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Is it cheaper to drive an electric car?

Electric cars are becoming more and more common. Almost every car manufacturer makes a fully electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid — a car that can run on electricity or gas.

You should be able to save on the cost of gas by having an EV or a plug-in. Tap or click here to learn more about how you save money on gas by going electric. But are electric cars actually cheaper to own?

We took a look at the costs of fuel, maintenance and buying EVs, plug-ins and gas cars, to see if you really save money going electric. Before you buy your next vehicle, see if the costs add up in your favor.

Looking at fuel costs

According to Energy.gov, the average U.S. household “spends nearly one-fifth of its total family expenditures on transportation.” This means saving money on gas can save people a lot of money and, in general, EVs and plug-ins do spend less money on fuel.

The eGallon tool on Energy.gov lets you know the price of electric gasoline vs. an electric eGallon for each state, as well as the U.S. average. Check out the tool and see what gas vs. electric costs in your state.

An electric eGallon is calculated from the cost of charging your EV or plug-in with an outlet in your garage or home. Public charging stations can also be used — often for free — you just need time for charging, since it can take up to an hour.

The current national average for a gallon of regular gas is $2.57, and the average eGallon is $1.17. Using an EV should cut your fuel costs in half in most places, or at least save you a dollar per gallon overall.

Plug-in hybrids won’t save as much as an EV, as you will still need to put gas in your car. But you’ll still save more than having a gas-only vehicle. Tap or click here to learn if electric cars go faster with less fuel.

You could save yourself even more money with an EV or plug-in by having a solar-powered charging station for the car in your home. These cost money to install, but overall earn their keep in saved fuel costs.

So it’s definitely cheaper to fuel an EV or plug-in hybrid. But is it cheaper to buy or maintain one?

Maintenance on gas vs. electric vehicles

According to Consumer Reports, EVs often have lower maintenance costs “because they have fewer and simpler components that don’t require oil changes.” This is generally true, but for specialty and luxury EVs like Teslas, the opposite is more often the case.

Teslas have specific equipment and parts, so you need to go to Tesla to get replacements. Dealership parts and services always cost more, and since Teslas are relatively uncommon, most mechanics won’t know how to fix them.

This means luxury EVs can cost a lot more to maintain if anything goes wrong. But luxury gas vehicles cost a lot to maintain too, for similar reasons.

Replacing your EV or hybrid battery can also cost you quite a lot, unless you’re under warranty. Most EV owners won’t have to replace their car’s battery — it’s like needing to replace an entire gas engine; it happens, but not frequently.

Also, most EVs don’t need regular maintenance like gas-powered cars do. You just have tires, brakes, insurance and structural repairs. Engine and combustion issues don’t exist.

If you have a plug-in, you still have oil changes because you still have a gas engine. So an EV can save money on maintenance, depending on what EV you own. But a plug-in should cost you about the same as a gas-powered car.

So whether you save money on maintenance with an electric or hybrid car depends on the exact vehicle you’re getting. That plays into the next section about the cost of buying these cars, too.

The cost of the car

Can you buy an EV or plug-in hybrid for less money than a gas-powered car? The answer is, for the most part, no.

The base cost of the average EV is $30,000. This can get you a Nissan Leaf or a Hyundai Ioniq. For $35,000, you can get a Tesla Model 3, or for over $100,000, you can get a Model S or Model X.

On average, a plug-in hybrid will cost $2,000 to $10,000 more than their gas-only equivalents. For example, a new 2020 Ford Fusion Energi costs about $37,000. A new 2020 Ford Fusion is about $23,000.

Many EVs and plug-ins can get you a $7,500 tax credit, saving you money on the upfront cost of the car. You can also buy used EVs and plug-ins, and save money on that price tag as well.

So you might find you can get an electric or hybrid vehicle for about the cost of a gas-powered car. But in general, an electric or hybrid vehicle will cost you more upfront.

So is it cheaper to go electric?

It costs more upfront to get an EV or plug-in hybrid, but you save money on maintenance and fuel. Does this add up to electric cars being cheaper in the long run?

The answer is: Yes, depending on how you use it. Tap or click here to learn about a car that’s competing with Tesla.

If you mostly drive locally, even without a solar-powered charging station or free public charging spots, you’ll save money on gas with an EV or plug-in. With those options, you save more and that can offset initial costs.

If you have an EV, you’ll save on maintenance as well and, combined with a potential tax credit, you’ll likely spend less on the car altogether. With a plug-in, you’ll really only save money on fuel, but that’s still savings.

For those who often travel long distances, recharging your vehicle will add up to more money, and take more time. With a plug-in, you’ll still need gas regularly, as most hybrids will only achieve highway speeds on gas power, so no savings there.

Saving on maintenance can still help you out with an EV, but costs will be the same with a plug-in. So overall, you’ll still save with an EV, but if you’re a regular long-distance traveler, you won’t save much with a plug-in hybrid.

Since EVs and plug-ins seem to be increasing in number and type, it’s very likely this cost could shift fully in the direction of them being cheaper. But as of now, just make sure to understand what kind of driver you are and what your travel needs will be.

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