reviewed

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Rods, reels, line, and lures may be sexy, but the humble battery charger keeps you fishing, day after day. Designed to provide the power you need to stay in the game, they’re an essential tool that every angler quickly learns to respect and appreciate.

Most bass boats come with a charger and the option of upgrades, and occasionally, these long-lasting electronics do wear out. So if you’re considering a new boat or an upgrade, or if it’s just time for a new charger, you probably have questions.

What’s the right amperage for you? How many banks do you need? And which brands can you trust? Yes–we’ll be talking name brands. We’ll do this for a solid reason: chargers are essential equipment. The better your charger, the better your batteries will perform, and the longer they’ll last.

We’ve got answers, and below, we provide a thorough, fact-based discussion of on-board chargers, including reviews of some of our favorites.

Quick glance at the best marine battery chargers available today:

Check out our guide for the Best Marine Batteries – Dual Use, Starting, and Deep Cycle Batteries Explained and Reviewed

On-Board Charging Basics

In your car or truck, the alternator runs enough to keep your starting battery fully charged. But if you’ve ever had your alternator fail, you know exactly what happens next: your battery quickly dies as it’s drained by constant output.

For most freshwater fishing, your outboard is huffing away only a fraction of the time you’re on the water. And though modern outboards have an alternator, when they’re not running, neither is it.

Think about it: unless your running to or from your fishing spots, you’re drawing power that the outboard isn’t replacing. The rest of the day is spent using battery power, and without a quality charger, that day won’t end well!

Banks

This term can be confusing because it’s used by anglers in two different ways. A “bank” of batteries is a group of connected batteries–say, three 12v batteries running a 36v trolling motor.

But when talking about chargers, a “bank” is a single battery.

Chargers are commonly offered in 1, 2, 3, and 4 bank models.

You should select a charger with a number of banks that matches your total number of batteries, including your starting battery.

Amperage and Recovery Time

The deeper you discharge your batteries, the longer they’ll take to recharge. But another important factor governing recovery time is the amperage rating–per bank–of your charger.

Simply put, the higher the amps, the faster the recharging–all other things being equal.

If you’re a recreational angler who makes a trip or two a month, a slow recovery time might be just fine for you. But a tournament angler who needs a quick turnaround needs a much more powerful recharger.

What We Look for When Considering an On-Board Battery Charger

Size

This is easy to overlook, but your battery charger needs to fit!

Carefully measure the space where you’ll put your charger–and make sure your new model can squeeze in.

Automatic Temperature Compensation

As the mercury rises, batteries can overheat while charging, potentially crippling them or ruining them altogether.

Battery chargers with automatic temperature compensation adjust to the ambient temperature, metering power to keep your batteries cooler.

Low-Line Voltage Compensation

If you plug your boat in at home with a quality extension cord, there’s little to worry about. But if you’re fishing for multiple days and need to use what the dock has to offer, you’ll often find that too little voltage is supplied to your charger for it to work properly.

Some chargers include special low-line voltage compensation, effectively remedying this problem.

Smart Charging

Not all chargers are designed for more advanced battery types like gel, AGM, and lithium-ion.

  • Digital – Digital chargers are often compatible with AGM and gel batteries, as well as older flooded-cell tech. But they can’t be customized for different battery types, for instance, if you’re running a wet-cell starter battery and a three-bank set of AGMs for your trolling motor.
  • Precision – Precision chargers cost a bit more than their digital alternatives, but they allow you to select the battery type for each bank, ensuring maximum performance and battery life.
  • Lithium-Ion – Lithium-ion batteries require specialized chargers, and if you’re running one or more of these high-tech batteries, it’s best to contact the manufacturer for recommendations.

Distributed Charging

Some on-board chargers don’t offer distributed charging. That means that if it’s supplying 10 amps per bank to three banks, when one or more batteries are fully charged, it can’t shunt extra power to the one that’s not.

By contrast, distributed charging allows for extra power where it’s needed, leading to faster recovery times.

Multi-Stage Charging

Modern chargers tend to offer multi-stage charging. They assess a battery’s power level and select the best option to charge or maintain it. This smart tech leads to better performance and longer battery life, and it’s not something we’d skip.

