Electric Car Regrets: What to Know Before Buying

Tesla Model 3


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Tesla Model 3

Truth to Power

Interest in electric vehicles is growing — leading more than half of active car shoppers to consider fuel-efficient vehicles, according to a study from CarGurus. Consumers are attracted to the promise of spending less on fuel and maintenance costs, as well as driving a more climate-friendly car, but EV inventories are on the rise, suggesting consumer wariness about actually buying one. They may not understand everything about EV ownership and maintenance, though. From driving ranges to installing a Level 2 charger at home, read on to learn what you need to know before buying one of your own. 

Electric charge stations for electric cars

You Need to Know Where Chargers Are

Before buying an electric vehicle, it’s important to analyze where and how far you drive. “Be sure to calculate where you drive, and how many miles you’ll need to be able to go in between charges. Also factor in the longer road trips you might take, and research where chargers are located and how readily available they are” — or aren’t, says Grant Feek, the founder of car-buying platform Tred, which has become part of Autotrader. Understanding your driving patterns will help you select a vehicle with the electric charge range you need. 

Tesla Model S Automobile - Dashboard
ANDREW HOLBROOKE/Contributor/Getty

Ranges Might Be Less Than Expected

Keep in mind that like the mile-per-gallon ranges manufactures provide, the battery ranges offered are recorded under ideal circumstances. “Electric-vehicle owners often find that their car’s actual range can be significantly less than claimed,” Feek says. “[Manufacturers] also don’t always take into account factors like temperature and driving styles, both of which can have an adverse impact on range.” To be on the safe side, drivers should expect to go less than the distances advertised — and watch out for what’s called “range anxiety” due to worrying about it. 

2022 Hyundai Kona Electric
Hyundai Motor America

Buying Is Going to Be Expensive

Drivers can expect to spend about $10,000 more on an EV than a gas-powered car. Kelley Blue Book reports the average price is $55,488, well above the industry average. Drivers may be looking for a family sedan, but at that price point, they’re paying the cost of an entry-level luxury car. Price tags are expected to decrease in the coming decade as the cost of EV batteries drops, though.

For more cool auto stories, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Electric measuring power meter for energy cost at home and office.
sasirin pamai/istockphoto

Charging Will Be Costly Too

Keeping an electric vehicle on the road may be less expensive than a gas-powered vehicle — particularly now — but it’s not free. Taking into account typical U.S. electricity costs of $0.13 cents per kilowatt-hour, someone who drives 1,000 miles a month should expect to spend $34 to $46 a month charging at home. An electric vehicle with a range of 300 miles would cost $10 to $14 for a full charge. Drivers charging at public stations can expect to pay more, as the average cost at a public station is $0.30 to $0.60 per kWh, or up to six times more than at home. That could run you $50 for a full charge.

Electric car plugged in outside house

Charging at Home Can Be Slow …

Half to 80% of electric vehicle charging is done at home. Some manufacturers will advertise that their vehicles can be charged through a standard household 120-volt outlet (AKA a Level 1 outlet) but this charges the battery slowly. While several factors, including temperature, can affect charging times, some cars can take up to 40 hours to get to full. 

Related: Car Companies Making EV Investments in America

95th European Motor Show
Sjoerd van der Wal/Contributor/Getty

… Or Require Big Installation Costs …

EV owners who want to speed up the charging process often have a 240-volt outlet, aka a Level 2, installed at their homes. “Installing a home charger can, in many cases, be a lot more expensive than people expect. In a home that’s new construction, it’s usually fairly straightforward, but in an older home the entire electrical panel may need to be upgraded to support an EV charger,” Feek says. “Additionally, even a newer home can require a more expensive install if it’s built on slab and the electrical panel is not located near the desired charger site.” Level 2 charging stations can cost $500 to $700 for the equipment, with labor to install it tacking on an additional $1,200 to $2,000.

Cars moving on the road in city in late evening

… But You May Not Have to Charge Constantly

On average, Americans drive 13,476 miles per year, or around 36 miles daily. With current EV ranges hovering around 220 miles, most drivers won’t need to charge their vehicles every day. That’s a great benefit in cost and for the logistics of accessing chargers.

Electric car receiving a charge from a special allocated city parking bay, Central London, UK
Construction Photography/Avalon/Contributor/Getty

City Dwellers May Struggle to Find Chargers…

Some 90% of EV owners have their own garages to charge their vehicles, the Electric Vehicle Council estimates. But what about urbanites who may not have access to garage parking and electrical outlets for at-home charging? For now, apartment dwellers must rely on networks of public charging stations, which aren’t as readily available as a growing EV market demands.

Smith Collection/Gado/Contributor/Getty

…But Services Have Stepped Up to Help

PlugShare is a good resource for finding charging stations on the go. Additionally, drivers can search for charging stations in navigation apps such as Google Maps. Electrify America offers Level 3 charging stations, the fastest available. Some manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, offer complimentary charging for a few years at Electrify America stations with the purchase of one of their vehicles.

Nissan Leaf

Your Car Will Be Out of Date Quickly

Do you trade in your phone yearly or every other year to get the latest technology? The electronic and battery-related technology in electric vehicles changes that fast, too, and many drivers quickly find themselves with outdated technology. “With each model year the tech and range are increasing significantly. This can mean that resale value could be impacted far more than that of a gas-powered car year over year,” Feek says. “Some manufacturers offer upgrades that can be purchased to help your car keep up with tech advances — they’re generally costly, but worth considering whether the car you’re buying will offer that so that you have options to update your car down the road.”

Related: Why I Drive An Electric Car