How to Choose an EV to Fit Your Driving Needs

Last Updated: 5/5/2022
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Electric vehicles (EVs) have changed the car industry. While there are still more Americans driving gasoline-powered vehicles, the EV market is growing as more people aim to reduce waste and their reliance on fossil fuels.

With hundreds of electric car models available, some consumers may find choosing the right vehicle daunting. Learn more about available EV options, how to choose an EV that fits your budget and tips for determining the best EV for your needs.

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Sources:

1AFDC, 2Reuters, 3Pew Research, 4IEA

Learning About Electric Vehicles

There are a variety of reasons people typically consider buying electric vehicles. Some of the most common include helping protect the environment by cutting emissions and oil use, saving money on fuel and maintenance and for their convenience.

An EV is a type of vehicle that runs on electricity. Instead of an internal combustion engine, EVs run with the help of an electric motor. There are three types of EVs: Battery EVs (BEVs), Plug-In Hybrid EVs (PHEVs) and Hybrid EVs (HEVs).

Electric Vehicles vs. Conventional Vehicles

With approximately 370 EV models currently available, choosing the best vehicle for you can be a bit challenging. Additionally, there are various factors you should consider, including cost, maintenance and safety.

Before buying an EV, it is important to understand how it differs from conventional vehicles. Knowing EV types and the benefits and drawbacks of each can help you find the most suitable electric car for your budget and needs.

  • Aspect
    Electric Vehicles
    Conventional Vehicles
  • Cost

    The average cost of a new electric
    vehicle is $55,000. While this is more
    expensive than the average gas-powered
    vehicle, EV owners can get federal incentives,
    such as a tax break.

    The average cost of a four-door
    sedan that runs on gasoline is
    $35,000.

  • Environment

    EVs have less impact on the environment.
    That is especially true in terms of air quality.
    EVs tend to reduce air pollutants.

    Conventional vehicles have more
    effect on climate change. The
    use of fossil fuels causes high
    carbon emissions. While there
    are efforts to reduce emissions,
    they are still higher compared to
    EVs.

  • Fuel Costs

    As of March 2021, the average cost to
    fuel an electric vehicle in the U.S.
    was $1.16 per gallon. That said,
    average prices may vary per state.

    As of March 2021, the average cost
    of regular gasoline in the U.S. was
    $2.85 per gallon. Average rates
    may vary depending on the state
    where you live.

  • Maintenance

    EVs tend to be cheaper because of the
    absence of an internal combustion engine.
    The biggest expense for an EV owner
    is typically a replacement battery pack.

    Internal combustion engine
    maintenance can be costly,
    especially as the car ages.
    It includes the changing of
    engine oil, belts, transmission
    fluid and coolants.

  • Noise

    EVs are known for their quietness.
    They reduce noise pollution in communities.

    It is possible to reduce conventional
    car noise with the help of a good
    muffler and a well-maintained
    engine. However, combustion
    engines and mechanical gears
    are noisy.

  • Safety

    EVs are tested for safety. Since they
    run on electricity, they can cut out power
    upon airbag deployment. This can
    stop the car from running after a crash.

    Conventional vehicles are tested for
    safety. They must pass certain
    requirements before they can be
    used on the road. Since they run on
    gasoline, there is a risk of car fire if
    they are involved in a crash.

Types of Electric Vehicles and Their Features

As you try to learn more about EVs, you may stumble upon several abbreviations. Among them are BEVs, PHEVs and HEVs.

These are the three types of electric vehicles — battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). While all of them use electricity, each has unique features. Before deciding on what type you would purchase, it would help to compare the benefits and drawbacks.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

BEVs are typically what people refer to when talking about electric cars. These are also known as full electric and all-electric. That is because they are exclusively powered by electricity.

BEVs tend to have zero-emission because they do not have any other actuation source aside from the batteries and motors. Compared to other EVs, BEVs have larger capacity batteries.


