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Guide to Buying, Selling, and Trading EVs

March 31, 2021
Written by: Ray Shefska
Categories: Car Buying

If you’re looking for a new car, you might be tempted to investigate a new or used electric vehicle (EV). An EV is powered entirely by electricity that charges your battery at charging stations. There are a number of unique factors that must be considered as a result, such as the lifespan of the battery and the location of charging stations.

There are many aspects to consider when you’re looking into buying, selling, and trading EVs. Today, we’ll take a look at everything that you’ll encounter as you start shopping around for electric vehicles.

Is Owning an Electric Car the Right Decision?

Buying an electric car might be the right purchase for you, but it’s also not for everyone. Instead of simply heading off to the nearest Tesla dealership to check out the latest models, it’s important to take some time to consider a few unique factors that will bring entirely new variables to the car buying equation.

Just like buying a traditional car, buying an EV requires plenty of time and research before you head to the dealership. In this electric car buying guide, we’re going to go over some of the prime factors that you need to consider before you buy this type of car. We’ll cover home charging, the importance of range, and whether an electric vehicle really saves you that much money.

Is Home Charging an Option?

One of the biggest perks of an EV is also its biggest downside: No gas. While this does mean that it will have a cheaper cost-to-own, it also means that you can’t fill up on your way to work in the morning when you need a boost. You will need to be able to charge your car either at home or somewhere that’s conveniently close to your home.

If you are on a standard 120V electric circuit, it would literally take days to charge your vehicle. These breakers aren’t even rated for the number of hours it would take to charge your car fully. Instead, they are most commonly used to run your standard appliances and electronics in your home.

The other option is a 240V electric circuit. On these breakers, you can have a Level 2 charging station installed that will most likely fill you up — or at least get you close to full — every single night. Your electric oven, dryer, and central AC run on 240V.

Either option comes with a home charging setup that can be purchased and installed by a number of companies. Exact prices will vary, but as a general rule for this electric car buying guide, set aside about $1,000 to $2,000 to install a home charging station.

How long do EVs take to charge? The exact answer will vary based on the vehicle, charger, and amount that needs to be charged. On average, most vehicles take about eight hours to charge fully. 

The latest and greatest charging stations put out enough power to easily stop a heart. Keep in mind that your car has an inherent charging capacity that will restrict how much power can flow between the charging station and your car. This can matter greatly when you’re buying an electric car.

You need to keep electricity rates in mind for your home, as well. Electric vehicles are measured in kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, notated as kWh/100 miles. In order to figure out how much it’ll cost to have a given car charge at your home, multiply your vehicle’s kWh/100 miles rating by the rate you’re charged for electricity at the times that you’re most likely going to be charging.

Does Range Matter to You?

In reference to EVs, range is used to describe how far a car can go on one charge. For quite some time, the lack of a comprehensive charging network was a large deterrent to the adoption of EVs. While it will certainly depend on your area, this problem has been resolved for much of the country.

You’ll need to consider where you usually drive if you plan to charge at home. You will also want to consider how often you take road trips to decide if the range limitation is even an issue for you. 

For anyone looking for a nice easy daily-driver, the range might not be that big of a deal. Even people who take regular road trips should look up the network of charging stations before being deterred, since the network has grown substantially in recent years. 

Electric Car Buying Guide:  Cost to Own an Electric Car

Some people are drawn to EVs for their environmental friendliness. You won’t be chugging gas every time you head to the grocery store, so many people also assume that this will directly translate into saving money. However, with other maintenance purchases taken into consideration, does this assumption hold true?

Consumer Reports recently found that the average EV owner saves over $800 to $1,000 per year on fuel costs over an equivalent gas-powered car. We assumed there’d be some savings in this arena!

Maintenance and repair were also found to be about half of the amount necessary for gas-powered vehicles, with an average savings of approximately $4,600 over the life of the car.

Depreciation has traditionally hit EVs harder than gas-powered cars, but newer reports are indicating that the new lines of EVs are on par with gas-powered cars for depreciation. Teslas also tend to hold their value well, making a strong case for buying a Tesla.

Ultimately, the true cost of ownership will be different for everyone. There will be variance in how quickly your car depreciates, what you can expect costs for repairs and maintenance to be, and fuel costs.

Based on Consumer Reports, the cost to own an electric car is generally lower than a gas-powered car; however, that isn’t necessarily true of all-electric vehicles. You’ll need to research your exact cost and be satisfied with those prices before you buy an EV.

Our electric car buying guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that insurance rates for electric vehicles are often higher than their gas-powered equivalents. This means you need to remember to get insurance quotes while you’re shopping around.

Should You Buy a Used or New Electric Car?

Deciding between a new or used EV is a tough choice to make. Much of the traditional advice applies here, such as obtaining a pre-purchase inspection and considering a CPO if possible.

One of the main unique aspects to consider is the life of the electric battery that powers your entire car. Replacing this battery is akin to replacing an engine in a gas-powered car. This means that when you buy a used EV, you will often have fewer miles on your electric battery.

EV cars also have the potential to make you eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. Assuming that you are eligible for this credit, this can significantly offset the cost of a new EV. Only 200,000 credits were given out to each manufacturer to provide as an incentive for buying a new EV. However, many of these credits have already been awarded, and the number of credits available will need to be increased at the federal level.

Depreciation is also a factor to consider. The value of new cars depreciates once they trade owners. If you buy a new car, you’re guaranteed to lose money on depreciation, but the trade-off is that you’ll get a brand-new electric battery and the latest technology in your vehicle.

