Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Financially: Keeping a Gas Car or Buying a Plug-In Car


Wayne Michaud

Many factors come into play when evaluating the power source of the personal vehicle you choose to drive. Hold on to your internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle that uses gasoline? Or make the big switch to a plug-in vehicle: either a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) which is an extended range electric that includes a small gas engine, or an all-electric (EV)?

The standout points to be weighed are the myriad financial and environmental impacts of such a decision. In a two-part analysis, we will cover these impacts: financial in this issue, and environmental in the next issue.

Factors to consider when driving a gas vehicle versus a plug-in are how much it costs to fuel and maintain. So, let’s do a few side-by-side comparisons made possible by

2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD1 (EV) vs 2022 Ford Mustang Mach 1 RWD (ICE)

The Mach-E lists at $44,000, but not factored in is a $7,500 federal tax credit; also, New England states and New York have governmental and utility cash incentives that can bring purchase cost down by several thousand dollars. This Mustang is rated at 100 MPGe2 with a range of 247 miles. The Mach 1 is $55,000 and is rated at 20 MPG combined city/highway. In this comparison, with a gallon of gas costing $4.65 and driving 10,000 miles a year, a whopping $9,250 in fuel costs will be saved over five years with the Mach-E. But there’s more. According to a Consumer Reports analysis, as a result of having many fewer moving parts, no oil changes, and less brake wear due to regenerative braking, PHEVs and EVs have one-half the maintenance and repair costs of an ICE vehicle! Performance-wise, this base Mach-E zips to 60 MPH in a tailpipe-emissions-free 5.2 seconds3. The more expensive and CO2 emitting Mach 1 is substantially quicker. Though this economical comparison is a slam-dunk for the Mach-E, range on road trips and in cold temperatures can be a concern, though with available options it can achieve up to 303 miles of range. One other temporary but important factor: according to Ford, due to high demand and limited inventory, the new Mach-E is not available for order.

2019 Subaru Crosstrek PHEV vs 2019 Toyota Rav4 (ICE)

These 2.0-liter, 4 cylinder, AWD vehicles answer the call in northern New England and North Country. With these used vehicles at, say, 75,000 miles traveled, the Crosstrek’s estimated value is $20,000, and the Rav4 at $24,000. The Crosstrek is rated at 86 MPGe with 17 miles on electric power (some PHEVs offer electric-only ranges to 60 miles), then at 35 MPG combined city/highway in gasoline mode. The Rav4 gets 30 MPG overall on gasoline. Their acceleration is similar. While the fuel cost savings are not as apparent as with the Ford Mustang comparison, the Crosstrek is the fuel economy winner here, and can qualify for used hybrid/PHEV/EV cash incentives offered in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. PHEVs answer concerns on range anxiety, especially with the many used EVs today that have a limited range of 75 to 110 miles. In effect, they are a bridge to vehicles that will offer a standard range of 400 or more miles on a charge, anticipated by 2030.

2014 Nissan LEAF S EV vs 2014 Honda Civic LX (ICE)

While these are both classified as economy vehicles, the overall costs from used purchase price through operation are starkly different. The LEAF, equipped with the optional 6.6-kW onboard fast charger, has an estimated value of $7,500 at 75,000 miles traveled. The 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder Civic’s value is $12,000 with 100,0004 miles on the odometer. The LEAF is rated at 108 MPGe with a range of 84 miles; the Civic’s combined city/highway MPG is 34. With gas costing $4.65, and driving 10,000 miles a year, the LEAF will save $4,750 in fuel costs over five years. Plus, it offers significant cost savings in used-EV state incentives, and it has one-half the maintenance costs. The Civic edges out the LEAF in acceleration. While the LEAF is a decided winner in purchase and operating costs, a tradeoff is its limited range, which is compounded in cold temperatures. While the fast charge system can charge it up in under five hours, the LEAF is limited to relatively short commutes.

Other Economic Considerations

Charging: Especially at home and even before the 2022 surge in gas prices, charging has been one-half to one-sixth the cost of gassing up. However, public level 3 DC fast charging can be as much as three-quarters of the cost of gasoline. About five to ten percent of public charging stations are free.

Hybrids: Hybrids can achieve MPGs in the 50s, and even a few subcompact ICE vehicles can reach 40 MPG.


Economically speaking EVs, new or used, are hands-down winners compared to their ICE counterparts. PHEVs are somewhat closer to ICE vehicles in operating costs overall, while offering the extended range of a gas engine that will suit the needs of longer commutes and road trips.

Wayne Michaud is Executive Director of Green Driving America Inc., a non-profit that advocates for and educates on transportation efficiency and cleaner transportation. The organization is based in California with a branch location in Vermont. Michaud headed Idle-Free VT in Vermont from 2006-2016.

1 Available in AWD for about $2,500 additional; AWD base model range 217 miles

2 MPGe is “miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent”; it measures fuel efficiency of vehicles that run on non-liquid fuels, such as PHEVs and EVs

3 Optional Mach-E models more competitive in acceleration

4 The mileage disparity between Civic’s 100,000 vs LEAF’s 75,000 is that, typically, used EVs travel less due to their limited range.

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