What should you pay attention to when buying an electric car?

White Hyundai Kona EVs on dealer lot
White Hyundai Kona EVs on dealer lot

Have you decided the time is right to put an electric vehicle (EV) on your new car shopping list, but don’t know where to start looking? Do not worry. There’s a lot to consider when switching to an electric car, and this guide is here to help you prioritize your purchase.

Your checklist will likely include maximum range, an affordable base price, or sufficient passenger and cargo space for your daily driving tasks. We’ve broken down EV shopping advice into manageable bites to make the experience something that will leave you feeling recharged regarding your new car purchase.

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Know your budget

Unless you’ve won the lottery jackpot, you’ll want to start shopping for your electric car with a realistic budget in mind. There are plenty of models on the cheaper end of the spectrum. For example the Volkswagen ID.4 and Kia EV6 start at about $41,000. Buyers who want to keep the price as low as possible can take note of Chevrolet’s recent price drops. The Bolt hatchback and Bolt EUV have positioned their starting prices well below $30,000.

At the high end of the market, models such as the Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+ and Lucid Air luxury sedans have a starting price of six figures. Those vehicles also have impressive performance stats to put many of the best sports cars to shame.

Check for EV incentives

If the price of an EV seems out of reach, look for tax breaks. There can be federal tax credits, state rebates and local incentives to lower the purchase price and make charging cheaper. For example, your utility company may have offers for home charging stations and low-cost off-peak electricity plans for overnight charging.

Federal tax credits for EVs were recently extended as part of the Biden administration’s $7.5 billion EV infrastructure package. The plan also removed a limit of 200,000 vehicles for automakers producing EVs. This means that car companies that previously reached the limit, such as Tesla and General Motors, will be eligible for these credits again.

Keep in mind that being eligible for a tax credit involves many factors, including your adjusted gross income, the price of the EV, where it was made, and the make and model of the EV.

Many electric vehicle manufacturers also have useful extras, such as charging for free at a preferred charging network for a certain period of time or up to a certain amount of energy. For example, the Ford F-150 Lightning truck and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 compact SUV come with 250 kWh of free charging from Electrify America. In general, this should equate to about 1,000 miles of charging.

Ask the dealer if the electric car you are considering has similar charging discounts or special membership rates to join networks such as Electrify America and EVgo.

How much range for electric cars do you need?

Electric cars often offer a driving range of at least 200 miles for each charge. Some of the most popular crack the 300-mile barrier, such as the Tesla Model 3 sedan and Tesla Model Y crossover SUV. The Model Y was the best-selling EV in the US in 2021.

The Lucid Air Dream Edition is the current king of the electric car range. The luxury EV has a maximum range of 520 miles. That impressive figure is tempered by the Air Dream’s hefty asking price of over $160,000. Remember when we talked about budgets for your electric car earlier? More range and larger batteries often cost extra money.

There are options if you don’t need the long legs and luxurious finish of a vehicle like the Lucid Air. Many more affordable models like the Chevrolet Bolt EUV and Kia Niro EV deliver about 240 miles of cargo and cost a fraction of the price.

Explore all your charging options

Charging your electric car is more than connecting a plug and socket. There are different types of chargers — Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 — with vastly different charging times. Level 3 chargers are known as DC fast chargers, although not all EVs have the ability to receive high output from some stations.

  • If you need an electric car that will stay on the road long distances from home, consider limiting your search to electric cars with an adoption rate above 50 kW. Higher adoption rates and higher output from some Level 3 chargers mean less time spent charging on road trips. You may want to limit your search to EVs that can use Level 3 fast charging stations. In general, these chargers can supply about 80% of a battery’s capacity in about 30 minutes. Charging time depends on many factors, including the power of the charging station and limitations on how much energy the EV can receive.
  • A Level 2 charger is more common, although it doesn’t have the speed of fast charging technology. Budget approximately 20 miles of extra range for every hour connected to a Level 2 charging station.
  • If you’re not in a rush to get back on the road, it can take up to 24 hours or more to plug an EV into a regular 110-volt outlet to fully charge the battery. You don’t have to rely on this level of level 1 charging unless absolutely necessary. Some owners who use their electric car for short trips around town find that level 1 charging is sufficient to recharge the car’s battery overnight at home.

When it comes to pricing, the cost of charging an EV depends on where and when you charge. Some public stations may be free to use in malls or other establishments. Others may offer free charging for a certain period of time or at specific times of the day. Be sure to read the fine print before plugging in for the first time, as parking your EV at a station can result in regular parking fees or fines if you exceed a charging time allowed.

As for general home charging prices, an American household typically pays 15 cents for every kWh of electricity. Electric cars often get about 3-4 miles of range for every kWh. As you might expect, public stations operated by charging networks tend to cost more.

Are there charging stations where you live?

If you don’t charge at home, find a reliable charging network nearby to keep your EV on the go. That may sound like obvious advice. It’s worth pointing out, though, that even the best EV can turn into a four-wheeled paperweight if you can’t plug it in.

A home charging station is very logical and a smart investment. Check if there are charging incentives in your area or if there are chargers available for employees at your workplace. We recommend downloading apps like PlugShare and ChargePoint, especially if you are driving in an unfamiliar environment and know that you have to rely on public charging stations.

These apps have filters that allow you to zoom in on specific outlets that are right for your car, along with current charging rates in a particular location and whether the station is in good condition. The last thing you want to do is drive into a station with low battery charge, only to find that the charger isn’t working.

When in doubt, have a backup plan if you are concerned that a specific charging station may not be available.

EV maintenance

Electric cars not only save you money because you never have to change a drop of petrol or oil. They also cost less to maintain than a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. That’s because there are fewer moving parts in the powertrain of an electric car.

The mechanical recipe of an electric car is pretty much the automotive equivalent of a bowl of breakfast cereal. There is at least one electric motor, a battery pack and a single-speed transmission that sends the power to the wheels. Depending on the make and model you choose, EVs are available in front, rear and all-wheel drive configurations.

EVs sometimes need maintenance. Tires, brake pads, suspension components and other items need attention. But without the churning pistons of a traditional gas engine, electric motors have fewer moving parts to go wrong and require an expensive repair.

Batteries and electric motors will eventually need to be replaced, although this shouldn’t be necessary for at least 10 years or more, depending on your driving habits.

Do you need extra loading space?

Do you spend your electric driving time alone, or do you plan to commute with friends and family? Just as you would when considering a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, one of the biggest considerations in EV shopping is how much space you need for passengers and cargo.

Fortunately, electric vehicles come in different shapes and sizes. Models like the Rivian R1S sport utility and Ford F-150 Lightning pickup have cabs with plenty of stretched space and room for just about anything you want to take with you for the ride.

Instead, make sure you don’t pay more for an electric car than you need. If you want an easy way to get from point A to point B and something small enough to make curbside parking a breeze, models like the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Bolt can fit a lot better.

Should you wait to buy an electric car?

If you’re unsure about whether an electric car will fit your budget or needs, take the time and do more research. Don’t be afraid to test drive different makes and models as well. As with any car quest, getting behind the wheel and experiencing a vehicle first hand can close the deal or make you realize this isn’t the car for you.

The The average new car price hit an all-time high this summer, which could affect whether you buy now or wait to see if prices cool down in the coming months. Car manufacturers are rolling out more and more EVs every model year. This will lead to an even greater variety of electric models ranging from small sedans and hatchbacks to large trucks and three-row SUVs.

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