Edmunds' EV Buying Guide

Electric Vehicles

If you are interested in buying an electric vehicle, Edmunds' editors are here to help. In this EV buying guide, we'll walk you through what you need to know about EVs and make recommendations tailored to what you're looking for in an electric vehicle.
Last updated July 23rd, 2021

Know before you buy

If you're considering buying an electrified vehicle as your next car, you might find this new world daunting, what with all the unfamiliar acronyms, definitions, specifications and other things to consider. Accordingly, our first recommendation, borrowed from the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is as follows: DON'T PANIC.

We say this because the EV landscape really isn't that complicated if you have someone to talk you through it, which is the role we'll be playing here. At the highest level, there are several types of electrified vehicles to be aware of, from hybrids (HEVs) to plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and fully electric vehicles (EVs), each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. So let's start there and then move on to charging, range, costs, performance and anything else we can think of that you should know before you buy.

Types of electrified vehicles

HEVs, MHEVs, PHEVs, BEVs, EVs — there are a lot of acronyms used to describe electrified vehicles, and first-timers might find the nomenclature confusing. In a nutshell, there are really three types of electrified vehicles: those that only use gasoline as a fuel input, those that only use electricity, and those that are somewhere in between.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs, or simply EVs) are what most people think of when the term "electric car" comes up. These vehicles do not have conventional engines at all — fossil fuels are simply not involved in their operation. Instead, EVs rely on electricity from large battery packs, which must be recharged by plugging the car in. When you accelerate in an EV, electricity flows from the battery pack to the electric motor (or motors) driving the wheels. EVs can be recharged using a conventional three-prong outlet, but this only adds a few miles of range per hour. Using a dedicated wall charger or stand-alone charging station is much faster (more on that below).

Plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs, are an intriguing halfway point between EVs and regular cars. They offer both a gasoline engine and an electric battery pack that can be recharged by, you guessed it, plugging it in. Typically, PHEVs use the electricity stored in the battery pack first, then switch over to the gas engine when needed. PHEV battery packs are smaller than those in pure EVs, but you still get usable electric range before the gas engine kicks on. If you recharge every night and don't travel very far, it could be quite a while before you have to visit a gas station again.

Finally, hybrid electric vehicles, or HEVs, feature a gasoline-powered engine paired with an electric motor (or motors) —  but unlike PHEVs, they cannot be plugged in. In other words, you top the car off at a gas station and … that's it. No plugs, no cords. Nonetheless, the driving experience is typically quite different from conventional norms because the point of an HEV is to deliver big-time improvements in fuel economy. Toyota hybrids, for example, use a special transmission type that elicits a monotonous drone from the gas engine during hard acceleration. That's part of the price you pay for getting 50-plus mpg in a Prius. In short, you won't have to change your refueling routine if you drive an HEV, but you'll definitely feel the difference from behind the wheel.

There are a lot of acronyms used to describe electrified vehicles, and it can get confusing. Simply put, there are really three types of electrified vehicles: those that only use gasoline as a fuel input, those that only use electricity, and those that are somewhere in between.

As a side note, mild hybrid vehicles, or MHEVs, have much smaller battery packs and use their electric power to augment engine performance or power the car's electrical systems. These vehicles are generally best thought of as hybrids in name only since the driving experience and fuel economy aren't much affected. The function of hybrid technology here is to optimize the traditional gas-powered car, as opposed to the HEV strategy of employing dramatic powertrain changes to minimize fuel consumption. Examples of MHEV variants include such unlikely "hybrids" as the Dodge Ram 1500 and Jeep Wrangler (though the latter is also offered as a proper PHEV).

Charging at home

Most EV and PHEV owners will charge at home if they can. Due to their smaller battery packs, PHEVs can generally be charged overnight using a standard 120-volt outlet. Charging this way only adds about 2-3 miles of range per hour, but since many PHEVs offer fewer than 30 miles of electric range, most will be topped off by the time you leave for work in the morning.