Best Marine Battery Charger Reviews

Minn Kota Precision On-Board Charger

Minn Kota 1834600 Precision On-Board Charger, MK 460pc (4 Bank x 15 Amps)

Model MK 460PC MK 440 PC MK 345PC MK 330 PC MK 318 PC MK 230PC
Banks 4 4 3 3 3 2
Amps/Bank 15 10 15 10 6 15
Total Amps 60 40 45 30 18 30
RT 3-5 hrs. 4-6 hrs. 3-5 hrs. 4-6 hrs. 10-12 hrs. 5-4 hrs.
Size 14.75 x 9.25 x 3 9.25 x 10.5 x 3 11 x 9.25 x 3 9.25 x 8.25 x 3 9.25 x 8.25 x 3 7.63 x 9.25 x 3

Salt-water approved: Yes
Battery types supported: Wet/flooded cell, AGM, and gel
Multi-stage charging: Yes
Distributed charging: Yes
Low-line voltage compensation: Yes
Automatic temperature compensation: Yes

Minn Kota’s chargers are simply legendary, and with the possible exception of Dual Pro, the most trusted choice on the water.

The MK precision series is a top-end, no-holds-barred choice for the serious angler. Whether you need to be on the water again in just hours, or can wait till the morning, there’s a model that fits your needs.

Offering 2, 3, and 4 bank systems, you’ll find all the bells and whistles: automatic temperature compensation, low-line voltage compensation, and distributed charging being the most significant. What all this tech adds up to is almost unbeatable performance whatever your demands, as well as improved battery life.

Given just how expensive AGM and gel batteries can be, it’s worth considering a top-flight charging system like the MK precision series. Especially if you run more than one battery style–say, a wet-cell starting battery and a bank of AGMs for your trolling motor–the ability to customize your charging is well worth the price.

Pros:

  • Full-featured, top-end charging system
  • Excellent range of RTs
  • Ideal for anglers running more than one kind of battery

Cons:

  • Not bargain-priced

Minn Kota Digital On-Board Charger

MinnKota MK 106D On-Board Battery Charger (1 Bank, 6 Amps)

Model MK 106D MK 210D MK 220D MK 315D MK 330D MK 440PC
Banks 1 2 2 3 3 4
Amps/Bank 6 5 10 5 10 10
Total Amps 6 10 20 15 30 40
RT 10-12 hrs. 10-12 hrs. 4-6 hrs. 10-12 hrs. 4-6 hrs. 4-6 hrs.
Size 8.75 x 4.75 x 3 11.5 x 7.5 x 4 13.5 x 7.5 x 4 12.5 x 7.5 x 4 16.5 x 7.5 x 4 11.75 x 6.75 x 8

Salt-water approved: Yes
Battery types supported: Wet-cell and AGM
Multi-stage charging:  Yes
Distributed charging: No
Low-line voltage compensation: No
Automatic temperature compensation: Yes

Minn Kota’s digital charger is an excellent choice for anglers who need to balance performance and price. Delivering the tech you need–but nothing flashy–these chargers are a get-it-done option that makes a lot of sense.

Supporting wet-cell and AGM, but not gel, batteries, the MK digital series promises automatic multi-stage charging and temperature compensation. Both features enhance battery performance and service life, critical concerns on any boat.

And with bank options ranging from 1 to 4, this is the charger of choice when you’re running a single battery in a small boat. As legions of fisherman can attest, it won’t let you down!

Lagging behind the precision series in high-end RTs, if blazing recharge times are something you need, you’ll want to fork out the extra cash for the higher-end charger.

Pros:

  • Provides the features you need without pricey extras
  • Excellent range of bank options
  • Ideal for anglers who need a performance/price balance

Cons:

  • Still not cheap
  • Slower RTs than the high-end precision series

Dual Pro Professional Series On-Board Charger

Dual Pro 15 Amp/Bank Professional Series 3 Bank Charger

Model PS1 PS2 PS3 PS4
Banks 1 2 3 4
Amps/Bank 15 15 15 15
Total Amps 15 30 45 60
RT 3-5 hrs. 3-5 hrs. 3-5 hrs. 3-5 hrs.
Size 8.25 x 6.38 x 5 8.25 x 9.5 x 6 8.25 x 13 x 6 8.25 x 15.78 x 7.25

Salt-water approved: Yes
Battery types supported: Wet-cell and AGM
Multi-stage charging: Yes
Distributed charging: No\
Low-line voltage compensation: No
Automatic temperature compensation: Yes

If there’s a serious competitor for Minn Kota, it’s Dual Pro. Indeed, many anglers swear by DP chargers, and one selling point is that they’re the only system that can be repaired should it fail. With all the rest, the only choice is warranty replacement or buying a new one.

The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is certainly true of chargers, and at first glance, you may wonder how Dual Pro justifies the price tag on the Professional Series. There’s no option for distributed charging and no low-line voltage compensation.

