Study: EVs Cost More to Repair, Less to Maintain

By Sean Tucker 08/17/2021 9:21am

Jump-starting an electric car batteryElectric vehicles (EVs) have fewer moving parts than gasoline-powered cars. Fewer parts should mean fewer part failures. They also consume less. There’s no oil to change. No transmission, so no transmission fluid to replace. So, the argument goes, they should be cheaper to own.

According to predictive analytics firm We Predict, that logic doesn’t quite hold. At least, not yet. We Predict analyzed service and repair visits for about 19 million vehicles between the 2016 and 2021 model years. They found that while EVs cost less in maintenance because they have fewer regular maintenance procedures, they cost more to repair than their gasoline equivalents.

Maintenance Advantage Goes to EVs

The first year of maintenance is generally inexpensive for any car.

Owners of gasoline-powered cars spent an average of $30 on maintenance within the first year of ownership. EV owners spent just $7.

Service Advantage Goes to Gas

Service visits – those that involve diagnosing and repairing a problem – were a different story.

During the first three months of ownership, EVs were 2.3 times as expensive to service as gasoline-powered cars. At the 12-month mark, repair costs were about 1.6 times what owners of gas-powered cars paid.

It’s Not Parts. It’s Labor

Why the extra expense?

Because EV problems took longer to diagnose and repair. Technicians spent 1.5 times as many hours working on EVs as they did on gasoline-powered cars. And those technicians cost more, to begin with. Working on EVs requires additional certifications most mechanics don’t have. Those that do charge about 1.3 times the average hourly rate.

A Short-Term Problem

The cost issue may fade as EVs become more common. They remain less than 3% of the cars on American roads. But, even as sales of all cars accelerate in 2021, sales of new EVs are growing five times as fast as sales of gasoline-powered cars.

EV repair is a specialized service at the moment. But it won’t remain a rare specialty forever.

“It’s an industry in launch. This is the launch factor you’re seeing,” says We Predict vice president Renee Stephens.

An Old EV May Be Cheaper to Own Than an Old Gas-Powered Car

The newness of EVs also means there are few older EVs to study. But We Predict believes that EVs may prove less expensive in the long run.

“The cost of keeping the vehicle in service for the EV, even as the EV gets older, becomes smaller and smaller and actually less than keeping an ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicle on the road,” We Predict CEO James Davies told reporters. “That’s not just maintenance costs, but all service costs.”