But if you drive a full EV or even a PHEV with a more substantial battery pack (such as the Honda Clarity PHEV or Toyota RAV4 Prime), you're going to want to upgrade your home charging situation. A qualified electrician can install a Level 2 charging station in your garage or on the exterior of your house, which speeds up charging times drastically. These chargers use a 240-volt connection and can add between 12 and 37 miles of range per hour, according to ChargePoint. Note that range per hour added depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the vehicle battery, the capacity of the vehicle's onboard charger, and the output of the charging station itself. 

2020 Tesla Model Y

2020 Tesla Model Y

Destination charging

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average round-trip commute from home to work is just under 54 minutes. Even if we assume that the commute happens primarily at highway speed (which uses more energy), nearly every electric vehicle on sale today can cover it with range to spare. But if you don't plan on recharging every night, or you live in a dwelling where charging isn't available, or you foresee long-distance road trips in your future, you're going to want to research destination charging options.

PlugShare is a great resource for drivers looking to charge on the go. The website and app display the nearest charging stations and let you filter by your vehicle's plug type and the station's power output. Most charging stations are Level 2, similar to what you can add in your home. But there are two types of rapid charging stations that can fill your battery much faster, provided your vehicle has the necessary inputs: Tesla's Supercharger stations and DC fast-charging stations.

Tesla's Supercharger stations and DC fast-charging stations operate on the same principle to achieve rapid results. Rather than relying on the car's limited onboard charger to convert the power grid's alternating current to direct current — necessary for storing electricity in your car's battery — these larger stand-alone stations do the conversion for you and pump that sweet, sweet DC right into your car. The result is a drastically reduced charging time. For instance, the Hyundai Kona Electric can charge from 10% to 80% in 47 minutes using a DC fast-charging station, according to Hyundai, while charging from 10% to full takes over nine hours using a Level 2 station. 

Compare EV vehicles
Vehicle
2021 Audi e-tron Sportback$65,9008.2222 miles$7,500
2021 BMW i3$44,4507.8153 miles$7,500
2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV$36,5007.9259 miles$0
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E$42,8958.3230 miles$7,500
2021 Hyundai Kona Electric$37,3908.1258 miles$7,500
2021 Hyundai Ioniq Electric$33,2457.8170 miles$7,500
2020 Jaguar I-PACE$69,8507.9234 miles$7,500
2021 Kia Niro EV$39,0908.3239 miles$7,500
2020 MINI Cooper SE$29,9007.8110 miles$7,500
2021 Nissan Leaf $31,6707.9215 miles$7,500
2021 Polestar 2$59,9008.1233 miles$7,500
2021 Porsche Taycan 4S$79,9008.2200 miles$7,500
2021 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus$39,9908.4263 miles$0
2021 Tesla Model 3 Performance$56,9908.1315 miles$0
2021 Tesla Model S Long Range$79,9008.1405 miles$0
2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range$51,9908.2326 miles$0
2021 Tesla Model Y Performance$60,9908.1303 miles$0
2021 Tesla Model X Long Range$89,9908.1360 miles$0
2021 Volkswagen ID.4$39,9958.2260 miles$7,500
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

Range

Unless you've driven for long stretches through a desolate part of the country, you probably haven't had to think much about your maximum driving range in a gas- or diesel-burning vehicle. Running low? Just stop at the next filling station and you're set. But since EV charging stations can be few and far between, and it takes a while for your vehicle to charge once you reach one and plug in, EV range is a whole new ballgame.

Very few EVs on sale today offer less than an EPA-estimated 100 miles of range, with even wallet-friendly options such as the Hyundai Kona Electric and Chevrolet Bolt EV delivering well over 200 miles on a full charge. The U.S. Department of Energy's website for alternative fuel vehicles lists all vehicles currently on the market, in addition to their EPA range estimates. At Edmunds, we test every significant new EV on our real-world driving loop to see how realistic the EPA projections are — you can see our latest results here.

