Sick of paying for gas? Here's what to look for when shopping for your first electric car


That’s it, you’ve had it. You can’t justify paying $3.50 a gallon to fill up your tank.

At the same time, perhaps you’ve had an epiphany about contributing to climate change with CO2 emissions from your “gas guzzler.”

And EVs, which have always been quiet, are getting better-looking and more extensive ranges by the year.

Maybe it’s time to consider one yourself.

“Buying an EV is becoming popular for a variety of reasons,” says Tom Moloughney, senior editor of InsideEVs, one of the largest and oldest publications specifically targeting the EV market. “Some of the original EVs didn’t charging rapidly or go very far, and they cost a lot, too.”

“Today, prices are coming down, range is about 2 to 3 times (farther) than an EV from 6 or 7 years ago, and they now charge up in minutes instead of hours,” adds Moloughney, in a telephone interview with USA TODAY.

Moloughney says the infrastructure is more “mature,” now, too, with thousands of DC (a.k.a. “Level 3”) fast chargers around the country that didn’t exist a few years ago.

Nik Miles from Our Auto Expert, a 20-year veteran as an automotive broadcaster and commentator, agrees it’s a “great idea” to drive an EV today, but suggests it’s prudent to lease – rather than buy – as the technology is “evolving so fast.”

“The tech may be obsolete in a couple of years as the industry is changing so quickly, so just be aware of that before you consider one,” adds Miles, in a telephone interview.

Miles and Moloughney both suggest to first assess your needs before you start test-driving EVs, as the features you look for will vary based on your driving habits, lifestyle, and budget.

That said, the following are a few considerations when looking for an EV.

Charging speed

Sick of paying for gas? Here's what to look for when shopping for your first electric car

All EVs have different charging capabilities, says Moloughney. “A Chevrolet Bolt, for example, would be much slower to charge than the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq 5, for example,” so figure out your needs ahead of time. “But a Bolt might be just fine for those who don’t need to drive far often.”

You’ll pay more for that charging speed, though: It’s part of the Ioniq’s upper-trim Limited model is expected to be priced around $44,000, compared the base-model Bolt EV, which starts around $32,000.

Shipping during the first half of next year, the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq Debut Edition ($58,795) – the company’s first all-electric luxury SUV – will support high-speed (“DC”) fast-charging for public stations up to 190 kW, which provides up to 76 miles of range in about 10 minutes or up to 195 miles of range in about 30 minutes.

Powered by GM’s Ultium battery, the vehicle’s range will be more than 300 miles on full charge, comparable to the 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range (from $53,990).

Without disclosing how many vehicles were reserved, Cadillac said reservations for its debut Lyriq sold out in just over 10 minutes last weekend, but dealers will begin taking additional orders starting next summer.

Connector type, stations

Moloughney says to do your research to ensure your vehicle can charge up wherever you want it to, with most – but not all – EV models supporting the universal Combined Charging System (CCS) standard.

Many Nissan Leaf models (from $27,400), for example, use a different connector type called CHAdeMO.

“While Nissan is joining others to support CCS with its Nissan Ariya, the company’s EV models can only be charged up at a CHAdeMO station for a DC fast charge,” Moloughney explains. The standard 2022 Nissan Leaf has a maximum range at about 149 miles.

“In other words, you’ll need to look at your smartphone app ahead of time to see if your vehicle is supported at a particular charging station,” says Moloughney.

The Tesla Supercharger network is by far the most “robust” for Tesla owners, says Moloughney. Telsa’s CEO Elon Musk has said it will be opening up its Supercharger network to other EVs by the end of this year.

Range

Miles says range is often the No. 1 consideration when buying an EV, but most buyers don’t need as much as they think.

“Just like so few people who buy a Land Rover take it off-roading, you probably shouldn’t be overly concerned about range with an EV,” says Miles. “Most don’t drive more than 40 miles a day, so unless you’re spending a lot of time on the road you don’t need to be too concerned.”

“A less expensive car with lower range may be fine for you,” confirms Moloughney. “The battery is the most expensive part, and you might be able to save if you don’t need huge range.”

Newer EVs typically deliver between 200 to 300 miles of driving range, per full charge, with some models going well above and beyond that. Lucid Air, for example, boasts range up to 520 miles (starting at $77,400).

Battery warranty, customer service

Sick of paying for gas? Here's what to look for when shopping for your first electric car

When looking for your first (or next) EV, Moloughney says you should also consider a robust battery warranty – just in case. “Make sure you’re getting at least 7 years or 100,000 miles, as a minimum, as most new EVs offer.”

“Without knocking any brands, also research what the dealer support is like on the back end, in the event of an issue,” suggests Miles. “Look to resources like J.D. Power… to see how some companies are ranked.” “Even with its Bolt issues, GM typically has a much better ranking, along with Lexus, by handling situations well.”

Miles says there are a “slew” of new EV companies popping up, too, and so you want to make sure they’re around in the future.

As for resell value, Moloughney says Tesla vehicles hold their value very well, in particular.

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