$Monday: I Saved Thousands a Year by Going Electric

And so did my mom, my uncle, Mr. Money Mustache, the Republican dad of a childhood friend... Swapping one of our cars for an electric vehicle has been one of the best decisions for my daily cost of living. I used to drive old gas-powered junkers that cost me thousands a year in gas, oil changes, engine maintenance, and repairs. Then I took a chance to own a 2011 Nissan Leaf, and it saved my financial life. No matter how cheap gas prices are, they don't come close to driving electric. My car has one of the most elderly batteries you'll find on the road, and I still pay less than a penny a mile. Can you imagine filling your whole gas tank for less than the cost of two gallons? I pay about 50 cents a night to fully charge my battery, and when I visit a place with a free charger, like my local library or mall, I can fill up for FREE in my parking spot.

In addition to saving hundreds-to-thousands on gas per year, I have almost no maintenance costs to own this vehicle. We bought new tires recently to replace the factory tires, and that has been our largest expense. All that needs to be done with this car includes changing the windshield wiper fluid and wipers and maybe replacing an air filter. No tune-ups, no engine repairs, no oil changes. Even the regenerative brakes and the suspension are designed so well that they rarely or never will need attention.

In addition to the buckets of money saved each year, I save an enormous amount of time and energy because I don't have to pump gas. I don't have to deal with mechanic shops. I don't have to change oil. To me, that more than makes up for the inconvenience of having to plan around my charging needs.

We still own a small, gas-powered pickup truck to do some of the things our electric car can't do (like get my husband to work at 4:00 a.m. in a snowstorm before the plows have come through, or to make a trip longer than the car battery can handle without a fast charging station on the route). But we both hope that we won't ever need to purchase a gas-powered vehicle again.

Every once in a while, I get horrified responses from people who hear I drive an electric car. "I could never!" they insist. You can't go on spontaneous, long road trips in it. You can't go mindlessly shopping in a handful of different cities in one day. You can't run unexpected errands for whomever asks. (Oh no.) It's easy to come up with excuses to avoid adapting to a new technology. But if you're motivated, it's also easy to come up with ways to make it work. For example, on the rare occasions my family wants or needs to take a long trip, we rent a car, which is way cheaper than owning it all year long without needing it.

Driving electric is not yet a practical option for everyone, because not everyone has access to charging at home, and not every neighborhood has sufficient charging stations. But when it is possible, it is worth examining whether the comforts of fossil fuel consumption are worth the costs.

You can now snatch up a 2011 Nissan Leaf like mine for around $5,000, which could entirely pay for itself in a year or two, depending on what you're driving now and how much. And newer models of electric cars perform better than mine, on less juice.

Owning this car for the past five years has allowed me to pay off debts, build up an emergency fund, and become financially stable. I no longer have to worry that I won't be able to pay for the next big engine repair, or that my car will break down on a busy highway with my daughter in the backseat. I don't have to sweat at the grocery store, trying to calculate whether I can afford a week's worth of food and a week's worth of gas.

This car has helped me to breathe easier in more ways than one. For children and asthmatics, not having to breathe fumes from a gas vehicle every day makes a big difference to quality of life. And it feels good to know that we've contributed to cleaner air for our whole neighborhood. For us, the benefits of owning an electric vehicle--to our finances, health, and sense of communal responsibility--have far outweighed the inconveniences.

If an electric vehicle fits your commuting needs and you have a way to charge it at home, I recommend making the switch! I have never regretted it.


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