Consumer Reports Study Finds Electric Vehicle Maintenance Costs Are 50% Less Than Gas-Powered Cars

November 13, 2020 | | Education

A new study by Consumer Reports equips consumers with data showing the relatively lower cost of electric vehicle (EV) maintenance and overall ownership when compared to comparable gas-powered vehicles. Consumer Reports recently released a study analyzing EV ownership costs, including a chapter on their lifetime maintenance costs. The study looks at both battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and helps answer frequently asked questions about EV maintenance and other costs.

Key takeaways:

  • EVs have lower lifetime maintenance costs—and lower costs overall—compared to comparable gas-powered vehicles.
  • BEVs and PHEVs have similar lifetime costs.
  • The cost savings of EV ownership are only expected to increase with new models and battery cost reductions.

The study found that “when total ownership cost is considered—including such factors as purchase price, fueling costs, and maintenance expenses—EVs come out ahead, especially in more affordable segments.” Consumer Reports states that “owning an electric vehicle will save the typical driver $6,000-$10,000 over the life of the vehicle, compared to owning a comparable gas-powered vehicle.”

The report acknowledged that many estimates of lifetime maintenance costs for EVs are just that—estimates based on predictions. Through surveys sent out to their members, Consumer Reports endeavored to provide concrete, real-world data to determine if EVs truly have lower maintenance costs throughout their lifetime.

Consumer Report’s survey findings revealed that previous estimates were correct:

“Analysis of real-world maintenance and repair cost data from thousands of CR members shows that BEV and PHEV owners are paying half as much as ICE [internal combustion engine] owners are paying to repair and maintain their vehicles.”

EVs have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines and don’t require oil changes, which reduces an EV’s lifetime maintenance costs. The estimated total lifetime repair and maintenance costs for each vehicle type and the average cost per mile are as follows.

Car TypeLifetime Maintenance and Repair CostAverage Cost per Mile
Gas Powered$9,200$0.061

Source: Based on data from Chris Harto, Consumer Reports, Electric Vehicle Ownership Costs: Today’s Electric Vehicles Offer Big Savings for Consumers (October 2020), 11.

Since PHEVs have both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, we might expect them to have maintenance costs similar to purely gas-powered cars. However, when comparing BEVs and PHEVs, Consumer Reports data indicates that overall lifetime maintenance and repair costs are essentially the same.

The report suggests the overall lifetime maintenance costs may be even lower than reported due to small sample sizes for BEVs and PHEVs, resulting in a higher degree of uncertainty. Additionally, many of the BEVs sampled were older models of the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S. With new technologies and advancements in the EV industry, newer models could potentially have lower maintenance costs.

In the next few years, Consumer Reports hopes to build upon these findings by including larger sample sizes and newer car models in their data sets to get a better picture of ownership costs for EVs.  

Speaking to the findings’ significance for consumers, Chris Harto, the lead author of the study, said:

“No matter how you look at it, the massive lifetime savings potential of EVs could be a game changer for consumers.” Harto added, “As battery prices and technology improve, prices come down, and more attractive models hit the market, it’s only going to get better.”

More details on the maintenance chapter can be found here. Consumer Reports released the full study, Electric Vehicle Ownership Costs: Today’s Electric Vehicles Offer Big Savings for Consumers, on October 8, 2020. The full study includes data on other factors in total ownership cost (e.g., purchase price and fuel costs).

Facilitated by the Great Plains Institute, Drive Electric Minnesota (DEMN) is a partnership of EV champions, including automakers and auto dealers, utilities, charging companies, environmental groups, and state and local government. DEMN paves the way for the deployment of EVs and charging infrastructure through public-private partnerships, financial incentives, education, technical support, and public policy. Sign-up for our e-newsletter and stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter.