Electric Car Vs. Gas Car: What Is Cheaper?


is-owning-an-electric-car-cheaper

Maybe you’ve been wondering if you should trade in your current car for a shiny new Tesla or another model of an electric car. But whether or not one is cheaper than the other is kind of a loaded question. 

Electric cars are less expensive to drive and maintain than a gas car but also have higher insurance costs and higher depreciation rates. Overall, the savings you get from owning an electric car make them cheaper than a gas car. 

As any car owner knows, there is a lot to break down when it comes to owning, maintaining, and paying for a decent car. There’s a lot to come with the territory, and if you’re looking for some answers to these questions, you might have to read on. 

How Much to Buy the Electric Car

When it comes to gas cars, the prices range from a few hundred bucks for the junk box on the side of the road to a few hundred thousand for the latest and greatest sports car; and everything in between, of course. 

Electric cars don’t have that big of a range. There’s still the more affordable options and the more luxury options, but the in-between is a little slimmer. On average, it will cost more to buy an electric car than a gas one, but that might not mean anything in the long run. 

Buying a Gas Car

It’s kind of hard to judge the average cost of gas cars when there’s just so many different kinds. According to Kelly Blue Book, the average cost of a new car in 2019 was $36,718 dollars. If you’re thinking that that’s already too much, don’t worry. That’s just an average; there are plenty of more affordable options. 

You can still find good new cars in the $20,000 range. Used cars are also an affordable option. You can find good, well maintained used cars well under the prices of new cars.

Buying an Electric Car 

As opposed to the gas car, the average price for an electric car in 2019 was 55,600 dollars. That’s almost $20,000 more, which can have a huge impact on whether or not you buy one. But remember two things: that’s the average, not the minimum, and that’s the initial cost. Later on, I’ll go over how owning an electric car can save you money every month. 

That cost is down from last year, according to Quarts. In that article, they go over how the cost of electric and gas cars might get closer and closer together every year, based on sales data.

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How Much It Costs To Drive Around

The biggest and most obvious difference in driving the two different cars is filling it up. Gas and electricity have some starkly different prices, and this is where spending that extra money on the car can help your wallet in the long run. 

Gas Prices

On the AAA Gas Prices page, the average cost for gasoline per gallon in California is $3.19. The average price in Texas, however, is $1.86. That’s a pretty big difference, with over a dollar’s range between them. And with cars that hold 12-15 gallons of gas, that can be a big deal. 

It’s not uncommon for an American to spend upwards and over $1,500 a year on gasoline. If you plan on taking any road trips or live far from your work, that number can be even higher for you. 

Unless you plan on storing large amounts of gas at home (which you shouldn’t), you should plan on visiting gas stations fairly often. It’s just something that people have gotten used to and accepted. 

But electrical cars don’t require that. 

Recharging Prices

Charging an electrical car is a different experience from filling up gas in a regular car. Instead of simply paying by the gallon and leaving in a few moments, you pay by the kilowatt-hour instead. You plug your car into a port at a charging station and pay for the number of kilowatt-hours it takes to fill your car up to where you want. 

The cost of charging your electric car is affordable. Some estimates put a full year of charging at less than half of gasoline, possibly as low as $40 per month. But this is an estimate of what people pay when they charge their car at home, with a home charging station. 

When we charge at DC Fast Charging station, we pay the going rate for electricity in Hawaii, 28 cents a kilowatt-hour. To charge up our Nissan Leaf from 20% to 90% costs about $3.00 and that gets us 80 miles. 

Home Charging

There are three different kinds of charging stations, Level I, Level II, and Level III. Level III is a DC Fast Charger and only located in public spaces due to the expensive equipment required to operate. So I’ll just focus on the first two. The difference is simple: Level I is cheaper but charges slower while Level II is a little pricier but charges faster. 

A Level I charging station for your home comes standard with an electric car. A Level 1 charge plugs directly into your home’s 120-volt power plug so it costs you nothing to install. While the installation cost is non-existent, the charge is slow. Another name for Level 1 charging is trickle charging. You will get around 5 miles per hour of charging. That’ll take 20 hours to fill 100 miles.

The Level II charging station requires you to purchase a Level II charging station, around $350 to $700 dollars, and will provide roughly 25 miles to your car per hour of charging. A Level II station requires a 240-volt plug to be installed in your garage or your preferred place to charge your car. If you have spare capacity in your electrical panel, an electrician will charge $1,000 to $1,500 for installation of the circuit breaker, pulling the wire, and installing the 240-volt plug. 

The common choice for most electric car owners is to install a Level II charger for the time savings.

Related article: A Guide to Installing Your Own Electric Car Charger

Here’s a chart to compare the prices to get 150 miles in gasoline and a home charging station. The gas-powered car runs at 25 mpg, and the charging station uses 4.1kWh per hour.

GasolineLevel II Charging
Cost per gallon/hour$2.17 per gallon$1.22
Cost per mile$0.087 per mile$0.049
Cost for 100 Miles$13.05$7.35

The Cost To Maintain Your Car

Only two states in the entire U.S don’t require car insurance; the remaining 48 do. Even if you do live in a state that doesn’t legally require insurance, it is a smart idea to get covered. Just know that when you do get covered, electrical cars tend to cost you more

There’s a number of factors that go into why your insurance costs how much it does, and your car is an important part of that. The fact is that electrical cars are more expensive to make and have more unique parts, like batteries, so they cost more to insure them. 

