Electric vehicles have numerous benefits over gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks, but these advantages often do not come cheap. Up next, 10 unexpected EV expenses you need to be aware of.
Despite myriad advantages, EVs do have their downsides, and unexpected expenses can really surprise new owners.
Higher upfront costs
The first one to be aware of really isn’t a shock — at least if you can do a little research or read a window sticker — but EVs are often much pricier to buy than comparable gas-powered vehicles, sometimes a lot more. This is largely because the technology is still relatively new and battery packs cost a fortune.
Tesla has been lowering prices recently, as has GM with the Bolt EV and EUV models. But many electrics are still disgustingly expensive — like the Ford F-150 Lightning, for instance. The workaday XLT model with the long-range battery starts at more than $83,000 including delivery fees. It’s a nice truck, but that’s insane! In comparison, a stripped-down XLT gas model with four-wheel drive is about 30 grand less.
Tax credit conundrum
Of course, federal tax credits soften the blow purchasing a new EV may have on your finances. Getting $7,500 back from the feds can bring a lot of electric vehicles within reach of average drivers, but you’ve got to be judicious. Not every EV is eligible for these incentives, so make sure to do your homework. Consult your tax adviser if you have any questions about potential credits.
Next, EV registration fees are often higher than they are for conventional vehicles, so budget accordingly when it’s time to renew your plates. Since EVs run on electricity, not fuel, states don’t make any money from the gas tax for maintaining roads, which is why certain fees are higher.
A double-whammy that goes hand-in-glove with increased registration fees, EVs often cost more to insure as well. The reason for this is because they tend to be more expensive to purchase than comparable gas-powered vehicles, the technology is newer and therefore pricier, and if a battery gets damaged in a crash, it can cost a fortune to replace. You don’t want to be driving around with a dented, punctured or otherwise beat-up pack. That’s a recipe for trouble.
Higher repair costs
Speaking of damage, electric vehicles can cost more to repair, and for the same reasons insurance is pricier. Heaven forbid you need to replace a battery and it’s not covered under warranty or by your policy. The Volkswagen ID.4’s pack, for instance, has a dealer price of $13,798.45. You think that’s a lot? HA! The Ford parts website lists a replacement Lighting battery at up to $47,000!
Now, critics of EVs hammer this point home again and again, that batteries cost so much to replace. And they’re right. But what they often neglect to mention is that replacing gas engines isn’t cheap, either. A fully dressed, ready-to-run 5.0-liter V8 for an F-150 pickup will cost you about $15,000. So, only an arm, while the Lightning’s battery goes for an arm and a leg… and your firstborn child.
Going forward, the replacement costs for EV batteries will almost certainly drop as more companies develop solutions and recycling becomes a thing. Similarly, many drivers don’t buy a new engine if theirs fails, they get a used or remanufactured unit instead. The same could happen in the electric vehicle world.
Pay through the nose to charge at home
With an EV, you’ll almost certainly want a 240-volt Level 2 charger installed in your garage or carport, which is another expense. Yes, the charger itself costs money, but they’re usually not that pricey. What could really cost you, though, is the installation. Depending on your situation, you may have to run a new electrical line out to where you want to put the charger, and you may even have to upgrade your service panel, which could cost thousands, so be aware of that.
Accelerated tire wear
Next, if you own an electric, budget a little extra money for tires. Thanks to their heavier curb weights and the instant torque their motors provide, EVs put much more strain on tires, which wears them out faster. These vehicles also typically run special tires to improve efficiency and range, so be aware of that, as replacement rubber can also be more expensive.
Reduced resale value
For a lot of drivers, another unexpected EV expense is resale value. When you go to trade in or sell your electric ride, you may find out it’s not worth as much as you expected. This was a bigger issue a few years ago, but as technology improves, people get more familiar with EVs and the zeitgeist evolves, it’s becoming less of a problem.
DC fast charging
If you plan on making long-distance drives in an electric, you’ll almost certainly have to DC Fast charge. And while this is usually significantly cheaper than buying gas or diesel, it’s still pricier than juicing up at home — sometimes by a lot.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in January of 2023, the average cost per kilowatt-hour of residential electricity in the U.S. was 15.47 cents, but in Michigan, where I live, it’s about 18 cents. The Electrify America DC fast charger we often use when gathering data for our EV Pulse Charging Challenge videos bilks drivers for 48 cents per kWh, though Pass+ members who pay a $4 monthly fee get it for 36 cents.
So, if you were to completely replenish a Hyundai Ioniq 5’s 77.4-kWh battery pack it would cost about $14 to do it at home. Use an Electrify America DC fast charger instead, and you could be shelling out more than more than $37 if you’re not a member.
These elevated prices are unfortunate, but they do make sense. You’re paying for speed and convenience, plus investors need to make back the money they shelled out to install the charger, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Time is money
And finally, one unexpected expense of owning an EV is time, that is, the time it takes to charge. Whether you’re replenishing the battery at home or juicing up at a DC fast charger, it’s never as quick as filling a fuel tank. The Ioniq 5 mentioned earlier can go from 10 to 80% in just 18 minutes, an incredible performance, but that’s still way longer than gassing up, say, a comparable Santa Fe SUV. Time spent waiting in the grocery store parking lot as your EV charges is time that could be spent doing more productive things, so take that into consideration if you’re planning on going electric.
Nothing is perfect
OK, so this list basically outlines most of the downsides of EV ownership, but we do not want to deter you from buying one of these vehicles. They have real and significant advantages over gas- or diesel-powered cars and trucks. Electrics are MUCH cheaper to operate — you’ll save a lot of money compared to buying fuel — and their maintenance costs are appreciably lower as well. Those two points can offset many of the unexpected expenses covered here.
Aside from those considerations, EVs offer strong performance, they’re smooth and nearly silent, have zero tailpipe emissions, are far better for the environment and electrics often come with the latest and greatest features. So, if you love new tech, electric is the way to go.