Financial considerations

Electric vehicles and PHEVs are generally more expensive than an equivalent gasoline vehicle — the 2021 Hyundai Kona SEL, for instance, costs $15,000 less than the Kona Electric SEL.

But federal, state and sometimes even local governments put up tax credits and other incentives to help persuade shoppers to go electric. If you qualify for these credits and incentives, the cost of buying an EV or PHEV drops dramatically. Note that federal and state incentives are reduced once an automaker sells a certain number of electric vehicles, after which they eventually phased out. The Department of Energy website keeps an updated list of vehicles that qualify for federal tax credits, while Plug In America maintains an interactive map detailing state and local incentives.

There are a few other financial aspects to consider. Because they have fewer running parts, EVs have lower maintenance costs. A typical service visit for a Chevrolet Bolt EV, for example, consists of just a tire rotation and an inspection. And as long as you aren't refueling at a rapid-charging station (which commands a price premium for its quick electricity payload), it's generally less expensive to top off a battery pack than it is to refuel a gas tank. That said, the actual cost savings will vary based on electricity and gas/diesel rates in your area.

Driving experience

Electric vehicles are engineered to drive like fuel-burning ones, but there are some key differences worth noting. Because electric motors deliver maximum torque without revving up and most EVs have only one transmission "gear," acceleration is instantaneous and often very quick. While not every electric vehicle makes the most of the potential power — the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, for example, requires a leisurely 8.8 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph — most feel quite sprightly from behind the wheel. Case in point: The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus rockets to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, and that's about the slowest Tesla you'll find.

Electric vehicles are engineered to drive like fuel-burning ones, but there are some key differences worth noting. For instance, acceleration is instantaneous and often very quick. While not every EV makes the most of the potential power, most feel quite sprightly from behind the wheel.
Traditional friction brakes are still used when braking hard, and sometimes during the last few feet as your vehicle comes to a stop. Because regenerative braking can significantly benefit range, some manufacturers dial in a fairly aggressive regenerative braking action when you lift off the accelerator pedal. Others deliver a more natural "coasting" feel at the expense of ultimate range. But many PHEVs and EVs these days allow the driver to customize the level of regeneration for a more tailored driving experience.
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Finding the right EV for you

Although EVs are in their infancy compared to fossil-fueled cars, there are more and more options on the market with each passing year. So where do you start if you're considering buying an EV? We can understand if it all feels a bit overwhelming.

That's why we put our heads together and came up with the best models for specific shopping scenarios. Got kids? Love road trips? Known for having a lead foot? Here are our top recommendations for you — just find the category that resonates the most. And if none quite fits, check out our latest EV rankings for the Edmunds testing team's official verdicts.

2021 Tesla Model Y

2021 Tesla Model Y

Best for families

Our pick: Tesla Model Y

The Tesla Model Y fills the gap between the Model 3 sedan and larger seven-passenger Model X SUV. It's easy to mistake the Model Y for the Model 3 since they're very similar in appearance, though the Model Y is slightly larger and can be optioned with a third row of seats. It's worth noting that those rearmost seats are only suitable for small children as the glass hatch severely limits headroom. The Model Y also delivers an impressive amount of range, with the Long Range model estimated to travel 326 miles on a charge, though Tesla's cars have failed to match their EPA estimates in Edmunds' testing. Need further incentive? Just like its stablemates, the Model Y is wickedly quick and is eligible for charging on the exclusive Tesla Supercharger network.

Second opinion: Volkswagen ID.4

If you're looking for something a little more affordable, the new VW ID.4 could fit the bill. While it doesn't offer the Tesla's third row of seating, the interior still packs plenty of space for people and cargo. We've found the ID.4 to be a comfortable car to live with, and we're impressed by its in-car tech and driver aids. In Edmunds' testing, moreover, the ID.4 exceeded its EPA-estimated range by a healthy 15%. Notably, while the ID.4 is available with DC fast charging, it must share public charging stations with other EVs, and our experiences with those stations have been hit-or-miss.

