A female car salesmen standing next to two electric vehicle shoppers

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9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy an EV

Key considerations to think through when purchasing your EV

Buying any car is a major purchase. Buying an electric vehicle (EV) is a major rethink on top of a major purchase. EVs have significant advantages over gas-powered vehicles but can also  introduce significant disadvantages that might not make them the best fit for your lifestyle.

Take a hard look at these 9 questions and use your answers to decide if buying an EV is right for you.

Would You Prefer a Quieter Driving Experience?

EVs are so silent that they must make warning sounds so pedestrians can hear them approaching. At any speed, there is no engine making a racket and no exhaust bellowing through the cabin. There are no vibrations from the drivetrain, either. Instead, EVs emit a faint whirring sound that rises in pitch the faster you go. 

They are remarkably calming and serene so if you’re seeking comfort and quietness, nothing beats an EV.

Are You Concerned With Maintenance and Refueling Costs?

Without an engine or a traditional transmission, an EV forgoes so many moving parts. Electric motors have very few moving parts and tend to be very reliable. 

That means annual maintenance costs are lower for EV owners: No oil changes, fan belts, spark plugs, coolant, or other normal services. You'll still need to replace brakes, tires, and 12-volt accessory batteries like any other car. But you should take comfort that EV batteries and their associated components are warrantied under federal law for 8 years/100,000 miles (10 years/150,000 miles in certain states). 

Electricity costs significantly less than gasoline, too, at least presently for single family homes. That may change over time but, for now, an EV will cost less to run in the long-term.

Certain EVs are eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, which reduces the tax you owe in a given year. Many states offer cash rebates or similar incentives. In essence, governments are paying you to drive an EV through taxpayer-funded subsidies. There are restrictions, of course, so be sure you read up on tax credits and rebates that might apply to your situation.

Can You Charge at Home?

This is the most critical question to answer. Many people living in an apartment, townhome, or a condominium have no access to a charging station that they and only they can use. Installing a charging station in these locations requires approval from a landlord, building owner, or a homeowner association and access to private off-street or garage parking. 

Would You Like Being Paid (sorta) to Own an EV?

If a charging station is installed for an entire development, keep in mind that you would be sharing it with neighbors and visitors. Basically, if you don't have your own garage, owning an EV could be a tremendous hassle, if not impossible. 

Most EVs require at least eight or more hours to replenish a battery on standard Level 2 (208-240 volt) or Tesla Wall Connector (200-240 volt) chargers. You only need to recharge as much as you feel comfortable for your upcoming drive; charging to 100 percent isn't always necessary. But don't think you can rely on a 120-volt charger that plugs into a household outlet. Paint dries a lot quicker.

Can You Charge Near Your Home?

A map of charging stations according to the PlugShare app.

You'll need a network of public charging stations when you take your EV beyond the radius of your home so do your research: Record the number of compatible stations in a given area, note their charging speed, chart their exact locations, and sign up for accounts. 

Electric car charging isn't simple like a gas pump. The three major providers (EVGo, ChargePoint, Electrify America) all have varying plug connections that charge at varying rates. Only Electrify America—a network set up by Volkswagen following its diesel emissions scandal—allows you to "pay at the pump" with charging rates up to 350 kW. The other two require an account and will not engage the charging station unless you have a special card or a corresponding smartphone app.

You might also find charging stations that are difficult to find, inoperable, out of service, or unable to connect to a paired smartphone. And while their commercial electrical service is way faster than any home charger, these stations have time limits that shut off the charge before your battery is full. That means you won't be able to easily recharge to 100 percent. 

Batteries take almost as long to charge from 80 to 100 percent as they do from 0 to 80 percent—this is because the charging station reduces power the longer an EV is plugged in to avoid overheating (and exploding) the battery.

Tesla Superchargers are the most stress-free and in the most convenient locations, like at highway rest stops next to gas station pumps. They can only charge a Tesla, but their ease of use and fast speeds make them the best network of any EV. (Ed. note: Tesla is opening its SuperCharger network to non-Tesla owners in late 2021.)

How Far Do You Drive Each Week?

Most EVs are EPA-estimated to drive between 80 and 400 miles. That gives you a big choice of vehicles. 

Tesla offers the most range of any EV, while used EVs like early models from Nissan and BMW have the least. It's important to give yourself a healthy buffer between your weekly mileage and your EV's estimated range. Range is just that: An estimate. 

Range can be wildly affected by battery age, ambient temperature, use of vehicle climate control and other accessories, geography (hills, urban/suburban areas), and driving style. Our recommendation is to subtract at least 30 percent from an EV's EPA estimate when calculating how much battery range you need for your weekly drives.

Can You Accept a Significant Loss of Range in Cold Weather?

Speaking of a 30 percent reduction, that's about how much a fully-charged battery will drop in capacity in below-freezing temperatures with the heating system in use. 

Cold is a battery's worst enemy. You can alleviate this problem by parking indoors and pre-conditioning the battery (allowing the car to partially heat up the battery while it's plugged in) but you'll never fully eliminate the drop in range. If you're in a snowy region, be sure to invest in snow tires especially if the EV is front- or rear-wheel drive and plan for more frequent charging sessions.

Do You Have Access to Alternate Transportation?

Backup transportation is essential, be it another car or a bus, train, or bicycle. EVs can require significant downtime when recharging; that can complicate your personal schedule or prevent you from going anywhere. 

In an emergency, you might not be able to rely on an EV when time is of the utmost importance. Even for fun last-minute trips, your EV might not have enough range to reach the destination. A car should not restrict your mobility; it should be a tool to make your life easier, not to cause unwanted stress.

Do You Like Accelerating Hard?

Electric motors produce all of their torque once they engage. In other words, if you floor the accelerator pedal, an EV will accelerate quickly—considerably more than in a comparable gas-powered car. 

Torque is that pushing sensation that shoves you back in your seat. It's the same physical experience as when a roller-coaster launches or an airplane takes off. EVs are fun to drive because, with few exceptions, there are no gears and the motors have immediate torque at any speed. You'll be surprised.

Asking yourself a few questions will help you decide if an EV is right for you. If it is, head over to The Ultimate EV Shopping List to see what's available.