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What to Know Before Buying an Electric Car

May 24, 2023 7 mins

As automakers release more electric vehicle (EV) options to customers, you may be interested in making the switch from gasoline to electric. And it’s a great time to buy. More EV models are available, their range continues to improve, and government incentives make electric cars more affordable than ever.

Before you go electric, here’s what you need to know.

You can find electric cars available at various price points, ranging from budget-friendly compact hatchbacks to higher-priced electric cars, crossovers, SUVs and even pickup trucks.”

How to choose an electric car

EVs now come in a range of models, from small hatchbacks to luxury SUVs. Choosing the one that’s right for you depends on a variety of factors. Here’s what to consider when shopping for an electric car:

1. How much range do you need?

If you travel shorter distances and have access to an EV charging station at your destination, a fully electric car may be a good choice for you. If you drive long distances or have limited access to EV chargers, other options — such as a hybrid or gas-powered vehicle — may be the right choice for the next few years.

2. How much room do you need?

You’ll find fewer options if you’re looking for an EV that seats up to seven passengers comfortably with room for groceries and gear. Once car manufacturers release more full-size electric trucks, you’ll start to see more spacious electric SUVs on the market at more affordable prices.

3. Where will you charge?

You’ll need a place to charge your electric car. You may choose to power up at home, or at work if your employer offers charging stations. Public chargers are also available in many communities, but access may be limited to the free ones.

4. What kind of performance do you expect?

Before going electric, bear in mind that electric cars don’t perform the same as traditional vehicles. EVs handle a lot like gas-powered vehicles, but they don’t accelerate the same. While it takes some time for a gas motor to reach maximum power, electric cars can reach their peak as soon as you step on the accelerator pedal. Some electric vehicles also feature “one pedal driving,” in which removing your foot from the accelerator pedal is similar to pressing the brakes.

5. What’s your budget?

You can find electric cars available at various price points, ranging from budget-friendly compact hatchbacks to higher-priced electric cars, crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks. If you need more room, greater travel distance and high-end performance, you’ll need a bigger budget.

Are electric cars worth the money?

Years ago, EVs were significantly more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts, but many manufacturers have cut prices due to competition. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes an EV tax credit. The 2023 Nissan Leaf S starts at less than $30,000, making it the lowest cost non-discontinued electric vehicle for sale in the US as of mid-2023.

That said, long-range electric SUVs, pickups and luxury cars can cost more than $100,000 today, but experts predict their prices will come down as more models enter the market.

How much does it cost to maintain an EV vs. a gas-powered vehicle?

In general, it’s cheaper to maintain an electric car than a gas vehicle. You don’t have to worry about oil changes, spark plugs, drive belts, or transmission servicing, and most service visits are as simple as an inspection and tire rotation.

If you want a longer driving range or a faster charge, plan to invest in a Level 2 charging station at home, especially if you don’t have access to one at work.”

How does charging an EV work?

Three types of EV charging stations are available today.

  • Level 1 charging stations

Every new electric vehicle is sold with a Level 1 charger, which does well if you have a short commute, a plug-in hybrid, or access to a charging station at work, or if you can charge your EV for more than 8 hours at night.

  • Level 2 charging stations

If you want a longer driving range or a faster charge, plan to invest in a Level 2 charging station. These 240-volt chargers are four times faster and provide 13 to 25 miles of power per hour of charge, according to PG&E. They cost $500 to $700 and require a professional to install the outlet on a dedicated circuit in your home. There are more than 45,000 public Level 2 charging stations available across the country, many of them free. If you’re not charging at home, you’ll want to be sure you have access to a Level 2 station that’s reliable and readily available — and that you have time to use it. Some employers also offer this type of charging for employees.

  • Direct current (DC) fast-charging stations

If you’re looking to power up in a hurry, look for a DC or Level 3 fast-charging station. They’ll fully charge your EV in 10 to 30 minutes, but it will cost you — sometimes as much as filling up the tank of a gas car.

There are many apps and websites to help find a charging station near you.

What’s the typical range of an electric car?

You can expect most EVs on the market today — including subcompact SUVs, high-performance sedans, and crossovers — to go around 250 miles on a single charge. Some longer-range models can travel more than 350 miles on a single charge, but these EVs will come at a much higher price point.

At the lower end, a few electric cars and SUVs have ranges of 100 miles or so, which works for most households. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 85% of American households travel less than 100 miles on a typical day.

Most electric vehicles today have a range of 250 miles. Lower-end models may only go 100 miles on a single charge, while higher-end EVs may be able to go more than 350 miles without charging.”

What are the environmental benefits of owning an EV?

The greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing, charging and driving an electric vehicle are typically lower than the total greenhouse gas emissions from a gasoline car, the EPA says. Essentially, the benefits of electric charging — especially as the country invests in more wind and solar power — negate many of the emissions created by the production process.

Over time, we can expect to see environmental impact decline as manufacturing and EV battery recycling processes continue to improve.

In California, PG&E offers rebate programs for customers to buy pre-owned EVs and to install Level 2 charging stations at home.”

What incentives are available for EV buyers?

With the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the federal government offers tax credit options for new and used electric car buyers. Dealers may apply the credit as an instant rebate at the time of purchase; alternatively, you may claim it when you file your taxes.

  • Clean vehicle tax credit: If you buy a new plug-in electric vehicle in 2023 or after, you may qualify for a clean vehicle tax credit of up to $7,500.
  • Used clean vehicle tax credit: Starting January 1, 2023, if you buy a qualified used electric vehicle from a licensed dealer for $25,000 or less, you may qualify for a credit of up to $4,000.

The State of California also offers incentives for EV buyers, including the following:

  • High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) and High Occupancy Toll (HOT) exemption: Certain electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with a California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Clean Air Vehicle sticker may use HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle.
  • The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP): Certain buyers qualify for rebates of up to $2,000 for the purchase or lease of qualified electric vehicles.
  • Clean Cars for All: The Bay Area Quality Management District offers grants of up to $9,500 to eligible residents to replace a vehicle with an electric-powered vehicle, and up to $2,000 for the purchase and installation of a Level 2 charging station.
  • Clean Vehicle Assistance Program: The California Air Resources Board offers grants of up to $5,000 to income-qualifying individuals for the purchase or lease of new or pre-owned EV or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.1

Some electric utilities offer rebate programs to help customers buy electric cars and install home charging stations. In California, PG&E offers:

  • Pre-owned EV rebates: Residential customers can receive a rebate of $1,000 for the purchase of a pre-owned EV.
  • EV charging station rebates: Residential customers can receive rebates of up to $500 for a Level 2 charging station and $2,000 for electric panel upgrades necessary to support the EV charging station.1

How can I finance an electric car?

Purchasing or leasing an EV is a lot like buying a car: You’ll want to understand what you can afford, check your credit score, negotiate the best price, and be prepared to insure and register your electric vehicle. It’s also a good idea to research EV incentives so you know what you might qualify for.

Finally, you’ll want to secure financing for your EV. Patelco offers car shopping tools and competitive fixed rates on auto loans to help you find and finance your electric car with ease. To get started, check your rate online.

1 According to as of May 1, 2023.


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