Three Questions to Answer Before Buying Your First Electric Car

Consider a few key aspects of your driving life, location, and budget before committing to an EV.

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With electric vehicle sales on the rise, you may be wondering if you should buy one, too—maybe you’re trying to make an environmentally conscious lifestyle change, maybe the price of gasoline has become untenable, maybe you want to save time with HOV lanes. Whatever the case, if you’re considering an EV purchase, there are a few questions you should answer first.

What Are Your Daily Driving Habits?

Before committing to an electric vehicle, you should know your driving habits inside and out. That includes everything from your daily commute to the likelihood of spontaneous trips (and the nature of those trips). Focus on: How much do I drive in a day or a week, and where am I driving?

According to the Office of Energy and Efficiency, the median estimated range for EVs is around 234 miles. At the very least, your vehicle should be able to comfortably accommodate your daily commute with a little juice left over for emergencies. If you can rely on a 25 mile daily commute from a populated suburb into a city, an EV might be a great choice. However, if you make house calls to isolated farms, you could struggle to find charging stations and need greater driving range.

Where Will You Charge Your Car?

You can fill a vehicle’s gasoline or diesel tank just about anywhere, no matter how remote, but readily available recharging is not always the case with an EV. You don’t need to store fuel at your house for a gas-powered car, but you should determine if you can install an at-home charging station for an EV. If you live in an apartment building, for instance, you’ll want to be sure there’s a charging area very close to your home.

EV charging times are dependent on the vehicle’s battery size and range, but Level 1 chargers can take upward of 50 hours to fully charge a battery, while a DC Fast Charger might be able to refill a partially-depleted battery in 20 minutes, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports. It’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of your available charging network.

How Much Can You Spend?

Electric vehicles cost more than their gasoline-powered equivalents as a general rule. Also, you pay for an EV’s range in a way that’s not applicable to gasoline-powered or hybrid vehicles. In EVs, greater range is the result of more advanced technology and larger batteries, which is far costlier than a more efficient engine or a larger gas tank.

Always ask yourself how your choice will ultimately impact the kind of driving you can do. If you can only afford a base-model EV, will you have adequate range? Will you have amenities like rear USB chargers or two-zone climate control? Will the vehicle have all-wheel drive, or sufficient horsepower and torque? Or will you end up compromising too much to make an all-electric car work? Think realistically about your driving habits, the availability of charging stations, and your budget before entering the electric vehicle market.

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Elizabeth Blackstock
I’m Elizabeth Blackstock, and after growing up around the Detroit automotive industry, I’ve made it my life’s mission to make information about vehicles accessible for the average consumer. Whether you’re a hardcore auto enthusiast or someone looking for a practical machine for the daily commute, I’m here to help you make your most informed decision.