electric car maintenance costs vs gas

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Consumers who purchase an electric car can expect to save an average of $4,600 in repair and maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle compared with a gasoline-powered car, CR’s study shows.

However, electric car engines are far more reliable than their gas counterparts. It’s the moving parts in a regular gasoline or diesel engine that tend to fail over time and can include anything from the pistons to the belts.

electric cars vs gas cars carbon footprint

Over the anticipated 15-year life span of a vehicle, the electricity required to run a battery-powered electric car can be as much as $14,480 cheaper than fueling up an internal combustion vehicle. Then there are electricity costs, which make the notoriously unstable costs of gasoline look simple by comparison

No oil to change, no engine to manage, with fewer parts to wear down, electric cars are cost-efficient and easier to maintain than internal combustion engine vehicles

Electric Car Maintenance Costs Vs Gas

There are plenty of climate and air quality reasons to buy an electric vehicle (EV), but are they cheaper to drive? It’s the deceptively complicated question that has befuddled car shoppers for years. The average sticker price on an electric car is $19,000 higher than an average gasoline-powered vehicle, so consumers want to know how much of that cost will be recouped in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle. The difference is due in part to the fact that many EVs are luxury vehicles but, still, the numbers have historically been very fuzzy.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Idaho National Laboratory give us the most comprehensive picture yet in a recently released study published in the journal Joule. Going state by state, they broke down the lifetime fuel costs of battery-powered electric vehicles versus internal combustion engine cars. Here are the highlights.

Electric car aficionados in Washington State can make the best case for the big purchase. Over the anticipated 15-year life span of a vehicle, the electricity required to run a battery-powered electric car can be as much as $14,480 cheaper than fueling up an internal combustion vehicle. On the other end of the spectrum is Hawaii. In a worst-case scenario, charging up your electric car could ultimately cost $2,494 more than topping up a gas tank over 15 years. (Note: Plug-in hybrids, which can run on electric battery or gasoline, further complicate the financial picture. For the sake of simplicity, we’re focused here on electricity-only vehicles.)

How can such a wide variation be possible? A surprising number of variables affect the cost of operating a car. The most obvious is the regional variation in gasoline prices. Last year, for example, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline on the West Coast was 46 percent higher than in communities around the Gulf of Mexico.

Then there are electricity costs, which make the notoriously unstable costs of gasoline look simple by comparison. While the average cost of a kilowatt-hour doesn’t change dramatically year to year, the specific cost of electricity can vary by the hour. Where, when, and how you choose to charge your electric car generates wide swings in charging costs. For example, if you relied exclusively on state-of-the-art fast-charging stations, your costs for charging would increase by more than 70 percent compared to just parking the car in your home garage and hooking it up to the slow-charging equipment that came with the vehicle. Charging the car overnight, when electricity demand drops and prices are low, can also save you 30 percent compared to charging at whatever time of day your car runs a little low.

The state-by-state numbers above represent an average consumer’s behavior. The NREL scientists attempted to create real-world scenarios based on the way people typically use their cars. That means you can save substantially more than the fuel costs the NREL predicts if you time your charging right and stretch the lifetime of your car beyond 15 years.

Consumers should, of course, consider a variety of financial factors when purchasing a car. Fuel savings aren’t the only benefit that electric vehicles have over internal combustion cars. Most experts agree that the maintenance costs on an electric car are much lower. They have fewer moving parts, fewer fluids to keep topped up, and they are easier on brake systems. Although the precise savings are hard to pin down, New York City has reported dramatic numbers for its city fleet. In 2019, the city spent between $204 and $386 maintaining each of its electric cars, compared to more than $1,600 for the average gasoline-powered car. Add up yearly cost differences like that over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime and you could reap incredible savings with an electric car.

It’s also worth noting that the fuel savings reported in the NREL paper are a snapshot of current prices. As electric vehicles become more common, it’s likely that the cost of charging equipment will drop significantly. The cars themselves could also become more cost-competitive with gas-powered vehicles, and the demand for more affordable EVs is already here. According to a survey conducted last year by Consumer Reports and the Union of Concerned Scientists, 31 percent of participants whose incomes are less than $50,000 a year were interested in making their next car an electric one. And across income levels, 42 percent of people of color said they are considering an EV as their next purchase, compared to 36 percent of the respondents overall.

Federal tax rebates, state incentives, and other initiatives can also increase the accessibility of low-emissions vehicles. California’s Clean Cars 4 All program, for instance, helps low-income people living in communities with poor air quality turn in their old gas guzzlers for a stipend of up to $9,500 toward the purchase of an electric or hybrid car, or up to $7,500 in public transit options.

