Car Buying

Is an Electric Vehicle Right for You?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2014

Interested in cutting down your fuel costs? If so, it's only logical to consider some of today's best electric vehicles (EVs), but not everyone can fit an EV into their lifestyle. To help you decide if you can, we've explained some of the situations where an EV will work best and a few lifestyles that probably won't suit owning an electric vehicle.

When an EV Works Best

If you're considering an electric car, you probably already know many limitations of electric vehicles. For example, most electric vehicles take a long time to recharge, and many don't offer the same driving range as gasoline-powered vehicles.

As a result, electric vehicles are best for drivers who have a short commute, or no commute at all. An EV with a 75-mile range, for instance, would be no problem for drivers with a commute of 10 or 15 miles each way. Not only could such drivers get to work and back, but they could run some errands at the end of the day or head to lunch outside the office, all with no concern for running out of juice.

Electric vehicles also work best if they're used as a second or third vehicle. Say you have a long commute, which means that you have to drive a gas-powered car to the office, but on the weekends, your driving is primarily limited to short trips around town. The EV could be used for those trips, which would help cut down on your monthly gasoline bill.

An electric vehicle is also a good choice for drivers who don't take a lot of long trips. If your job requires you to drive long distances, an EV probably won't work, but if your road-tripping is limited to once or twice a month, you may find that it's more cost-effective to own an EV and rent a gas-powered car for longer journeys.

When an EV Won't Work

Unfortunately, there are several situations where an electric vehicle won't work, no matter how much you want to help the environment or cut down on your fuel bill.

One example is drivers who travel long distances for their jobs. Traveling salespeople or regional retail store managers, for instance, will often find that an EV just won't work, largely because the range is simply not long enough. Sure, the luxurious Tesla Model S might change that reality, but with a starting price of $71,000, it's out of reach for most shoppers.

An EV also may not work if you rent, rather than own, your home. While you can plug in an electric vehicle to a standard household outlet, EVs recharge much faster using purpose-built chargers. These chargers can be costly to install, and many property managers won't want the added expense of putting in a charger just for a tenant. Of course, you can always split the cost of the installation, but you'll lose that money -- and the charger -- when it's time to move to a new place.

For many couples or families, an EV also won't work if it's the only family vehicle. While you may be able to fit in dropping off the kids and commuting to work using the EV's range, you might not account for other activities, such as school functions, faraway sporting events and so on. For some families, it's not until you have a 75-mile range that you realize just how often you drive 75 miles in a single day.

Buying an EV: Overall Thoughts

For many shoppers, an electric vehicle can be an excellent choice, and we wouldn't discourage you from choosing one. We strongly recommend, however, that you thoroughly consider your situation before signing the papers, since electric vehicles come with some limitations that won't work with many lifestyles.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Is an Electric Vehicle Right for You? - Autotrader