2021 Tesla Model S

2021 Tesla Model S

Best for long commutes

Our pick: Tesla Model S

If range and access to chargers add up to your No. 1 priority, the Tesla Model S is the way to go. Like the Model X, the Model S is one of the most expensive EVs on the market, but all that money buys you all the range. Also, the interior is stylish and comfortable — the latter a boon on long drives — and as a bonus, the acceleration is seriously swift. Like other Teslas, the Model S has failed to match its EPA range estimates in our testing, but the range we have seen is still impressive. Access to the Supercharger network makes public charging while you're on the road much easier.

Second opinion: Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Ford Mustang Mach-E came out of the gate strong, impressing us enough to take home an Edmunds Top Rated award. It doesn't offer the same range as the Model S, but it's also a lot less expensive. We've found that the Mach-E outperforms its EPA range ratings in our real-world testing, and overall performance and handling are equally impressive. The interior is significantly more upscale than what you'll find in typical Ford models, while cargo capacity is more than adequate for most needs.

2018 Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3

Best for cities

Our pick: Tesla Model 3

Tesla's smaller sedan offers many of the same features and tech as the Model S at a far lower price point. It's available in several trims that offer varying amounts of range — in fact, the midlevel Long Range model delivers more miles per charge than just about any EV on the road. The interior is comfortable and spacious, and we've found the Model 3 to be one of the most entertaining EVs to drive. Most major cities have a number of Tesla Supercharger stations, making charging easier if you don't have access at home.

Second opinion: Kia Niro EV

The Niro EV is a hatchback that offers a lot for relatively little. Its small footprint makes it easy to park, but cargo and passenger space are still reasonably good for a car this size. It comes with a decent list of standard driver aids and safety features. What's more, its range well exceeded the EPA's estimate in our testing. So even if you don't have access to charging at home, you'll need to make fewer trips to a public station.

2020 Porsche Taycan

2020 Porsche Taycan

Best for performance

Our pick: Porsche Taycan

The Taycan is Porsche's first all-electric vehicle, and what a smash. The Taycan is quick and engaging to drive, with sharp and athletic handling that doesn't compromise comfort or refinement. Its EPA-estimated range is disappointing, especially when compared to rivals like the Tesla Model S — but in Edmunds' real-world testing, the Taycan exceeded its EPA figure by nearly 60%, eclipsing almost every other electric vehicle we've tested. All this performance comes at a cost, however: The Taycan is one of the most expensive EVs around. Naturally, checking the boxes for desirable options will send the already sobering price skyward. It's a Porsche, after all.

Second opinion: Tesla Model S

The large battery pack in the Model S helps it achieve class-leading range, but it does a lot for the car's performance too. The big Tesla isn't quite as sharp or responsive as the Taycan, and it lacks the Porsche's polish, but when it comes to raw acceleration, few cars on the road — electric or otherwise — can touch it. The Model S is more spacious than the Taycan and offers much more cargo capacity too.

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2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS Review | An Electric Benz Is Finally Here | Cost, Range, Release Date & More

Edmunds Says

EVs have made great strides lately, so now is an excellent time to test-drive the latest models and get involved. As a next step, head over to Edmunds' EV Rankings for our testing team's latest verdicts on today's best electric vehicles.

