More and more people are interested in turning to eco-friendly transportation, and car manufacturers are increasingly adding battery electric vehicles (BEV) and hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles to their lineups. Purchasing any type of hybrid or electric vehicles (EVs) can potentially save you money on gas and maintenance while significantly reducing auto-related air pollution. However, before finalizing your purchase, there are several essential things you should know. Just like buying a traditional car, do your research ahead of time and keep these 9 important things in mind.
- How Does an EV’s Range Impact My Options? One of the biggest concerns of potential EV owners is about range: How long does an electric vehicle battery last while driving? The good news is that EV technology has improved dramatically in recent years. Many newer EV models use lithium-ion batteries and can go between 200-300 miles on a single charge.
While this is adequate for the average driver, it’s important to consider your own driving habits and needs. Your range will depend on battery age, speed driven, the weather and charging capacity. EV range tends to go a little longer in predominantly city driving, as opposed to on the highway. If you frequently take long road trips, a hybrid or traditional gas-powered vehicle may be a better fit for you because gas stations are far more common than public charging stations.
How Much Does It Cost to Own an EV? Most of today’s EV models have a higher upfront cost than traditional vehicles. That being said, they may be able to save you money in the long run. In general, because they don’t have conventional gas-burning engines (with a LOT of moving parts), EVs usually require less maintenance and have lower fuel costs, thereby leading to a lower overall cost of ownership. However, due to the increased weight of an EV, tires may wear faster than those on an equivalent gas-powered vehicle. Consider your own budget and compare the costs of different models before making a final decision.
- What Is Availability Like for EVs? Before you start dreaming about that shiny new Tesla or the latest Ford electric truck, make sure that the model you want is available in your area. Some EVs are only available in certain states or countries, and certain models may have different features and limitations that aren’t ideal for your region. Do your research and check with your local dealerships to see what’s available.
- Do I Have Access to a Charging Station at Home? Charging an EV at home is convenient and cost-effective, but it does require some planning and preparation. You’ll need to install a charging station in your home, which means that you’ll need to have adequate space and electrical capacity. If you rent your home, you may not be able to install or access at-home charging infrastructure and will need to plan accordingly. Keep in mind that EV charging will also increase your electric bill.
- How Long Does It Take to Charge an EV? Charging times vary greatly depending on the type of EV charging system, whether it’s a BEV or plug-in hybrid, and how much of the battery needs to be charged—but it can be a matter of hours. Most BEVs are capable of rapid charging by special equipment found at some public charging stations and could charge a depleted battery in under an hour.
The equipment you use plays the most important role in determining how long you’ll need to keep the vehicle plugged in. Level 1 charging uses a standard AC outlet and can reportedly provide driving ranges of up to 60 miles after charging for 12 hours. If that’s not fast enough, you can step up to a Level 2 charger, but that requires special equipment. Level 2 charging power could provide you with up to 250 miles after 12.5 hours. For an even faster experience, DC fast chargers can go from a 20 percent charge to 80 percent in an hour or less.
- How Does Infrastructure Vary From Region to Region? Although charging at home is an option, you might also need to rely on public charging stations when you’re on the road. Unfortunately, not all areas are equipped with EV charging infrastructure. You should research the charging infrastructure available in your area and plan your routes accordingly. Many navigation apps now include charging station locations and availability, making it easier for EV owners to map out their journeys.
- Should I Look at Used Electric Vehicles? As EV technology continues to improve, older models may depreciate faster—and be tougher to sell. A big reason being battery degradation. However, newer models with longer ranges and advanced features may hold their value well. Because EVs are fairly new to the market, time will tell how easily EV owners can sell their used cars.
- Are Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment? Many people purchase an EV to reduce their impact on the environment. While EVs don't produce emissions like gas-powered vehicles do, they aren’t completely impact-free. The manufacturing process for electric vehicles and their batteries uses significant, finite resources. Make sure to do your research and choose a model that’s built with sustainable practices in mind.
- You May Qualify for Incentives and Rebates. Many city and state governments offer incentives, rebates and tax credits to promote the purchase of EVs. In fact, EV tax credits and rebates could help offset the sticker price of EVs at the dealership. There is a federal tax credit worth up to $7,500 for qualifying electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid vehicles that are assembled in North America—and, for those built after Jan. 1, 2023, that also meet strict government regulations regarding the origins of various battery components.
Various states also offer a variety of rebates and credits that could be worth up to $5,000. Look into the incentives available in your area to see which models qualify and determine whether you can get a discount or rebate on your purchase. While an EV Tax Credit could save you money in the long run, you and your new EV would have to meet specific criteria to earn it.
Is an EV the Right Choice for You?
Purchasing an EV requires more than just walking into a dealership and driving it off the lot. There should be careful consideration in all aspects before you buy. Do your research on EVs and make an informed decision that suits your needs and budget.
If you’re prepared to buy, turn to Navy Federal’s car buying resources to make the process as smooth as possible. Explore our auto loan options, apply for preapproval and explore vehicles online to streamline your search.
- Start by making a car-buying budget that includes the amount you plan to use as a down payment, your target monthly loan payment and the potential cost of insurance and maintenance. If you’re interested in an EV, look for models that fit within this budget.
- Add these EV-specific considerations to a list of questions to ask when shopping around for a car. In addition to charging infrastructure and range, you’ll want to consider what sorts of features you want and what kind of warranty coverage the car has.
- Apply for auto loan preapproval through Navy Federal Credit Union. This can make your purchase process smoother and give you negotiating power at the dealership.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.