How Long Until An Electric Car Pays Itself Off?

Electric vehicles are starting to become more popular as gas prices continue to rise … with no end in sight. But the truth is that electric vehicles are significantly pricier than many gas-powered models.

So we thought we’d put electric vehicles to the financial test. We ran the numbers, pitting the three mainstream models currently available in the US against the most popular hybrid, the Toyota Prius, and an “average” American car with average price, gas mileage, etc…

What we found was pretty surprising.

First, the averages. Your average American car gets 23.8 miles to the gallon, and your average American drives 13,476 miles a year. At current prices per gallon, that means each tank will run you $60 and you’ll spend $2000 a year or so on gas.

Then, the Prius. First of all, the Prius already pays for itself. The average new car costs $28,400 in America and the Prius starts at around $23,000 depending on the model and options. On top of that, you cut your gas prices in half: the Prius will cost about $1000 a year to fill up and will pay for itself (provided you never have to repair it) in 21 years in gas savings. That’s a high bar, to say the least.

So who are our contenders? They’re the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, and the Mitsubishi I MeiV. The Mitsubishi actually wins right out of the gate; at $27,900 base price and 112 miles to the “gallon,” it’s slightly cheaper than the average gas-powered car and only a few thousand more than the Prius. Of course, it’s also tiny. That’s really the key roadblock here. If you were wondering, it will pay for itself in gas savings in about 19 years.

That leaves the Leaf and the Volt. They’re both a few thousand more than the average: $32,780 and $31,465, respectively. They both also get similar “mileage” with 99 and 98 mpg. And they both cost the same to charge; at 11 cents a kilowatt, they each run roughly $561 to charge for the year. Yes, you’re saving $1500 in gas costs.

The Volt narrowly squeaks this one; it will take two years to pay off the difference while the Leaf will take three.

So what can we conclude from this electric vehicle showdown? Well, first of all, if you don’t care about space and just need a car to move a couple of people and maybe some errands on a daily basis, the Mitsubishi will suit you just fine. But secondly… electric vehicles have a bit of a way to go.

We’re not being entirely fair here, however. Buying these vehicles new may entitle you to certain tax credits that can remove several thousand from the price of the vehicle before you take it off the lot. That said, so far electric vehicles are designed as essentially errand cars: They have limited ranges of 100 miles or so. So heavy drivers and commuters may want to consider the Prius instead. You may not save as much money… but you’ll certainly save some money.

Add Comment