EV vs ICE Cost of Ownership: A Comprehensive Comparison for Smart Buyers

By Clint Green

The debate between electric vehicles (EVs) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles has been growing steadily as concerns about environmental impact and long-term costs have come to the forefront. Comparing the cost of ownership between these two types of vehicles is a complex task, as there are several factors that can affect the overall cost for each type. From the initial purchase price and incentives to the costs of fueling, charging, maintenance, insurance, and resale value, understanding the differences between EVs and ICE vehicles will enable consumers to make informed decisions when choosing their next vehicle.

A major learning curve for consumers interested in EVs is understanding the varying initial purchase prices and incentives available. While some EVs can be more expensive upfront, there are often tax incentives and rebates available that can help offset the cost. Additionally, the ongoing costs associated with fueling and charging EVs can be less than the cost of gasoline for ICE vehicles, making them more attractive from an operational standpoint. Another important factor to consider is the lower maintenance costs for EVs, as they have fewer moving parts and generally require less frequent repairs compared to their ICE counterparts.

Key Takeaways

  • The cost of ownership comparison between EVs and ICE vehicles includes initial purchase price, incentives, fueling, maintenance, insurance, and resale value.
  • Tax incentives and rebates may help offset higher upfront costs for EVs, decreasing their overall cost over time.
  • Lower maintenance costs and potential fuel savings make EVs an attractive option for some consumers.

Overview of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Vehicles

Terminology and Technology

Electric vehicles (EVs) are powered by an electric motor drawing energy from a battery pack, rather than relying on an internal combustion engine (ICE) that burns fossil fuels like gasoline or diesel. Common types of electric vehicles include battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

On the other hand, ICE vehicles rely on a combustion process where fuel is burned to create mechanical energy. They typically utilize gasoline or diesel engines, which emit greenhouse gases and contribute to air pollution.

The main components in an EV include the battery, electric motor, and power electronic controller, while ICE vehicles have a combustion engine, fuel system, and exhaust system. Due to fewer moving parts, EVs generally require less maintenance and experience less mechanical wear.

In recent years, the global market for electric vehicles has grown significantly, driven by advancements in battery technology, consumer preferences, and government policies. Although challenges remain, EV adoption is rising, with increasing availability of charging infrastructure and a wider range of vehicle options.

As of the first quarter of 2023, EVs constituted 7.1% of the total vehicle market share, demonstrating an emerging trend away from conventional ICE-powered vehicles. Numerous countries have also announced plans to phase out ICE vehicles, further indicating a shift towards cleaner, greener transportation options.

The cost of ownership is a significant factor in consumers’ decision-making process when choosing between EVs and ICE vehicles. A 2018 study by the University of Michigan found that the average cost to fuel an electric car was $485 a year, compared to $1,117 for a gas-powered vehicle. Moreover, due to lower maintenance needs, EVs often exhibit additional long-term cost benefits.

However, it is essential to consider various factors when comparing the cost of ownership between EVs and ICE vehicles, such as location, vehicle type, driving habits, and energy costs. Life cycle emissions, which take into account primary resource consumption, manufacturing, and use phases, also provide a holistic view of the environmental impacts associated with each vehicle type.

Initial Purchase Price and Incentives

EV Incentives and Tax Credits

The initial purchase price of electric vehicles (EVs) is often higher than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. However, various incentives and tax credits are available for EV buyers to help offset the cost. For example, in the United States, buyers of eligible new EVs can take advantage of the federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Other countries and states may also offer their own incentives, such as additional tax credits, reduced registration fees, and access to carpool lanes.

In addition to government incentives, some manufacturers and utilities provide discounts, such as reduced electricity rates for EV owners. It is essential to research the specific incentives available in one’s region, as they can significantly impact the overall cost of EV ownership.

ICE Vehicles Pricing Factors

ICE vehicles tend to have a lower initial purchase price compared to EVs. However, multiple factors can affect the cost of these vehicles, including engine type, fuel efficiency, and brand reputation. For example, luxury ICE vehicles can have significantly higher purchase prices than economy models due to their features and performance levels. Buyers seeking fuel-efficient or eco-friendly ICE vehicles may find the prices to be more comparable to EVs.

Maintenance costs and fuel expenses can also contribute to the overall cost of ICE vehicle ownership. Regular maintenance tasks, such as changing engine oil and filters, replacement of timing belts, and exhaust system repairs, can add up over time. Fuel costs may vary depending on fluctuations in oil prices and region-specific gasoline prices.

In summary, comparing the initial purchase prices and incentives for both EVs and ICE vehicles is vital to understanding their long-term cost of ownership. Buyers should take the time to research regional incentives and consider factors like fuel efficiency and maintenance costs when making their decision.

