Buying a car or truck is a big deal, no matter how you cut it. Switching from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric version is even more monumental but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The passenger and light-duty vehicle market is rapidly embracing electric vehicles, or EVs, and more options are coming online each year. If you are considering a new (or used) vehicle, let us be your guide to selecting and purchasing an EV.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
As with any major purchase, it’s important to do your homework before making big moves. Ask yourself the following questions before you begin hunting around for specific makes and models:
Do I need more room for passengers or cargo? Or a mix of both?
Just as with a conventional, gas-powered vehicle, the way you will use the car or truck should determine what you buy. If you spend most of your time moving furniture, yard waste, or home improvement materials, you’re going to need something quite a bit different than if you’re typically hauling kids from point A to point B.
What style of vehicle am I looking for? Sedan? SUV? Pickup?
Electric vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. At this point, the market has models for nearly every type of driver, though some vehicle types may only be available as plug-in hybrids at this time, as opposed to pure electric vehicles.
How far will I travel with this vehicle on a regular basis? What is my typical range?
Let’s be honest, range anxiety is real, but with a little planning it can be managed and fade in the background. Most EVs have a range of more than 200 miles on a full charge and some can go much further. Putting that into perspective, the most direct route from DC to NYC is just over 200 miles. If you typically drive around the Washington metropolitan area with occasional trips further afield, most any mainstream EV should work.
What is my budget?
The sticker price on a new EV is typically higher than that of a comparable gas-powered vehicle. That said, lifetime operating costs (“fuel” and maintenance) are lower for electric vehicles, so you are likely to save between $6,000 and $10,000 over the life of your EV purchase.
GET THE LAY OF THE LAND
If you have a general sense of the type of vehicle you’re after, you may want to take a quick look over our side-by-side comparisons of general stats for vehicle types. You’ll find info on upfront cost, annual fuel costs, typical range, five-year fuel save/spend, fuel economy, and tailpipe emissions for eight different vehicle categories.
GO WINDOW SHOPPING
Once you’ve assessed the preliminary questions above and reviewed the general EV landscape, it’s time to do a little online research to determine which specific vehicles best fit your needs and your budget. There are few great tools available to help you with your virtual window shopping. You can start with the fueleconomy.gov car comparison tool to view a few models simultaneously. You might also want to open a tab with their federal tax credit eligibility page to check if the models you’re considering are still eligible for the $7,500 federal income tax credit. Some models have phased out and are no longer eligible.
FIND A DEALER OR SELLER
You’ve evaluated your needs, taken stock of your finances, and done your online research. It’s time to hit the streets. You can search online for individual customer reviews of area dealerships to get a sense of which locations have expertise in electric vehicle sales. Use dealership websites to see what’s in stock and call ahead if you are interested in a particular vehicle.
Don’t be afraid to shop around. Arrive at the dealership with our downloadable checklist and list of questions and if you’re not satisfied with the information you’re being provided, move on to other locations or lots.