So what gives?

The answer is simple: blisteringly fast RTs, holding steady for each model at an incredible 3 to 5 hours. For tournament anglers, that’s the stuff of dreams, and only the highest-end Minn Kotas can keep up–and then only in 3- and 4-bank models.

Pros:

  • Provides the features you need
  • Excellent range of bank options
  • Ideal for anglers who need ultra-fast RTs
  • Can be repaired rather than replaced

Cons:

  • Expensive

Cabela’s Pro Series Onboard Charger

Model PS6 PS8 PS12 PS20 PS20
Banks 1 2 2 2 3
Amps/Bank 6 4 6 10 6.67
Total Amps 6 8 12 20 20
RT 10-12 hrs. 10-12 hrs. 10-12 hrs. 10-12 hrs. 10-12 hrs.
Size 7.3 x 7.2 x 2.5 8.4 x 7.2 x 2.5 10 x 7.2 x 2.5” 12.4 x 7.2 x 2.5 12.4 x 7.2 x 2.5

Salt-water approved: Yes
Battery types supported: Wet-cell and AGM
Multi-stage charging: Yes
Distributed charging: Yes
Low-line voltage compensation: No
Automatic temperature compensation: Yes

It’s rumored that Dual Pro produces Cabela’s house-brand charger, the Pro Series. Whatever the truth of that claim, if the price tag on the Minn Kotas or Dual Pros makes your head spin, there’s no better affordable charging system on the market.

To keep prices reasonable, Cabela’s sacrificed amperage but added distributed charging. In the real world, this means that while RTs suffer, even the weakest charger in this line-up has you back on the water overnight.

Supporting both wet-cell and AGM batteries, the Pro Series offers the features that keep your batteries in top-form, season after season, and for budget-minded anglers, these chargers should be an easy choice.

Pros:

  • Budget-priced
  • Provides the features you need
  • Excellent range of bank options
  • Ideal for anglers who tolerate overnight charging

Cons:

  • Long RTs aren’t ideal if you need to be back on the water quickly

NOCO Genius On-Board Charger

NOCO Genius GEN1 10 Amp 1-Bank On-Board Battery Charger

Model Gen 1 Gen 2 Gen 3 Gen 4
Banks 1 2 3 4
Amps/Bank 10 10 10 10
Total Amps 10 20 30 40
RT 4-5 hrs. 4-5 hrs. 4-5 hrs. 4-5 hrs.
Size 8.25 x 6.38 x 5 8.25 x 9.5 x 6 8.25 x 13 x 6 8.25 x 15.78 x 7.25

Salt-water approved: Yes
Battery types supported: Wet-cell, Gel, and AGM
Multi-stage charging: Yes
Distributed charging: No
Low-line voltage compensation: Yes
Automatic temperature compensation: Yes

NOCO’s Genius series chargers are quickly gaining a reputation for flawless function, and they’re creeping up on Dual Pro’s speeds while still delivering low-line voltage compensation. For tournament anglers, that’s a serious issue, and the edge that provides NOCO helps to explain their growing popularity.

Available in 1, 2, 3, and 4 bank models, NOCO’s chargers support wet-cell, AGM, and gel batteries. They also offer the tech needed to keep those batteries in top shape, protecting your investment.

With 4- to 5-hour RTs across the range, a NOCO charger will have you back fishing in no time–at about half the cost of a Dual Pro!

That’s simply incredible–and it’s hard not to recommend a close look at these chargers.

Pros:

  • Amazing price for the performance
  • Top-end features like low-line voltage compensation
  • Excellent range of bank options
  • Ideal for anglers who need ultra-fast RTs

Cons:

  • ???

Final Thoughts

There’s no “best” on-board charger–just the right one for you.

If you’re a serious tournament angler who needs blazing RTs, the Minn Kota precision series, Dual Pro’s Professional Series, and NOCO’s Genius series can have you back on the water before your competition has the battery power to run a trolling motor. That’s an advantage well worth paying for. And depending on the features you need and want, as well as the type of battery you’re running, any of these are awesome choices.

For more relaxed angling, Minn Kota’s digital series and Cabela’s budget-minded Pro Series are well worth a close look. While delivering excellent performance and acceptable RTs, neither will break the bank, helping your bottom line even as they extend the life of your investment in quality batteries.

Whatever your choice, it’s worth investing in a reputable, name-brand charger. When your outboard starts every time, and your trolling motor runs all day, you’ll be glad you did!

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