Buying a Car

Know the Pros and Cons Before Buying an Electric Car

February 13, 2014 / Ryan Hanley
Electric car plugged in and charging.

Although fans of science fiction are dismayed that, well into the new millennium, we still haven't managed to roll out the flying car, automakers around the world are pulling out all the stops in the latest and greatest vehicle advances.

Consumers have more choices of engine technologies with the new hybrid vehicles coming out of production, but for those who want the pure electric vehicle experience, buyers are wading in unknown waters. What are the pros and cons to owning and driving an electric vehicle? We've compiled a definitive list of pros and cons from all the online car experts to give you an unbiased look at the future of cars.

Electric Car Pros

Although no two electric cars are exactly alike, this list of pros that most models offer comprises the opinions of the wheel junkies and vehicle experts at Edmunds, Popular Mechanics and Plug-in Cars.

From purrs like a kitten to quiet as a mouse: Car buffs in the 80s may have preferred the roar of a V8 combustion engine to the quiet hum of a 4-cylinder hatchback, but most of today's consumers are over the muscle-car trend. Even the soft purring of a smaller engine can't beat the virtual silence of an electric engine. Electric cars are the quietest vehicles on the road. So much so that lawmakers in the U.S. have proposed installing "noisemakers" in the stealth-like cars to inform inattentive pedestrians of their approach.

Gas went up another 15 cents? So what?: Owners of electric vehicles never have to fill up those seemingly bottomless gas tanks. They can drive past gas station after gas station without cringing at the latest fuel mark-up. Simply plug your electric vehicle in at home (a task that takes all of 30 seconds) and drive off in the morning. Most models can run 80 to 100 miles on a single charge, and some offer even more staying power.

According to USA Today, the vast majority of commuters nationwide have about a 30-minute one-way trip. Electric vehicle mileages are only a hindrance to the roughly 8 percent who commute an hour or more away from work. Even then, electric charging stations are popping up in more places, thus ensuring more people have a chance to charge during the workday. Most electric cars fully charge in 4 hours or less.

Fewer trips to the neighborhood mechanic: Oil change? What oil? Electric cars do not run on oil. Therefore, you don't have to change the oil, the filter or any of the other parts that accompany a combustion engine. Not only do electric car owners save on fuel, as electricity is still far cheaper than petroleum - they also save on maintenance costs. On a cost-per-mile basis, EV cars are about a third less expensive than their gassy counterparts are.

EV cars are eco-friendly: Without a tailpipe, electric cars have no exhaust system, and therefore have zero emissions. Even in areas that rely on coal burning plants to produce the electricity powering EVs, the emissions to produce the charge are far lower than a combustion engine vehicle.

The engineering geniuses at Popular Mechanics have home solar charging station designs for the most avid eco-friendly EV owners to ensure even less of the car's power stems from pollution. As more and more of the nation's electrical grid is attached to alternative, sustainable energy (such as wind farms and solar panels), the controversy over whether electric vehicles are truly more environmentally safe will be put to rest.

Electric Car Cons

Cross-country road trips are a little tricky: It's true that the range of electric vehicles would make a coast-to-coast driving vacation next to impossible, making the lack of charging stations top the list of electric car cons. Until charging stations are as common as fueling stations, an electric car can only get you so far.

Chemical engineers across the globe are working on developing batteries that can hold their charges longer with the help of 22 research grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. Until their research proves fruitful, however, most EV batteries can only take you 100 miles on a single charge. The new Tesla model boasts a 300-mile charge, but the innovative carmaker is dealing with massive delays and government inspections due to its lithium ion batteries bursting into flames, much to the annoyance and dismay of its owners.

Recharging takes longer than refueling: While electric car drivers can skip the gas station on the way home, they best not forget to plug in their car before heading off to bed. Most EV engines can run about 25 miles for every hour they are charged and can take up to 4 hours to completely charge. Some models, such as the Ford Focus EV, take an excruciating 15 to 20 hours to reach their full potential. Although some kits are available to increase that mileage to up to 50 per hour of charge, it still takes longer than a trip to the gas station.

Sticker shock: Although electric vehicle owners realize significant savings on energy and maintenance costs, the initial price tag for the top selling EVs is still too high for most consumers. With a price range of anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 for a Nissan Leaf and as high as $85,000 for a tricked out Tesla, buyers can expect to pay an initial $10,000 to $50,000 more on an electric vehicle for the time being. As battery technology advances to newer and cheaper designs, and as EVs become a larger share of the domestic car market, these prices should come down. For now, however, EVs are a considerable investment.

Small, lightweight rounded corners or smaller, lightweight boxy look? Unfortunately, it seems most EV makers are playing from the same design book. Most electric car models look eerily similar to the next. The Chevy Volt looks much like the Ford Focus EV, while the Mini E appears to be the Mitsubishi i's little cousin. For as little as $850,000, you could stand out with the Porsche 918 Spyder, but why buy one EV when you could own 12?

I Bought Electric, What Now?

If you bought an electric car and you're wondering what else you need to think about, consider your insurance costs. You may have somewhat higher insurance rates than typical gas-fueled drivers have because the cost to replace or repair your car is higher. You'll still need to carry liability insurance (or pay a fee to meet the requirements of your state for liability costs), or comprehensive/collision insurance if you financed the purchase of your car.

You can comparison shop for coverage to keep your costs low, or you can find an independent agent who can comparison shop for you. Trusted Choice® agents can get you the car insurance for your electric car that will help you get peace of mind on the road.

You might also like...

Now, who's ready to get their insurance problems solved?