Sadly, these days it’s not possible to leisurely head to a dealership and pick out the perfect vehicle. Inventory remains at record lows, and supply chain shortages are going to get worse before they get better. The electric lifestyle is an adjustment for most first-time EV buyers, and preparation eases the transition considerably. You don’t want your new car honeymoon to be ruined by missed opportunities or misconceptions. Here are five reasons why you should plan ahead before making your first electric car purchase.
Inventory is hard to come by
Inventory is slim to none for all new autos, and electric vehicles have been hit especially hard by the supply shortages of 2021 and 2022. EVs are the product of truly global supply chains, and that makes them particularly vulnerable to disruptions. EV leader Tesla has so far avoided the worst of the supply shortages, however high demand has new orders seeing delivery dates over 8 months away.
Tesla isn’t the only automaker seeing serious delays. The popular Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Hyundai IONIQ 5 are all hard to find on a dealer lot nationwide. Data from Cox Automotive shows that day’s supply, the preferred industry metric for new car availability, is dismal for several electric vehicle makers.
Here’s the day’s supply for popular brands that sell electric cars in America. Tesla, Rivian and Lucid sell directly to consumers, so there is no available data for their models.
- Kia: 19
- Volkswagen: 29 days
- Nissan: 34
- Hyundai: 35
- Chevrolet: 39
- Ford: 40
As bad as these supply estimates are, many shoppers note that many dealers have just a few cars on the lot. Don’t expect to find exactly what you want at your local dealership.
The solution to EV inventory woes: place an order
If you’re eager to get yourself into a new car as soon as possible, check out YAA Car Search to locate electric cars around the country. Beware misleading postings from dealerships. I’ve found that about half of dealer postings are actually misrepresenting cars that are already spoken for.
It’s not fun, but it’s worth it to call around. Soon, you may find yourself forgetting which dealers you’ve contacted, so it’s wise to keep a spreadsheet of who you’ve reached out to, and their inventory situation. While you’re at it, keep track of what their dealer markups are for EVs. Some dealers are taking advantage of the situation and charging $5,000, $10,000 or even $20,000 over MSRP.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for at a competitive price point, most automakers let you place an order for their popular EVs. Sometimes, you’ll have to order through a dealership, so keep that in mind if you don’t see a way to place an order on the automaker’s website. For example, the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Cadillac Lyriq can only be ordered through a participating dealer.
If you have your eyes set on a Tesla, placing an order is simple. In fact, it takes just a few minutes (but requires a non-refundable deposit). However, demand far exceeds supply for Tesla models. Expect to wait 6-10 months for a Model Y.
Make plans for charging your electric car
If you drive less than 30 miles a day and live near public fast chargers, don’t sweat it. However, long distance commuters and rural EV owners will be glad they thought about how to meet their charging needs.
Over 80% of electric car charging is done at home at affordable residential electricity rates, costing less than $15 for a full charge. If you skip any special home charger installation, plugging in to a typical wall socket will add two to four miles of range per hour. Over 12 hours (at night, for example), a standard wall outlet will add about 25 to 50 miles of range. However, frequent travelers will get tired of the slow charging speeds possible with basic 110-volt wall outlets.
For those who regularly drive more than 50 miles each day, it will likely be worth the investment to get a level 2 home charger installed. A level 2 charger increases power supply to 240 volts, and adds about 20 to 40 miles of range per hour. Unless you’re lucky enough to already have a 240-volt dryer outlet in your garage, installing a level 2 charger at home can cost between $700 and $1500, depending on labor costs and the condition of existing electrical infrastructure in the home.
We’ve covered all you need to know about how much it costs to charge an electric car in our YAA guide to charging.
Do you need fast charging?
At some point, a public DC fast charger will be essential for travels. If you purchase an electric vehicle with over 200 miles of range, getting to one shouldn’t be a problem. However, there continues to be wide variation in charge times, and that will make or break the EV ownership experience for frequent travelers.
The Hyundai IONIQ 5, Kia EV6 and Tesla models can all add about 200 miles of driving range in about 20 minutes. However, the 2023 Subaru Solterra EV takes 56 minutes to add the same range. Pay attention to the details, and consider how each electric model would fit into your lifestyle and needs.
Taxes, rebates and more: When will you benefit the most from EV incentives?
For many households, tax liability fluctuates from year to year. If you know when a particularly large tax bill will be due, it might be a great time to buy an electric vehicle. The current federal electric vehicle tax credit is worth up to $7,500, however tax filers who owe at least as much in annual tax liability will get the full benefit from the credit. For example, a family who has a federal tax liability of $5,500 will only be able to claim $5,500 of the EV tax credit. That’s why it makes sense to purchase an EV when tax liability is expected to be at least $7,500.
Plug-in hybrids qualify for between $2,500 and $7,500, depending on battery size.
The credit (non-refundable) remains in effect for all automakers who have yet to reach the law’s 200,000-vehicle limit. Tesla and General Motors have surpassed the limit, so buyers of the Bolt, Silverado EV, and Tesla models won’t benefit from this generous incentive unless Congress overhauls the law. Revisions to the EV tax credit are possible in 2022. Stay up to date with the latest EV tax credit developments here.
Where will you go for EV service?
If you live anywhere near a major metropolitan area, especially along the coasts, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The rest of us need to bear in mind the limits of EV newcomers like Rivian, Lucid and Fisker when it comes to serviceability. Tesla now has 150 service centers across the country, but a few states remain without a Tesla service center. Fisker’s affordable Ocean electric SUV is loaded with impressive specs, however service centers will be few and far between for years to come.
This is where the strength of legacy automakers really stands out. A Tesla or Rivian service center will be hard to find in rural America, however legacy automakers have established dealer networks in every corner of the country.
Before you go out and buy an EV, have a plan for how and where you’ll get it serviced. Electric vehicles come with a great warranty, so you’ll definitely want a way to take advantage of it.
Consider upcoming models and updates before buying
There’s always something bigger and better in the development pipeline. Newer models tout more range, faster charging and improved performance. On the other hand, prices tick upward with every added feature.
When does it make sense to hold out for the latest and greatest? It depends on what you value most, and which electric vehicle features you desire most. Looking to get more range out of a Volkswagen or Hyundai EV? 2023 models get a slight bump. Craving faster charging? Waiting a year might save you five minutes per charge. Don’t expect huge changes from one year to the next. Automakers have set the expectation for incremental improvements.
Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide what’s worth the wait, and when it makes sense to buy (or lease) an electric car.
Planning ahead for your electric car purchase not only has the potential to save you money, it also makes the transition to the electric lifestyle a lot easier. It’s important to consider your household’s unique needs and wants as you shop around. In 2022, EVs represent past, present and leading-edge technologies at a wide range of price points. Here at YAA, we’re keeping track of EV availability in 2022.
As always, YAA Electric is here to empower you with the knowledge to approach car ownership with confidence. Our weekly EV newsletter is full of helpful tips, the latest EV news, and new car reviews. Consider becoming a member for expert insights and one-on-one guidance throughout the car buying process.