How Long Do EVs Take To Break Even On Maintenance, Gas?
Above: A pair of Tesla Model 3s (Image: Casey Murphy / EVANNEX).
Many who own electric vehicles understand that their high sticker prices are recouped over time due to lower costs in maintenance, fueling and other operation costs. However, how long does one actually have to drive an EV to break even on those costs?
In a recent story from CNET, the publication looked at how long it takes for EV drivers to break even on their purchases compared to owning a new gas vehicle. To estimate this, drivers need to look at a range of factors such as how often they’re driving, basic operating costs like charging, and other considerations like home charging, tax credits and other details still.
Although some EVs like the Tesla Model 3 and Y have dipped below the average prices of a new car this year, high sticker prices remain a consistent feature of the vehicle technology. However, over time the operating costs on maintaining and charging an EV are thought to be significantly less than those of a gas car, though it takes time to make it worthwhile.
As for how long, CNET says, perhaps unsurprisingly, that “it depends.” To start, the outlet says you’ll need to look at the sticker price differences between a new gas car or hybrid and a new EV. If high sticker prices are too much of a deterrent, buyers may also consider buying used to reduce the initial cost of purchase.
Additionally, eligibility for state and federal tax credits can bring the sticker price of an EV down by over $10,000 in some areas, so it’s important to find out what’s available in your area. Although the IRS recently pared down the list of EVs eligible for federal credits, there are still a number of cars that can gain up to $7,500 in this category.
Now for the good stuff: operating costs. Calculating and estimating basic operating costs on an EV can be a little difficult, but consider the rough number of miles driven in a year and your overall driving habits. You can also use the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) fuel economy database at fueleconomy.gov to look at the efficiency of various gas cars.
Divide the sticker price of an EV by the energy cost savings per year, and you have a rough annual estimate for how many years it could take to break even when driving an EV. As one example, CNET looks at the 2023 Chevy Bolt EUV and compares it to the Chevy Trailblazer, estimating that about five years of driving the Bolt would save roughly $8,100, reaching a break-even point at about 4.5 years.
To be sure, some of these estimates can be difficult to come to and will require the consideration of many factors, like what kind of traffic you’re driving in, how often you drive, and what price gas and electricity are in certain areas and certain times. Still, the average lifespan of a car lends itself to significant gas and maintenance savings on EVs, and most will eventually cancel out the extra money spent outright.
===Sources: CNET / fueleconomy.gov