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Finding your ideal first EV: Essential factors to consider

Vidhu Bajaj avatar
Vidhu Bajaj
- 9 min read
Finding your ideal first EV: Essential factors to consider

Lately, bushfires, floods and other natural disasters have made people want to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. You can do this by switching to an electric vehicle or EV that doesn't use fossil fuels directly, as they run on electricity stored in their batteries.

According to a May 2023 article in the Canberra Times, sales of electric vehicles more than tripled over the first four months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. With this upward trend in sales, car manufacturers are offering an ever-expanding selection of EV models in different styles, including hatchbacks, sedans and SUVs. However, with so many options, finding the best EV for your needs can be hard. To help you make an informed decision, here are some helpful tips.

What to consider when you buy your first electric vehicle

When it comes to purchasing your first electric vehicle, there are several factors to consider to ensure that you make the right choice. With so many available options, deciding which EV will meet your needs can be overwhelming. Here are some factors you may want to consider to help you make an informed decision. 

Type of EV

There are different types of EVs on the market tailored for people with different wants and needs. If you're someone who lives in a city, you’re more likely to have access to multiple chargers, and you may be comfortable with a fully electric vehicle. 

If you only want to use your EV for short trips or daily commutes, then you could look at a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). With no reliance on petrol or diesel, it offers zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment.

However, considering that the infrastructure around EVs is still developing, if you frequently take longer trips or don't have access to charging stations on your regular routes, you may prefer a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). PHEVs run on electricity with an option to switch to gasoline/diesel power when the battery runs out. A PHEV can give you the assurance of an extended range while continuing to enjoy the benefits of an electric drive most of the time.

Range

An EV's driving range or how far it can go before needing a charge is often a cause of anxiety for new EV owners. However, most EVs sold in Australia offer impressive driving ranges. According to the Green Vehicle Guide, the average Australian driver travels around 33 km daily. Many EV models available in the country can travel up to 400 km on a single charge, which is more than enough for most people’s daily driving needs. However, if you often take longer road trips or live in an area with limited chargers, you may want to consider an EV with a longer driving range. 

If you’re looking for an EV with a longer driving range, here's a list of the top five EVs in Australia with the longest driving range according to the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA):

  • Mercedes-Benz EQE 300 (Range – 626 km) 
  • BMW i7 xDrive60 (Range – 625 km)
  • BMW iX xDrive50 Sport (Range – 620 km)
  • Hyundai Ioniq 6 Dynamiq (Range – 614 km)
  • Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor (Range – 610 km) 

Seating and cargo space

When selecting an electric vehicle (or any vehicle), size is an essential factor that you must consider. Buying a car is a significant investment, and you need to be sure you choose one that will fit your needs in size and comfort. A family will likely need a bigger car than a single person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t opt for a car you personally like the size of if it suits you.

If you have a family or need a larger vehicle for group outings, there are plenty of family-sized EV models available, including SUVs, to meet your needs. However, remember to keep in mind your budget while shopping for a larger model, as car prices can vary significantly based on size and features.

When looking at what size car best suits your needs, consider the number of passengers you need to accommodate and the cargo space required in your daily activities. 

You’ll also need to consider what your needs may be in the future. For instance, you may need a car with a larger boot to lug the strollers and other items if you have a growing family. Or, you may frequently be carrying sports equipment, groceries, or other bulky items, necessitating a car with a bigger trunk. While you're likely to find plenty of options in various configurations, it's important to note that larger vehicles typically have bigger batteries, which means longer charging times. If you live in an area where you don't have easy access to charging stations, you might want to consider a compact EV model that won’t require as much charge. 

Budget

As the EV market grows, it offers a wider range of options and that includes different cost options, from affordable and efficient models to luxurious cars that’ll cost more. Generally, EVs tend to be more expensive upfront compared to traditional petrol-powered cars. However, they can save you money in the long run with lower fuel and maintenance costs. 

