10 Jul Dollars and Cents

We break down yearly car expenses for two neighbors, one owns an EV and one doesn’t. See how owning an EV stacks up.

You know how much an electric vehicle will cost you—including rebates—and you’ve heard you’ll save on gas and car repairs. But what will savings really look like over the course of a year? To find out, let’s compare two neighbors, Mike and Jon. One has an electric vehicle and one has a gas-powered vehicle.

Mike owns the Nissan LEAF, the world’s best-selling EV. It’s a hatchback that seats five adults and can travel up to 107 miles on a single charge.

Jon owns a Honda Civic Sedan, which seats five, and gets 30-40 miles per gallon depending on whether he’s driving on the highway or in town.

Here’s how their costs break down:

The sticker price for Mike’s LEAF was about $29,000, but he cashed in on the $7,500 government rebate for EV buyers, taking that figure down to $21,500. Jon got his Civic for $20,500, $1,000 cheaper than the LEAF after the rebate. Mike and Jon live in the suburbs, but they have a short commute to work. They drive maybe 25 or 30 miles max a day.

Mike has found he has to charge his LEAF one to two times a week, and it’s about $2.50 extra on his electricity bill per charge. That translates into $260 a year for his “fuel.” He charges at home overnight, but his employer is talking about installing electric vehicle chargers for employees as a perk, so he could be facing free charging sometime in the near future. Gas is around $2.40 a gallon where they live, and Jon fills up every other week. The Civic’s fuel capacity is 12.4 gallons, so he shells out $775 a year on gas.

For car repairs, Mike has spent $50 to have the tires on his LEAF balanced and rotated, and that’s it. Jon has had two oil changes at $30 each and plans to get two more, so $120 total in oil changes. His brakes also needed some work; he needed new pads and rotors, and that cost him $700 at the mechanic. Electric vehicles tend to need brake jobs less often than gas-powered vehicles due to their mechanics. Barring any other needed repairs, Jon is looking at $820 at the mechanic this year compared to Mike’s $50.

Jon has the upper hand when it comes to car insurance. The cost to insure his Civic is about $300 less a year than it costs Mike to insure his LEAF, $1,500 versus $1,800. Electric vehicles are often more expensive to insure because they’re worth more, and the more a car is worth, the more an insurance company has to pay if it’s stolen or totaled.

And while EVs need less service than their gas-powered counterparts, it can be costly to repair them after an accident, given their pricey battery system and need for a mechanic familiar with EVs. Many EVs also have new technology that can bump up insurance costs as well. Mike shopped around though and found the cheapest possible rate that still affords him good benefits should anything happen.

When you do the math, Mike is on track to spend $2,090 on charging his EV, repairs and car insurance, while Jon is set to spend $3,095 on gas, repairs and insurance. Mike did spend an extra $1,000 up front when he bought his LEAF, just about evening out the cost. Over the lifetime of owning their cars though, Mike will recoup that money by having gone with an EV as he continues to save on fuel and car repairs, and he’ll ultimately end up saving much more.

Want to learn more? Use this vehicle cost calculator to calculate the cost of ownership and emissions for makes and models of most vehicles, and read more about deals on electric cars here.

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