In addition to helping boost air quality, electric vehicles can also reduce the electric bills for everyone. “Electric vehicle charging is good for utility customers, even if they don’t drive an EV, because added utility revenue puts downward pressure on rates,” says Luke Tonachel, director of NRDC’s Clean Vehicles and Fuels Group. “That’s especially good during these tough economic times.”

efficiency of electric cars vs gasoline

If You’re Considering an Electric Car, Be Sure to Do Your Homework

Just a few years ago, many people may have never seen an electric car in person, unless they lived in a place like California where electric vehicles are popular and readily available. Now, several automakers offer compelling electric vehicles (EVs) nationwide. Today, it’s not uncommon to see a Tesla Model 3 regardless of where you live.

As electric cars become less expensive and widely available, more people are interested in buying them. There are many reasons – aside from the environmental benefits – to switch to an EV, such as superb efficiency, cheaper energy costs, less maintenance, and better overall performance. However, making the transition from gas to electric is a big step. Before you take the plunge, be sure to do your homework and ask the right questions.Closeup of electric vehicleWestend61 / Getty Images

We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most important considerations for potential EV owners, listed in the form of questions. While some include complete answers, others depend on various factors, including which EV you choose, where you live, and how you plan to use the car. 

Read through the following information to decide if electric car ownership is something you’re really serious about. If you decide to move forward, be sure to get all of your questions answered before completing the transaction.

Read on to learn if picking up an EV is the right choice for you.

1. Does the Car Have Enough Range?

Many of today’s EVs offer over 200 miles of range on a charge, though there are still some that have much less. Tesla is currently the only automaker that offers EVs with over 300 miles of range. The Tesla Model S currently holds the record, with up to an EPA-rated 402 miles per charge.

With 200 miles of range, most people aren’t going to experience range anxiety during their daily commutes. Keep in mind that range varies regardless of the EPA’s estimates. Many factors impact a car’s range, such as your speed, your driving habits, the weather, and the car’s climate control. It’s wise to anticipate having less range than the car’s EPA estimate, just to be safe. If you travel over 200 miles on a daily basis, you may want to steer clear of most EVs. 

2. Can I Charge My Electric Vehicle at Home?

One of the most convenient aspects of EV ownership is charging at home. At the end of the day, you simply plug the car in. When you wake in the morning, it’s ready to go. This means no more smelly hands from pumping gas, no more standing out in the cold, and no more pulling your car out of your garage to warm it up.

With that said, there are several important considerations. You can charge your EV using a standard 110-volt wall outlet (Level 1 charging), but it’s going to take some time. Level 1 charging adds about 4 miles of range per hour. If you don’t use many miles of range each day, this may work for you. However, if you deplete a full 250 miles of range, it will take several days to recharge this way.Family preparing for road trip while charging vehicle in a home drivewayMaskot / Getty Images

Most EV owners hire an electrician to install a 240-volt outlet in their garage. This allows for Level 2 charging, which can add 25 miles of range per charging hour. Make sure to find out how much it will cost to add 240-volt service at your home. 

If you don’t have a garage, you can plug in outside. If you have a 240-volt outlet installed outside, make sure it’s up to code, and that your charging cord or station is designed for outdoor use.

Learn more about charging an EV at home »

3. How Much Does Electricity Cost?

Just like gasoline, the price of electricity varies depending on where you live. The average price of electricity in the U.S. is 13.28 cents per kilowatt-hour. In Louisiana, you’ll pay 9.5 cents, compared to 19.79 cents in California. Regardless of where you live or where you charge your EV, electricity will still cost you much less than gas for a competitor in the same segment. According to the EPA, fuel costs for a BMW 3 Series are over three times more expensive than charging a Tesla Model 3. However, there are details you should know in order to save the most money. 

Charging at home is typically cheaper than public charging, though some public charging units are free. Electricity prices can vary based on the time of day. It’s usually much less expensive to charge overnight or on the weekend than it is to charge at peak times, such as weekday afternoons and evenings. Your local utility company can break it all down for you. Some utility providers even offer special plans to accommodate EV owners.

4. Are There Public Charging Stations Nearby?

While home charging is the most convenient way to juice up your electric car, you’ll probably need to charge on the road at some point. Some public charging stations are Level 2, but many offer DC fast charging, which allows you to charge your car rapidly. Some EVs can be charged to 80% in less than 30 minutes at a fast-charging station. However, there are many factors involved. 

