5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying an Electric Car

  • Based in Los Angeles, Warren Clarke loves providing readers with the information they need to make smart automotive choices. He's provided content for outlets such as Carfax, Edmunds.com, Credit Karma and the New York Daily News.

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Slowly but surely, electric vehicles (EVs) have been winning an audience over the years. According to InsideEVs.com, December 2018 marked the 39th month of consecutive year-over-year monthly sales gains for electrified vehicles.

Furthermore, the pace of EV sales growth quickened in 2018. InsideEVs reports that the last five months of 2018 hold the distinction of being the top 5 best-selling months of all time for vehicles with electric powertrains.

By providing emissions-free performance, an EV offers eco-friendly transportation. Buying one of these vehicles is a good idea for this reason and many others. However, there are certain pitfalls to be mindful of when deciding on a specific model to purchase.

Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when buying an electric car.

Ignoring Your Driving Range Needs

2019 Smart EQ ForTwo Convertible
The Smart EQ ForTwo might be perfectly sized for the city, but with only 58 miles of range, it can’t drive very far out of town before needing a visit to a charging station. (Mercedes-Benz)

According to a study published by the American Automobile Association (AAA), the number of miles driven by Americans each day varies based on location. Every day, Americans drive an average of 29.2 miles. But those who live in small towns or rural areas drive more than those who live in medium-sized towns or cities, to the tune of almost 2,600 additional miles annually. And motorists in the South tend to drive the most, while those in the Northeast tend to drive the least.

Overall, electric cars have shown steady improvement when it comes to offering a practical amount of driving range, but there can still be a notable spread among various models.

For example, the 2019 Tesla Model S impresses with its ability to travel up to 335 miles between charges. This range is enough to meet the needs of most drivers.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Smart EQ ForTwo offers a mere 58 miles of driving range. This might be adequate for a city dweller with short commutes to work and amenities, but it is too little for drivers who have to travel longer distances.

Keep your specific circumstances in mind when making decisions regarding driving range, and remember it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Not Considering Federal Tax Incentives

Woman Holding Money
Some electric vehicle models will no longer be available with federal tax credits by 2020. This could have a big impact on what you’ll pay for a Tesla or General Motors EV. (Unsplash)

A federal tax credit of up to $7,500 is currently available for nearly every new EV purchased in the U.S. On average, EVs tend to cost more than vehicles with gas-only powertrains, and this incentive can help lower the up-front expense of purchasing one of these green machines.

The full amount of this tax credit is only available until each manufacturer has sold 200,000 qualified EVs. After this sales milestone has been reached, the manufacturer will begin phasing out the credit.

Those who want to reap the full amount of the credit will need to purchase from a manufacturer whose sales of qualified EVs hasn’t yet reached 200,000 units. Tesla hit this milestone in July 2018. As a result, for those buying Tesla vehicles in the first 6 months of 2019, the federal tax credit drops from $7,500 to $3,750. And in the last 6 months of 2019, the credit drops even further, to $1,875. General Motors faces similar declines for the Bolt EV and Volt PHEV.

If you want to reap the full amount of the federal tax credit, check with automakers for sales data before deciding on a specific model.

Underestimating the Impact of Weather

Cars covered in snow
Frigid winter weather can have a notably negative impact on an EV’s driving range. (Pexels)

Extreme weather can affect an EV’s driving range. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, variations in weather can impact an EV’s driving range by as much as 25%.

Cold weather can be especially detrimental to range. An EV’s batteries have a greater resistance to charging in frigid temperatures, and they do a poor job of holding a charge in these conditions.

It’s important to keep weather conditions in mind when choosing an EV, since this information can impact requirements regarding driving range.

Choosing a Model with Inadequate Cargo Space

2019 Fiat 500e in Gray
The Fiat 500e is bigger than a Smart EQ ForTwo, but cargo space is still rather tight unless you fold down the rear seat. (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

An EV needs a battery pack to deliver its emissions-free performance. In some cases, this battery pack can reduce cargo capacity. As a result, some EVs offer less cargo space than their otherwise identical gas-only counterparts.

For example, the standard 2019 Fiat 500 hatchback offers 9.5 cu.-ft. of cargo space with all seats in place. With the electrified variant, the Fiat 500e, cargo space with all seats in place drops to a mere 7 cu.-ft.

Select a model with enough cargo space for your lifestyle, and never assume that an EV will offer the same amount of cargo space as its gas-only variant.

Choosing a Vehicle You Can’t Afford

2019 Tesla Model S in Red
Everybody loves the Tesla Model S, but the car is priced from $94,000 before you add any options. (Tesla)

Some of the most enticing EVs on the market are luxury vehicles, and these models are appealing for all the right reasons. Teslas, for example, offer more driving range and better performance than other models on the market.

Still, it’s a bad idea for shoppers to allow themselves to be seduced into spending more than they can afford. When shopping for an EV, keep budgetary concerns in mind when considering price, just as you would with any other vehicle.

Some EVs are quite affordable. New models like the Nissan Leaf start at around $30,000, and used EVs are available for much less.

Many personal finance experts say that a car payment shouldn’t exceed 15% of monthly take-home pay. Keep this guidance in mind when deciding how much to pay for an EV.

The Bottom Line

An EV can reduce monthly fuel costs and provide a money-saving tax credit, but there are certain things to be mindful of when shopping in this segment. Use the tips shared above to find a model that offers great savings and an ideal selection of amenities.

About the Author

  • Based in Los Angeles, Warren Clarke loves providing readers with the information they need to make smart automotive choices. He's provided content for outlets such as Carfax, Edmunds.com, Credit Karma and the New York Daily News.

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