San Diego

Gas or electric vehicle? A comprehensive comparison

The switch makes more financial sense the longer you own an EV

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The shift as a society to electric vehicles may have you considering also making the switch away from the gas pump. Soaring prices are the No. 1 driver pushing car buyers into an EV, but there are more factors to consider when solving out the financial equation that is your lifestyle and driving habits.

The environmental benefits are important, of course, but we’ll leave them out this time around.

The Willoughbies were all smiles as they look into buying an EV and never paying for gas again.

Patrick and Ashley Willoughby sure like what they saw at Mossy Ford, in Pacific Beach. The couple were trading in their car for an electric vehicle after crunching the numbers.

“I didn’t even realize we spent that much on gas,” said Ashley, while Patrick nodded along in agreement.

The couple are done with gas prices taking a bite out of the budget every time they fill up.

“Sometimes twice a week ... we needed to figure something else out ... electric it is."

Gas pump vs. charging station

Charging up their vehicle will cost them about 45% of what they’re spending on gas at the moment, according to a recent nationwide study by the University of Michigan.

The United States Department of Energy has a vehicle cost calculator that allows you to input various personalized driving factors, allowing you to compare between vehicles and what it will cost to run them.

The University of California, Davis, has a similar tool that could also help you decide.


Meantime, at a public charging station nearby, the novelty of owning an EV has worn off a bit for Denise Robles.

Robles had impatiently waited for her turn for about an hour.

“I have stuff to do today, but I was like, 'I have to go charge it,' " Robles said. "It’s way more convenient to go to a gas station, pump your gas and go."

Brenda Robles may be suffering from "Charging Anxiety" as she charges her vehicle at a public charging station

“Charging anxiety” is what Keith Barry from Consumer Reports calls it.

“Not knowing if the charger is going to work, not knowing if it’s going to have a long line, how much it’s going to cost you with a public charger,” explained the autos reporter.

Barry added that, when it comes to convenience, gas take the nod. At least for now.

“There’s a huge investment, a federal investment, being put into larger charging infrastructure," Barry said. "Tesla and a bunch of automakers have announced that their supercharger network is going to open up to different vehicles that aren’t Teslas. And some of those are very conveniently located already."

On top of that, according to Barry, seven automakers want to form a joint venture to start building some 30,000 charging stations across the country by 2024. 

“The rollout is a big chicken and egg problem," Barry said. "There aren’t enough EVs, so does it make sense to start building these EV chargers? San Diego would be a great place to start."

Upfront costs

How much would each option set you back? According to Consumer Reports, the average price for an EV is more than $60,000, $12,000 more than the industry average cost for all vehicles.

“It’s like any other emerging technology," Barry said. "Starts off expensive, and then, suddenly, as the technology becomes easier to produce, prices come down, more people buy and it becomes more affordable.”

Maintenance and repairs

Maintenance and repairs are more budget friendly when rolling in an electric.

“There are parts that aren’t there that you don’t have to maintain," Barry said. "You don’t have to worry about changing your engine oil because there isn’t a gas engine, but you do have to do some maintenance on the vehicle. Tires do wear out sometimes a little faster on an EV.”

Other factors to consider:

  • Car insurance: It generally costs more to insure electric vehicles. Check out the vehicle ratings at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website. These ratings are often used by insurance companies to determine the cost for a policy. The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends to get quotes from different companies when comparing an electric vehicle to its gas counterpart.
  • Battery range: Not all EV batteries are created equal. Some give you greater distances per charge but they come at an additional cost. This is where your driving habits and needs come into play. You want to charge at home as much as possible to really get the benefit EV’s offer over filling up at a gas station.
  • Government incentives: The Inflation Reduction Act extended a federal tax credit for new EVs through 2032. It's worth up to $7,500 but does carry some qualification restrictions. It aims to offset the sticker shock some car buyers might experience when looking at EVs for the first time.

You're going to have to learn a whole new way of owning and driving a car

Keith Barry, autos reporter for Consumer Reports

The final verdict

Consumer Report says that once everything is accounted for, the average owner can save $6,000 to $10,000 over an EVs lifespan (about 200,000 miles) compared with an equivalent gas option. But do look into your own driving situation in San Diego.

“What it comes down to is doing a ton of research ahead of time because you’re going to have to learn a whole new way of owning and driving a car,” said Barry.

Ashley Willoughby said the couple did some research, but the amount they will save on gas had them at hello.

“If the payment is going to be a little higher, that’s fine if we’re going to save mostly on gas every single month,” Ashley said.

As far as Barry is concerned, he said he would rather lease an electric vehicle. He would first like to see how it works out with his driving lifestyle and because it’s easier to get government incentives through the dealership. On top of that, he said, it’s such a volatile market right now when it comes to the costs of EVs: if the value of the vehicle depreciates more than the wear and tear, he wouldn’t be on the hook for the loss.

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