Which Are The Cheapest EVs To Own?

NOV 15 2018 BY JIM GORZELANY 26

You have to consider all of an EV’s long-term ownership costs to determine which is the best deal.

There’s a distinct difference between what it costs to purchase a given vehicle and what you’ll actually pay to own it over time. Electric vehicles are no exception. To determine which would be the best long-term deal, you’ll want to consider the costs of depreciation – how much the vehicle will have lost in value at trade-in time – how much energy it consumes, and the cost of insurance premiums, maintenance charges, state fees, and out-of-warranty repair bills.

As with any vehicle type, depreciation is the biggest hit to the pocketbook, but here it’s offset by the one-time $7,500 federal tax credit granted to EV buyers, along with any state-specific incentives that may apply. Like other high-priced luxury cars, Tesla EVs take the biggest hit in loss of value over time, simply because there’s more money at stake to lose. What’s more, tax credits for Tesla models are scheduled to phase out during 2019 unless Congress takes action to extend them.

Fortunately, it costs less to keep an EV running than a comparable conventionally powered model, especially if it’s charged at home. According to the EPA, the Ford Focus Electric, which is rated at the electric equivalent of 107 “e-mpg” in combined city/highway driving, is estimated to cost an owner $500 less to drive 15,000 miles than a gas-powered Focus at 28 mpg.

Maintenance costs are also lower. EV owners avoid having to pay for many regular service procedures, including oil changes, cooling system flushes, transmission servicing and replacing the air filter, spark plugs, and drive belts.

We dug deep into the five-year cost of ownership estimates compiled by both Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.com to determine which five EVs will cost their owners the least amount of money, overall. We’re presenting them in the accompanying slideshow.

Unfortunately, neither source yet offers cost estimates for some of the most recent models, like the Tesla Model 3, Honda Clarity Electric and Jaguar I-Pace. Both sources calculate costs a bit differently (KBB considers the tax credit as part of taxes and fees, for example), and neither source has yet updated the figures for the 2019 model year, but this should give you a good idea of the variables involved and how they stack up.

Costs quoted are for base models without options and are based on variables applicable to Chicago, IL. Depending on where you live, the cost of electricity, prevailing labor rates, insurance premiums, and taxes and fees may be a bit higher or lower.

2019 Chevrolet Bolt

5. Chevrolet Bolt EV

Energy: $1,718

Insurance: $6,810

Financing: $2,420

State Fees: ($5,547)

Maintenance: $2,163

Repairs: $2,028

Depreciation: $25,901

Total Five-Year Ownership Costs: $34,493

Source: KBB.com.

 

4. Kia Soul EV

Energy: $1,900

Insurance: $6,565

Financing: $2,259

State Fees: ($5,630)

Maintenance: $1,477

Repairs: $623

Depreciation: $26,532

Total Five-Year Ownership Costs: $33,726

Source: KBB.com.

 

3. Nissan Leaf

Energy: $1,823

Insurance: $6,120

Financing: $2,089

State Fees: ($5,719)

Maintenance: $1,936

Repairs: $1,869

Depreciation: $24,819

Total Five-Year Ownership Costs: $32,937

Source: KBB.com.

 

BEVs available nationwide

2. Ford Focus Electric

Energy: $2,004

Insurance: $6,280

Financing: $2,026

State Fees: ($5,752)

Maintenance: $2,297

Repairs: $1,869

Depreciation: $23,147

Total Five-Year Ownership Costs: $31,871

Source: KBB.com.

 

1. Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

Energy: $3,317

Insurance: $3,475

Financing: $3,632

Taxes and Fees: $2,255

Maintenance: $3,727

Repairs: $977

Depreciation: $16,051

Tax Credit: ($7,500)

Total Five-Year Ownership Costs: $25,904

Source: Edmunds.com.

Source: MYEV.com

Categories: Buying Advice, Chevrolet, Deals, Ford, Kia, Lists, Nissan, Smart

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26 Comments on "Which Are The Cheapest EVs To Own?"

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Happy to see my FFE in there. I know there are a lot of haters of the FFE on this page. I have enjoyed the car so much. No problems, zippy performance, lots of space (with the seats folded down), dirt cheap compared to some of the others (especially my Tesla – lol). It is our go to zip around, parki in the city car. It has of 40K on it now. I paid no sales tax, got the 7500 federal rebate, and got a zero interest load from Ford. It ended up costing less that 20 I think.

Yeah, but not sure it should be on the list since it is no longer available to purchase. And if you are going to start including used cars, then the whole thing changes.

The depreciation is calculated from MSRP and as we all know that none of those cars are sold at MSRP.

Where did the repair and maintenance number come from? Why would Bolt has $2K repair cost while the Smart EV only has $977?

According to CR the reliability of the Bolt is among the best of the 5, yet the KBB listed the cost of repair as the most among the 5? Where did KBB get its data from? Why would any of those 5 cars need $2K of maintenance in 5 years? I don’t think I even spent more than $800 on my Volt for the last 7 years with 90K miles. That is mostly due to 1 set of tires and 3 oil change, 4 cabin air filter, 3 sets of wipers and 2 engine air filter. Tires were about $600 out of that $800 and the next most expensive items were the cabin air filters. 3 oil change only cost me $35 each for 2 of them and first one was free. Engine air filter cost me $18 each.

