Automotive Research

Electric cars only cost slightly more to own than gas-powered ones, AAA finds

A person approaches an electric car holding a charging cable plug

A new AAA study has found that over 5 years of driving, the annual cost of driving a new electric vehicle (EV) is just $600 more than a similar gasoline vehicle.

While 40 million Americans have shown interest in buying an EV for their next car, most haven’t switched. Potential EV owners commonly cite range anxiety and lack of charging stations as their biggest stumbling blocks, but the misperception that EVs are much more expensive than comparable gas-powered vehicles is also a factor.

AAA research found the overall cost of owning an EV is 8% higher, with greater initial purchase costs partially balanced out by lower long-term fuel and maintenance expenses. Since previous AAA research found that two-thirds of Americans who say they’re likely to buy an electric vehicle would pay up to $4,000 more for one, cost may not be the obstacle it once was.

The cost of going electric, broken down

A parking space marked with an electric charging station symbol

Fuel

One of the biggest benefits of owning an EV is that electricity is much cheaper than gas. AAA found that the electricity required to drive 15,000 miles in a year costs an average of $546 annually, while the gas required to drive the same distance averages $1,255, more than twice as much. 

Under the hood of an electric car, with the electric motor and orange cables

Maintenance

Another plus is that EVs don’t require as much maintenance as gasoline vehicles. Since EVs don't have a complex internal combustion engine, they don’t need oil changes or air filter replacements. They also typically have less brake wear because the electric motor’s regenerative braking reduces the usage of brake pads and rotors. As a result, following the automakers’ recommendations for maintenance costs an average of $949 a year, $330 less than a gas vehicle. 

A saleswoman talks to two customers about an electric vehicle at a dealership showroom

Depreciation

Like all cars, the biggest cost of owning an EV is the drop in its value as it gains age and mileage. Electric vehicles currently see a greater decline because they have higher purchase prices than non-EVs, and because there is less demand for used EVs, perhaps because of concerns about long-term reliability. This gap may close as both types of cars enter “middle age” (6 years and older), when more than half their initial value is already lost.

Most EV owners find their concerns unwarranted

In addition to concerns over cost, many potential EV owners say they’re hesitant about switching for other reasons. AAA conducted a survey of potential EV owners in 2019 and found the top barriers mostly related to range anxiety.

58%

worried there wouldn’t be enough places to charge

57%

worried they would run out of charge while driving

57%

worried an EV wouldn’t be suitable for road trips

In 2020, AAA did a new survey of EV owners and found that for most, initial concerns either lessened or disappeared.

91%

of owners said they initially had at least 1 concern before buying their EV

77%

of those initially worried about insufficient range were less or no longer concerned

70%

of those initially worried about lack of places to charge were less or no longer concerned

About 7 in 10 of the owners surveyed had not previously owned an electric vehicle, but nearly all owners (96%) said they would buy or lease another EV the next time they’re in the market for a new car. 

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Ready to find an electric vehicle that’s right for you?

The AAA Car Guide includes a detailed guidebook to the latest vehicles on the market, including electric and other green vehicles. See how models compare and what to consider before purchasing by downloading the free guide.

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Information taken from "AAA: Owning an Electric Vehicle is the Cure for Most Consumer Concerns," American Automobile Association, January 22, 2020, and "Electric Vehicle Ownership: Cost, Attitudes, and Behaviors," American Automobile Association, January 2020.

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