Skip to main content

Are EVs more expensive than gas cars? It’s complicated

Cost is a major consideration no matter what kind of car you’re buying. Electric vehicles are great options for helping to save the environment, but what use is that if they’re outside of your budget? Let’s take a look at the factors that go into pricing electric vehicles and see how they stack up against traditional cars.


Do electric vehicles cost more than traditional cars?

Electric vehicles have a higher up-front cost than gas cars but are less expensive over the course of their lifetime, primarily due to cheaper fuel. Several studies break down this total cost of ownership. Consumer Reports estimates that “for all EVs analyzed, the lifetime ownership costs were many thousands of dollars lower than all comparable ICE (internal combustion engines) vehicles’ costs, with most EVs offering savings of between $6,000 and $10,000.”

That’s great, but the long-term nature of these savings is a big caveat. Even though batteries are getting cheaper and cheaper, the up-front cost of EVs is getting more and more expensive. Yes, the savings on fuel will eventually make an EV worthwhile, but you still need to be able to afford the car in the first place. Cox Automotive estimates that the average initial price of an EV is still about $65,000. By comparison, mid-sized cars are about $32,000 and full-sized cars are $44,000. EV sticker prices put them between full-size pick-up trucks ($60,082) and luxury mid-size SUVs ($69,608).

Do hybrid cars cost more than EVs?

Up-front costs for hybrids are typically cheaper than EVs. The May 2022 average cost of a hybrid car sits at $38,335, which is below the overall industry average of $46,426, and comparable to small/mid-sized pickups, which average $39,783.

If you buy a plug-in hybrid, calculating lifetime gas costs will really depend on your use case. If your commutes are short enough to rely on battery and you’re only using the gas power in an emergency, you could be getting the best of both worlds: a lower up-front cost and cheap fuel.

Is it cheaper to charge a car with electricity than it is to fuel with gasoline?

Like gasoline, the price of electricity varies significantly, so nailing down a direct comparison is tricky. That said, one 2020 study pegs the difference in EV fuel savings at a minimum of $3,000 over 15 years, and up to $10,500. Another study from 2018 suggested it’s twice as expensive to keep a gasoline vehicle on the road compared to an EV.

Is EV maintenance more expensive?

A graph comparing maintenance costs between EVs and gas vehicles.

Maintenance costs will depend heavily on how hard you are on your car, but EVs have a leg up. With fewer moving parts than traditional cars and without the mechanical stresses of internal combustion, EVs can last quite a bit longer. Even with the higher rates mechanics charge for EVs due to the greater computerization involved, recent research suggests electric vehicle owners pay about 30% less in service costs after three years of ownership.

Is EV insurance more expensive?

Insurance for electric vehicles is indeed higher. This is because individual repairs can be more expensive, though they happen less frequently. The gap isn’t huge, though. One study estimated that insurance costs are on average 15% higher for EV owners. Luckily, insurance companies are likely to lower rates as they develop confidence in the reliability of EVs.

Do EVs have rebates?

Yes, electric vehicles have rebates, but their availability can be hard to pin down. For one, rebates and discounts will depend on region. Some states and even some cities will have rebates not available elsewhere. The other challenge is nailing the timing. The budget for those rebates is typically for a set amount of time.

Subsidies are a huge part of what makes EVs financially viable. Research suggests “financial subsidies have enabled battery electric vehicles to reach cost parity in the U.K., California, and Texas, but this is not the case for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles which haven’t received as much financial backing.” To find rebates for your area, be sure to check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s database.

Are EVs getting cheaper?

Unfortunately, due to growing supply chain issues and a preponderance among manufacturers to cram bigger batteries into their vehicles to assuage range anxiety, up-front costs for EVs are going up. Data shows that from April 2021 to April 2022, the average EV cost has gone up 16.1%, compared to an industry average of 13%. That said, gas prices are also going up and may make up the difference over time.

There are a lot of variables at play when weighing the costs of your vehicle, but generally, EVs are cheaper than gasoline-powered cars in the long run, especially if you take advantage of rebates and you’re a moderate user.

Simon Sage
Simon has been publishing in tech since before the first iPhone was released. When he's not busy lighting a candle for the…
Which cars still qualify for the $7,500 EV tax credit? Here’s the full list
Rivian R1S on the road

Electric cars may be getting cheaper, but they're still not cheap. As such, many potential customers hope to factor in the up-to-$7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit as a way to soften the blow of buying a new car.

But the federal EV tax credit has gone through a number if iterations, and it doesn't last forever. Not only that, but as it turns out, many electric cars simply aren't eligible for the credit, and it's important to keep that in mind if you plan on buying an electric car in the near future.

Read more
Ford EV drivers can use 12,000 Tesla Superchargers starting in 2024
A Tesla Supercharger.

Drivers of Ford’s electric vehicles (EVs) will find charging them a little easier starting next spring after Tesla on Thursday promised the availability of 12,000 of its Superchargers across the U.S. and Canada.

The move will double the number of fast-chargers currently available to Ford’s EV owners.

Read more
EV vs. PHEV vs. hybrid: What’s the difference?
BMW X5 PHEV charge port

When sizing up options for your next car, you may be figuring out whether to get an electric vehicle, only to discover there are a bunch of variations to consider -- not just hybrids, but plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles are just some of the other categories. The depths of EV jargon run so deep that we wrote an entire EV glossary, but for now let's zero in on the difference between electric vehicles, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids. These options blend old tech and new tech in a way that's often practical, cheaper than an EV, and still more efficient than an old-school gasoline car.
What is an electric vehicle?
An electric vehicle skips the internal combustion engine found in most traditional cars in favor of an electric motor. This allows EVs to operate without needing gasoline. Instead, they're powered by an electric battery that will need to be charged regularly, either at your home or at a charging station like a Tesla Supercharger. The Ford Mach-E, Kia EV6, and Rivian R1S are all popular examples of modern EVs.

The electric motor works by way of a rotating magnetic field. Inside the motor, three electromagnets surround a free-floating rotor, which spins based on which magnet is attracting it most. That rotor in turn produces power to the wheels of the car and pushes it forward and backward. Regenerative braking reverses the relationship and turns motion into electricity. While you're slowing to a stop, the force of the turning wheels spins the rotor and generates a charge via the electromagnets in the motor, which in turn goes up into the battery for storage. If you're curious, you can dig into the nuts and bolts of how an electric vehicle works.
What's the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid?
In short, a hybrid primarily relies on gas with an electric backup, while a plug-in hybrid relies on electric power with a gas backup.

Read more