Some of those KBB estimate is way out of wack.

Presumably it cost you at least $200 every year for it’s yearly service? Or did you do it yourself and not go to a mechanic at least once a year?

Who really takes an EV for yearly service? My Leaf hasn’t seen a mechanic for any service since the 2 free worthless battery checks other than new tires. It turns 6 in March.
If you mean, do I change my own wiper blades? Sure I do that.
Should I change the brake fluid? – probably.

There are recommended maintenance points on even the Bolt/Volt (7500 miles). No different to an ICE, which you could just take for a yearly oil change if you wanted rather than follow the maintenance schedule.

Most people (no matter the powertrain) will be following the maintenance schedule, hence the inclusion in the overall cost.

The SMART ED has to be serviced at the Mercedes Dealership attached to the Smart Store. NO WAY its cheaper than the BOLT ev. A friend had the oil changed on a Gasoline Smart, $140 later.

ICE vehicles are cheaper to own when you consider everything involved, including insurance, depreciation, and excise taxes where applicable.

Incorrect -Look at the text above:
“Fortunately, it costs less to keep an EV running than a comparable conventionally powered model, especially if it’s charged at home. According to the EPA, the Ford Focus Electric, which is rated at the electric equivalent of 107 “e-mpg” in combined city/highway driving, is estimated to cost an owner $500 less to drive 15,000 miles than a gas-powered Focus at 28 mpg.”

I have yet to see a single estimate of depreciation properly take into account the tax credit and other incentives. If a $35,000 car has $10,000 in tax credits and incentives attached to it, it is completely nonsensical to calculate depreciation based on a $35,000 price, since the buyer only paid an effective $25k for it.
KBB gets this wrong so the “cost of ownership” numbers in this article are meaningless.

Your stupidity is reaching lol levels!

It’s kind of hard to predict what resell values the current crop of EV’s will have in 2 years, much less in 5.

Agreed, in fact I think the used EV market is going to heat up.

Al D is a serial anti-EV troll. I wouldn’t doubt if he is paid or even a Russian troll farm employee.

So your cheapest to own has a $25,904 price tag for 5 years?!!! WOW! For a Smart???
Here is a better proposition. Want something cheap? Go for the Fiat 500e which is currently at $5295 (after all credits in CA) for a 36 months/10k miles! That’s approx $16k for 5 years with energy and insurance. I don’t reside in CA? Toughshitzky!

Interesting article, but we typically hang onto cars for 15 to 18 years. I would like to see longer term maintenance costs considered, including the cost to replace the battery as needed throughout its lifetime.

We who? I never had a car more than 10 years and that was pushing it. The average is around that too.

Well you are certainly in the minority.

I’d actually phrase it rather as an endangered species … I have yet to meet anyone who has kept one car >15 years, in the last 2 decades.

At first blush EVs should cost pennies per mile to run over their entire life. In reality they cost a fortune when you factor in the price of entry. Take the Volt as an example which is based on the Cruze ICE model… both made by Chevrolet. The Cruze MSRP is $14,995 the Volt is $37,995 so it would take about 25yrs of driving at $4/gallon or about a couple million miles to equal the price of entry (including the tax incentive) of The Volt!! There is NO INCENTIVE to go electric whatsoever. Until EVs sell on parity with ICE it’s no go for me

Couple million miles? It is helpful to post with such an ignorant statement so that people can see where you are coming from.

No incentive? Hardly.

The Volt is smoother, quieter, more fun to drive, and more convenient to “fuel” than any ICE vehicle. It cost less than any comparable small Audi, BMW, etc. Why compare it to a base Cruse? You could save even more money buying a 12 year old used car, like a Toyota Yaris. Like the base Cruse it would be even cheaper, but no where near as nice a car.

GSP

Trolly, just ask google and it will tell you the Cruze msrp is at $18k while the Volt is at $33.5k.
No incentives? Lol, in most states in addition to anything else you also have a $9k in credits. You only have to recover about $5k in gas savings if that. At your $4/gal that will happen in less than 4 years….but you already knew that, you just wanna troll, right?

a couple million miles is way off, but some people only drive 6,000 miles a year so I won’t say that a 25 year payoff is impossible. But as GSP said, saying that the Volt is just a Cruz with a battery is a totally inaccurate comparison. The interior quality and fit & finish is much better. It may be built on the Cruz’s platform, but so is the GMC Terrain. You can’t say 2 cars should have the same msrp just because they come from the same platform. You could always find a beater that has a lower 5 year TCO compared to any new car, but just about every car buyer chooses to pay more than that for emotional and or status reasons.

The “Depreciation” values shown in this article are too funny (highly inflated, as if smoking weed) to be real. Instead of basing value on window sticker MSRP; try using real world financial transaction amounts.

The depreciation shown here is greater that the net purchase price of my EV.

InsideEVs: Please use real world data, not some hyped up data which has not been verified.

So a used EV that has depreciated is an even better buy and low cost of ownership!
I have a 2016 Chevy Spark EV and it has been great.
I had 2 LEAF’s that were terrible and I got rid of them. I also had a KIA SOUL EV they all died in the HEAT. Terrible cars in the HEAT. Not bad in a cool area but never in the Southern USA. Never.