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Benefits
  • BEVs are energy efficient. Typically, BEVs convert 59% to 62% of energy into powering the vehicle. In comparison, gas-powered cars convert only 17% to 21% of energy into vehicle movement.
  • BEVs produce less emissions. Since BEVs rely solely on rechargeable batteries, they do not produce tailpipe emissions that cause pollution.
  • BEVs are considered high-performance vehicles. Electric motors tend to be smooth. They produce less noise. Additionally, they require less maintenance compared to internal combustion engines.
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Drawbacks
  • BEVs have a shorter range. Compared to gas cars, BEVs can travel less distance. Most BEVs can run 60 to 120 miles per charge. Meanwhile, gas-powered cars can usually travel around 300 miles on a full tank.
  • Recharging BEV batteries have long charging times. BEVs rely on electricity alone. So, it is important to ensure that their battery pack is recharged. It may take eight hours if you use Level 1 or 2 chargers, while fast-charging stations can charge up to 80% in 30 minutes.
  • BEVs can be expensive. The upfront cost of a BEV is more expensive than the price of gas cars. Additionally, you may also need to replace the battery packs after a certain period.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

As the name suggests, a PHEV’s electric battery can be recharged from a plug and combines the use of electric motors and battery packs with an internal combustion engine. Because of this, it allows drivers to switch between using the engine and going full electric. That means the car can still run even if the electric charge is depleted as long as the fuel tank has gasoline.


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Benefits
  • PHEVs can operate with a drained battery. Since PHEVs can run on both electric motors and combustion engines, they can continue to operate even after the battery is drained.
  • PHEVs have a large battery capacity. Compared to HEVs, PHEVs have a longer electric range. It averages 25 to 50 miles. Additionally, they have smaller batteries compared to BEVs. That means they can be charged faster.
  • PHEVs have advanced systems. PHEVs offer features conventional cars don’t have. These include control of certain functions such as pre-conditioning the vehicle’s temperature and setting charging times.
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Drawbacks
  • PHEVs require charging. Like BEVs, you will need to plug a PHEV into a charger. That means they typically have lower power output compared to conventional cars.
  • PHEVs are more expensive. Similar to BEVs, PHEVs cost more than gas cars. They also tend to be more expensive than HEVs.
  • Maintenance of PHEVs can be costly. Repairing PHEVs require specific equipment and knowledge. That means you may need to go to a specialist repair center, which may be more expensive.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

Similar to PHEVs, HEVs have an electric motor and a combustion engine. The electric motor and battery packs aim to lessen the consumption of fuel by providing additional power when necessary, such as when accelerating or climbing hills. Depending on the model, an HEV can also run on motor power alone for low-speed driving.

Charging HEVs is done through regenerative braking instead of plugging into a power outlet.


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Benefits
  • HEVs are more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars. An HEV is more fuel-efficient than gas-powered vehicles and has fewer tailpipe emissions, even when operated solely on gasoline.
  • HEVs are easy to refuel. Unlike BEVs and PHEVs, HEV’s electric motors rely on regenerative braking instead of plug-in charging.
  • HEVs have a higher range. The regenerative braking capacity of HEVs allows them to have a higher range than the usual mileage of EVs.
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Drawbacks
  • HEVs still have CO2 emissions. While having an electric motor reduces fuel use, HEVs still use internal combustion engines and emit CO2.
  • HEV maintenance can be expensive. HEVs do not require as much maintenance as gas-powered cars. However, when necessary, maintenance costs can be expensive, especially if the battery needs replacing.
  • HEVs can be expensive. Similar to BEVs and PHEVs, the upfront cost of hybrid cars tends to be more expensive than gas-powered cars.

An illustrative image of two people considering and searching for the right electric vehicle.

Questions to Ask Before Buying an Electric Vehicle

There are several factors you should consider before buying an electric vehicle. Ask yourself what you need as a driver to determine if an EV is suitable for you. Will you use it regularly? How are you going to charge it?

Additionally, the upfront cost of EVs is higher than a gasoline-powered vehicle. So, consider your financial circumstances when making your decision. The following commonly asked questions about key considerations can help you assess if an EV is the right option for you.

Where Do You Plan to Charge?

What is your charging plan? This is one of the most important EV considerations pre-purchase. Will you go on long drives? If you plan to, you have to ensure there are charging stations for recharging your batteries.

