2016 Car Buying Guide for Electric Cars: Pros and Cons

electric vehiclesMass-market electric cars seemed exotic when they began appearing at dealerships just a few years ago. Now it’s normal to see electric vehicles (EV) charging stations at highway rest stops and charging cords snaking from your neighbors’ garage. So is it time to buy an electric car? Here are a few things to consider.

Electric Cars’ Pros and Cons 2016

Like conventional and hybrid vehicles, EVs have their positives and negatives.

Here are a few electric-car pros:

  • The federal tax credit: The government’s still offering a hefty tax incentive to buy a plug-in electric vehicle: up to $7,500, depending on the model. This tax break will likely be phased out in the near future, so buying now can save you a lot.
  • Low maintenance costs:  No oil changes, ever. Most electric car owners report being blissfully free from car maintenance chores, other than rotating the tires.
  • Fuel savings: Charging your car is drastically cheaper than paying for gas, even if gas prices are low.
  • Style points: While no one would call the Nissan Leaf the sexiest car on the road, the best electric cars still turn heads. They’re also fun to drive, with smooth acceleration and powerful torque.
  • Good karma: You can feel positive about reducing your reliance on fossil fuel and your carbon emissions. However, experts disagree about whether electric cars are really greener. Some scientists say that the environmental cost of manufacturing electric cars, plus the pollution from plants used to generate the electricity that drives them, outweighs the benefits.

Now for some electric car cons…

  • The sticker price: Despite the federal tax credit, electric cars remain expensive. The cheapest electric car available in the U.S. is the $23,845 Mitsubishi i-MiEV, according to Green Car Reports, followed by the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, which starts around $25,000. Installing a charging station at your home can cost several hundred dollars.
  • The cost of battery replacement: After several years, you may need to install a new battery, which can cost thousands.
  • Waiting to charge: Fast, commercial-grade EV chargers can deliver a full charge in less than 30 minutes. With regular household current, the process can take much longer.
  • The range: An electric car can only travel so far before needing a charge. Many can travel 75-80 miles; the Tesla Model S can go for 240. Charging stations are becoming easier to find (apps and car navigation systems can show you the closest) but running out of juice remains a concern. Check an EV charging station map, like this one created by PlugShare, to see how many are near your home.
  • Car Insurance: Auto insurance for electric cars is fairly expensive but prices are getting better over time.

The Best Electric Cars 2016

2016 Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf is a popular all-electric vehicle that can travel up to 107 miles on a single charge (84 miles for the base model). Owners say it’s fun to drive and reliable; some, however, say they worry about getting stranded. The 2016 Leaf starts at $29,000.

Chevy Volt2016 Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in/gas hybrid, can go up to 420 miles on a full charge and full tank. The Volt feels more like a conventional car, reviewers say, and it has a sporty exterior.  The 2016 Volt starts at $33,170.

2016 BMW i3

Edmunds calls the BMW i3 “a remarkable vehicle” because of its lightweight carbon-fiber frame and innovative exterior. It’s also manufactured in a sustainable way. The electric i3 can go 81 miles on one charge, while the gas-motor extended-range model can travel up to 150 miles total. Expect to pay upwards of $42,000.

Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S is an all-electric all-star: a futuristic sports car with seductive speed and power. The Model S P90D hits 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and boasts stunning good looks as well. This fast and stylish EV starts at around $75,000, however — before the $7,500 federal tax credit.

This is by no means a complete list; every year brings new electric car models, as automakers introduce electric versions of cars they already manufacture. Happy (gas-free) driving!

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