September 21, 2023

5-Step Pre-Buy EV Checklist – A Detailed Guide for Future Electric Vehicle Owners


12 Min. Read

Electric vehicles (EVs) are reshaping the global automotive industry. While more and more people are intrigued by switching to this more sustainable mode of transportation, EV ownership isn’t a decision you should take lightly. It demands a thorough evaluation of your circumstances, home environment, and driving habits to determine compatibility with EV ownership.

In this article, we’ll cover the top five considerations you should make before making the switch to drive electric.

5-Step Pre-Buy EV Checklist

This 5-step pre-buy EV checklist helps you consider the essential things you need before buying an electric vehicle. It explores aspects such as setting up home charging, your driving habits, and if you’re financially ready, and will enable you to make an informed purchasing decision that aligns with your needs and enhances your overall driving experience.

1. Understanding Your Driving Needs

The first step in purchasing an electric vehicle is understanding your driving needs to determine which electric vehicles will be best suited to support your range and capacity needs. While your everyday vehicle usage will significantly shape the kind of electric vehicle (EV) that best fits your lifestyle, you should consider which aspects of vehicle ownership are most important to you and what features you would prefer to have, both for performance and comfort. Thoroughly review and research all models that meet these needs and schedule a test drive to ensure it meets your specifications.

Here are some key considerations to evaluate when determining your driving needs:

Regular Driving and Travel Distances

Consider how far and how often you typically drive. Most EVs should work without charging during the day if you’re mainly driving short distances in the city. But if you drive a lot daily, such as long commutes or frequent errands, you might want to look at EVs with a longer driving range.

The range of an EV, or how far it can go on a single charge, are essential features to consider when buying an EV. New models can cover over 200 miles, while older ones might be limited to around 80. Your driving habits, temperature, use of accessories, and highway speeds can all affect this range.

Long-Distance and Frequent Travel

Another critical factor is how often you travel long distances or take road trips. If this is a regular part of your life, you will need an EV with a high-range battery. This also means thinking about charging station locations on your usual routes. Charging during a road trip requires more planning than refueling a gasoline car, although the charging infrastructure constantly improves.

Don’t forget to consider the potential advantages of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane access, too. In many regions, electric vehicles are permitted to use these lanes regardless of the number of occupants as part of efforts to incentivize cleaner transportation.

Using HOV lanes can provide several benefits for EV drivers:

  1. Time-saving: HOV lanes are often less congested, allowing for faster rush-hour travel times. This is particularly advantageous if you frequently commute in heavy traffic areas.
  2. Energy efficiency: Reduced stop-and-go traffic in HOV lanes can contribute to better energy efficiency in electric vehicles, as consistent speeds often result in more efficient energy usage than fluctuating speeds.
  3. Incentive for EV adoption: Access to HOV lanes is a valuable perk that can further incentivize the shift to electric vehicles.

Remember to check your local regulations, as the rules for EV access to HOV lanes can vary by region. Some areas may require unique decals or permits for EVs to use these lanes.

EV Suitability for Urban vs. Suburban or Rural Driving Habits

Your driving environment is another aspect to consider. If you’re primarily an urban driver, maneuvering through traffic and finding parking are daily realities. In this case, a compact EV might be a good fit. Alternatively, if you’re in a suburban or rural area, where distances between destinations are longer and roads may be rougher, a larger EV with a higher range and potentially more robust features may be a better choice.

2. Evaluating Your Budget

Financial considerations play a crucial role when thinking about an EV. While they often have higher upfront costs compared to conventional vehicles, EVs can lead to significant long-term savings in several ways:

  1. Fuel Savings: The cost of electricity to charge an EV can be much lower than the cost of gasoline, especially if you can charge your vehicle during off-peak hours when electricity rates are often lower.
  2. Maintenance Savings: EVs have fewer moving parts than traditional vehicles, requiring less maintenance. You won’t have to worry about oil changes, transmission fluids, spark plugs, or other routine maintenance costs associated with gasoline vehicles.
  3. Tax Credits and Incentives: Many governments offer tax credits, rebates, or other incentives for buying an EV, which can help offset the initial purchase price. Be sure to research local and national programs available to you.

