Electric vehicles (EVs) have been growing in popularity over the last decade and there are now more than 10 million EVs on the world’s roads. What’s more, 18 of the 20 largest car manufacturers have committed to increasing EV options and sales. As the variety of EVs grows to include a wider range of price points and longer average driving ranges, more and more drivers are considering the switch to electric – presenting new and different questions for car buyers. So, if you’re thinking “should I buy an electric car?”, here are some factors to consider before you make a purchase.
So, what is an “electric” car, anyway?
There are three types of car technologies that use the word “electric” – hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric. These vehicles provide a range of options for consumers to consider:
- Hybrid electric vehicles, or “hybrids,” run on both a gas-powered engine and a battery-powered motor. The battery recharges through the energy produced when you hit the brakes.
- Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), like hybrids, have both a gas-powered engine and a battery-powered motor. But unlike Hybrids, PHEVs are charged by plugging them into an electrical outlet. PHEVs can run on battery alone, on gas alone, or in a “blended mode,” providing consumers with a kind of transitional EV option.
- Fully electric vehicles (EVs) run entirely on an electric motor, with a battery charged by plugging the car into an electrical outlet. EVs are the only electric cars that do not produce any tailpipe emissions.
Should I buy an electric car?
After homes, cars are the largest purchase most people make in their lifetime. That’s why drivers think carefully about how to spend their dollars. Many consumers are less familiar with EVs and PHEVs, so we’ll walk through some of the factors to consider before you decide whether to buy an electric car.
- Tax credits: The average cost of an electric vehicle is about $9,000 more than the average cost of a traditional car (discounting luxury models). Government incentives help close that gap through rebates, discounts and other perks. Most prominently, this includes a $7,500 federal rebate off the cost of a full EV, with PHEVs eligible for a portion of that rebate. It is important to note that some popular models no longer qualify for this particular rebate, and drivers who are leasing their EV may not benefit. Learn more on our dedicated EV page and this incentive look-up tool.
- Charging: Charging is one of the most unique features of EVs and PHEVs compared to any other type of vehicle. Instead of filling up with gas, you charge up with electricity – either at home, at work, or on the road – by plugging the car into an outlet with a special cord. An overnight charge at home works well for most daily commutes and driving needs. Faster “direct current” charging is available at public charging stations – akin to gas stations – in all 50 states, though they are not evenly distributed. There are roughly 46,000 public charging stations in the United States, including some at Chase branches, and you can find chargers along your route using this mapping tool.
- Maintenance: How to maintain your electric car is an important consideration. All cars require maintenance, but EV and PHEVs have different – and often fewer – needs. Fully electric vehicles don’t require oil changes, spark plugs or timing belts, and electric motors require no routine maintenance. However, EVs often do experience a faster rate of tire degradation. Importantly, PHEVs require both gas-powered and electric-powered maintenance attention.
- Pollution: All three types of electric vehicles help you reduce your total carbon footprint, and full EVs have zero tailpipe emissions.
Do electric cars cost less?
There are two types of costs to consider for all vehicles – up-front costs and ongoing costs – but the specifics differ for EVs.
- Upfront Cost – EV Price Tag: Just like traditional cars, EVs and PHEVs come in a wide range of price tags – from $30,000 up to $100,000 and more for luxury models. Excluding the luxury models, the average cost of a fully electric or hybrid electric vehicle is about $56,000. This compares to $47,000 for the average price of a new car purchased in the U.S. in 2021. This gap is expected to close in the years ahead as more car companies come out with more affordable options to meet consumer demand.
- Upfront Cost – Rebates and Incentives: Up-front rebates from federal and state governments, electricity discounts from utilities, and parking perks at retail establishments are just some of the incentives offered to EV drivers. Find out more on our dedicated EV Costs page.
- Upfront Cost – EV Home Charging Equipment: The most convenient way to charge an EV or PHEV is to have access to an electrical outlet near your regular parking space. Standard wall outlets will work, but the charging time is typically too slow to be practical. That’s why most EV drivers work with an electrician to install a 240-volt outlet – the same kind that clothes dryers use. Learn more about charging on our dedicated EV Charging page.
- Ongoing Cost – EV Maintenance: All cars require maintenance, but EVs and PHEVs have different needs. The most important three things to know are: (1) EVs have fewer mechanical components and therefore require much less maintenance than traditional cars, (2) EV batteries tend to be covered by 8 to10-year warranties, outlasting the amount of time most people own their cars; and (3) EV tires degrade faster than on traditional cars due to the weight of the battery. All things considered, it’s estimated that EVs save owners about $4,600 in maintenance over the life of the vehicle compared to a gas-powered car.
- Ongoing Cost – Electricity (in place of gas!): Traditional vehicles require gas. EVs require electricity. PHEVs require both. EV and PHEV drivers pay for their charge-ups either through their monthly electric bill or at public charging stations. Some utilities offer preferred pricing for EV drivers who charge at night when there’s less stress on the electrical grid, and some public charging stations offer membership rates. It’s important to research what costs and incentives are available in your local market. Learn more about charging on our dedicated EV Charging page.
So, should I buy an electric car?
With so many major manufacturers building EVs, there are more options for you than ever before. But that’s not the only consideration. Up-front and ongoing costs, maintenance considerations, charging logistics and environmental sustainability are all key factors to consider when deciding if you should buy an electric car. The upside is that there's no wrong answer — there's only what’s right for you.