Make sure you find out if the EV you’re planning on picking up is capable of fast-charging, as well as how many miles you can expect to add in a given time. In addition, you should locate the charging stations in your area and on your typical routes, and then determine what type of charging they support. Closeup of public EV charging station signAtiwat Studio / Getty Images

There are many resources available, including PlugShare.com and PlugInAmerica.org. Charging networks, such as EVgo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America also have their own interactive maps. Tesla owners have exclusive access to the Supercharger network, which includes fast-charging stations strategically located nationwide.

5. Can I Take My EV on Road Trips?

Any electric car is capable of road-tripping. Whether it’s convenient or viable comes down to your route and your car’s range. If your EV offers 200 or 300 miles of range, you’ll probably be ready for a bathroom and snack break by the time you’re getting low on battery power. 

There shouldn’t be an issue mapping out your trip and making sure there’s a charging station every three hours or so – especially if you’re traveling on major highways. However, you may have to diverge from the usual route to make sure you can DC fast-charge at each stop. Otherwise, your travel time will be extended significantly.

Many EV owners also own a gas car that they use for family road trips. If you don’t go on long road trips often, you shouldn’t worry too much. You could always rent a car for the annual family road trip and still save money using your EV as your daily driver.

6. What Electric Vehicle Incentives are Available?

The federal U.S. government offers electric car buyers a $7,500 tax credit. The full amount only applies to new, fully electric cars. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are also eligible for the credit, though it reduces based on the size of the car’s battery. Longer range PHEVs like the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid qualify for the full tax credit, but the Toyota Prius Prime and Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid are only eligible for about $4,500.

Not all EVs qualify for the tax credit. The incentive phases out in increments after an automaker sells 200,000 electric vehicles. For example, Tesla and GM EVs are no longer eligible. It’s also important to note that not everyone’s tax situation will allow them to take advantage of the credit. Before buying an EV, be sure to talk to a tax professional to make sure you’ll get the credit. You can’t get the credit if you lease an EV, but the dealership can get it and apply it to the lease discounts. However, that’s not always the case. If you plan to lease, find out if the tax credit is applied or if the dealership is planning to pocket the credit.closeup of EV being charged with US currency overlaidStadtratte / Getty Images

States and cities also offer credits and incentives in addition to the federal tax credit. Make sure to do your homework to find out if you can get a local discount, financial assistance for a home charging system, or any other local incentive for purchasing an electric car.

7. Should I Buy a New or Used Electric Car?

Electric cars are expensive, so buying used will save you money. Interestingly, all new EVs are pricier than new gas-powered cars, but many used EVs are much cheaper than most used gas cars. This is because most EVs depreciate more rapidly than traditional cars due to the tax incentives and limited demand. However, this isn’t true of Tesla’s vehicles, which tend to hold their value better than most cars. Many used electric cars also have low mileage due to being relatively new and having range limitations.

Buying new guarantees your car will have a full warranty, the longest electric range currently available, and up-to-date tech and safety features. While batteries don’t degrade quickly, buying new still gives you the peace of mind that your battery is in tip-top condition. Finally, the federal EV tax credit and other electric car incentives aren’t available on the purchase of used EVs. 

Many of the same pros and cons of buying a new or used gas-only vehicle applies to EVs, too. Read our guide on choosing between a new or used model to learn more.

8. Is it Better to Buy or Lease an EV?

If you’re in the market for a new EV, you’ll have to decide whether to buy or lease. EV leasing is much more popular than buying since electric cars are so expensive. While buying a car, especially with a low interest rate, is generally a more sound financial decision, it’s not a good idea if you can barely afford the monthly payment. 

A $40,000 car loan with zero APR over five years will set you back almost $700 per month. You can often lease that same EV with a monthly payment that’s half that. Moreover, new electric cars are coming to market regularly, and current models are getting better every year. Many EVs get new technology and more range with each new model year. Leasing assures that you can take advantage of the newest technology or swap your car for an even better EV every few years. If your tax situation won’t allow you to get the federal electric car tax credit, you may benefit from the dealership applying it to your lease as a discount.EV charging at a car dealership lotMaskot / Getty Images

In the end, you have to ask yourself how long you plan to keep your electric car. Will you eventually pay off the loan? If you plan to sell it, realize that EV resale value may work against you. However, leasing means having a monthly car payment for a long period of time. Also, exceeding the car’s mileage restrictions or damaging the car may end up costing you when it’s time to turn it in.

Choosing to buy or lease an EV is similar to any vehicle. Our article on buying versus leasing can provide you with more information.

