Electric vs. Gas Cars: A Cost Comparison
Electric cars vs. gas cars is still a hot debate in online forums. On one side, there are progressive car enthusiasts looking toward a greener and more sustainable industry. On the other side are traditionalists who have doubts about the reliability of the newcomers.
If you're in the market for a new car, you may wonder whether an electric or a gas car is better. While electric vehicles have been gaining popularity in recent years due to their lower environmental impact, cost remains the biggest reason why EVs fail to convince early adopters. But a closer look at real-world data reveals otherwise.
So, once and for all, let’s end all the discussions and find out which is the more cost-effective choice.
Fuel costs - the shocking truth
The most obvious difference between electric and gas cars is fuel cost. Electric cars run on electricity, which is typically cheaper than gasoline. In fact, the cost of electricity in the United States is around 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average price of gasoline is around $3.44 per gallon. That's a significant difference!
To put that into perspective, it’ll take around $42 to fill up a 12-gallon car tank. If the car gets 30 miles of range per gallon, a full tank will give it a total range of 360 miles.
If you’re driving within the national average of 1,183 miles per month, you’ll have to refuel more than 3 times and spend around $138 a month. In comparison, driving the same range with an electric car would cost almost 40% less.
Teslas, for example, cost only $0.05 to charge per mile. That’s only $59 per month!
In addition to being economical, electricity is also more efficient than gasoline. Electric cars convert a higher percentage of the energy in their battery into motion, while gas cars lose energy through heat and other inefficiencies. This means that electric vehicles can travel farther on the same amount of energy compared to gas cars. For example, the Tesla Model S can travel up to 402 miles on a single charge, while the average gas car can travel around 350 miles on a single gas tank.
Maintenance costs - keep your wallet happy
Another advantage of electric cars is their lower maintenance costs. Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts than gas cars, meaning fewer parts can wear out or break down. In addition, electric vehicles don't require oil changes, air filter changes, or other routine maintenance tasks that gas cars require. This means that electric cars have lower maintenance costs over the lifespan of the vehicle.
While not as high maintenance as gas cars, EV makers still recommend periodic checks to keep their warranty in effect. This includes checking tires, replacing the wiper blades and air filter, refilling the windshield washer fluid, and other basic mechanical check-ups.
EV batteries are covered by an 8-year warranty, but you most likely won’t need any replacement within the car’s lifetime.
Let’s put numbers on these maintenance costs.
On average, electric vehicle drivers can expect to shell out around $4,600 on lifetime maintenance costs. In comparison, gas car owners would need twice as much or $9,200.
Resale value - the long-term investment
You know how the saying goes: once you drive a car off the dealership, it depreciates in value. The same goes for electric vehicles.
Some suggest that EVs retain their value better than gas cars, which means greater resale value. But with the used EV market being relatively new, it’s difficult to confirm these claims.
Based on some studies, EVs lose up to 52% of their value after just 3 years, while gas cars and SUVs lose around 39% within the same period.
The good thing though is that electric cars have a longer lifespan compared to gas cars, which means a better return on investment in the long run.
In addition, as more people switch to electric cars, the demand for used electric vehicles is expected to increase, which will drive up their resale value.
Charging costs - the hidden expense
While electric cars have lower fuel costs than gas cars, they do require charging infrastructure, which may require additional investment.
Most EV drivers opt to charge at home using Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, but they’re limited to 3 to 40 miles of range per hour of charging.
The cost of charging at home will depend on your location and the time of the day you’re charging. Most states have what we call Time of Use rates, which are special electricity rates given to users during off-peak hours – usually at night. This is beneficial to those who top up their battery overnight.
However, if you need to charge your car on the go, you’ll have to do so in public charging stations, which may or may not be free. Some charging networks offer memberships for discounted rates, so you might want to sign up if you’re charging on the road most of the time.
Upfront costs - the elephant in the room
The biggest barrier for many people considering electric cars is the higher upfront cost compared to gas cars. Electric vehicles are typically more expensive to purchase than gas cars.
For example, Tesla’s most affordable model, the Model 3, starts at $43,490 before taxes. In comparison, a compact sedan from Mercedes-Benz goes for around $34,000. That’s an almost $10,000 difference!
But with the federal government awarding up to $7,500 of tax credits to buyers of qualified clean cars, the price difference won’t be as significant.
Another good news is that the prices of electric cars are decreasing as technology improves and more manufacturers enter the market, which can help offset the higher upfront cost.
Depreciation - the value of longevity
Another factor to consider when comparing the costs of owning and operating an electric car versus a gas car is depreciation.
EV depreciation is the difference between the price of your car when you bought it brand new and the price you’re being offered for your used EV.
As previously mentioned, there isn’t enough data to prove that EVs depreciate faster than gas cars as there isn’t a large secondhand market for them.
However, EV owners can expect a longer lifespan (200,000 miles or 12 years) compared to traditional cars (150,000 miles or 8 years). This is because EVs have fewer moving parts, hence, the lesser maintenance required.
Range anxiety - the fear of running low
One concern some people have about electric cars is range anxiety - the fear of running out of battery charge while driving. However, as the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles continues to grow, range anxiety is becoming less of an issue.
In addition, carmakers have constantly been developing EVs with longer ranges, so this concern may be unfounded. Soon, electric cars may be able to compete with gas cars when it comes to the driving range.
Environmental impact - the value of sustainability
Finally, it's worth considering the environmental impact of electric cars versus gas cars. Electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than gas cars, producing fewer emissions and using renewable energy sources.
While the production of batteries used in electric cars can have environmental impacts, they can be recycled after they’re past their prime, and manufacturers have been doing intensive research about them. EV batteries can be repurposed for other demanding jobs, like powering homes or buildings.
Overall, electric cars still have a lower carbon footprint than gas cars.
While the upfront cost of an electric car may be higher, the total cost of owning and operating an electric vehicle is often lower than a gas car in the long run. Electric cars have lower fuel and maintenance costs and a lower carbon footprint. And soon, we can expect higher resale value as they become more common and related infrastructure becomes more available.
While there may be some concerns about charging infrastructure and range anxiety, these issues are becoming less of a concern as technology continues to improve. If you're in the market for a new car, it's worth considering an electric car as a cost-effective and sustainable option.