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5 Steps to Buying an Electric Car

Written by Bryan Johannsen

5 Steps to Buying an Electric CarAre you looking to ditch the fossil fuels or purchase an electric car as a second vehicle for communting to work? Read our 5 step buying guide on things to keep in mind when going electric.

1. Consider your application: Currently, most of the electric cars available for purchase are Neighborhood Electric Vehicles. NEVs are speed limited by law to 25 miles per hour and are only allowed on roads with a 35 mph or under speed limit. As far as range per charge you can expect anywhere from 25 to 40 miles from a full battery pack. You will also want to check state and local laws about NEVs if one ends up being your electric car of choice.

Tesla RoadsterThe Tesla Roadster is the only highway capable all electric vehicle available today. With the Roadster you can expect about 200 miles of range on a full charge but the electric supercar will cost you over $100,000. If you need a car that can travel on highways or roads with speed limits higher than 35 mph then you can also consider the partially electric solution of a hybrid or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. There are many of these available today ranging from sub compacts all the way up to sport utility vehicles.

2. Set up your charging station: As an electric car owner you'll need to have a place to charge it up. If you have a garage or carport this is an easy step. Just plug the car into any outlet and you're good to go. Some electric cars will accept up to 240 volts and having an electrician install a 240v outlet where you park you EV will make for faster charging times.

If you live in an apartment, condominium or other arrangement where you park further away from your residence you will need to be able to safely and securely run an extention cord out to your car to charge it. Some newly built apartments and condominium complexes put in charging stations for electric car owners.

Charging the car while you are at work is another option, some modern office complexes have charging stations or you may be able to convince your employer to let you run a cord out to your car to charge it while you are working.

3. Check Federal and Local Tax Credits/Benefits: There are some other benefits to driving an electric car besides the low environmental impact and gas savings. There is a federal tax credit for purchasing a zero emission vehicle and some states offer additional benefits from tax credits to free parking to HOV lane access amongst others. See our articles on federal tax benefits and state benefits to learn more.
Tax Benefits of Owning an Electric Car, Electric Car Benefits By State

4. Find an Insurance Company: When doing the research for our article on insuring an electric car we found that some of the big insurance companies either wouldn't cover an NEV or required you to already have coverage on another gas or diesel vehicle with them. For the ones that do cover them rates were surprisingly expensive for vehicles which don't travel any faster than 25 mph. For the Tesla all the insurance companies we talked too would just treat it as they would any other high performance car such as a Porsche or Corvette. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles will depend on the vehicle type. None of the insurance companies we spoke with offered any kind of electric car discounts.
Insuring an Electric Car

5. Choose your Car: If your choice is an all electric highway capable car then your choice is already made. Your car is a Tesla Roadster, it currently has a waiting list and you'll be on it with the likes of George Clooney. Tesla has another electric car on the horizon with the Model S and the Chevy Volt isn't too far out either. For highway capable cars if you wait for awhile you'll have many more choices.

Neighborhood Electric VehicleFor Neighborhood Electric Vehicles you have GEM who has a line of 6 NEVs ranging from two seats up to six seats and with plenty of options to accessorize your car. See our review of the GEM e6 here.

ZENN Motor Company offers the ZENN car, a NEV based off the French Microcar MC2. It looks more "carlike" than the GEM vehicles do but it's only available in the one configuration.

Wheego will soon be offering the Whip, a NEV reminicent of the Smartcar that is capable of up to 40 mph but is speed limited unless Medium Speed Electric Vehicle laws come into effect. We recently took the Wheego Whip for a test drive, read more about it here.

Many more electric cars are in the prototype phase or have at least been announced so you can only expect your list of choices to grow in the near future.

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