If you're contemplating changing your automobile any time soon, you're undoubtedly considering acquiring an electric vehicle (EV). Everyone has a buddy who is obsessed with Tesla and raves about their zero-emission vehicle that requires little to no maintenance and is less expensive to fill than a gasoline-powered auto...but do the math on your own before buying.
The best strategy is to look past gas costs and consider the 5-year cost of ownership. In a nutshell, the cost of ownership takes into account all financial factors associated with a purchase over a 5-year period, including the purchase price, ongoing maintenance, fuel, insurance, registration fees, and depreciation hit if you sell the automobile.
This is a difficult set of computations to complete for one automobile, never mind many if you're comparing alternatives. Fortunately, Kelley Blue Book (KBB) has already done most of the heavy lifting for you and provides the 5-year cost of ownership for most popular vehicle models sold in North America.
Looking at KBB's numbers, the 5-year cost of the Tesla Model 3 is $43,184, which is comparable to mid-range luxury vehicles such as the Acura ILX. The most inexpensive electric vehicle to purchase is the 2022 Nissan Leaf, which costs $30,543 over five years—about the same as a Honda Civic. (Note: These figures apply to 5-year expenses in New York State. Yours will vary based on local fuel prices, state taxes and rebates, and financing charges.)
The KBB guide isn't perfect, but it's better than nothing. It doesn't address many of the choices and upgrades that can quickly raise the purchase price of a car, which is why it's not as useful as some people think. It also fails to mention several of the expenses if you're going to charge an EV from home, such as upgraded wiring and charger installation, which can cost upwards of $5,000.
The bottom line is that although electric vehicles are still somewhat more expensive than similarly sized and equipped gas cars, the difference is narrowing with time. We're far past the point where EVs are only for self-serious Hollywood A-listers, so now may be the moment to make the switch if there's an EV in your price range.