Return a Car Battery: Policies for Different Stores

If you ask my mom, you can return just about anything to the store – or at least try – she’s returned everything from watermelons to gift cards.  

If you purchase an item from the store and it ends up being broken, rotten or not the correct size, you can usually take it back. But there are some things you can’t return to the store. Are car batteries one of those things?

You can return a car battery to most stores under a few circumstances. If the battery is physically damaged when you buy it, it doesn’t hold a charge, it’s the incorrect size or the store’s assistant gave you the wrong size – these all qualify for a return trip and cashback.

Let’s explore why you would need to return a battery, how you can prevent a return before you leave and what some of the largest battery dealers have for warranty/return policies.

mechanic returning a car battery

Can You Return a Car Battery?

Yes, you can return your car battery to a store. Each store has different policies for returning car batteries. If something is wrong with it we strongly recommend you take it back.

But why would you want to return a battery to a store? Below we’ve listed a few reasons why you might have to take a battery back to the store. In each case, it’s important that you hang on to your original receipt to make the return process go smoothly.

Incorrect size

Incorrect battery size is more dangerous than it sounds. Ill-fitting battery size can overheat your alternator and shorten its lifespan. 

Some cars may approve batteries from a different group size, but it is better to avoid this as much as possible. Therefore, if you accidentally get an incorrect size for your car battery, you will need to change it, return it and replace it.

Most of the time you can’t get a refund in cash for incorrect sizing – they’ll usually do an exchange without question – especially if it’s only a few days of purchase and if you’re returning an unused battery.

Warranty Item- Battery Doesn’t Work

If your new battery doesn’t work when you buy it, you can return it to the store. You’ll know you have a dead battery if you connect it and it doesn’t have any, or enough, power or if it won’t hold a charge. If the battery sat on the shelf a long time before being sold, it may have shortened its life.

You can usually take it back and exchange it for a replacement battery or a warranty. But if it’s a unique size or out of stock they may just give you a cash refund.

However, this is only applicable if it stops working within the warranty time frame. Therefore, this condition only applies to warranty items.

Many stores (as you’ll see below) will have two-part warranties on many items, including Lead-Acid Batteries. The store will have a standard “warranty period” that is usually within 60-90 days of purchase.

The second warranty is often from the battery manufacturer itself who may offer a warranty period for the battery to guarantee that it functions properly.

Many battery brands, like Walmart’s EverStart Maxx, will have a warranty period that can be more than three years (plus two years prorated replacement warranty)! So it makes sense to understand your warranty – it can help save you money and give you some recourse if you have a history of buying bad batteries.

We did a full battery warranty deep dive that is worth checking out.

Wrong Battery Order

Sometimes, you get the wrong order in the delivery. Making sure the correct battery is used in your car is essential for the proper functioning of your car. So, in such cases, you should return the car battery.

Damaged or Battery

I moved out of my house just after I graduated high school and my first “real job” was at the distribution center for one of the largest auto parts chains in the U.S.

My work center was batteries and oil. That means I pulled all the restocking orders for all the batteries and oil that were sold in the retail stores in the region. Every day I would lift cases of oil and boxed batteries off the shelf and load them onto pallets.

I dropped both many times. I ruined a few and I know for a fact I sent a few batteries out the door with internal or unspotted damage.

If you receive your car battery with any of the following defects, it qualifies to be categorized as a “damaged battery”:

  • Broken internal plates due to corrosion and vibration.
  • Damage to the battery case
  • Damage to either of the terminals (posts)

All these conditions would require you to return your automotive battery to the retailer you got it from. However, each retailer is at liberty to create its return policy for car batteries and every product they sell.

This freedom, therefore, means that what is considered as damage can vary from store to store. How and when you should return the car battery will also be dependent on these arbitrary policies. 

So, to comprehensively answer this question (of whether or not you can return a car battery), we will need to understand the return policies at the store we purchase from.

Here are some of the car battery return policies from well-known stores. The more reputable the store, the more reliable it is and hence better car battery return policies.

Walmart Battery Return Policy

Your local Walmart Auto Care Center (also known as the Walmart Tire & Lube Express or TLE) accepts car battery returns within 90 days of the purchase of a faulty car battery. You would need the original packaging and receipt to perform the exchange.

What are the conditions Walmart allows for the return of a car battery?

  • The battery only has a 75% charge. This can be easily discovered by looking at the voltage: 12.45V is the corresponding voltage for 75% charge.
  • The car battery does not fit your car’s battery mount.
  • The car battery is not holding charge.

