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For all the differences between gas and electric cars, there is one key similarity. You still need to go through a sales person at a car dealership. And dealerships are in competition with one another for your business. Once you decide on a specific model, speak to several dealerships in your area to see which one has the best deal. This small step can save you thousands of dollars. (Tesla is the exception to this rule. The innovative company operates its own retail stores.)
There are three basic kinds of incentives for purchasing a plug-in vehicle: tax credits, rebates, and perks. Uncles Sam offers a tax credit of between $2,500 and $7,500, depending on the vehicle. Take note: this credit is applied against future tax liability, so the full amount of the tax incentive might not be fully realized. On the other hand, rebates, like the $2,500 offered in California, comes in the form of a check in the mail. The range of other perks includes access for solo drivers in carpool lanes, and preferred or free parking.
One of the biggest myths about electric cars is that, in a few years, you will be slapped with a whopping bill to replace the car’s battery when it craps out. That is extremely unlikely. Yes, there will be some loss of range over many years—perhaps a bit faster in locations with extremely hot weather. Regardless, these plug-in cars have substantial battery warranties, usually in the realm of 8 years and 100,000 miles (some even longer), that cover all battery problems, including excessive loss of range. Rest easy, the batteries will last the lifetime of the vehicle.
Numerous studies show that electric cars have a lower total cost of ownership than gas-powered vehicles. But don’t forget to include the installation of a home EV charger in your calculation—commonly below $1,000. The off-board charger, officially known as an E.V.S.E. or electric vehicle supply equipment, supplies electricity 240 volts of juice—significantly cutting down charging time at home. You’re going to want one. See our buying guide  for details.
A few years ago, a window sticker with 100 m.p.g. or more was unimaginable. Now, the entire segment of plug-in cars is offering efficiency at or close to that level. Automakers frequently market their efficiency numbers, especially when they are higher than the competition. But truth be told, all electric cars have very similar levels of efficiency. Lighter EVs driven carefully will get about four miles per kilowatt-hour. Heavier EVs driven with gusto will get about three miles per kilowatt-hour. Most of us settle somewhere in between. At the end of the day, here’s all you need to know: All EVs are much more efficient than gas cars.
As every new electric car driver discovers, the typical EV offering 80 to 100 miles of driving range, is enough to satisfy 90 percent or more of common trips. The remaining journeys simply take a little planning to know when and where you will charge. (You have to be crazy and/or masochistic to pay no attention to your range—and drive until the battery pack passes E.) Range anxiety happens only once in a blue moon, when a daring driver goes off course on an impromptu trip. These unlikely occurrences are becoming even rarer with the introduction of 200-plus mile electric cars, like the Chevy Bolt.
Thanks to the Internet, connecting to fellow EV shoppers and drivers is only a click or two away. And believe it or not, many high-tech early adopters of electric cars actually engage in an anachronistic activity know as “getting together in person.” There are vibrant regional groups for owners of the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S and other EVs. The calendar also includes National Drive Electric Week , Earth Day, and other electric rallies, conferences and parties. Plan to join Plug In America or the Electric Auto Association. And in the meantime, create a user account on PluginCars.com and become an active member of our online community.