There’s a great opportunity for a flexible buyer in the used electric vehicle market. After three years or so, many electric vehicles are traded in or sold out of the desire to buy something new. Many EV owners want the latest and greatest cars out there, especially when they know they’ve been piling up mileage on their batteries. As such, there is an excellent market of used EVs available.

Leasing or Buying an Electric Car

We can’t talk about buying EVs without bringing up leases, too. There are two main points that need to be addressed when you’re considering leasing or buying an electric car.

Drained Batteries

EV batteries can cost about the same as a new engine when they need to be replaced. As such, never having to replace them can be quite advantageous. This is a major benefit of leasing a vehicle over owning an electric car. Once your lease is over, simply trade it in for a car with fresher batteries.

Outdated Technology

This point is technically true for any lease, but the technological differences that EVs have between model years are more significant. A few years of EV evolutions could greatly increase charge speed, expected distance of travel on a single charge, and battery life. Leasing to constantly have the best technology in each of these categories is well worth considering.

Look Beyond Buying a Tesla

Tesla didn’t invent electric vehicles, but its impact on the marketplace cannot be understated. Their success launched EVs into the spotlight, and now, there are EV options from many major automakers.

Let’s take a quick look into the ways that major automakers are adapting and evolving with their EVs:

  • General Motors:  Aiming to sell one million EVs by 2025, GM has gone all-in.
  • Ford:  This automaker already offers a handful of EVs and continues to keep developing more.
  • Nissan:  With over 500,000 Nissan Leaf EVs sold since 2010, Nissan is still pushing to sell one million EVs by 2022.
  • Honda:  Honda is looking to have two-thirds of all of its auto sales become electric by 2030, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs.
  • Toyota:  They got an early lead on the hybrid market and they’ve carried it over to the EV market with a goal of 5.5 million EVs by 2030.
  • Volkswagen:  Over the next five years, this automaker is going to spend $85 billion in EV development.
  • BMW:  With a few EV models currently available, BMW aims to have EVs account for 15% of its sales in the coming years.
  • Hyundai:  This automaker has goals to sell 1 million electric vehicles by 2025.
  • Kia:  The goal for Kia Motors is to have EVs make up 25% of global sales by 2029.

With plenty of money being invested into EVs and a large amount of these vehicles currently in operation, we expect to see EV sales soaring throughout the next decade.

While Tesla is more like buying an iPhone, other manufacturers sales are similar to their gas-powered counterparts. See our guide to buying a car in 2021.

Is an EV Right for You?

Is buying an electric car the right move for you? As with many questions that relate to the car buying experience, the answer is: It depends.

As you’ve seen in our electric car buying guide, there are unique factors to consider at every step of the way. While many aspects of buying an electric car are the same as buying a gas-powered car, there are some unique points to consider. Put in plenty of time into researching charge locations and electricity prices, along to your standard car research if you plan to buy an EV.

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3 Comments

  1. CE

    The federal tax credit depends on the battery size. Also, the federal tax credit can be claimed ONLY by the first person to hold title to that car. So, if you buy a used EV, you can not get the federal tax credit (even if the first owner never claimed it – it’s not transferable). If you are leasing, the manufacturer/dealer can apply the federal tax credit to your lease to lower the payments.

    Individual states also offer incentives such as rebates but they vary greatly. There are also local jurisdictions (utilities, air resource boards, etc) that also offer incentives not only for EVs but for installation of charging stations. For example, in CA you can get a $1500 rebate from the state, a $2000 rebate from the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, and up to $250 rebate from some local utilities for the cost of a level 2 charging station. That’s a potential savings of $11,000 for an BEV (not PHEV – those have different levels of credits and rebates).

    Regular hybrids do not qualify for the federal tax credit because their batteries are usually too small. Plug in hybrids (PHEVs) do qualify and the federal tax credit is based on battery size so it would depend on the vehicle.

    President Biden has propsed increased incentives for EVs in the infrastructure proposal he is sending to Congress. But it may be a while before that passes – if at all.

    Check this site for the specific vehicle to see if and how it federal tax credit applies: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml.

    Some manufacturers (like VW) offer 3 years of free charging through a related company (Electrify America) which can lower your cost of ownership. Most manufacturers offer a 100K or 8 year warranty on the batteries.

    Additionally, Chinese manufacturers of EVs want to start selling in the US. When they arrive, it will have the same effect as when the Japanese and Koreans starteed selling cars in the US – eventually they will build plants here to build EVs.

    Finally, the global chip shortage and the Pandemic has delayed the sale of many new EVs – look for the summer, fall and winter for more models to be on showroom floors and available to buy (Kia EV6, Hyundia Ionic 5, VW ID4 with AWD – currently RWD for sale, and Nissan Ariya, to name a few). Pressure from these manufacturers will certainly push for more innovation and lower prices.

    Reply
  2. Dale Barkalow

    I own a 2016 Fiat 500e electric car. I bought it from a dealer in phoenix with 13,000 mike’s on it off lease from CA. It now has 18500 on it and never had a problem of any kind. Sure it has a short range of about 90 miles but we only drive it around El Paso so range has never been an issue. I charge it on 110 volt charger in the garage after every use. It is loaded including Navigation. I have owed almost 50 cars and this stands up to a previous Mercedes E class. I don’t plan on ever selling it as it still is under Fiat warranty.

    Reply
    • Dale Barkalow

      I forgot to mention that I paid $7600 for the car with 13,000 miles. Can’t go wrong at that price .

      Reply

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