9. What Do I Need to Know About EV Maintenance?

Overall, electric cars require less maintenance than gas-powered cars. There are virtually no fluids to change, and the friction brakes last longer since regenerative braking assists with stopping the car. An EV’s battery and motor have the potential to last longer than the life of the car. In the rare event that an EV’s battery needs replacing, it can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $16,000, and that doesn’t include labor. For comparison, replacing the engine in a gas car can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the size of the engine and the hours of labor.

Fortunately, federal regulations require that automakers cover an electric vehicle’s battery for eight years or 100,000 miles. Keep in mind warranties can be packed with exceptions and exclusions, so make sure you understand exactly what’s covered.

10. How Much Does it Cost to Insure an Electric Car?

Insurance tends to cost more for electric cars than traditional cars. However, it has nothing to do with the vehicle’s safety. Instead, it’s because EVs are more expensive than gas-powered cars. More expensive cars typically cost more to repair. In addition, insurance companies take into account the high cost of EV battery packs. If an accident causes damage to the pack, and it needs to be replaced, it’s one of the most expensive repairs insurance companies will have to cover. 

On average, you’ll pay 23% more to insure an electric car than a gas car. Some insurance companies are more forgiving than others, and rates vary widely depending on many variables. For example, State Farm’s rates don’t seem to increase much for electric cars, but Allstate charges a hefty premium. Regardless of the car you drive, be sure to shop around for the best insurance rate. Our auto insurance guide can help you find the best options to insure your EV.

most reliable electric and hybrid cars

10. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2014-present)

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Reliability rating 97.8%

Although 14% of Outlander PHEVs suffered a fault, most of these were minor niggles relating to bodywork, interior trim and non-engine electrics. All cars could still be driven and a third were repaired in a day or less, with two-thirds of work done for free under warranty. Some owners were charged up to £750, though.


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8=. BMW i3 (2013-present)

BMW i3 2018 front cornering

Reliability rating 97.9%

Just under 13% of i3s have caused their owners trouble in the past 12 months, with these mostly suffering from problems with their infotainment/sat-nav systems and interior trim. All of the affected cars could still be driven, with a third fixed in less than a day, but another third took up to a week and the rest more than a week to put right. At least all repairs were done under warranty.

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8=. Honda CR-V Hybrid (2018-present)

Honda CR-V Hybrid

Reliability rating 97.9%

Only 8% of CR-V Hybrids went wrong and non-engine electrics were the only problem area. All cars could still be driven and were fixed the same day under warranty. 

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7. Toyota Corolla (2018-present)

Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Reliability rating 98.4%

Just 5% of Corolla owners reported a fault with their car and the only problematic area was the 12-volt battery. Although all cars were off the road for more than a week, all work was done for free. 

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6. Hyundai Kona Electric (2018-present)

Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh

Reliability rating 98.5%

Just 7% of Kona Electrics went wrong, with the ancillary battery being the only area affected. All of those cars could still be driven and the repair work was done under warranty, although this took more than a week in each case.

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5. Lexus RX (2016-present)

Lexus RX L

Reliability rating 99.1%

A mere 4% of the RX Hybrids we were told about had developed a fault in the previous 12 months. Non-engine electrics were the only issue and all work was done for free, in most cases in a day or less. 

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4. Toyota RAV4 (2019-present)

Toyota RAV4

Reliability rating 99.2%

Toyota is renowned for its reliability, and the latest RAV4 shows why; just 7% of cars went wrong, with the battery being the only area that was affected. All of the cars could still be driven and were repaired in a day or less, and all work was carried out for free.

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3. Lexus NX (2014-present)

Used Lexus NX 14-present

Reliability rating 99.3%

Only 6% of NX owners reported a fault on their car, with issues with the infotainment/sat-nav being the most common, followed by the bodywork. All of the cars remained driveable and were put right in a day or less, with the cost covered by the warranty.

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2. Tesla Model 3 (2019-present)

Tesla Model 3 front

Reliability rating 99.4%

Tesla’s newest model is not only the most dependable executive car but also the highest-scoring electric car. Just 5% of cars suffered a fault, according to owners. What’s more, they could all still be driven and were fixed in a day or less at no cost to owners.

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1. Toyota Yaris Hybrid (2011-2020)

New Toyota Yaris Hybrid vs Renault Zoe

Reliability rating 99.5%

As reliable as the Model 3 is, it’s beaten to top spot by the Toyota Yaris Hybrid. This small car is incredibly dependable, with a mere 5% of the cars we were told about having suffered a fault. Again, all of the affected cars could still be driven and were fixed in a day or less for free.

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