It’s hard to deny that there’s an electric car frenzy going across America. Admittedly, I’m super into EVs. One of the questions that quite often get asked is about the longevity of an electric car. Since most of the EVs that we see on the road today are younger than a decade, how long will a newly released Tesla 3 (2017-present) or even the older Model S (2012-present) last?
In some cases, electric cars last longer than gas cars. It all depends on how you define the phrase. An electric car will survive for more years and require less maintenance. But, a gas-powered car will go further on a single fill-up, and is easier to replace parts over time.
Well, I did my homework. I came up with a long list of criteria to compare an electric car and a gas car. In the end, I’ll give you a breakdown that explains whether or not an electric car lasts longer than a gas car, and how I arrived at my answer.
Defining “Last Longer”
I hate to be “that guy”, but it’s not possible to answer this question until I discuss what it means to last longer as a car. When people ask me this question, I have to go through a round of questions to clarify exactly what they’re asking.
Go Further on a Single Fill-Up
Some people are just looking for a quick answer: if you completely fuel up an EV and a gas car, which one will go further? In the case of a gas-powered car, this means a fuel tank that’s topped off. For an EV driver, it means that you just unplugged your car after hours of charging.
For this category, it doesn’t matter how long the car itself will last, just which car wins in the longest straightaway known to man.
Last More Years Without Breaking
Let’s say you’re just looking for a car that gets you from point A to point B every day without giving up on you. I feel like this is the dream for most people when they’re looking at a car.
For this, you’ll care about maintenance and how long the battery, motor, or engine will last. After all, this is the biggest item that can break down in your vehicle.
Can Sit in Storage for Longer
If you’re one of the Jay Leno’s of this world and have almost 200 cars in storage, you’ll wonder how long one of your rides will last. It’s one thing to take a car out every day for a quick ride, but it’s something completely different if you want to keep it in a garage for a decade.
Can Be Neglected and Beaten and Still Work
Another group of people is just trying to abuse their daily driver and have it survive the whole time. In this sector, you’re looking at crashes, failure to do maintenance, and finding spare parts.
If you’re looking for the longest-lasting car in this category, you should probably stick with a bumper car.
Comparing the Longevity of Electric and Gas Cars
With these ideas of “lasting long” in our minds, let me compare these two styles of cars. I’ll walk through some of the criteria that you might think about when looking at the longevity of a car. By the end, there should be a clear winner.
Looking at Spare Parts
For anyone looking to own their car long-term, replacement parts are just part of a car’s survival. If this is how you define how long a car lasts, then there’s some bad news for EV enthusiasts.
Getting spare parts for an electric vehicle is borderline impossible. For one, the technology is so new that there isn’t a surge of junked cars. Don’t believe me? Check out your local junkyard for Tesla parts. Then, do the same search for a Toyota Camry.
You’ll notice that any spare parts you do find are insanely marked up. There’s a reason why Tesla highly suggests that you never do repairs on your own and only go to their certified shops. The combination of these facts makes the spare part market pretty sparse.
Gas-powered cars have been around for a lot longer and have an abundance of spare parts for major makes and models. If you’re looking to own your car for a while and do your own repairs, this is a big win for gas cars.
Winner: Gas car
Failure to Do Maintenance
A great reason to get an electric vehicle is the lack of maintenance. No timing belts, oil changes, or transmission woes to worry about. If you want to simplify an EV, there’s just a big motor and a battery powering it.
If you own a gas-powered car, you already know the headaches of maintenance. It seems like every 20,000 miles comes with an oil change and a host of other required maintenance.
Routine maintenance on a gas car will help it last longer, but it also takes up your time and money.
If you take an EV and gas-powered car and neglect the maintenance over the same period of time, the winner will be blindingly obvious. An electric car will keep chugging along with very few problems. The gas-powered car will start falling apart and seizing.
Winner: Electric car
Leaving it at Home During Vacation
Some people are wondering which type of car lasts longer without being used. For example, let’s say you’re taking a vacation for a month and your car is staying home. As long as your electric car is plugged in, you don’t have to worry about anything.
With a gas-powered car, you might have to dump some fuel stabilizer in the tank. In addition, going that long without running your engine could cause some damage to your car.
Winner: Electric car
Which Car Goes Further on a Single Tank?