Also, consider the cost of charging an EV. For instance, if you plan on charging it at home, it may take longer to reach a full charge.

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CHARGING OPTIONS

The right charging plan can help reduce your worries about owning an EV. Remember, how often you charge your vehicle will be based on the size of the batteries. It’s important to review that feature prior to buying an EV, as well as where you plan on charging your EV.

  • Charging at home. Most EV owners charge at home. The charging rate is about 3.5 miles of range per hour and requires a standard 120-volt outlet. Many drivers charge their EVs overnight at home.
  • Public charging. If you are traveling, you will not have access to a home charger and will need to use a public charging station. There are apps like PlugShare to help you find the nearest charging station.
  • Fast charging plans. There are also companies offering fast charging plans. Depending on the service provider, you can reserve a charger in advance or earn points as you charge. A good example of this is EVgo.
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MONEY-SAVING TIPS

Fuel costs are already less expensive with EV fuel versus gasoline. You can continue to keep your costs low by seeking free EV charging. Some malls, hotels and parking areas offer this service.

Charging during off-peak hours — between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. — can also help you save money. Due to lower demand during these hours, utility companies typically charge less.

How Far Do You Need to Travel?

How far you can drive and the battery capacity depend on the EV model. It’s important to consider your travel needs to find the most suitable type of EV for you.

That said, only a few EVs offer less than 100 miles of range. The more affordable options can run for more than 200 miles on a full charge. Based on a study conducted by Edmunds, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+ has the highest range with an EPA estimate of 350 miles and a real-life range of 422 miles.

What Is Your Budget?

While EVs can help you save more money in the long run, the average cost of an EV is $55,000. That is $20,000 more than the average price of a four-door sedan. Additionally, there are other expenses you need to consider. For instance, the EV auto insurance you will need to select. There are several ways you can keep your EV purchase affordable and within your budget if you’re strategic.

1

Check your budget

The first thing you have to do is make sure you can afford an EV. You can create a budget by adding up your monthly income and expenses. Then determine expenses in your budget that could be reduced or removed so you can afford the monthly car payments.

2

Compare features

One of the best ways to ensure that you are getting the right car is to check the features. For instance, higher-end EVs have a self-driving function. If this isn’t a priority for you, then choose a more basic model.

3

Get an auto loan

Financing a car can be expensive. An auto loan can help with the expense if your savings can’t cover the payment.

4

Check for tax credits

To promote using more environmentally-friendly vehicles, there are government tax breaks and incentives for EV users. For example, the federal tax credit can be as much as $7,500. Depending on where you live, there may be state and local incentives, too.

5

Buying vs. leasing

If you can’t afford to buy an EV, you can opt to lease one. This will allow you to use an EV for a specific period. After the lease term, you can either lease a newer model or purchase your own.

What Is the Cost to Insure?

Similar to conventional cars, the cost to insure an EV depends on various factors. Insurance companies use personalized factors — such as your driving history, credit history, age, gender and location — to calculate insurance premiums.

Another factor that affects the cost of insurance is the car's make and model. For instance, Tesla car insurance costs are significantly higher than the average car insurance rate. The cost also varies depending on the specific model. A Tesla Model 3 car insurance costs an average of $1,712 per year. Meanwhile, the average insurance rate for a Tesla Model Y is $2,878 annually.

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MONEYGEEK TIP: FINDING THE BEST AUTO INSURANCE

The best car insurance may vary per individual. The right policy is the one that provides you with coverage for your needs. When shopping for auto insurance, it is important to compare policies and options. Aside from the coverage levels, you should also evaluate the insurance providers and aim for at least three personalized quotes from various providers.

Using a car insurance calculator can help you estimate how much your car insurance would cost, which can help you identify your needs and budget.

Should You Purchase a New or Used EV?

Another consideration when purchasing an EV is if you should get a new or used one. Your financial situation will play a big role when making this decision.

Both options have pros and cons. For instance, new EVs have full warranty and tend to have updated technology and safety features. On the other hand, buying a used EV helps you save money.

