Cheapest to own luxury car
There is a common perception that electric cars are really expensive. It isn’t helped by media fawning over the high-end Tesla Model S, which has a base price of $71, 000. But most EVs cost much less than that, and measured over a five-year span, the total cost of owning and operating the more affordable EVs can actually be lower than the cheapest gas-swilling econo-boxes.
Edmunds.com, the “car buying platform” that tracks auto sales with obsessive detail, calculates the “True Cost to Own” or TCO for hundreds of models. “In many cases, ” it writes, “TCO points buyers toward an unexpected conclusion: Sometimes the cars that are cheaper to buy are more expensive to own.”
According to Edmunds data for my zip code, here’s how popular electric cars compare with a few standard economy cars over the first five years of ownership:Click graph to embiggen.Data: Edmunds for zip code 94702
Let’s dig into the numbers a little. For starters, you should know that the average selling price of a new car in 2014 was $32, 618, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. The sticker price of many electric cars is at or under that average, even without considering their lower operating costs.
Federal tax credits bring EV costs down even further. EVs are eligible for a tax credit of between , 500 and , 500, depending on battery size. In a number of cases, the tax credits provide enough of a boost to make the electric versions cheaper than their gas counterparts.
There are many calculators online to help you compare vehicle costs, but the Edmunds True Cost to Own calculator is the most comprehensive. The TCO takes into account depreciation, interest on financing, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and federal tax credits for alternative fuel vehicles. It also factors in geographic variations for actual sale prices, insurance, taxes and fees, and gas and electricity costs. It assumes the buyer has a good credit rating, drives the car 15, 000 miles per year, and other average factors.
To generate the data for the graph shown above, I plugged a number of both gas and electric models into the calculator, using my own zip code in Berkeley, Calif.
I found that battery electric vehicles, like the Nissan LEAF, the Fiat 500e, and the Ford Focus Electric, not only do well in comparison to other vehicles, but they are in fact among the cheapest new cars on the road.
I started by comparing these three electric cars to their fossil twins — essentially the same car but with a gas-only engine.
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