Do Electric Cars Need Less Maintenance? (Explained)

Electric cars are becoming much more popular, but like any new technology, there can be a steep learning curve when it comes to care and maintenance.

You can see a list here of typical maintenance on electric cars.

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to help people who own or are thinking about owning electric cars.

How Much Maintenance on Electric Cars?

Electric cars need less maintenance up front, but the maintenance they need down the road can become more expensive than what is needed for a gasoline-powered car. A battery replacement can be really expensive.

How often do electric cars need maintenance?

Since electric cars have fewer parts than gas-driven cars, it’s logical to wonder if they also require less maintenance.

Electric cars will need relatively little maintenance on their engine, battery and drivetrain.

For example, there is no need to perform regular oil changes, because the small amount of lubrication that is required by an electric vehicle is pretty much entirely self-contained.

The other components of the vehicle, however, will generally follow the same maintenance schedule as a gasoline-powered vehicle.

That means you’ll still need to rotate tires and have the air conditioner filters swapped at the same rate you always have.

What is the yearly maintenance cost on average for electric cars?

Compared to gasoline powered vehicles, you’ll spend a lot less in the first several years of ownership.

While exact costs will vary, of course, there have been several studies that have analyzed the total costs over the lifetime of the vehicle.

In general, an electric car will cost about $4600 in maintenance over its lifetime, while a gasoline powered car will cost an average of $9600.

With an electric vehicle, most of the maintenance cost will be paid near the end of the life of the vehicle. This is because the main cost involved with maintaining an electric vehicle is the replacement of the battery, which usually occurs between five and ten years of ownership.

Electric vehicles normally have no costs associated with:

  • oil changes,
  • transmission fluid,
  • tune-ups,
  • fuel filter changes,
  • coolant changes,
  • spark plug replacement,
  • or drive belt replacement

With a gasoline-powered vehicle, the maintenance costs are twice as much, but they are more evenly spaced over the life of the car.

Rather than one or two major purchases, gasoline powered cars will have much more frequent maintenance costs, but the bills for these trips to the repair shop will be lower on average than those for an electric car.

To compute the average yearly costs of an electric vehicle, it will be necessary to know how old it is.

Depending on the make and model of the car, the usage of the vehicle, and the way it is driven and stored, the battery in an electric car will likely last anywhere from five to fifteen years.

If the car is purchased new, that means it will probably only have minimal maintenance costs for the first several years.

Starting around 70,000 miles, there will be slightly higher costs for routine maintenance items such as brake pads. At some point, however, there will be a large cost for a replacement battery.

If you are purchasing a used electric car, this is why it is so important to know the remaining battery life.

Buying a used vehicle that will almost immediately need a new battery can add thousands of dollars to your true cost of ownership.

Do electric cars spend less time at the mechanic?

In general, electric cars will spend less time at the mechanic’s shop than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

In the first several years of ownership, electric vehicles need barely any maintenance.

Other than occasional small maintenance projects such as tire rotation and brake pad replacement, there are no maintenance costs.

Because most of these maintenance projects can be scheduled at the owner’s convenience and typically take only an hour or two, there is very little time spent at the mechanic’s shop.

It is important to note, however, that many private mechanic shops will not work on electric vehicles for certain projects.

Generally speaking, anything that involves the battery or engine will need to be taken care of at the dealership.

Depending on the owner’s personal circumstances, this may mean that extra time is spent transporting the vehicle to the mechanic’s shop.

Remember that this will be for rather rare repairs, however. 

Just about any shop will be able to perform routine repairs to systems such as the air conditioner or tires.

The battery can cause issues

The largest maintenance cost for an electric vehicle is the replacement of the battery. While this will come at a different point in time for every vehicle, it can take up to two days to do the repair.

Keep in mind, however, that this is a repair that most owners will have a lot of warning for.

Electric vehicles will tell an owner that the battery life is dropping, giving the owner several months to plan for the replacement.

While slightly inconvenient, it is not as bad as having a transmission suddenly give out, leaving a car owner stranded by the side of the road.

Are electric cars cheaper to maintain than gas-driven cars?

The answer to this question really depends on when in the lifecycle the electric vehicle is purchased and how long the owner actually has the car.

When comparing a new electric vehicle to a new gasoline powered vehicle over the entire lifecycle of the vehicle, the gasoline powered car will cost nearly twice as much to maintain as the electric one.

If the electric vehicle is purchased about halfway through its lifecycle, however, the math may change a bit.

Remember that electric vehicles have one major maintenance expense – the battery.

If you purchase a used vehicle that needs a battery replacement and then sell the car within a few years, you could very likely pay more in maintenance for the car than you would for a similar gas-powered vehicle.

It’s also important to think about the size, make, and model of the cars you’re comparing.

Remember that larger gas-powered vehicles such as trucks and SUVs will have much higher maintenance costs than smaller sedans.

For electric vehicles, some of this still holds true, but to a lesser extent, because the overall maintenance costs are greatly reduced.

How stable are electric cars compared to gas-driven cars?

So far, it appears that electric cars have a good track record of being low-maintenance, or stable.

Very early in the production of these vehicles, many experts were concerned about the need for maintenance, especially since there were no other electric cars to compare them to.

Many early adopters of electric vehicles were essentially taking the risk of looming maintenance costs, since no one knew for sure how long batteries and other components would last under real-world conditions.

Today, however, there are thousands of electric vehicles on the road, and over ten years of data about their maintenance record under real-world conditions.

While most of these vehicles are used for city driving, the data does give us a fairly good idea of the actual maintenance that these vehicles need.

In general, routine maintenance is still needed, but owners will not have to perform regular oil changes.

Unlike the early days of these vehicles being available to consumers, there are now a number of shops that are willing to perform basic services such as tire rotation on electric vehicles.

Like any car, an owner must keep up with these services; the vehicle will experience more wear and tear if routine maintenance is skipped.

The battery replacement is a large expense, and one that is often touted as an issue by manufacturers of gas-powered vehicles.

In reality, however, this is an expense that can be planned for, or the vehicle can be sold before it becomes a problem.

There are multiple electric vehicles on the market that claim a battery life of ten years or longer, making it more than feasible to sell the car while still retaining some of its value.

Sources

https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_maintenance.html

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