Benefits and Drawbacks of New Electric Vehicles

For most drivers, purchasing a new EV can be expensive, but many newer models have features that older ones do not, such as a larger battery pack and advanced technology. Consider the benefits and drawbacks before you make your purchase.


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Benefits
  • It's covered by a warranty. A new EV’s warranty coverage typically covers repair costs for various parts, including the battery and can offer you peace of mind.
  • You are entitled to tax breaks. The government offers federal tax credits to owners of new EVs. That can be as much as $7,500. You may also find tax incentives in your state.
  • You get the latest technology and features. Buying a new EV gives you access to the latest technology and advanced features. You may also get a better mileage range.
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Drawbacks
  • It's more expensive. You can plan on putting a lot more into your vehicle upfront which often requires planning and financial capability. However, the cost and convenience of a new EV may be worth it in the long run.
  • It's more expensive to insure. Car insurance prices vary depending on the vehicle type. Generally, newer models are more expensive to insure compared to older models. Additionally, the cost of insurance for high-value cars is typically higher.
  • There may be longer charging time. Newer EV models have newer technology which may include larger battery packs. This can potentially increase the vehicle’s charging time.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Used Electric Vehicles

You can save a lot of money choosing a used vehicle verse a new one. But still, you may want to consider the potential drawbacks, such as EV batteries degrading over time and gradually losing their ability to charge fully.


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Benefits
  • It’s a cheaper option. Buying a used EV allows you to own one for a lower price. Depending on the condition and model, you can even find pre-owned EVs under $12,000.
  • You can get cheaper car insurance. Generally, older cars are cheaper to insure. If the used EV you purchase also has different driver-assist features, you may be able to get discounts on your insurance premiums.
  • It requires less maintenance. Even used EVs tend to require less maintenance. That is because they typically have fewer miles recorded on the odometer. That means the breaks, tires and suspension have less wear and tear.
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Drawbacks
  • It has a lower mileage range. Typically, used EVs are older models. That means they tend to have a lower mileage range.
  • Its battery performance has deteriorated. Battery performance diminishes over time because of repeated recharging. Overcharging, driving in hot climates and consistent battery drain can further affect battery performance.
  • It may not be covered by warranty. Depending on how old it is, the battery may no longer be covered by a warranty.

What Are the Battery Life & Warranties?

EV batteries can last a long time, but their performance deteriorates over time. Various factors, such as overcharging, operating in high temperatures, constant draining and high discharges, can also result in faster deterioration.

Manufacturers offer various warranties for EV batteries to protect consumers. The warranty period, number of miles driven and percentage guarantee vary depending on the manufacturer and EV model. These warranties are most beneficial for vehicles with a shorter range. That is because lower-capacity batteries are more prone to deep discharge.

To better understand battery life and warranties, consider talking with the manufacturer before purchasing an EV.

What EV Choices Are Available in the US.?

While there are hundreds of EV choices available globally, there are only 55 models currently being sold in the U.S. These include BEVs and PHEVs.

Companies offering EVs in the US.

  • Audi
  • Bentley
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Chrysler
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Jaguar
  • Jeep
  • Karma
  • Kia
  • Land Rover
  • Lincoln
  • Mercedes
  • Mini Cooper
  • Mitsubishi
  • Nissan
  • Polestar
  • Porsche
  • Subaru
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Volvo

While EVs only make up a small percentage of the automotive market in the country, growth is seen in the number of users. Additionally, around 39% of Americans consider getting an EV for their next car purchase.

An illustrative image of a man weighing the options to find the best EV for him.

Finding the Right Electric Vehicle for You

Evaluating your needs as a driver will help you in choosing the best electric vehicle. Determining what type of driver you are can also give you an idea as to what EV type and model is right for you. That said, you should also consider what car you can afford to buy.

What Kind of Driver Are You?

Finding the best EV comes down to your needs and preferences. Understanding what kind of driver you are can help you narrow down your options and some drivers are more likely to purchase an EV than others. According to Fuels Institute, the average EV owner is a 40- to 55-year-old male earning more than $100,00 per year.

