Is buying an electric car worth it if you rent in California? Here’s what to consider

·4 min read

California’s record-high fuel prices have resulted in frustrated gas-reliant motorists, curious if the switch to an electric vehicle would be worth it. But what if you can’t charge at home?

The convenience of an electric car depends on your lifestyle.

With California’s proposal to ramp-up the sales of zero-emission cars, culminating in a sales ban of new gas-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035 — the topic surrounding electric vehicles is hot.

But before you make the switch to zero emissions, consider this: If you have regular access to an outlet, the daily miles you drive and if you can afford it.

Charging an electric car in public

Charging your electric car at home is one of the perks of owning the vehicle, but it’s a luxury that many people don’t have.

If you live in an apartment or condo without assigned parking or you rent a home and your landlord doesn’t allow electric vehicles or electric vehicle charging — you have to get creative.

Some owners can get away with finding a standard outlet to charge their car, but this method is clunky and can result in someone tripping on the cord.

California’s public charging stations can be free, paid or subscription-based and costs are established by the station’s owners, according to the California Air Resources Board. The state encourages drivers to use the PlugShare interactive map to find nearby charging stations.

If you have access to a charging station at work or close by, that can be just as good as charging at home.

Here are a couple of sites to help you find the nearest charging station:

How far can an electric car drive?

According to UC Davis’ Plug-in Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center, electric cars can travel roughly 250 miles without needing a recharge. Plug-in hybrids may drive for 50 miles on electricity before they start using fuel. Some cars — like Tesla’s — can go as far as 350 miles.

Gas for under $6 a gallon in Sacramento? Check these area gas stations

What type of electric car would work for me?

The type of electric car to buy depends on how much you drive. Here are the several types of electric vehicles-based on a driver’s need, according to Drive Clean:

BATTERY ELECTRIC CARS

Battery-electric cars are entirely electric and don’t use fuel. According to Drive Clean, these cars could have more than a 300-mile driving range and don’t require too much maintenance.

PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECTRIC CARS

Plug-in hybrid cars can run on gas or electricity. When a car uses up its electric range (around 20 to 55 miles), it switches to gas.

FUEL CELL ELECTRIC CARS

Fuel cell electric cars are similar to battery electric cars in that they run on electricity, but the power system is different.

According to Drive Clean, the car’s system is composed of cells that chemically “combine hydrogen gas from the car’s tank and oxygen from the air to produce electricity.” Fuel cell cars have a driving range of about 400 miles.

How much does it cost to own an electric car?

According to a 2020 Consumer Reports electric vehicle post, while electric vehicle owners spend less on gas and maintenance, they traditionally cost more to purchase than gas-powered cars.

And getting your hands on one is another challenge.

In Sacramento, residents can replace their vehicles with a zero-emission or near-zero emission vehicle or transit cards in the Sacramento’s Clean Cars 4 All incentive program. But you must be eligible to apply.

Here are other ways to get an electric car at a lower price in California, depending on your eligibility:

CLEAN VEHICLE REBATE PROGRAM

You can receive up to $7,000 to purchase or lease a new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, battery electric vehicle or a fuel cell electric vehicle in the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. The program offers vehicle rebates on a first-come, first-served basis.

You can check if you’re eligible on the CVRP website.

FEDERAL TAX CREDIT FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES

All electric and plug-in hybrid cars purchased new in 2010 or after may be eligible for a federal income tax credit up to $7,500. To get started, you can filter by vehicle type or manufacturer on the official U.S. government fuel economy website.

DRIVE CLEAN INCENTIVE SEARCH

You can also search Drive Clean’s California incentive database, put together by the California Air Resourced Broad, and find a new or pre-owned electric vehicle.

CALIFORNIA CLEAN FUEL REWARD

The California Clean Fuel Reward allows eligible individuals to buy or lease a new electric vehicle and save up to $750.

OTHER TOOLS

Electric For All: A list of electric car models currently available in California and their incentives.

United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Vehicle Guide: Greenhouse gas and air pollution scores for all cars on the market.

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