How to Buy Your First Electric Car

 In Electric Cars

There are few purchases as involved as buying a new car. When you’re talking about buying your first electric car, there are even more considerations and questions to be had.

If you’re considering making the jump to electric, you’re not alone: almost 160,000 new electric cars were purchased in 2016 in the US, and that number is likely to be dwarfed by 2017’s sales (already at 157,000 by October, and still counting). But with a growing number of electric vehicle options to choose from, how do you know you’re picking the right one for you and your family?

Here are our top tips for choosing your first electric car, and some questions you need to ask before ever walking into that dealership lot.

Compare Costs

There are a number of expenses involved with car buying, no matter which vehicle you choose. However, buying an electric car changes the costs you need to consider.

What Will Your Budget Allow?

Before you buy any vehicle —  gas-powered or electric – it’s important to make sure that you’re financially prepared for the purchase.

This means that you need to sit down and take a long hard look at your finances and what you can realistically afford. Will you be paying cash, putting a down payment on the vehicle, or financing the entire purchase price? If you’re borrowing, what sort of interest rate are you likely to get, given your credit history?

You should also think about whether you want to buy a new electric car or a used one. Thanks to a number of factors, used electric cars can usually be found at great prices. They are typically driven less than the average gas-powered car, so they often come with less wear-and-tear, too.

These are just a few of the important questions you need to ask before you purchase any vehicle, especially your first electric car.

How Much is Maintenance?

When budgeting, you can also take into account maintenance costs for electric cars versus their fuel-powered counterparts. With an electric vehicle, you’ll save on things like oil changes and gas fill-ups, as well as receive tax incentives for buying an energy-friendly vehicle. Many electric cars come with impressive warranties on their batteries – the most expensive part and the one that’s likely to fail first – so, you don’t have to worry about the same small repairs are with a fuel-powered engine.

However, depending on your auto insurance provider, you may pay more for buying the newest and greatest electric car. While some companies charge more, others will offer discounts on electric vehicles, so it might be worth a call to your insurance company to get a quote and see where you’ll stand.

Be sure to compare the fuel-versus-electric expenses en totale before drawing any conclusions.

Which One to Buy

Choosing your first electric car can be tricky, especially with all of the models available today.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) vs. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to buy a BEV (100% electric) car or a PHEV (which uses both a rechargeable battery and a backup fuel combustion system). The answer to this questions depends on your lifestyle and preferences.

You should probably choose a PHEV if:

  • Your daily commute is lengthy or unpredictable: BEV vehicles can have ranges further than 200 miles, but not all models are the same. Without being able to predictably recharge throughout the day, you could wind up in trouble.
  • You don’t have access to a charging station at work or wouldn’t be able to consistently recharge overnight: If you live in an apartment complex, condo, or other building without easy access to a dedicated plug, you will be difficult managing a pure electric car and its recharging needs.

You should probably choose a BEV if:

  • You have access to work charging stations: If your place of work has installed convenient charging stations that you can use, a pure electric car might be an easy transition.
  • Your daily commute is short and predictable: If you only drive a handful of miles each day – well below the vehicle’s range – and your commute is predictable, a pure electric vehicle could be a great option. That way, you could avoid the issue of being in dire need of a charge while away from home, and could easily recharge overnight at home on a continual basis.

Available Makes and Models

There are 47 different electric vehicle options for the year 2017, and that number grows every year. This means that you are sure to be able to find exactly the one that suits you.

Of course, these vehicles vary greatly. Not only do they range in price, but also in power and handling. You could opt for a more basic, economy vehicle or tend toward a luxury electric option, depending on your budget.

The best way to choose the model that suits you is to test drive as many as you can – many cities hold events where you can test drive electric vehicles. Explore a number of options until you find the one that will make you happy for years to come. After all, buying your first electric car is a true investment (especially since they don’t retain their value very well), so choose wisely.

“Refuel” Becomes “Recharge”

Obviously, owning an electric vehicle requires some thinking ahead, versus what you’re accustomed to driving gas-powered. The most significant of these is planning how you’ll charge your vehicle.

Charging at Home

When calculating the investment for your first electric car, you should also include the price of a home charging station. There are two home options for electric car drivers: AC Level 1 and AC Level 2.  AC Level 1 charging can be done overnight via an outlet on a dedicated branch circuit (usually located in or near their garage). As long as this is accessible – and your commute is pretty predictable, allowing for a regular, extended overnight charge — no additional equipment will be needed.  

Nissan LEAF

2018 Nissan LEAF Charging

If you have a longer commute, unpredictable schedule, or just want the flexibility of charging anytime (and fast), AC Level 2 equipment is probably necessary. These charging stations are more expensive (typically ranging from $500-$1,500) and require professional installation by an electrician, as they are a 240-volt output. However, they also allow for faster charging and more options for electric car drivers. Many governments of varying levels and even electric utilities offer incentives for installing a home charger.

Recharging on the Go

You should also scout out high-speed charging locations around town, both in the areas you frequent and near your work. If you’re ever unexpectedly caught out of the house and need to recharge, it’s helpful to know where you can go. After all, you won’t be able to pop into a gas station to refuel any longer.

You can use sites like PlugShare to determine where the closest charging stations are along your most-traveled routes. Through the site, you can even find residential charging stations that other users are willing to share. You can use the site to find local charging options, as well as to plan road trips or extended drives.

Charging options via PlugShareConclusions

Whether you’re looking to buy your first electric car in order to be more “green” and help the planet, or you simply want to avoid paying fluctuating gas prices, you’re sure to find the perfect vehicle. With electric car sales soaring and new models being introduced each year, it’s easy to find the one that best suits your needs.

Be sure to ask yourself how much you can spend on your vehicle, what you really need in terms of performance, and how your lifestyle can reasonably accommodate an electric-powered vehicle. Then, start shopping around!

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