  • Type of Driver
    Description
  • On a Budget
    For some car buyers, it all comes down to cost. Drivers on a budget compare cars by sticker price and other saving opportunities.
  • Commuter
    Commuters, especially those who regularly travel long distances, may find the best EV option is one that covers more miles.
  • City Driver
    Your needs also depend on where you drive. City drivers tend to face more complex situations. Urban areas tend to have more limited spaces and heavier traffic.
  • Families
    Buying a family car comes with different considerations. Aside from ensuring that the vehicle is enough to accommodate the whole family, you also have to consider the storage space and safety systems.

Electric Vehicle Recommendations for Your Needs

Electric vehicles offer many benefits. However, not all models are the same. The best car is based on the type of driver you are and your needs as a consumer. To help you get started, MoneyGeek compiled EV recommendations for certain types of drivers.

Best EV for Drivers on a Budget

car

Best type: Nissan LEAF

car2

Best model: LEAF S

money2

Model base price: $27,400


The Nissan LEAF S has an EPA estimated range of 226 miles. Its battery size can cover 40 or 62 kWh. Its base price is $27,400, which makes this appealing to drivers on a budget. Additionally, buying a Nissan LEAF qualifies you for the federal tax credits worth $7,500.

You can learn more about the Nissan LEAF, find a dealer near you or request a quote through Nissan USA’s website.

Best EV for Commuters

car

Best type: Tesla Model S

car2

Best model: Tesla Model S Long Range

money2

Model base price: $94,990


Tesla’s Model S Long Range boasts of a 405-mile range — a good option for drivers with long commutes. Additionally, this model offers a stylish but comfortable interior. As a Tesla car owner, you will also have access to the Tesla Supercharger network, which offers fast charging in all 50 states. You can also compare Tesla models to find your best fit.

Best for City Drivers

car

Best type: Tesla Model 3

car2

Best model: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range

money2

Model base price: $40,690


Tesla Model 3 Standard Range offers a range of 267-272 miles. Its acceleration rate from 0-60 mph is 5.8 seconds and its top speed is 140 mph. Additionally, it has a comfortable and spacious interior. Tesla also has Supercharger stations in most major cities, making them easily accessible to city drivers.

Best for Families

car

Best type: Tesla Model Y

car2

Best model: Tesla Model Y Long Range

money2

Model base price: $54,690


Tesla Model Y Long Range offers a mileage range of 314-330. It has a 4.8-second acceleration rate when going from 0-60 mph. This model is slightly bigger than the Tesla Model 3. It also offers an option for a third row of seats, making it a great option for families. Depending on your state, the price may change. You can compare state prices in the model’s finance options.

Expert Insight on Choosing the Best Electric Vehicle

Electric vehicles offer a lot of benefits. To help you decide whether EVs are for you or what type suits your needs, MoneyGeek asked some industry leaders to share their expert insight.

  1. What do you think is the most important thing drivers need to know about electric vehicles? Any advice for people thinking of buying an EV?
  2. There has been an increase in EV ownership in the U.S. in the past two years. What factors do you think have contributed to this trend?
Cody Nehiba, PhD
Cody Nehiba, PhD

Assistant Professor of Research in the Center for Energy Studies at Louisiana State University

Rue Phillips
Rue Phillips

Co-founder and President of 365 Pronto, Host of the EV-Chat Podcast and Founder of the EV Infrastructure Forum

K.C. Boyce
K.C. Boyce

Vice President for Energy and the Energy Lead on the EVForward Study at Escalent

Gilbert Michaud
Gilbert Michaud

Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy at the School of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago

Resources

There are various factors to consider when it comes to electric vehicles. MoneyGeek listed some relevant resources to help you learn more about EV concepts.

Federal Resources

Resources by State

Other Resources

  • AAA’s Electric Vehicle Range Testing: Compare the driving range of some EVs available in the U.S. and find out how temperature and HVAC can affect EVs’ driving range.
  • Kelley Blue Book: The Kelley Blue Book is a well-known resource tool for consumers looking to learn more about vehicles and compare prices.

About the Author


expert-profile

Nathan Paulus is the director of content marketing at MoneyGeek. Nathan has been creating content for nearly 10 years and is particularly engaged in personal finance, investing, and property management. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas Houston.


sources