Are EVs The Best First Car For Teenagers?

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Getting your first car has always been a right of passage, but we can all agree that some vehicles are better for new drivers than others. The folks at The Truth About Cars say there are three reasons why teens should drive an electric car: driving range limitations, cost of ownership, and safety.

Driving range limitations

A teenager can drive 300 miles or more in a gasoline powered car during the course of a normal date and still be home in time for breakfast. Not so with an electric car, which (unless you’re planning to gift them with a Tesla P85D) usually has a maximum range of around 80 miles or so. Giving them an electric car to drive is like putting a tether made of electrons on them. They have enough range to get to school and back, or pick up a shift at work. There’s even enough to get to the library to “study”, something a lot of teenagers use as an excuse to get out of the house on school nights.

Driving an electric car also requires a certain amount of planning, a skill most teens could use some practice doing. The lack of range provides both an invisible leash, and a life lesson in planning ahead.

Cost of ownership

Every car costs money. New or used, you need a down payment to buy or lease one and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Add in monthly payments, fuel, insurance, maintenance, repairs, taxes and depreciation and the total can be quite shocking.

An electric car can save you money on fuel. The federal government estimates that driving 25 miles in an electric car costs about $1.00. Even with gas at an 8 year low, there are very few gasoline powered cars that can match that figure. If your choice is to lease a new EV or pass down that 10 year old Civic sitting in the driveway, which one do you think will cost more to repair and maintain?

Insurance for an EV is usually substantially less, an important consideration when it comes to adding a teenager to the family insurance policy. Best of all, many EV’s come with very attractive lease rates. A new Nissan LEAF can be had for just $199 a month for 36 months with $2,399 due at signing. If you live in California or Oregon, FIAT will lease you a 500e for only $139 a month with just $1,999 down. That’s doable even on McDonalds wages.

Safety

Sure that old Civic or Corolla you have is already paid for, but is it as safe as a new car? Safety standards are improving all the time. Newer cars are just better made than older cars. The Chevy Spark EV and Ford Focus Electric are Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The LEAF and 500e got marked down after a new small overlap frontal crash test was added in 2014, but lots of other cars got caught out by that new addition to the testing protocol. You can bet every manufacturer is working furiously behind the scenes to fix that issue.

Add it all up and The Truth About Cars crowd thinks leasing a new EV for your teenage driver makes a lot of sense. Not only are lease payments low, but a new EV will have virtually no maintenance or repairs to pay for, it will cost less to drive, save money on insurance and protect your precious cargo as well or better than any other car on the road.

That’s a pretty powerful argument, but one thing I’d like to add is that early exposure to EVs could help accelerate electric car adoption in the coming years. If teens get used to the idea of not paying for gas, then going from an EV to a gas car could be quite the culture shock. Once those teens turn into graduates with money to spend on a new car, EVs should be at the top of their list. Half of Nissan LEAF owners have already sworn off gas for good. What if we could convince an entire generation to go electric?

Image: wrangler / Shutterstock

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.