What if you put the pedal to the metal on the world’s longest, straightest, most abandoned road? Which car will go further?
In almost every case, the gasoline car wins. The record-holding EV will go 387 miles on a single charge (2021 Tesla Model S Performance all-wheel drive with 19-inch wheels). On the same road, a record-holding gas car will put 1,056 miles behind it before running out of fuel (2020 Ram 1500 w/ upgraded 33-gallon tank using EPA-estimated highway mpg).
If you want to look at average values, the story is the same: Gas cars average 25 mpg and have an average gas tank size of 12 gallons. That equals about 300 miles per fill-up.
The average electric car will get around 250 miles on a single charge.
Winner: Gas car
How Long The Motor or Engine Can Last
It’s really hard to kill a Japanese engine. In a lot of foreign cars, you’ll see odometer readings way upwards of 200,000 with the original engine under the hood.
If the owner doesn’t take good care of the vehicle or it’s a dud make and model, the car might die at 100,000 miles.
In general, the average gas car as of 2020 goes about 200,000 miles before calling it quits. Among the top reasons why the car dies is a faulty engine or lack of maintenance.
If you’re looking at an electric car, the equivalent would be the battery or motor dying. Consumer Reports estimates that an everyday electric car’s battery will last up to 200,000 miles. The motor is estimated to last upwards of 400,000 miles. Electric car batteries are getting better year by year with better durability.
Winner: Electric car
Fragility in a Crash
If you’re one of the drivers who like to drive like there’s no tomorrow, that might be the case with an electric car. If you peel back the body of an EV and look inside, you’ll see a ton of fragile, small, electrical components.
One of the big problems with EVs is that crashes are much more expensive. It goes beyond just mechanical repairs and bodywork. Once you start talking about replacing electronics, you need to break out a big check.
While gas-powered cars have plenty of electronics under the hood, they don’t have nearly as much as a standard EV. For that reason, I’d say EVs are more fragile in a crash (not talking about Safety Ratings here, just how much it will cost you).
Winner: Gas car
Do Electric Cars Last Longer Than Gas Cars?
As you can see, there are different ways to answer this question. If you want a definitive answer, you won’t find one. Of the six comparisons I made, electric cars win three of them and gas cars win the other three.
If you want a car that’s easier to swap out parts, lasts longer on a single fill-up, and can survive more crashes and damages, then a gas-powered car is right for you.
If you want a car that will survive for more miles through daily use, you’ll want an electric car. On top of that, it requires a lot less maintenance and can go extended periods without use while avoiding major mechanical problems.
Really, it just boils down to how you define “last longer” when you’re talking about cars.
Making Your Electric Car Last Longer
If you want to get the most out of your new EV, here are a few tips to consider. These were compiled from industry experts who know what they’re talking about.
Whenever you’re discussing an EV’s life, it’s usually the battery in question. As I mentioned earlier, the battery is the first big component that could die. For that reason, the following tips involve your car’s battery.
Avoid Excessive Fast Charging
Whenever you fast charge, your car’s battery is getting exposed to some high-voltage, high-amperage electricity. If you know about electronics, you know that this is bad news. This strain will quickly deplete the life of your battery.
This means that a 100% charge will take you further the more you fast charge your car. As tempting as it might be, the best way to maximize the life of your EV is to stick to traditional charging.
Wait to Charge Until Your Battery Level is Low
Another way to kill your battery is to over-charge it. Plugging in a battery that’s at 100% will overexpose it to unneeded electricity.
Again, this will shorten your battery’s life. Experts always suggest that you wait until your battery level is low before charging it.
Try to Keep Your Battery Level Between 40 and 70
The final tip is to monitor your battery level. The sweet spot to maximize your car’s life is between 40 and 70 percent. That means you should only charge when you hit 40%, and you should stop at 70%.
Of course, this tip might not be practical for a lot of people. Still, if you’re dead-set on milking every mile out of your battery, this is how to do it.
This is the peak performance range for most EV batteries.
Now you know more about how long electric cars can last as compared to gas cars. There are a lot of big benefits of owning an EV long-term, and today you learned that its lifespan is pretty impressive. For more car guides and information, explore the rest of my blog. Be sure to look at the car products I recommend for every driver.