Also, you can return your car battery to Walmart if it is simply not working. If you cannot come up with a clear diagnosis as to why it won’t work, then that is a good enough reason. You don’t even have to invoke the battery warranty as a reason – you just don’t want it. That’s one of my favorite reasons to shop at Walmart.

If you do not have your receipt, you will not be given cash; instead, you will receive in-store credit.

Walmart does not offer additional, or extra, warranties; they simply apply the warranty that comes with the car battery. Usually, a car battery comes with two warranties:

  • A free replacement warranty followed by 
  • a prorated replacement warranty

The free replacement warranty precedes the prorated replacement battery warranty.

To return the battery you can take it to the Walmart Auto Care Center or the Customer Service desk. Most stores with a TLE will have a separate entrance with their own check-out/check-in counter.

It’s usually best to start there because many stores have a policy against carrying corrosive/dangerous items, like lead-acid batteries, across the store.

AutoZone Battery Return Policy

AutoZone’s battery warranty lasts from the day you purchase it to the day stated on the original receipt, meaning it will vary. AutoZone says that the warranty on the receipt expires when you sell or transfer your vehicle.

As mentioned above, the warranty that comes with a car battery has two warranties. According to AutoZone policy, if a device is returned during the second warranty period, a credit towards the new battery will be made upon return. Credit is calculated as such:

(Remaining Warranty Months/Total Warranty Months) x Original Price

However, this warranty does not apply if the car battery is defective due to:

  • Improper installation 
  • Stationary power usage
  • Faulty parts 
  • Low fluid levels and
  • Abuse from careless handling

It also does not apply to various forms of misuse: for example, using non-marine batteries in marine applications. 

Oreilly’s Battery Return Policy

The warranty begins on the date of purchase and expires on the date written on the receipt. The same rules for the free replacement warranty mentioned above apply at Oreilly’s.

Oreilly’s comprehensive rules may seem long, but this also means they offer one of the most secure battery return policies. A summary of their list is here:

This warranty will not cover batteries that are faulty due to: 

  • Misuse
  • Low fluid levels
  • Improper installation or 
  • Freezing

This warranty also does not cover:

  • Discharged batteries fixed by recharging
  • Batteries damaged due to neglect
  • Labor costs for installation and removal of the battery
  • Batteries that are found to be smaller than what is recommended by the car’s manufacturer

Oreilly’s also says that the warrant is offered to the original purchaser of the car battery; any secondary purchasers are not eligible.

Costco Battery Return Policy 

Costco offers a limited 90-day warranty. If your car battery has any defect in the following areas, then you can return it to any Costco Wholesale Warehouse, excluding those in Puerto Rico:

  • Defects in the material used to make the battery
  • Defects in the structure of the battery

Once returned, the car battery will either be replaced or refunded. However, what is refunded is exclusive of fees and taxes. There are more comprehensive regulations, but you will rarely need to worry about them.

Sam’s Club Battery Return Policy 

An automotive battery’s warranty is only valid for the length of time stated on the label. 

Sam’s Club’s members will get varying times depending on whether the battery is Commercial, Garden, Lawn, or Marine. However, these warranties are only redeemed if the battery is tested at Sam’s Club and proven defective.

This warranty does not cover installation errors or misapplication.

Sam’s Club only calculates the warranty from the original date of purchase; it does not consider current transaction dates.

How to Ensure You Don’t Have to Make a Return Trip

We had to get a new battery for my son’s project car recently. Fortunately, we didn’t have to return it after we got home and tried it – because we followed a few simple steps to make sure we got the “right one” at the time of purchase.

  • Get the correct size – before we left the store we made sure that we had the right size for our vehicle. That includes buying from the correct size group as well as physically taking a measurement.
  • Inspect for Damage – we inspected the new battery for any signs of leakage, any cracks and most importantly we checked the posts to ensure they weren’t pushed down or loose.
  • Ask to have it tested – If you’re at all suspicious that the battery you’re about to buy is actually a new, and unused battery, you should have the battery tested before you leave the store. You don’t want to buy someone else’s returned battery!
  • Verify that you’re walking out with the right one – as mentioned earlier, you want to buy unused car batteries when you’re buying from one of these big stores. So check to make sure you got the right battery when you leave. If an employee loads the battery or installs it for you – verify that it’s the correct one before you drive off. It will save you hassle later. But again, keep the original receipt just in case.

If you have to return your battery for any reason, you may ask yourself “what do they do about core charges?” – that’s a valid question and you may find a great answer in our Core Charges Deep Dive article.

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