Latest EV videos

MARK TAKAHASHI: Mercedes-Benz is credited as building the very first car over 130 years ago. Here in 2021, however, they've been noticeably absent among the legitimate electric vehicles. That all changes with the introduction of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS, which I've just been to Germany and Switzerland to drive. Before we get into this first drive, do us a favor and hit that Like and Subscribe button below and head on over to edmunds.com/sellmycar to get a cash offer on your vehicle. The EQ name is new for Mercedes. But we'll be seeing a lot more of it in coming years. The EQS is the electric equivalent to the stately S- Class Sedan. We expect a few SUVs to follow later. Think of it as the GLA and GLE equivalents, which will be called the EQA and EQE. Makes sense, right? The EQS goes on sale this fall in the US and will be available in two versions. The EQS 450+ is the extended range model, while the EQS 580 4MATIC is the dual motor all-wheel drive version Prices have not yet been announced. But it's a safe bet that they'll be placed above the $100,000 mark. That puts it up there with the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan. The EQS 450+ has a single motor driving the rear wheels with a power output of 329 horsepower and 419 pound-feet of torque. Mercedes estimates it'll reach 60 miles an hour in 5.9 seconds and have a range of 484 miles on a full charge. That range figure is based on the European testing standard. We expect the figure to be adjusted down a bit when the EPA gets around to evaluating it. But even if it drops way down to 400 miles, that's an impressive distance that will rival the Model S long range and handily beat the Taycan. The 580 4MATIC has a second motor driving the front wheels for a combined output of 516 horsepower and 631 pound-feet. Mercedes says it'll reach 60 miles an hour in only 4.1 seconds. That's blisteringly quick but still slower than the Model S and Taycan. Range estimates for that all-wheel drive model start around 420-ish, but also based on the European model. Expect that to drop just a bit. Both have identical 108 kilowatt hour battery packs. The EQS is DC fast charge capable. Mercedes claims you can get from 10% to 80% charge as quick as 31 minutes. On more common level two units, it should take just over 11 hours to get the same charge. Those times are longer than the Taycan or Model S, but not enough to really impact your life. Now, even though this EQS isn't as fast as the Porsche or the Tesla, it's still plenty fast. And it accelerates with authority, like a good shove. It's also eerily graceful. On some of the smoother Swiss roads here, I almost have the sensation it's floating above, right until I hit a rut or a bump. But even when I hit those, you only get a dull thud. And it's heard more than felt. Now, these EQSes come standard with the AIRMATIC and adaptive suspension. And that's definitely helping. The AIRMATIC suspension replaces conventional springs with air chambers for a smoother ride, and keeps the body nice and level. The adaptive suspension allows you to choose between a softer, more comfortable ride, or stiffen them up for better handling performance. As far as braking goes, well, the brake pedal is a little soft. But it seems appropriate for a big luxury sedan like this. I would expect that the AMG version would have a slightly stiffer pedal. And when it comes to handling, it inspires confidence. It's still a big sedan, and heavy. But you don't really feel that weight because it's mostly all in the floor. And you don't want to go blasting through corners like you're in a sports car, but you have the confidence that it'll navigate some sharper terms with absolutely no problem. That's because each EQS comes standard with rear-wheel steering. When you need to make a really sharp turn at lower speeds, the rear wheels will turn in opposite direction of the front wheels by as much as 10 degrees, allowing this big sedan to maneuver much like a smaller car. Body roll is really well managed. It just feels solid on the road. You might also notice how quiet it is in here. It's really impressive how much they've dialed out road and wind noise. And there's absolutely no creaks or squeaks on the interior. Helping with sound abatement is insulated windows for sound and for heat. As with a lot of EVs, they have repurposed the shifter paddles on the steering wheel to serve a similar function for brake regeneration. If you hold the upshift paddle for a few seconds, you can access the highest regeneration level that allows you to drive without ever hardly touching the brakes. It's called one-pedal driving and many EV drivers love it enough to never want to go back. On top of that, with more regeneration, you replenish the battery more and get further on a charge. Now let's talk about seat comfort. It's a Mercedes. It's an S-Class. It's really good. There's tons of adjustments. These are the multicontour seats so you could also get a massage. Plus they're heated and ventilated, and they work really well. You always get that sense of spaciousness in an S-Class, and this EQS is no different. And it's also enhanced by this massive panoramic sunroof that really