Fueling and Charging Costs

Electricity Rates and Charging Options

When comparing the cost of ownership between electric vehicles (EVs) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, fueling or charging costs play a crucial role. EVs are generally charged using electricity, while ICE vehicles rely on gasoline.

Electricity rates usually vary with time of use, and in some regions, may depend on whether the electricity comes from renewable or non-renewable resources. Residential charging is often the most cost-effective option for EV owners. The average price of electricity in the United States is around 13 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) 1. However, this rate can vary depending on where you live and your electricity provider.

Typical charging options for EVs are:

  1. Level 1 Charging: Utilizes a standard 110/120V household outlet. It is the slowest and most inexpensive charging solution, providing 2-5 miles of range per hour of charging.
  2. Level 2 Charging: Requires a dedicated circuit of 208/240V. These chargers can be installed at home or found in public charging stations, providing 10-60 miles of range per hour of charging.
  3. DC Fast Charging: Delivers high-power direct current (DC) to charge your vehicle rapidly. Public fast charging stations can provide 60-200 miles of range in just 30 minutes.

Gasoline Prices and Consumption Rates

Gasoline prices can fluctuate widely and are influenced by factors such as oil prices, regional taxes, and refining costs. As of November 2023, the average gas price in the United States is $3.40 per gallon 2. However, this price varies by state and may change over time due to market conditions.

ICE vehicles’ miles per gallon (MPG) is an essential factor when comparing the fuel consumption rate. A higher MPG typically results in lower fuel costs. Newer ICE vehicles come with better fuel-efficient technologies, which can reduce overall costs.

In summary, both electricity rates for EV charging and gasoline prices for ICE vehicles directly impact the cost of ownership. Understanding these factors and considering personal driving habits will provide better insights when comparing costs for each vehicle type.


  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration

  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration

Maintenance and Repairs

EV Maintenance Requirements

Electric vehicles (EVs) are known for their lower maintenance requirements compared to their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. Since EVs have fewer moving parts, certain common maintenance tasks, such as oil changes and exhaust system repairs, are eliminated. As a result, EV owners can expect to spend about $300 less on maintenance in five years compared to ICE vehicle owners.

However, EV owners should be attentive to their car’s battery performance, as it plays a crucial role in the overall driving experience. Proper management of the EV battery helps maintain its long-term value and ensures optimal performance.

ICE Maintenance and Servicing

In contrast, ICE vehicles require regular maintenance and servicing due to the more complex nature of their engines. Common maintenance tasks for ICE vehicles include oil changes, cooling system services, and exhaust system repairs. According to the same study, ICE vehicle owners spend an average of $4,583 on maintenance in five years, while also having slightly higher repair costs, with an average of $1,695.

When comparing the costs of ownership between EVs and ICE vehicles, it becomes clear that electric vehicles require less maintenance and often have lower repair costs. Therefore, EVs can be seen as a more cost-effective option for long-term ownership.

Insurance and Resale Value

Insurance Premiums for EVs and ICE Vehicles

There’s a difference in insurance premiums between electric vehicles (EVs) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. On average, the cost of collision and liability insurance for EVs is $6,824, while ICE vehicles average at $5,707. This difference in insurance costs typically correlates to the vehicle’s price and the cost of repairs, since EVs often feature newer technology that makes them more expensive to repair.

When considering ownership costs, it’s important to factor in resale value as well. Electric cars have experienced different trends in retaining their value over time as compared to ICE vehicles. Factors such as federal tax credits can greatly affect an EV’s transaction price, effectively reducing it by up to $7,500, which in turn impacts resale values.

As technology continues to evolve, EVs are expected to see improvements in battery life and overall performance, potentially impacting their future resale values. Furthermore, the increasing popularity of EVs could contribute to higher demand in the secondhand market. To better understand these resale value trends, it’s important to consider various factors such as battery degradation, charging infrastructure, tax incentives, and overall EV adoption rates.

Environmental Considerations

Emissions and Pollution

Electric vehicles (EVs) have a significant advantage over internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles when it comes to emissions and pollution. EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, whereas ICE vehicles emit greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), when they burn gasoline or diesel fuel. This has a direct impact on air quality and public health.

EVs also contribute to lower pollution levels due to their greater energy efficiency. They use less energy to travel the same distance as ICE vehicles, which means they require less electricity and generate fewer emissions. The efficiency gap between the two types of vehicles is expected to widen as more renewable energy sources are integrated into the power grid.

Lifecycle Analysis

When assessing the environmental impact of EVs and ICE vehicles, it is essential to consider their entire lifecycle, including production, usage, and end-of-life disposal. A comprehensive analysis incorporates factors like raw material extraction, manufacturing and assembly, fuel and electricity production, and vehicle recycling or disposal.

