Are Electric Cars Worth It?

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

In the market for something different to drive? Would an electric car be too “different” for you to consider?

Over the past few years, electric vehicle technology improvements have resulted in higher availability, greater reliability, and lower cost. But as you begin your research, there are factors you should weigh when pondering the switch from the gas or diesel-powered vehicles you’ve owned in the past. The first of these may be the type of “electric car” that would be best for you.

Types of EVs

Electric vehicles (EVs) include a wide variety of types. EV is the catch-all term for vehicles that derive all or part of their power from electricity supplied by the electric grid. The “EV” category is subdivided into:

  • AEVs (all-electric vehicles)—One or more electric motors power these EVs. They receive electricity by plugging into the grid and store it in batteries. They consume no petroleum-based fuel and produce no tailpipe emissions. AEVs come in two types:
    • Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)
    • Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)
  • PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles)—These EVs employ multiple motors to move the car; an electric motor powered by batteries and an internal combustion engine powered by a petroleum-based or alternative fuel.

Here is a brief overview of electric cars.

EV Pros and Cons

The Benefits

There are plenty of benefits to buying an electric car, but a few really stand out.

  • No Gas–It’s really nice not having to pay for gas, and generally, electricity is much more affordable.
  • No Emissions–An electric vehicle produces no harmful emissions, which is better for everyone.
  • Smooth and Quiet–An electric motor isn’t jerky and doesn’t make much noise at all, making for a much more peaceful driving experience.
  • Less Maintenance An electric motor has fewer moving parts and therefore presents fewer maintenance issues. With no oil to change and no coolant to worry about, keeping an electric car running is much more worry-free.

The Drawbacks

There is plenty to like about an electric vehicle, but there are some issues posed by getting a battery-powered car.

  • Short RangeBattery technology hasn’t matured enough to allow electric vehicles to travel as far between charges as a gas-powered one can between fill-ups. You’ll have to charge it daily and probably keep your trips shorter than 80 miles.
  • Limited Selection–Compared to the availability of internal combustion vehicles, you may have to search a little harder if you want to buy an EV.
  • Lengthy Recharge Time – Charging a battery isn’t like refilling your car with gasoline; it’s a more time-consuming process. EVs require a few hours at minimum to recharge, considerably longer if you don’t have access to a high-tech charging station.
  • More Expensive – Because of newer technology and more expensive components, electric vehicles are more expensive than gas or diesel models. If you want an electric vehicle, you’ll be spending more to get it.

Will an EV Work for You?

Before buying an electric car, keep in mind your daily commute. Take a look at the advertised driving range of the vehicle before you buy. Depending on where you work, there may be charging stations available, making this consideration less critical. In any case, if you are a fan of the road trip, an EV might not be for you.

The cost of ownership is the biggest consideration of any vehicle. It is quite likely that the sticker price of an EV will be higher than a comparably equipped gas model, but there are workarounds.

To encourage drivers to consider greener ways to get around, tax incentives can help ease some of that initial sticker shock. There are federal, state, and local incentives available for those willing to buy electric. Make sure you know what incentives are available in your area and that you are taking advantage of as many of them as possible. If you find an incentive attractive enough to convince you to buy electric, don’t hesitate. Many of these offers change regularly and are only available for a limited time.

Once you’ve bought a vehicle, there are the costs involved in keeping it running. How do EVs compare here?

Although EVs don’t require the routine maintenance expenses of oil changes and the like, you’ll probably want to be putting that money aside. While you’ll be spending the same money for brakes and tires, when the battery of your EV goes belly-up, be prepared to open your wallet wide.

The battery is often the most expensive and most fragile part of an electric vehicle. That’s why it’s necessary to ensure that any offered warranties extend to the battery. That way, you know you’ll get plenty of trouble-free use from your EV, even if something does happen to the battery.

Speaking of Batteries

In years past, one of the biggest objections to EVs involved batteries. Concerns included the cost of production and replacement as well as what would become of the batteries once they had gone beyond their useful lives.

Today, creative thinkers have greatly improved batteries and their associated costs before, during, and after. Production methods have improved and result in far less negative environmental impact. Renault has introduced a program where buyers can purchase the car but lease the battery, decreasing initial costs dramatically. And as for end of life, old EV batteries are being put to lots of great uses.

Ready to Pull the Trigger?

As with any car purchase, it is important to shop around. Be sure to check out multiple dealerships; you will likely find a broad range of prices, even on the same vehicle. Research your options as the difference could be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Buying an electric vehicle is exciting, but it’s not something that you should rush into. Take your time and make sure you get the right option for you.

Then Again, You Could Always Just Build Your Own

DIY Electric Car Beats Tesla