Should you buy an electric car? It’s a question that used to be as simple as checking your bank account. But with the Tesla Model 3 starting to appear in driveways, and everyone from Chevy to BMW with an electric car in their lineup, what was once a hippie dream, and then a luxury item, is now, for many people, a distinct possibility. It may not be a simple purchase, but it’s at least plausible.
Still, few people go electric on a whim. There are benefits and drawbacks that may push you behind the wheel, or leave you considering a hybrid instead.
Most people’s concerns about electric cars are three-fold. One, they’re more expensive; two, they don’t go very far; and three, it’s tough to charge them. All are worth addressing, in part because the truth, as always, is more nuanced than the standard answers. Here’s what you should consider before making a decision:
Based on sticker prices, your average electric car comes in between $32,000 and $40,000. As you’ve probably heard, however, right now there’s a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for electric and plug-in vehicles. In theory, the credit will be phased out when 200,000 vehicles that qualify are sold by each manufacturer. This hasn’t really come up yet, though, and renewing or expanding the credit will be a pretty easy sell. It’s a tax cut that bolsters the American economy and helps protect the environment. Who wouldn’t want to renew that?
Of course, states are free to offer their own incentives. In some cases, that makes it financially smarter to buy an electric car. Colorado, for example, almost doubles the tax credit. Depending on where you are, you’ll save quite a bit on the back end.
Finally, there’s the question of gas. On average, Americans spend about $1,400 a year gassing up. The government has a useful tool for comparing costs depending on where you live, but even with low gas prices, putting EVs up against even gas-sippers will save you a few hundred bucks a year on fuel. In other words, if you buy an electric car, and keep it on the road for a decade, you’ll save another few thousand bucks that otherwise would have gone into your tank.