When considering an EV, carefully assessing your budget and financial situation is crucial. The price of an EV can differ significantly depending on the brand, model, and features you choose. Determine how much you're willing to spend on a car and choose one that fits within your budget and financial means. While the more premium EVs may have higher price tags, there are also budget-friendly options in the market that offer impressive performance and range.

You can visit car review sites like Drive and CarsGuide to get a list of top-performing EVs in different budgets. This could help you narrow down your options and make finding a car that fits your budget and meets your lifestyle requirements easier. 

Safety

Ensuring the safety of the occupants is an important aspect to look for in any car. A great way to compare the safety features of various cars available in Australia is the ANCAP Safety ratings. ANCAP, or The Australasian New Car Assessment Program, is a reputable car safety assessment programme based in Australia that crash-tests cars and then rates them based on safety and reliability.

ANCAP emphasises several features for assessing a car's safety standards, including features like seat belts and airbags, passive crash protection, safety assist technologies for active crash avoidance, and child occupant protection. For electric vehicles, ANCAP also looks at the safety of the battery system, such as automatic cut-offs in the event of a crash, to augment the safety of passengers and others involved. 

Once you have a short list of vehicles, comparing their safety ratings and features is essential. Using resources like ANCAP and How Safe Is Your Car can assist you in making an informed decision about which EV to pu

Which is the best EV in Australia in 2023?

The EV market in Australia is continuously evolving, and it's difficult to pinpoint a single EV that might be the best for everyone. Plus there are many factors that are subjective and depend on individual preferences, needs, and budget. However, if you're looking for a starting point to find the best EV for you, car review lists, such as Drive Car of the Year, may be helpful. They compare cars based on several factors like safety, technical specifications, price, aesthetics, comfort, fuel economy, and so on. 

For 2023, Drive picked the BYD Atto 3 as the best EV under $70,000. According to Drive, the BYD Atto 3 is an entry-level electric vehicle that offers excellent value for money. It’s aneasy-to-drive car with a roomy and comfortable cabin and one of the most affordable EVs on the market in 2023.

For luxury EVs, Drive rated the following as the best EVs in Australia in 2023:

  • BMW i17 - The i7 is the electric version of the BMW 7 Series flagship. The stunning vehicle secured the top spot as the winner in the Best EVs over $120,000 category by Drive for 2023.
  • BMW iX - The BMW iX is a luxury SUV that delivers exceptional performance. It was one of the finalists in the Best EVs over $100,000 category by Drive for 2022. 
  • BMW iX3 - Another premium electric SUV by BMW offering a decent performance and range. "If you want an electric BMW SUV that's just like the BMW SUV you have now, this could be the car for you," according to Drive.

Financing your EV

EVs offer several potential advantages, including lower operating costs, reduced air pollution, and the potential to use renewable energy sources for charging. All of these factors make them an ideal choice for individuals who wish to live sustainably and reduce their carbon footprint. However, the upfront cost of purchasing an EV can be a barrier for many. But it's worth weighing up these upfront costs and the long-term cost benefits that may come from switching to an electric drive.

Although the initial cost of an EV is higher, you can potentially save significant amounts on fuel expenses over time, as electricity is generally cheaper than petrol. Additionally, EVs typically have fewer moving parts than traditional cars, reducing maintenance and repair costs.

If you're considering buying an electric car but are concerned about the cost, it's worth knowing that lenders often offer incentives such as green loans specifically designed for those switching to EVs. These green loans typically come with lower interest rates or discounts compared to regular car loans. Lenders offer these incentives as a way to encourage drivers to make sustainable choices and purchase an EV. Some green loans may also help to cover the cost of infrastructure, like chargers. 

However, when looking for financing options for your car, whether it’s an EV or not,  remember that there's more to a loan than the interest rates. Be sure to compare any fees and additional features that may be included in the loan. Keeping a realistic budget is also crucial because although you might not have to pay upfront for the car with a loan, you'll still need to be able to repay the money to the lender over time.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.