Things to consider when shopping for an EV

Updated

digital rendering of an electric vehicle charging
When it comes to buying a new electric vehicle, what do you value most?

With so many car manufacturers announcing goals of electric-only fleets and rising gas prices, electric vehicles (or EVs for short) have been rising in popularity.

Buying any new car is a huge commitment and the newness of EVs can make choosing one for your specific needs a bit tricky. That’s why we’ve developed this guide - to help you decide what type of EV is right for you, based on what you’re looking to get out of it.

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    Ask yourself the following questions:

    How many miles of range do you need? 

    EV charging at a public charging station

    The distance you need to drive your car on a daily basis is a good estimate of the amount of range you need per charge. Image source: EY.com 

    An EV’s range refers to how many miles you can expect to get out of it on a full charge.

    Similar to miles per gallon, the EV range is a way to gauge how long your car will last before it needs a recharge. The U.S. EPA designates the mileage range for each EV and found that the average range for all EVs is 250 miles

    There are many car options that fall on either side of the average range. Say your commute is 50 miles one way, therefore you can expect to drive at least 100 miles a day. Erring on the side of caution and getting a car with over 150 miles of range per charge, like the Tesla Model 3, is a good bet. 

    To avoid range anxiety completely, get a car with at least 250 miles of range per charge like the Tesla Model Y - this can get you from New York to Washington D.C. on one charge - plenty of “fuel” for the average driver. 

    Can you install a battery charger at home? 

    Charging the car itself is arguably one of the most important factors you need to consider with an EV. 

    It is definitely not ideal to rely solely on public charging stations. You’ll want to install a charging port at your home (either outside or in your garage), so you can let the car charge overnight or during any other time it's not in use. 

    Examples of at-home charging ports include the Tesla Wall Connector (specifically designed for Tesla’s only) and the ChargePoint Home Flex that can be used with every EV model on the market. EV chargers require higher-voltage outlets and need to be installed by an electrician.

    Many apartments are also adding charging ports to their parking lots, so you don’t necessarily need to own or live in a house in order to utilize at-home charging.  

    Learn more: EV chargers for home

    Do you have solar panels? 

    While you will still need to pay for the electricity that will charge your car, over time, that electricity is cheaper than gas. And if you install solar, you save even more

    Your installer will help you determine the system size you need if you are looking to generate extra electricity to charge your EV. You can also use our solar calculator, which was designed to help you determine how many solar panels you need for your specific home. 

    What’s your budget like? 

    Cost, naturally, is a huge factor in choosing any vehicle. If you are able to buy a car with cash, you don’t have much to worry about. But ensuring you have enough money for a down payment, and then the ability to pay off the monthly costs, is imperative to choosing which car you can afford to own. 

    The price usually varies due to the mileage range, the luxuriousness of the car, the brand name, and the battery size.

    Learn more: Best electric cars for every budget and lifestyle in 2021

    Will you be leasing or buying the car? 

    Leasing 

    In many cases, leasing an EV is the more affordable option in the short-term. You also won’t have to worry about the reduced battery life as the car ages. 

    A major disadvantage to leases is that you won’t be eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit (more about this in the next section). You also won’t be able to trade in the car until your contract is up.

    Buying 

    Advantages of owning an electric vehicle include the federal solar tax credit for qualifying cars and the absence of mileage limitations. With a leased car, you typically have a mileage limit that you cannot drive your car over. When you own the car, you can drive as far as you like.

    However, while EVs are cheaper to own over their lifetime, their value depreciates more quickly than gas-powered cars. Meaning, they will have a lower resale value should you choose to eventually sell. You will also likely need to replace the battery at some point.

    What government and utility incentives will you qualify for? 

    Nationally, there is a federal tax incentive for electric cars that can be up to $7,500, but ranges based on the capacity of the battery used to run the car.

    The incentive was originally put in place to help the initial adoption of electric cars because they were more expensive than comparable gas-powered cars. As electric cars become more popular and relatively affordable, the tax incentives will be removed over time.

    Additionally, once 200,000 qualified models of cars from one manufacturer are sold, you no longer get the incentive for vehicles from those manufacturers. However, Tesla and GM are lobbying to change this so that they can continue to offer the tax credit advantage.

