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Should you buy an electric car?

Consider these five things before making the switch to electric.

woman in 3/4 length sleeve floral shirt pumping gas into a red vehicle.

There are certainly advantages to plug-in electric cars, but there is at least one glaring reason to give pause: They cost more than their traditional gas-powered cousins. Is that initial expense worth it in the long run? Consider these things before buying an electric car:

Battery range

Today’s electric vehicle (EV) can run as far as 260-plus miles on a full charge, but many lower-cost models currently have a range of 75 to 100 miles per charge. This may change, however, as several lower-cost models are coming to the market with ranges of 200-plus miles. Extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs) can increase mileage even more, and a plug-in hybrid, with a gas tank for backup, increases range, too. Remember: Adding an engine means adding gas costs and engine maintenance, including oil changes, which regular EVs don’t require.

Home charging

You’ll need to install an efficient 240V source of electricity in your garage, since your standard 120V plug probably won’t be able to fully charge an EV overnight. A typical unit will run in the $500 range, plus electrician’s fees, though your state may offer rebates on the unit and/or installation. Some EV owners also invest in solar panel charging, for environmental and monetary reasons.

Charging station availability

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are currently more than 58,000 public electric stations and charging outlets across the country, and counting, though availability varies widely depending on where you live. Visit afdc.energy.gov to check the availability in your area.

Cost to power

The average EV requires about 30 kilowatt hours (kWh) to travel 100 miles. Assuming the national average of 12¢/kWh, that’s $3.60 per 100 miles—$540 annually for the average 15,000 mile-per-year driver, mainly charging at home. Compare that to $1,320 a year for a gas-powered vehicle, assuming 25 mpg at $2.20/gallon. Plug in your local energy costs to personalize those numbers.

Tax and other incentives

Federal tax credits for new EV and plug-in hybrids range from $2,500 to $7,500, depending on battery size. Some utility companies provide special rates, and many states offer their own incentives, too.

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