July 15, 2024

The 4 most important things to consider before buying your first electric car, according to experts

4 min read
The 4 most important things to consider before buying your first electric car, according to experts
The 4 most important things to consider before buying your first electric car, according to experts

The Tesla Model Y.Tesla

  • More drivers than ever are thinking about buying an electric car.

  • Experts say potential buyers should think about where they’ll plug in and whether they qualify for any incentives.

  • Aspiring EV owners should also examine their driving habits before taking the plunge.

You’ve set your sights on the perfect electric car. Maybe it’s a Tesla Model Y, or a Ford F-150 Lightning, or a Hyundai Ioniq 5. You’ve heard that electric vehicles are quick, fun, and kind to the environment, and you’re considering whether to ditch fossil fuels for good.

Join the club: Amid high gas prices and more battery-powered choices than ever, a record number of Americans are considering buying an electric car. In a recent Consumer Reports survey, 71{5be0972a10a00bb621c1a18de1a801d58662e556d02921cebb422beac5e5b2fe} of Americans expressed some interest in going electric.

But taking the plunge isn’t such a simple decision. From where you’ll charge to how much range you need, there are lots of things to consider when trading in your gas-guzzler for an EV, according to car-buying experts.

Charging at home is your best option

The first thing people should consider before going electric is where they’ll plug in, experts told Insider. Although public charging stations are becoming more common, the most convenient approach is to charge at home, which allows owners to wake up each morning to a fully charged battery.

“Yes, there is public charging. But when you’re talking about the day-to-day use of this vehicle, you want to make it easy on yourself,” Jennifer Newman, editor-in-chief at the online car marketplace Cars.com, said.

Charging at home also is also cheaper, Benjamin Preston, an automotive reporter at Consumer Reports, said.

This means EVs are best suited for drivers who have off-street parking with nearby access to electricity. Experts recommend installing Level 2 charging, which uses a higher-voltage connection to increase charging speeds. A Level 2 charger can fully charge an EV in roughly 4-12 hours.

Using a regular, 110-volt household outlet (known as Level 1), that could take days.

But installing home charging can be expensive

The cost and complexity to outfit a garage with Level 2 charging varies greatly. If you already have a 240-volt outlet — the same kind used for a dryer — it may be as simple as plugging in the right charging cord (which can be anywhere from free to several hundred dollars, depending on what’s included with your vehicle and the charging speed you desire.)

Things get more complicated and expensive if you need to upgrade an older electrical panel or extend a connection to a garage. Cars.com installed high-powered Level 2 chargers in six homes and reported costs ranging from around $1,700 to over $9,000. Newman recommends enlisting a licensed electrician to get a handle on the expected costs.

But not everyone needs Level 2 charging to make owning an EV worthwhile.

“Level 1 charging can get you 30-50 miles a day just charging overnight, which is well within the range of what typical Americans drive,” Chris Harto, a policy analyst at Consumer Reports, said.

Consider your driving habits

Having enough range to get around is one of potential EV buyers’ biggest concerns. It even has name: range anxiety.

Before a purchase, Newman recommends that shoppers examine how they typically use their cars, noting if they drive every day and how far they commute. After taking this inventory, buyers may be surprised to find that electric cars offer sufficient range for their needs, Newman, who owns an EV herself, said.

Today’s mainstream electric cars offer anywhere from 150 to 350 miles of range. It’s up to you to decide what’s enough for your lifestyle, keeping in mind that charging on the go can be time consuming and inconsistent, particularly if you don’t own a Tesla and can’t benefit from the company’s expansive charging network. 

You may also want to think about how often you take longer trips that would deplete your EV’s battery and investigate the availability of charging plugs along the route, Harto said. If you have more than one vehicle, an electric car wouldn’t need to work for every scenario, he added.

“A used Nissan Leaf with 80 miles of range might be a perfect car for your teenage kid to drive to school, drive to their friend’s house, do all that. It could be a great second or third car in a family,” Harto said.

EVs aren’t cheap, but tax credits can save you money

Tax credits and rebates for EV buyers offered by your locality, state, or the federal government can go a long way toward making plug-in vehicles more affordable. The Consumer Reports survey found that nearly half of Americans aren’t aware of incentives for EV purchases.

The best-known program is the federal government’s $7,500 tax credit for EVs purchased from most automakers (which may be revised soon), but shoppers should do their homework and find out if they qualify for other incentives, experts said. Utility companies may offer credit toward installing a home charger or preferential electricity rates for charging, Harto said.

Relatedly, studies show that EV owners spend less on fuel and repairs than people who drive gas-fueled vehicles. EVs have fewer moving parts than gas cars and often require less maintenance. Electricity, particularly when accessed at home, is generally cheaper than gasoline per mile of driving.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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