Are Electric Cars Cheaper to Drive? Consumer Reports Weighs In

Should your next vehicle be one of the many electric cars in the market? If you want to save money over the lifetime of your vehicle ownership, there’s a good chance you’ll come out ahead if you drive an EV. These new electric cars are more environmentally-friendly than gasoline models, but saving the environment might not be one of your priorities. If you look at owning your next vehicle as an investment, you want to understand which type of vehicle will save you the most money.

What is the true cost of owning an electric vehicle?

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV is one of the most affordable electric cars you can drive.
2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV | Chevrolet

We don’t have an electric car for every class or to replace every gasoline vehicle yet, but that’s not far off. Many automakers have expressed goals to add more EVs to the market before the end of the decade. With higher gas prices at stations, many shoppers search for more efficient and affordable driving methods, which could mean turning to electric cars.

Consumer Reports offers an example of two cars to give us a differentiation. The Chevrolet Bolt EV costs about $8,000 more to purchase than the Hyundai Elantra GT. This is what you’ll find with many EVs; the initial cost is higher than a gasoline vehicle. Driving either vehicle for 200,000 miles allows the Bolt to cost about $15,000 less to operate than the Elantra GT. At this point, a consumer has saved $7,000 by driving the electric vehicle.

Electrek also offers a breakdown of the monthly ownership of an EV over the lifetime of typical financing from Energy Innovation. Most vehicles are financed for 72 months, which you’ll find in this report. Across the board, you’ll see that electric models are typically much more affordable to drive than their gasoline counterparts.

Breaking down lifetime costs of electric cars

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Fuel Savings

The typical EV owner that installs an at-home charging station will save between $800 and $1,000 per year on fuel costs. This number could increase as gas and diesel fuel prices continue to rise.

Maintenance and Repair

Electric cars have fewer moving parts than their gasoline counterparts which leads to lower maintenance and repair costs over the lifetime of an EV. The average savings compared to the continuous maintenance costs of gasoline models is $4,600.

The cost savings is significantly better for more affordable vehicles, while luxury models tend to cost much more than mainstream models.

Depreciation

Older EVs don’t offer the driving range of newer models, creating higher depreciation rates for those electric cars. Newer models with long-range powertrains hold their value much better than older EVs. These new EVs tend to depreciate slower than traditional gasoline models.

What are the negatives of owning electric cars?

An EV Charging Station that works for lots of different electric vehicles
EV Charging Station | Getty Images

With every sunshine, a little rain must fall. There has to be a negative side to owning electric cars. Some of the drawbacks to owning an EV include:

  • Higher initial cost
  • Price of installing an at-home electric charger
  • Locating EV charging stations
  • Charging time takes longer than filling a gas tank
  • The driving range on a full charge is still limited

Even though you’ll find these negatives when driving, you don’t need to refill until you arrive home, and plug into your at-home charger is a comfort when you own an electric car. Some areas also allow hybrid and electric cars in high-occupancy vehicle lanes regardless of the number of passengers.

How long do electric cars last?

Front angle view of blue 2024 Chevy Silverado EV, highlighting video released after launch of Ford F-150 Lightning
2024 Chevy Silverado EV | Chevrolet

Most automakers offer a 5-8 year warranty for the electric batteries of a car. This warranty allows for many miles of driving, but most recent predictions tell us that an electric car battery could last 10-20 years before requiring replacement, according to EDF Energy.

Should you buy an EV?

If you’re looking for the next vehicle you’ll drive for several years, selecting one of the electric cars in the current market could be a great option. The cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle will be much less than a gasoline counterpart.

Of course, the EV market is expanding, and you might not find the electric vehicle you want yet. As the market grows, nearly every model in the auto market will have an EV counterpart or replacement. Waiting a few years could result in finding the right selection of electric cars for your driving needs.

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