One good way to keep your insurance cost consistent and prevent it from going up is to take good care of your car. Electric cars require significantly less maintenance than a traditional gas car.

Tips To Maintain An Electric Car Battery 

The perception that electric car batteries do not last very long is incorrect. The batteries have been shown to last thousands of miles; in fact, most of them come with a warranty that lasts eight years, or 100,000 miles, and even longer in some cases. 

Even with a limited warranty, lithium-ion batteries should last well beyond their perceived “expiration date.” Projections estimate that the average lifetime of electric car batteries may even exceed 20 years

What To Know About Your Brakes

Electric cars have a special kind of brake called regenerative brakes. The idea of regenerative brakes is that when you use them, they will store some of the energy you used to break and put it back into the engine. This allows your car to be more efficient with its energy consumption and get more miles total. 

Regenerative braking puts less wear on your brake pads as the motor is helping to slow down your electric car. While an electric car is heavier than a gas-powered car, brake pads tend to last longer and need to be replaced less.

No Oil Changes

Electric cars require far less maintenance than a traditional car. Electric cars do not require air filter changes, no oil changes, and no transmission fluid changes.

Brake fluid and windshield wiper fluid are the main fluids to watch on electric cars.

I don’t miss my $80 oil changes and other up-sells they hustled me for every few months from my local oil change shop. 

Related article: Are Electric Cars More Reliable Than Gas Cars?

The Worth Of Your Car Over The Years

I mean two things by this specifically. How long a gas vs. electric car will last you if treated properly, and it’s value monetarily over the years; depreciation. 

Depreciation isn’t exactly an exciting topic, but it is important to know as gas, and electric cars do depreciate differently. No one wants to have a car that costs more to fix than it’s worth in just a few years. 

The Lifespan

A car is a long term investment. It’s a lot of money to spend, so you want to make sure it lasts. A regular new gasoline car can last upwards of a decade if treated properly. Older cars can last much longer than that, with some cars from the nineties still being around and kicking. 

The lifespan of an electric car is widely dependent on the battery; that’s the part that you need to maintain. It’s estimated that the average electric car battery if maintained, can last fifteen years or longer. 

That’s a great long term investment, should you take care of your car. That’s fifteen years that you can be saving on gas, well encompassing the extra money you spent to buy the specific car and charger.

Depreciation

Most cars will lose around 15-20% of their value after the first year that you buy them. If you buy a car for $40,000, then the next year, it will only be worth roughly $32,000. This is why it’s important to maintain your car because, after a certain amount of time, the car will cost more to fix than the whole car is worth. 

Unfortunately, electric cars seem to depreciate even faster than that, losing roughly 20-25% after the first year. This is why it’s harder to find consistent used electric cars than it is gas, as they lose their value so fast. 

It shouldn’t be a problem if you take good care of your care, but accidents do happen sometimes. One thing that won’t depreciate fast is your charging station, should you install one.

There are a lot of ways to increase the resale value of your house, and installing a charging station is a surefire one. If a potential buyer sometime in the future doesn’t need to worry about installing one themselves, then that’s something they’ll surely pay a little extra for. 

Environmental Cost

This isn’t exactly about a personal cost but more about a global cost. You can’t talk about gas cars vs. electric cars without talking about their impact on the environment. 

The more units of these cars that are sold, the more the technology is worked on. The cars will only become more efficient and affordable as time goes on. The more affordable these vehicles are, the more people will use them to help the environment. 

Global Emissions 

The Environmental Protection Agency says that 28% of the greenhouse gasses produced in 2018 were purely from transportation and transit. Not all of it was cars; boats and planes had a factor as well. But cars made up a significant portion, and gasoline cars emit twice as many emissions as electrical. 

So transferring to an electric car can quite literally cut your carbon footprint in half. With every passing year, they get more efficient and affordable, too. Electric cars can not only help you save money but save the environment as well. 

Related article: Are Electric Cars Really Green: A Scientific Look

To Summarize: Electric Cars vs Gas Cars

Owning an electric car is cheaper than owning a gas one, more times than not. If you’re willing to spend more upfront, you will see savings for years to come. 

Owning an electric car has plenty of pros and cons, but honestly, the pros seem to outweigh the cons by a wide margin. They’re a long term investment and asset that will provide value to both you and your home. 

Despite being a bit tricky to get into and having some additional maintenance requirements, electric cars seem to last longer and are more financially stable to run. That’s not to sell gas-powered cars short. 

Gasoline cars have stuck around this long for a reason: they work. They don’t depreciate as fast and generally have a wider pool of options to choose from, as well as a lower starting cost. But gasoline prices only seem to be going up, and burning fossil fuels isn’t doing the environment any favors. 

Overall, if you’re looking to get a new car and couldn’t decide on gas vs. electric, maybe you’re considering electric cars a little more now. The environment will thank you, as will your wallet. 

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Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

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