opens up the interior. Despite that tapering roofline, there is a good amount of space for adults in the back. I'm 5 foot 10, and I fit back there with room to spare. The large roof pillars in the back do make it seem a little less spacious, at least compared to the front. In the back seats, there will be an executive rear seat option. But the four seat option will not be available. So that means you will not get that massive center console that you'd see in the S-Class. And oddly enough, there's no frunk. But when you see the size of the trunk, you might realize that you don't really need a frunk. As an S-Class, also, materials quality is impeccable. Really, at this level, if you want to beat it, you're going to have to spend about a quarter million to get a Bentley. And even then, it's not that much of a difference. Right here I have this lovely huge bin. It has two cup holders and a rubberized charging pad. And you also have the usual under bin storage here. Overall, you've got plenty of spaces for your personal effects. Not a problem at all. And again, going back to the materials quality, you just enjoy running your hand over all the surfaces. They're pleasing to the touch. You have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but with the Mercedes MBUX system, you might not be using it nearly as much. It's easy to use. You have different modes of use. And of course, this Hyperscreen dash is striking. It's a big huge piece of glass with three distinct screens in it. The Hyperscreen adds a third display just for the front passenger and gives them the ability to control things like audio and navigation. Once they find a destination, all they have to do is swipe it over to the center screen. There is a very slight drawback, though. And it's the constant shifting reflections over that huge glass. It could be a little distracting at first, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Unlike a lot of other screen only systems, this one's pretty easy to use. A lot of that has to do with the size of the buttons that they put on the screen. But also, it's in a good position. I like my screens on top of the dash. But here it's fine. And also, this Head-Up display in front of me has a ton of information that really helps when I'm trying to get from point A to B in Switzerland, where I don't know any of the roads. Also standard is the Burmester sound system, which is one of my favorites in any car. In a really quiet luxury sedan like this, it really brings out all the nuances in that system-- really good punchy bass and extraordinarily clear highs. And it doesn't fall apart at louder volumes, either. Other cool technology add-ons are toll pay, which is integrated into the system so you don't have to fumble for your wallet or purse. Just like the S-Class, this has a fingerprint sensor right here so you can save all of your profiles for the infotainment and seat and navigation. So if someone else drives your car, all you have to do is tap your finger on that and it'll reset everything to your preference. Another cool feature are the available power open and close doors. So when you get in the car, you just give the handle a gentle tug and it'll open it itself the rest of the way. Once you get seated in the driver seat, to close the door, all you have to do is put your foot on the brake, and it'll close automatically. In other tech-related items, Mercedes plans to introduce the Drive Pilot level 3 autonomous system this year in Germany, and rather optimistically, in the US in the next two years. It's a truly hands-free system that takes over all driving duties up to about 37 miles an hour. It has a lot more sensors, including a LIDAR sensor up front, and more and enhanced cameras. No, you can't fall asleep or jump in the backseats while it's operating. As a driver, you still need to be present and ready to take over if conditions dictate. There's also an advanced automated parking system that goes well beyond anything we've seen before. Like a few other cars, it can parallel or perpendicular park into a tight space, and be remote parked in even tighter spots. It goes further with a memory function that can expertly navigate complicated driveways or into areas with a lot of obstructions. Imagine having that when you were a teen driver. It should be very clear that I really love the Mercedes EQS more than the Tesla Model S or Taycan. Let me count the ways. It's more comfortable than either of them, especially the Tesla. The seats are super cushy. The ride quality is glassy smooth. Sure, it doesn't have the crazy acceleration of either. But do we really need that anymore? 4.1 seconds should be plenty for anyone, especially in a huge sedan like this. This is a very promising start for the EQ for Mercedes. And I can't wait to see how it performs when we get it back here for a full evaluation. In the meantime, hit Like and Subscribe below. And don't forget to head over to edmunds.com for the latest info, specs, and news on the EQS and all of its competition. [MUSIC PLAYING]

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS Review | An Electric Benz Is Finally Here | Cost, Range, Release Date & More

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