By factoring in these potential savings, the total cost of ownership for an EV over its lifespan can be lower than a conventional car, making it a smart financial decision in the long run.

When evaluating your budget, also keep these upfront costs in mind:

  1. Vehicle and Charging Station: Besides the EV, you may need to budget for a home charging station.
  2. Incentives: Research available electric vehicle incentives and tax credits that can help lower your initial costs.
  3. Insurance: Check potential insurance costs, as they may differ for EVs.
  4. Used EVs: If buying a used electric vehicle, check the battery warranty. Many manufacturers offer extended warranties, and this is an important consideration as the battery of an electric vehicle can easily cost thousands of dollars to replace.

Understanding these factors can help you plan your budget, whether buying or leasing.

3. Choosing the Right EV Model

The electric vehicle (EV) market is growing rapidly, with new models constantly being released. Consider factors like range, charging speed, size, features, and price when choosing an EV. You can also test-drive different models to see how they feel and perform.

Comparing Different Models

The variety of EVs is pretty expansive. Start by comparing models based on range, charging speed, size, and other features. Consider an EV with a high range and fast charging speed if you frequently drive long distances. However, explore other models if your daily commute is short and safety features or luxury finishes are priorities.
When it comes to EVs, the options are broad and varied. Start your comparison by considering key characteristics such as range, charging speed, size, and additional features. Online resources like EV databases and comparison tools can be beneficial in showcasing different models side by side.

Your driving habits should guide your choice. For instance, if you frequently drive long distances, prioritize an EV with high range and fast charging capabilities. Conversely, an EV with robust safety features or luxury finishes might be more suitable if your commute is primarily short distances or in-town driving.

Additional considerations might include:

  • Interior Space: Consider your passenger and cargo needs. Some EVs offer more interior space or more versatile cargo options than others.
  • Tech Features: Consider the technology vital to you, such as advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), infotainment features, or connectivity options.
  • Brand Reputation and Reviews: Research what current owners say about the model you’re considering. They can provide valuable insights into the vehicle’s real-world performance and reliability.
  • Resale Value: Some EVs hold their value better than others. While it’s not always easy to predict, knowing the typical resale value can help you understand the overall cost of ownership.
  • Availability and Dealer Support: Not all models may be available depending on where you live. Also, dealer support for servicing and maintenance can vary by brand and location.
Test-Driving Potential Models

Test-driving is a crucial part of choosing an EV, as it lets you experience firsthand how these vehicles compare to classic cars. Here are some aspects you should pay attention to during your test drive:

  • Acceleration and Handling: EVs generally provide instant torque, leading to quick acceleration. During the test drive, see how this rapid acceleration feels compared to the gradual acceleration you might be used to in a conventional car. Check how the car handles curves and responds to your steering inputs.
  • Regenerative Braking: This feature, common in EVs, uses the electric motor to slow the vehicle down, converting some of the energy back into electricity to recharge the battery. It can make the vehicle feel like it’s slowing down faster than a traditional car when you lift your foot off the accelerator. Test how this feels and whether you are comfortable with it.
  • Noise: EVs are quieter than conventional cars, especially at low speeds. Pay attention to the noise levels during your test drive.
  • Ride Comfort: Pay attention to how smooth the ride is. EVs have their heavy batteries placed low, often on the vehicle’s floor, which can result in a smoother ride. But the weight can also make bumps more noticeable.
  • Infotainment and Controls: Many EVs use advanced touchscreen controls for features that might be controlled by buttons or switches in conventional cars. See how you like the interface and whether it’s easy to use.
  • Charging Port Location: While this might not be part of the actual driving experience, it’s a practical aspect worth checking during a test drive.

Remember, the best way to choose a car is to find one that feels comfortable, meets your driving needs, and gives you confidence on the road. Take your time and try different models to find your perfect match.

4. Decide on Your Charging Situation

The first thing to consider when choosing an electric vehicle is your home charging setup. Unlike regular cars, EVs need a unique setup for recharging, preferably at home. Your charger setup can be as simple as plugging your EV into a standard electrical outlet or as complex as setting up a dedicated home charging station for faster recharges, depending on the charging level you choose.

It’s important to not here that there are three levels of EV charging stations: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.

