There’s never been more interest in electric cars.  Electric vehicles (EVs) are safer, greener, and cheaper to drive than gas vehicles.  According to a recent study, the average American driver saves $1,117 per year on fuel and maintenance costs when they switch from a gas car to an electric one.

In the US, a Consumer Reports survey showed that 63% of car buyers expressed interest in electric vehicles, but EVs represent only 2% of cars on the road.  One reason electric cars haven’t taken off yet: it isn’t easy.

If you’ve ever tried shopping for an electric car, you know that the experience can be confusing and time consuming.  (We founded EV Life to make it easier for more people to drive electric.)

Most car sites are built for gas vehicles, so you have to do countless hours of blog research.  How do you charge your EV at home or in public?  How much battery range do you need for your favorite road trips?  

Most Americans also qualify for EV incentives from $7,500 to $15,000, but there’s a lot of fine print to read across different government websites, and incentives can take up to 12 months to recoup post-purchase.

To help you save days or weeks of research, here is our guide to using a tool like EV Life to simplify your journey to buy an electric car.

7 Steps To Find The Best EV For Your Life

  1. Narrow your electric car search 
  2. Make a charging plan
  3. Know your range
  4. Maximize EV incentives
  5. Test drive
  6. Consider leasing vs. financing
  7. Get safe pickup or delivery

1. Narrow your electric car search

First, start by narrowing the criteria for your EV search from the nearly 50 electric cars and plug-in hybrids on the market.

Pro tip: Try searching by Body Type first rather than brand.  You may be surprised by the number of sedans, SUV/crossovers, and hatchbacks available.

If you search by car brand, you may be disappointed with some of your options.  For example, I grew up in a “Toyota family” and Toyota only has one electric vehicle available today: The Prius Prime.  Searching by Body Type or price range may open up surprising options for you like the fact that Hyundai and Kia make some of the best affordable electric SUV crossovers on the market.

2. Make an EV charging plan

Once you’ve found a few electric cars that interest you, it’s important to make a plan for how to charge your EV at home, work, or through public charging.

Home Charging Options

On EV Life, you can see personalized recommendations for any car you’re considering.  For this example, I’m looking at charging options for the 2020 Hyundai Kona.

Level 1 Chargers

If you own your home, your electric car comes with a charging cable that you can plug into any wall outlet in your home.  You can charge your EV just like your cell phone.  However, your electric car battery is much larger than a smartphone battery.  (For the Hyundai Kona below, EV Life estimates it will take one hour to recharge 5 miles.)

Level 2 Chargers

If you need a faster home charge, consider installing a Level 2 charger.  EV Life can help you find top selling chargers that all cost less than $600.  (The Hyundai Kona below recharges from empty to full in 9 hours on a Level 2 charger.)

Public charging

If you need to charge when away from home, fast charging is available in most areas. You’ll find these stations at shopping centers, parks, and parking garages. Charging speed will slow after reaching 80% charge to preserve battery life.  On EV Life, you can check public chargers in your area.

How is EV charging different in an apartment or condo?

If you live in an apartment or condo, charging your EV may be more challenging, but not impossible. The key is to set a base for charging at home, work, or a convenient public charger.

Take advantage of rebates for up to 100% of charger installation cost for your apartment or workplace through EVmatch. Apply now.

At Home

To install a charger, you should ask your building owner, manager, or HOA board for permission.  To request a charger, try Tesla’s template letter.

Also, it pays to know your rights. States like California give you the legal right to install a charger if you submit a request and pay for installation.

At Work

Workplace charging can be as convenient as home charging, and your employer may even pay for it. If you don’t have free charging yet, ask your Human Resources department. Also, your electric utility may offer incentives to subsidize charger installation.

3. Know your range

According to a AAA study, 57% of Americans fear they’ll run out of battery in an electric car. However, 95% of EV drivers report they’ve never run out of charge.

With EV Life, you can calculate your battery range and charging options for your favorite road trips and your weekly commute.

If I use EV Life’s Road Trip calculator to drive from San Francisco to Portland in the Hyundai Kona, I can see that I’ll need to make three stops along the way to recharge and spend about $45 on fuel.  (That’s less than half the cost I’ve spent driving to Portland in a Toyota Prius.)

I can also use EV Life’s Weekly Commute Calculator to see what to expect during my work week.

In the Kona (below) I could drive from San Francisco to Santa Clara 5 days per week with two overnight electric charges, costing around $15 total.

4. Maximize EV incentives

Many EV shoppers are surprised to learn that there are thousands of dollars in incentives offered from the federal and state government, your utility, and other local agencies.  However, each incentive has its own website and fine print to navigate, making it time consuming to research.

With EV Life, our EV incentives calculator generates a quote of your EV incentives in seconds based on your vehicle, income, & zip code.

5. Test drive

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to two or three electric cars that you like, I recommend getting behind the wheel and taking a test drive to see how they feel.

If you need help finding quality dealers in your area, try a Yelp search or just click the TrueCar button on EV Life vehicle page.  Through our nationwide partnership with TrueCar, we’re able to help our customers save an average of over $2,000 off MSRP and find dealers who have the electric car you’re looking for in stock. 

6. Consider leasing vs. financing

To [lease] or not to [lease], that is the question.

Why Lease?

With electric car technology improving rapidly each year, a 2017 study showed that 80% of consumers are leasing, not buying, EVs.  They’re leasing because they believe they’ll have much more attractive electric cars to buy in the next few years.  However, even with leasing, users find it challenging and time consuming to haggle complex lease terms with dealers.  Lease terms are like Vegas casinos, they’re designed for the house to always win.

Why Finance?

Electric car technology has changed dramatically since 2017.  The majority of EVs now feature more than 200 miles of battery range and are retaining their value over time. 

Additionally, as we recover from the COVID-19 recession, car makers are also offering some of the most attractive financing terms we’ve seen in years including “0% for qualified buyers” and “no payment for 90 days.” Between improved EV technology and loan offers, you might consider researching your best deal between leasing versus financing.

On EV Life, you can also save up to $200/month on an EV Climate Loan.  We’ve developed a new technology to pre-qualify you for thousands in EV incentives and use those incentives to reduce the principal on your loan.  Learn more here.

Negotiate Your Best Price

Regardless of whether you lease or finance, be sure to research and negotiate your best deal.

If you need help negotiating with dealers, consider hiring an auto broker or concierge service.  Fees start at around $500 and often save you more than $500 of your time and sale price.  If you need help finding a broker, search “auto broker” on Yelp or check out EV Life’s own Concierge Service.

7. Get safe pickup or delivery

Finally, in the age of COVID-19, explore the safest options for car buying.  If you visit a dealership, plan to wear a mask to protect yourself and others. 

Car makers have worked with their dealers to establish safe standards for social distancing and other healthy practices at dealerships.  Tesla even offers “contactless” pickup.

If you’re still concerned about safely going to a dealership, many dealers offer contact free home delivery.  Be sure to ask your local dealer what options are available.

Ready to find the best electric car for your life?

I know first hand how hard it can be to search for an electric car.  We created EV Life because of how challenging and time consuming it was to search for our first EVs.

Start searching for your car on EV Life today.  

If you have feedback, we’d love to hear from you.  Let us know how we can help make your EV search even easier.