How Long Can a Car Sit Before the Battery Dies, Explained

Since the pandemic, many people are driving less. According to Metromile data, fewer miles were driven in 2020 and early 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. As more people ditch the commute and work from home, opt to take public transportation, or return to travel, cars are parked and staying put. While that may not seem like an issue, it could lead to a dead battery. Find out how long a vehicle can sit before the battery dies and best practices to keep your battery well maintained. 

How Long Can a Car Sit Before the Battery Dies? | Metromile

How long can a car sit before the battery dies? 

If you’re not driving that much or thinking of taking a vacay longer than two weeks, you want to know how long can a car sit before the battery dies? The answer can vary depending on your car battery age, type of vehicle, and the weather. 

Typically, your car can sit about four weeks to two months without driving before the battery dies. 

The reason your car can sit only for so long before it dies is the fact that your car battery is in use even when you’re not behind the wheel. For example, even when your car is off, your car battery is powering the dashboard clock, alarm, and radio. Also, if you accidentally leave the lights on, you can find yourself with a dead battery the next day. 

This can be referred to as “parasitic drain” or “parasitic draw.” According to RepairPal, “parasitic draw or drain is a term for an electrical component consuming electricity when it should not, even after it and the vehicle has been shut off.”

On top of parasitic drain affecting battery efficiency, how well your battery works  can change based on the weather. If it’s extremely hot or near freezing, your battery may not be as efficient. 

If you go without driving for too long, it can impact your battery due to your car battery’s symbiotic relationship with the alternator. Your car’s alternator ensures your battery stays charged, and everything runs smoothly. 

According to Matthews Tire, “The alternator, kicked in by the start of your battery, generates electricity to continuously power your battery. When the two are working properly, they achieve the perfect combination of power, creating a circuit of electricity that feeds itself for long-sustaining performance.”​​

When to change your car battery 

“How long does a car battery last without driving?” is a common question. As noted above, you’re probably safe for four weeks to two months; however, it can depend. 

But what if you come back from a month-long getaway or haven’t moved your car for weeks and your car won’t start? It could be a dead battery or alternator. In some cases, it can be due to old age, and your battery may need to be replaced. According to AutoZone, your car battery typically needs to be replaced every four to six years. 

How to keep a car battery charged when not in use

Keeping your car in the garage or out on the street for a long period of time isn’t great for the car battery. Driving is kind of like a use-it-or-lose-it situation, and without using your battery, it can deteriorate. But if you’re in a situation where you can’t drive your vehicle for some time or can’t get a friend to help out, what can you do? Here’s how to keep a car battery charged when not in use.

Remove your car battery 

If you plan on going a while without driving your vehicle, your best bet is likely to remove your car battery. This can help ensure that it lasts longer and doesn’t drain as fast.  To make sure it’s well maintained and in good condition, store the car battery in a dry place with temps between 40 to 60 degrees. Consider purchasing a battery box to keep it safe and in optimal condition. 

When you remove your car battery, it could last between six weeks and six months. Ideally, you want to charge the battery before the three-month mark to make sure it continues to work properly. You don’t have to wait that long though; it’s best to regularly and frequently charge your car battery. 

Get a battery maintainer 

Want to figure out how to keep a car battery charged when not in use without removing the car battery? In that case, you may want to opt for a battery maintainer. A battery maintainer provides enough charge to keep your battery going but will turn off when the battery is fully charged. It’ll re-activate and charge again if battery levels drop to a certain point. When shopping for a battery maintainer, look for one that has the same voltage as your car battery. 

The bottom line 

If you’re planning a long trip or just aren’t driving much these days, it’s normal to wonder how long can a car sit before the battery dies? As noted above, it can vary based on your vehicle, but it can last about a month or two. If you can’t drive your car within that period as part of your car maintenance, take steps to make sure the battery stays charged like removing it or getting a battery maintainer. Having a set of jumper cables can help as well. 

If you’re concerned about how long a car battery lasts without driving, you may be a low-mileage driver. Not driving very often could score you an affordable rate with pay-per-mile coverage. Why pay more, when you could simply pay for the miles you drive along with a low base rate? Find out your prospective rate and get a free quote with Metromile. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.