What's it like to drive an electric vehicle? CarMax teamed with CleanTechnica to find out.
It’s an exciting time to be a hybrid or electric vehicle driver! More and more these days, you’re likely to cross paths with a car that makes no noise—and burns no fuel—to get around.
Since 2001, CarMax has sold almost 100,000 used hybrids and electric cars to customers across the country, and we were curious about these owners’ unique experiences. In June 2017, CarMax teamed with CleanTechnica to survey their readers and find out more about the lifestyles of Americans driving both new and used hybrid and electric cars.
We were flooded with more than 2,300 responses in just a few days!
You might be surprised to learn that there’s no “typical” hybrid or electric car owner—drivers’ lifestyles were as diverse as their rides. In fact, CarMax customers also like the assortment of eco-friendly cars on the road today. We’ve sold over 100 distinct models of hybrids and electrics all over the country and the numbers are growing.
Where exactly do they live?
Survey participants are located all over the map, but the majority of US owners live in the Pacific states (California, Oregon, and Washington), followed by the Mid-Atlantic states (Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia), and then the East North Central region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio. We found similar trends in the used-car market, where so far in 2017, CarMax has seen the most hybrid and electric car sales in Arizona, California, Iowa, and Michigan respectively. Check out the full list of the most popular used-hybrids and electrics by state in our Greener Trends in the Used Car Market article.
Who are they really?
While many might think that hybrid and electric vehicles are trendy primarily among green-conscious Millennials, survey results dispel this common myth. Owner feedback was evenly spread across the generations with Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers alike enjoying these high-performing vehicles.
Savvy and conscientious.
Hybrid and electric car owners are a scholarly bunch; over 70 percent of respondents have a four-year college or post-graduate degree and they encouraged first-time buyers to really do their research. One owner writes, “Assess your lifestyle. Get a vehicle that will cover 95% of your travel needs."
While a few encouraged checking out lease options, about one-third said they were driving hybrids and electric cars that they bought used. “Look for one that’s one or two years old,” offered a happy hybrid buyer.
They love their cars, and almost 1,000 respondents said they plan to keep their vehicles for up to three years, and encouraged other drivers to go hybrid/EV too. “Just do it,” said quite a few on our list.
Why buy a hybrid or electric car?
Hybrid and electric car drivers may be #evergreen conscious, but survey results showed an additional range of motivations for purchase.
“Check with your electric company for additional purchase deductions and reduced off-peak charging.”
Hybrid and electric car owners are certainly concerned about cost. Owners report that they spend less on fuel (or not at all), and annual maintenance costs. Just over half cite spending under $100 per year. Some drivers take advantage of HOV toll-free lane allowances in their cities and are eligible to earn state and federal tax rebates.
According to the study, electrics are all the rage. The majority drive a purely-electric vehicle. Fewer were plug-in/hybrid drivers. An owner proclaims, “Electric is way more efficient and I love the instant torque!” They also commented on the smooth, whisper-quiet drive. Note that hybrid and electric technology is advancing every year. One driver commented, “I like the technology and I want to support it.”
Some drivers relish the distinctiveness of these vehicles. Their shapes are often different than most of what’s on the road. Car owners report that their rides are not merely means of transportation, but an opportunity to show off their personalities and interests. Some say that they love the speed, simplicity, and even untraditional designs of some hybrid and electric cars. Our favorite quote? “It was the geekiest car I could find!”
What are owners driving?
According to our survey, owners are relatively new to hybrids and electric cars; two-thirds of respondents in the US told us they were driving their first alternative-fuel vehicle, and most of these first-timers have owned their cars for less than six years.These are the top-five cars for the 2017 survey.
You can check out the top 10 hybrid cars of 2016 at CarMax.
“Analyze your true driving needs to overcome range anxiety.”
What about range anxiety?
First-time buyers commonly stress about how far they can drive between recharging. Close to 90 percent told us they weren’t concerned at all, and that they’ve never run out of range or fuel.
Respondents also told us they tend to drive their vehicles more or less locally; close to half say they drive nearly 100 miles before plugging in. Often, respondents plug their cars in at home to recharge. No surprise there. It’s convenient to locate charging stations before you travel, they said, and most drivers can quickly find local sources of power. More than half of these owners have found convenient public charging stations located within five miles of their homes.
And when owners do recharge, many opt for the quick, powerful 240v Level 2 charger that allows recharges in between four and six hours.
Fun Fact: More than two-thirds said they’d be more likely to buy an electric car if their employers made charging stations available at work!
Tips from the driver’s seat.
“Go electric for a second car. Think about a plug-in hybrid if it's to be your only car.”
Considering taking the plunge and buying a new or used hybrid or electric car? Respondents gave us some great tips to take the worry out of your purchase and make the most out of your hybrid or electric car lifestyle. “Consider how far you travel,” stated one driver. Log your miles every day for two weeks, then do the math on range capability to see if this is the right choice for you.
Some found that installing a 240v Level 2 charger at home added to the convenience of these low-maintenance vehicles, and one person even said they used their solar panels to generate their car’s energy.
“Check the cost of public charging stations too,” said a respondent, adding that home-charging was the most cost-effective approach. And remember that this purchase is not just about saving money, they said. “It’s about a better driving experience with less hassle, less pollution, and less dependence on oil,” added one owner.
As reported by CleanTechnica, there are now more than a million completely-electric cars on streets and highways all over the world. Just this year, four automakers have introduced new, all-electric cars in the US, including BMW’s i3, the Chevrolet Bolt, the Ioniq from Hyundai, and Tesla’s recently released Model 3. The Detroit News says while hybrids and electric cars make up just 3 percent of the US market today, this percentage will grow. We found that almost all respondents would consider buying a used car for their next hybrid or electric car purchase, which is a growing trend in the market today.
We’ll likely see more of these cars on the roads, and with their new, innovative designs, hybrid and electric cars can offer consumers more choices and freedom than ever before.
*This anonymous survey was developed to explore topics relevant to current owners and those considering the purchase of a hybrid or electric vehicle. The study was conducted through a CarMax-sponsored, anonymous blogpost on cleantechnica.com
Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.
2017 Eco-Friendly Car Survey Data Results
- Where do you live?
- What is your gender?
- How old are you?
- What is the highest level of school that you have completed?
- How much total combined money did all members of your household earn last year?
- Do you currently own either a hybrid or electric?
- What type of hybrid or electric do you own?
- Is this your first hybrid or electric?
How much does it cost to maintain your current hybrid or EV each year?
- If you bought your current car new, would you consider a used hybrid or EV for your next purchase?
- How long do you expect to own your current hybrid or EV?
- Do you receive any ongoing discounts from your utility company?
- Did you receive a rebate from your state, county, city or the Federal Government when you purchased?
- Did you buy your hybrid/EV new or used?
- Why did you buy your hybrid or EV?
- How long have you owned your current hybrid or EV?
- Do you own a plug-in or all electric?
- Where do you normally charge your car?
- Would you be more likely to buy a plug-in if your employer offered charging stations?
- How do you travel when you want to go beyond your range?
- Do you carry a map of charging stations?
- Have you ever run your car until it was completely out of fuel or charge?
- What is the farthest you've ever driven before refueling or recharging?
- Is it convenient to use a public charging station in your area?
- How far away is the nearest public charging station?
- How long does it take to charge your car to 100%?
- Do you have a home charging station? If so, what type?
- How likely are you to recommend a hybrid or electric to a friend or family member? (Ranked between 1 and 5.)