As it stands, EVs generally have a lower overall environmental impact compared to ICE vehicles. However, it’s important to acknowledge that EV battery production can have a higher carbon footprint than ICE vehicle engine production due to the mining and refinement of metals like lithium, nickel, and cobalt. As battery production technology evolves and recycling processes improve, this gap is expected to narrow significantly.

In terms of fuel production, studies show that electricity generation typically has a lower carbon intensity compared to gasoline production. While certain assumptions must be considered regarding power generation, generally, the use of renewable energy sources can further reduce the environmental impact of EV electricity consumption.

To sum up, both emissions and pollution, as well as end-to-end lifecycle analysis, highlight the advantages of electric vehicles over their internal combustion engine counterparts. Despite challenges related to battery production, the overall environmental impact of EVs remains lower, and their advantages in terms of energy efficiency and emissions reduction are expected to increase over time.


Comparative Summary

Electric vehicles (EVs) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have different ownership costs. In general, EVs have a higher upfront cost compared to ICE vehicles, with an average price of $65,202 for EVs and $56,962 for ICE vehicles. However, EVs can offer savings in other areas, such as:

  • Fuel costs: EVs have lower fuel costs, as electricity prices are often cheaper than gasoline.
  • Maintenance: EVs typically require less maintenance due to fewer moving parts, resulting in lower long-term expenses.
  • Environmental impact: EVs produce lower emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment and potential savings from reduced carbon taxes or incentives.
Ownership Cost AspectEVsICE Vehicles
Upfront costHigherLower
Fuel costLowerHigher
Environmental impactLower emissionsHigher emissions

Future Outlook

As technology advances, the cost of EVs is expected to decrease, making them more affordable and competitive with ICE vehicles. Public charging infrastructure will continue to grow, further enhancing the convenience of owning an EV. Additionally, government incentives and regulations will likely shift in favor of EVs, potentially impacting the overall cost of ownership for ICE vehicles.

While the future of EVs appears promising, it is essential for potential buyers to carefully consider the total cost of ownership as well as personal needs and preferences before making a decision. Ultimately, the balance between EV and ICE ownership costs depends on individual circumstances, and what may be suitable for one person may not necessarily be the best option for another.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the long-term cost savings of owning an EV compared to an ICE vehicle?

While the upfront cost of an electric vehicle (EV) can be higher than that of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, the long-term cost savings can be significant. The lower operating costs, including less frequent maintenance and reduced fuel expenses, can offset the initial price difference over the life of the vehicle. Savings may vary depending on individual use and regional factors, so it is important to consider your specific circumstances when comparing EV and ICE costs.

How do maintenance and repair costs compare between EVs and ICE vehicles?

Maintenance costs for EVs are typically lower than for ICE vehicles, primarily because they have fewer moving parts and don’t require oil changes or exhaust system maintenance. A study found that EV maintenance costs are about 40% lower than those of ICE vehicles. However, it is worth noting that some EV-specific components, such as batteries, could be expensive to replace if needed.

What is the average difference in purchase price between electric and gasoline cars as of 2023?

In 2023, the average cost of a new ICE vehicle was about $48,528, whereas the average cost of a new EV was found to be around $65,202 during the first week of February 2023. This data indicates that new EVs are generally more expensive than their ICE counterparts, but keep in mind that prices can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle.

Can you save more on fuel with an EV than you would with a traditional gas-powered car?

Yes, EV drivers generally save on fuel costs compared to drivers of traditional gas-powered cars. Electricity is generally cheaper than gasoline, and EVs are often more energy-efficient than ICE vehicles. The actual savings will vary depending on factors like local electricity prices, driving habits, and the specific vehicles being compared.

Are electric vehicles more cost-effective over their lifespan than internal combustion engine cars?

Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer, many studies have found that EVs can be more cost-effective than ICE vehicles over their lifespan, especially when factoring in fuel savings and lower maintenance costs. Be sure to consider your driving habits, projected length of ownership, and regional factors that may impact the total cost of ownership when analyzing cost-effectiveness.

What is the typical cost associated with charging an EV compared to refueling an ICE car?

The cost of charging an EV frequently depends on where you charge your vehicle and the electricity rates in your area. On the other hand, refueling an ICE vehicle entails the cost of gasoline, which can fluctuate significantly based on numerous factors. A study highlighted that charging an EV at home could be considerably cheaper than refueling with gasoline, but public fast-charging might be more expensive. To estimate the cost of charging your vehicle, consider factors like charging location, electricity rates, and charging speed.

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