After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine helped spur record-high gas prices at U.S. pumps, many have debated whether owning an electric car instead of a gasoline one could be a wise investment.
In short, electric vehicles do tend to cost less in the long term than some of the most popular gasoline cars in the U.S., according to a February analysis by Atlas Public Policy.
“You can’t really get out a calculator and do this at home,” Tom Taylor, policy analyst at Atlas Public Policy, told McClatchy News. “It’s really difficult.”
And indeed, it is.
There are many studies and articles online comparing the costs of electric vehicles versus gas ones. But, Taylor warns, customers need to closely read these studies to truly understand what these numbers mean.
Comparing the costs
According to the Atlas Public Policy analysis, while the initial purchase price for electric vehicles tends to be higher than for gas ones, other expenses such as fuel, maintenance, insurance and taxes bring the total ownership cost for electric vehicles down in the long term, ending up cheaper than many gasoline alternatives.
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The analysis compared costs of some of the most popular vehicles in the U.S. and their electric alternatives.
Two “low-cost” sedans were compared in the study: a 2022 Toyota Corolla — a gas vehicle — and a 2022 Chevrolet Bolt — electric.
The Toyota selling price starts at about $20,000, while the Chevrolet sells for about $30,000.
But the upfront costs are only one part of the equation.
After running calculations based on eight years of driving the electric-powered Bolt and gas-powered Corolla, the total cost of owning the Chevrolet Bolt would reach $47,325. In comparison, the total cost of owning the Toyota Corolla would reach $50,350.
“You can see that particularly maintenance and fueling of the vehicle are really significant cost savers for electric vehicles,” Taylor said. “So electric vehicle owners save a lot of money from those two elements in particular compared with their gasoline equivalent.”
The average yearly cost to run a gas vehicle in the U.S. in 2022 is estimated to be $4,336 — compared to $3,679 for an electric vehicle, according to Self, a financial technology company.
The Self study considered factors including “fuel, energy, mileage, insurance, EV incentives, taxes, registration fees, maintenance, emissions tests.”
Costs vary state by state
The cost of running an electric car versus a gas one varies state by state.
For example, in Massachusetts, fueling up in 2022 is on average predicted to be $609.86 cheaper for electric vehicles than gas ones — about a $50 monthly difference.
But in Nevada, that difference goes up to $1,220.16 in savings for electric car owners compared to gas ones — about $100 difference each month, according to Self.
In California, electric car owners are projected to save about $1,198 for fuel on average, according to Self, while those in Washington can expect to save about $1,178.
Savings are most noticeable for those who charge their electric vehicle at home. Charging is much cheaper than gasoline — “a dollar or two each day,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
But if you go on a road trip, that’s when costs can add up and flip the answer. The Wall Street Journal reported that in most U.S. cities, stopping at fast-charging electric stations can actually be more expensive than stopping at regular gasoline stations.
‘Total cost of ownership’
While electric cars seem to overall be cheaper to own than gasoline ones over time, now might not be the best time to buy them, Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader, told NJ Advance Media.
“EVs are great if you can get them (and can afford them),” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said, according to CNBC.
Krebs said that supply chain issues caused by the war in Ukraine have been impacting gasoline and electric vehicles alike and prices are going up. Tesla raised prices of its electric cars in the U.S. and China for the second time since March 9.
“Even for people who want to switch to electric, they have nowhere to go,” Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, told CNBC. “Anything you’re looking to buy, you’re on a waitlist … or even if you’re looking to downsize your purchase, you’re paying top dollar. It just doesn’t make sense to make a move right now.”
Still, prices at the pump are encouraging many in the U.S. to consider the electric alternative.
“People could potentially save a fair bit of money from the electric equivalent compared with the gasoline vehicle and that’s including the total cost of ownership,” Taylor said.
5 vehicles for 5 personality types: Find the right car for you
Meet your match
For all the people trying to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, the same goes for cars. It isn’t easy finding the right one, and many have personalities of their own. So why not choose your next car as you would a date?
The car experts at Edmunds have evaluated five cars with distinct personalities in the hopes of matching you with the next automotive love of your life. (Destination fees are included in the listed starting price.)
The hopeless romantic: Mazda MX-5 Miata
A hopeless romantic can’t help but love someone who may not always make the most sense. The Mazda MX-5 Miata has attractive styling, is fun to drive, and can rekindle the love you once had for a manual transmission. But the Miata isn’t for everyone because it seats only two, doesn’t have much cargo space, and isn’t the best choice for colder climates.
Still, you’ll be smitten with its engaging handling, simple convertible top operation, and all-around fun. The rear-wheel-drive roadster is offered in three trim levels: the base Sport, the performance-enhanced Club and the premium Grand Touring.
Starting price: $28,315
The bad boy/bad girl: Dodge Challenger
Some people can’t resist someone with attitude, who maybe ruffles a few feathers. The large, loud and aggressive-looking Dodge Challenger coupe would be a perfect match in the car world.
The standard V6 engine is nice, but more muscle equals more attitude. That’s why getting one of the Challenger’s available V8 engines is essential. And you might as well go straight to the top with the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 found in the Challenger SRT Hellcat that cranks out 717 horsepower. But even bad boys and girls have soft spots, and the Challenger obliges with its comfortable ride, supportive seats and a quiet cabin.
Starting price: $31,275
The adventurous type: Jeep Wrangler
If you’re looking for a partner to venture off the beaten path with, then the Jeep Wrangler is the perfect companion. This American icon can take you just about anywhere thanks to its capable four-wheel-drive system, high ground clearance and advanced off-road features.
You can choose from a toned-down Sport model, a more premium Sahara Altitude or the outrageous V8-powered Rubicon 392. Off-road features such as large off-terrain tires and lockable axles are plentiful, but this off-roading explorer isn’t all brawn. You can option it with other goodies like an 8.4-inch touchscreen and adaptive cruise control.
Starting price: $31,320
The tech geek: Tesla Model 3
If you’re always the first to buy the latest gadgets or download the newest firmware update, there’s a great chance you’ll love the Tesla Model 3. This electric vehicle packs more advanced tech than an Apple store.
Its all-touchscreen interface can be distracting when driving, and its so-called Full Self-Driving system is still in beta. But there are other Easter eggs to keep you entertained. It even gets automatic over-the-air updates, allowing you to geek out for a long-term relationship.
The Model 3 comes in three versions, each with different driving ranges and power to best suit your desires.
Starting price: $46,190
The extrovert: Mercedes-Benz G-Class
They say that opposites attract, so if you’re an introverted person with money in your pocket, you might be drawn to the Mercedes G-Class. Extroverts tend to stand out and enjoy being the life of the party. The tall, boxy and loud off-roader will turn heads, whether it’s pulling up to your favorite nightclub or cruising down the boulevard.
The G-Class is powerful and quick thanks to its turbocharged V8 and has enough luxury and space to seat up to five people in comfort. If you want a further boost of extravagance, opt for the AMG model and pay extra for the eye-catching 22-inch wheels and bright Jupiter Red color.
Starting price: $132,800