Are electric cars worth it?

When weighing the pros and cons of buying an electric car, consider factors like the overall cost, how and where you'll charge the vehicle, convenience, your driving experience, and the environment. Your finances, where you live, and your driving needs will also influence whether it's the right time to buy or lease an electric vehicle or wait.

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Should I buy an electric car?

Before deciding to purchase an electric vehicle (EV), consider key factors such as the overall cost, how and where you'll be charging it, the vehicle's range, and the driving experience. The car's effect on the environment might also be a consideration.

How much does an electric car cost?

Electric vehicles generally have a higher price tag than gas-powered ones, but the price has been dropping in recent years. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average cost of a new vehicle in the U.S. was nearly $41,000 in April 2021, while the average cost for an EV was $51,000, not including tax incentives and rebates.

Other factors influence the cost of buying and owning an EV, including:

  • Rebates & tax incentives: Federal, state, local, and utility incentives can lower an electric vehicle's overall cost.
  • Fueling costs: Prices at the pump vary, but an American driver spends $2,000 to $4,000 on gas each year. A new home charging station costs $1,000 to $2,500, including installation, while charging up at home runs about $500 annually. Plus, using a public charging station tends to cost less than filling up at a gas station.
  • Insurance rates: Since EVs tend to cost more than gas-powered cars, coverage for physical damage may also cost more.
  • Maintenance needs: EVs require less maintenance, which could save you more in the long run.

If purchasing a new electric car is outside of your budget, leasing one may be more affordable. Some leasing companies even pass on the savings from their tax credit to their customers. Buying a used EV could be an option too since most depreciate faster than gas-powered cars. Learn about the difference between hybrid cars and electric cars and the cost to insure an electric vehicle.

Pro tip:

Compare the ownership costs and emissions for up to eight vehicles at once — including EVs — using the U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Cost Calculator.

How does charging an electric car work?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are three levels of EV charging equipment. Level 1 uses a 120-volt outlet and adds 2 to 5 miles of range per hour. This is the same type of power outlet you can find in your home. Level 2 uses 208- or 240-volt service and adds 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging time. Most public charging stations use Level 2 charging equipment. You can install a Level 2 charger at home, though you'll need to hire an electrician for the installation if your home isn't already wired for it.

Level 3 chargers, also known as DC fast chargers, offer the fastest charging times, ranging from 60 to 80 miles for every 20 minutes of charging time. Level 3 charging is only available from public charging stations. Learn more about how to charge an electric car.

What's an electric car's range?

"Range anxiety" refers to a common concern over how far an electric vehicle can go on a single charge. While EVs tend to have a shorter range than gas-powered vehicles, their range has been expanding. Most now have at least a 200-mile range. Cold weather can reduce an electric vehicle's range, so where you'd be driving matters too. Temperatures in the single digits may cause a significant drop in range compared to the advertised range. EVs tend to charge more slowly in cold weather as well.

How's the driving experience?

Electric vehicles lack engine noise, so the ride is quiet. If you think you'll miss the noise, some electric vehicle manufacturers have an option to add engine sounds. Acceleration is also much faster for an EV than for a gas-powered one, and their lower center of gravity makes them more stable.

What are the environmental effects of electric cars?

One of the potential reasons to buy an electric car and a benefit of an electric car is that it doesn't produce tailpipe emissions. In contrast, a typical passenger combustion engine vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Gas-powered vehicles also produce the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide.

Overall lifecycle emissions are more complicated. Manufacturing an electric vehicle involves extracting and processing minerals for the batteries, which generates emissions. The point in an electric vehicle's lifetime when a gasoline car's emissions surpass the EV's varies. The source of electricity used to charge the vehicle makes a difference. In the U.S., coal-fired plants produce 23% of our electricity. However, a recent lifecycle analysis found that an EV charged from a coal-fired grid would contribute fewer carbon emissions than a comparable gasoline car.

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