    Federal EV incentives have always been a bit contentious because you cannot qualify for the tax credit if you do not owe $7,500 in taxes. Another tough sell is that you cannot carry over the tax credit, so if you only owed $3,000 in taxes but were eligible for a $7,500 tax credit, you would only get $3,000. So that is just a lost opportunity on cash. 

    As for state and utility incentives, the incentives vary state by state. Available incentives can range from tax breaks and rebates, to even discounts at toll booths. Some states offer next to nothing, while states like California offer so many incentives that you would be losing out if your next car was not electric.

    Warranty, maintenance, and insurance

    Warranty

    Car warranties are pretty complex and can vary for each component of the car. What you need to look for when searching for an electric car is a warranty covering the battery and a warranty covering the car itself. 

    An important note about car warranties is that they cover things that are defects defined by the manufacturer, or if a specific part of your vehicle is not operating the way it is supposed to. Warranties do not cover the wear and tear of typical car use or car accidents. 

    Car warranties range between manufacturers, but for battery-specific warranties, there is a federal law that states the warranty must cover batteries for 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some manufacturers offer longer years and have different caveats like only covering a battery up to a certain point of performance reduction.  

    The manufacturer warranty, such as for defects in the car parts, is usually around 3 years and up to a certain amount of miles. Each is different but a manufacturer warranty of 3 years or up to 60,000 miles, whichever comes first, is a good one to look for. 

    Maintenance 

    Maintaining an electric car is less expensive over its lifetime than a gas powered car - in fact, it’s over 40% less expensive. You won’t have to worry about things like oil changes, for example.

    You will still, however, need to monitor your car for things like tire replacements, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and windshield wipers. Additionally, an electric car might need a replacement battery at some point. 

    To maintain your battery health, do your best to never fully deplete it, and do not charge it to 100% every time. Although this seems counterintuitive, fully charging your car battery every single time you charge is bad for its health. To further protect the battery, you should strongly consider garage storage in order to avoid hot temperatures and freezing temperatures.

    If your EV needs maintenance, the best place to bring it to is the dealership that you purchased the car from. Or if you have a Tesla, the maintenance will come to you! 

    Insurance 

    The reason your car insurance might be higher is just because most electric vehicle brands are more expensive than gas cars; replacing the car is expensive, so your insurance will be higher to account for that possibility. 

    Insurance rates also vary for many reasons, due to your age, location, and driving history. As EVs become more popular and less expensive over time, insurance costs should even out. 

    With all of that said, these are our top 3 EV choices

    The practical pick: Nissan Leaf 

    nissan leaf

    Image source: Nissan

    This car has been around since 2010 and has improved since then to have a mileage range of up to 226 miles. It is the perfect car to have if you mainly plan to use it for running errands and a short commute. The base model starts at $27,400 - a great price to ease into when buying an EV.

    To find out more, check out our blog that covers everything you need to know about the Nissan Leaf.

    The luxury choice: Audi e-tron 

    audi e-tron

    Image source: Audi

    This is the first all-electric car offered by Audi and it's fully equipped with the latest technology. It offers voice-assisted GPS and has unnecessary luxury perks like an illuminated Audi symbol that is shown on the ground when you open your car door at night. 

    The price tag is steep, starting at $65,000, but if you want an EV that does not scream “environmental”, this is it. You can travel up to 222 miles per charge and even drive in the HOV lane in some states - a fun fact that holds true for any EV.

    The in-between: Tesla Model 3 

    tesla model 3

    Image source: Tesla 

    Yes, we are recommending a Tesla as a good mix between affordable and luxury (we can’t believe it either). The Model 3 is meant to be a luxurious option that does not break the bank. Tesla is a brand that most people associate with EVs, driving their popularity quite high and making them one of the most prominent symbols of the EV industry.

    So if you want a taste of that and the ability to drive up to 353 miles, get yourself the Long Range model, which starts at $45,690. 

    The final say on EVs

    Like it or not, EVs are here to stay. American consumers purchased a total of 305,324 electric vehicles from January 2021 - September 2021. Those numbers are projected to continue to rise as the costs of EVs get lower, while more consumers look to switch to an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional cars. 

    If you do invest in an EV, consider installing solar panels along with it, so you can save big on both fuel and electricity costs for the next 25-plus years.

    Find out how much a solar system would cost for your specific home
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Ana Almerini

    Web Content Specialist

    Ana is a content specialist at SolarReviews. She uses her experience in marketing and knowledge from her master's in climate communications to research and review the solar industry.

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