  • Level 1 chargers are the slowest, using a standard 120V outlet. They can add about 3-5 miles of range per hour.
  • Level 2 chargers are faster, using a 240V outlet. They can add about 15-25 miles of range per hour.
  • Level 3 chargers are the fastest, using a 480V outlet. They can add about 60-100 miles of range per hour. DC Fast Charging stations are a type of Level 3 charger that can add even more range per hour, up to 100+ miles.

The type of charging station you need depends on your needs and how often you drive your electric vehicle. A Level 1 or Level 2 charger may be sufficient if you only drive short distances. If you drive long distances or need to charge your car quickly, a Level 3 or DC Fast Charging station may be a better option.

You should also evaluate these essential factors when deciding on your charger project:

Installation of a Home Charging Station

You should install a home charging station if you have a garage or parking space. This allows overnight recharging, ensuring a fully charged vehicle each morning. For homeowners, this is generally straightforward. Renters, however, require property owner permission.

Distance to the Nearest Public Charging Station

If home charging isn’t an option, you should locate the nearest public charging station. The closer it is to your residence, the easier it will be to keep your EV charged. An EV might not be the best choice if the nearest charging station is inconveniently located or often busy.

Please note, we recommend using Level 2 charging stations when charging your EV in public due to the increased risk of battery degradation when using Level 3 (DCFC) chargers.

Charging in Multifamily Residences

In an apartment or condo, charging is complex but possible. Check with your property manager or homeowners’ association for EV charging rules and options.

5. Navigating After-Sale Services, Warranty, and Incentives

After selecting your ideal EV model, it’s time to look into the specifics of post-purchase services and warranty details. You should also explore any potential incentives and tax credits that could help you financially.

Understanding After-Sale Services

After-Sale Services can significantly contribute to your overall satisfaction as an EV owner. The reputation of the manufacturer and dealer can play a critical role here. Look into their customer service track record, how they handle maintenance needs, software updates, and any potential vehicle issues. Online reviews, current EV owner insights, or consumer reports are good starting points for this research.

Decoding Warranty Coverage

It’s essential to understand what is covered and the duration of the warranty. EV warranties can significantly differ from traditional car warranties, often providing coverage for unique components such as the battery pack. Be aware of any notable inclusions or exclusions, which will ensure that you are not caught unprepared by unexpected costs down the line.

Researching Incentives and Tax Credits

Finally, EV purchases offer financial benefits beyond fuel and maintenance savings. Governments at various levels as well as utilities often provide incentives to promote EV ownership. These incentives could include tax credits, rebates, or exemptions from specific fees. These offerings can significantly offset the upfront costs of your EV as well as the purchase and installation costs of your EV charger.

Each region’s incentives are different, so you should research what’s available in your area. Check government websites, consult with tax professionals, or use resources like the U.S. Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) to identify opportunities.

By thoroughly exploring these factors, you’ll ensure a well-rounded understanding of what it truly means to own an EV in terms of its operation and the potential financial implications. The comprehensive evaluation of these aspects will ensure that your transition to an electric vehicle is smooth, rewarding, and aligns with your lifestyle and budget.

By utilizing this 5-step pre-buy EV checklist you’ll be able to better understand your driving needs, evaluate budget considerations, choose a suitable EV model, decide on your home charging solution, and navigate after-sale services, warranties, and incentives. You’ll also want to assess your home charging setup and test-drive potential EV models. By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your needs and budget.

Get Ready for Your EV Journey with Qmerit

If you’ve been considering an EV, it’s essential to evaluate whether your home and daily habits suit this type of vehicle. Using a pre-buy checklist ensures you’re making an informed decision that will meet your needs and provides the best value, and Qmerit can help.

Our certified EV charger installers have installed more EV chargers and other electrification solutions than any other network or company in North America, and we set the standards for excellence, safety, quality, and service. All Qmerit-certified installers are fully vetted, licensed, background-checked, and receive specialized training and certification to ensure they’re the best at what they do. 

If you’re ready to install your chargers and electrify your home, use our online EV Home Charging Assessment and skip the hassle of a home visit for an installation estimate. As the most trusted EV charger installer in America, Qmerit makes it easy to go electric. Contact Qmerit today!

Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network