How to Decide if an Electric Car Is Right for Your Lifestyle

Wondering if an electric car can fit your busy lifestyle? We've got you covered. This is everything you need to know before going electric.

Electric Car Lifestyle
Photo: Michael Fousert Unsplash

Before you go electric, you’ll have to do your research.

Just like every other big decision you make in your life, swapping to an electric car requires a hard look at you lifestyle, including your finances, preferences, and living situation. It can be pretty overwhelming, but before you give up, we’re here to help!

We’ve broken down the gas to electric conversion process into four simple steps in order to help you decide if you’re ready to go electric, if you might need a middle step, or if a gas engine is the practical option for you right now.

This story contains affiliate links; A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from sales generated by links in this story. So, shop away!

How the Inflation Reduction Act Will Save You Money, Clean Up the Environment and Help Everyone Afford an Electric Car

With More Electric Cars On The Road, Ford Needs Service Technicians Qualified To Work On Them. ? Scotty Reiss

With more electric cars on the road, Ford needs service technicians qualified to work on them. Photo: Scotty Reiss

How Much Will It Cost?

There are a lot of cost-related situations to consider when buying an EV:

  • The list price of an electric car is often higher than its gas-powered counterpart.
  • There may be federal and state tax incentives that will cut down on the outright cost.
  • Insurance is generally higher for electric vehicles.
  • You will generally have to perform less maintenance on EVs, since they don’t have pesky engines.
  • Electricity often costs less than gasoline, especially if you charge at home.
  • You may need to install an effective at-home charger if you don’t live near one.

Some states offer tax credits and utility companies have incentive systems that will bring down the cost, but again: it all depends on where you live. Make sure you’re aware of any charger installation-related costs before buying electric, too; most buyers find that charging at home is the most convenient.

The outright cost of the vehicle will, of course, depend on other factors too, like how many seats you need, what body style you prefer, and how much luxury you want.

But it’s also important to evaluate cost based on where you live. Maintenance costs for electric cars may not be high in a more populated area, for example, but if you live in the middle of nowhere and only have access to a single electric car mechanic, your quick trip to fix the infotainment system could cost more than you expect.

Cadillac Elr Sfoairport Charge Station

Conveniently for my Cadillac ELR, the San Francisco International Airport features electric car charging stations like this one. Photo: A Girls Guide to Cars

Chargers, Home and Away, explained

And then there’s the cost (money + time) of chargers. For plugging in at home, there’s level 1 charging, which you already have: It’s a basic 110V household plug. It takes about an hour to replenish 6 miles of range on the average electric car and as for rates, it’s based on your electric rates at home, which are typically cheaper at night than during the day. For a plug-in electric hybrid with a 30 mile range, the battery can be replenished over night. For owners of a fully electric car with a 200+ mile range would probably want a level 2 charger.

The level 2 charger is essentially the same as a 220V household dryer outlet. Owners can by buy a wall-mount kit like this from Juice Box that can be controlled with a smart phone. Though, one of our contributors bought a Tesla and to use level 2 charging at home, bought the outlet at Home depot and hired an electrician to install it, for a total bill of $150. Level 2 chargers typically replenish 20-30 miles of range per hour and can usually charge an EV overnight.

Level 3 charging, also known as DC Fast Charging, is only available at public or commercial charge stations. “DC” stands for direct current and is far more powerful than AC charging. Electric cars that are optimized for DC fast charging can typically replenish up to 80% of the battery in less than an hour; some in as little as 18 minutes. These are ideal for long road trips or to quickly charge up if you know that you won’t be able to charge it over night.

Rates at charge stations can vary, but our experience has been that it’s about half the cost per mile driven of gas in Texas (and gas in Texas is half the price of gas in California, though no doubt, electricity rates in California are higher, too).

Related: Meet the Future of Transportation, a More Efficient City of Tomorrow

The Range Assistant Helps You Become A More Efficient Driver

The Range Assistant in the Volvo C40 Recharge helps you become a more efficient driver. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What Range Do I Need?

How far do you drive in a day? Do you take care of your work at home and use your car for a few daily trips to the store or to pick up the kids from school? Do you have a painfully long commute? Are you keen on road trips? These will all impact whether or not you should go electric, and what model to buy if you do.

A great way to determine range needs is to start tracking your mileage. Keep a log of how many miles you travel each day to see what your general needs are. Then, keep a log of how far you travel when taking a longer road trip. If you drive 200 miles every other weekend to see grandma, you need to know!

Basically, you should be able to handle most, if not all, of your daily driving on one fully-charged battery. This metric takes into consideration the fact that you may not have access to a charger at your workplace, or that any charger you have access to is a Level 1 or 2.

Related: This is What the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid and Is Like To Drive

Polestar 2

The Polestar 2 at a DC Fast charger in Austin, TX. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Where Do You Live?

Location concerns go far beyond noting whether or not you live in a rural area that may have few chargers. If you live in a more extreme climate with dramatic hot waves or cold snaps, it’s important to know that that will take a noticeable toll on the range. If you live in the mountains, that’s also going to have an impact.

One study showed that most electric cars perform at their best—as in, above expected range—around 70 degrees Fahrenheit but that you can expect your range to be about expected from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a climate that sees hotter or colder temperatures than 50 to 90 degrees, you’ll start losing range. That’s because it not only takes more effort for the car to regulate its battery temperatures, but you’re more likely to be running the air conditioning or heat.

But you do, of course, need to consider the population density and availability of of charging in your area. If you’re more rural, for example, the likelihood you’ll need to purchase an at-home charger goes up. And you’ll have to make sure you can get your day’s driving in on one charge before heading home.

The Ford F-150 Lightning'S Height And Roominess Make It Quite Comfortable

The Ford F-150 Lightning’s height and roominess make it quite comfortable. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What Kind of Car Are You Looking For?

While the electric options are slowly growing, you still can’t guarantee that you’ll find your ideal car in your price range. There are not yet any 3-row SUVs other than the Tesla X, and while pickup trucks are on the horizon or trickling into the market – Tesla’s Cybertruck and the GMC Hummer Truck are a ways away, though the Ford F-150 Lightning is due soon and the Rivian R1T is being seen on streets now. And if you’re, say, a certified fan of roadsters like the Mazda Miata, you’re going to have to compromise.

That isn’t to say there aren’t options here; you’re just dealing with a new technology and therefore a much smaller niche of options to choose from. So if you have a penchant for a specific make, model, or size, you may have to alter your expectations to nab a solid battery- electric car.

The Author And The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4Xe In Aspen. Photo: Rich Lacey

Sara Lacey with the Jeep grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in electric hybrid, which combines gas and electric for more power and a longer range. Photo: Rich Lacey

What if I’m In Between?

It can still be rare to find someone who is fully ready to go electric—but plenty of people are open to the idea. That’s where plug-in hybrids come in. PHEVs offer all the benefits of an EV without the downsides of range anxiety or having to commit to the polar opposites of either an electric or gas-powered car. You’ll likely be able to do most of your driving in a day with full electricity while also having the capability of quickly filling up the gas tank on a longer trip.

But just imagine waking up each morning with a full battery–either a short range PHEV or a fully electric car–and being able to skip the gas station. Isn’t that a dreamy idea?

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I'm Elizabeth Blackstock, managing editor of AGGTC, blogger, journalist, novelist, editor, MA/MFA graduate student, wife, motorsport fanatic, and bearer... More about Elizabeth Blackstock