Expert Insights

Do EVs Cost More to Repair?

Dave Nichols
February 29, 2024
It’s now common knowledge that electric cars generally cost less to maintain than gasoline-powered vehicles thanks to fewer moving parts. But what about the cost for collision repair after an accident?
Woman on the phone sitting next to her EV charging

Do EVs Cost More to Repair?

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle, you’ve probably asked, “do EVs cost more to repair?”

It’s actually a two-part question. The first is, what is the average cost of ongoing EV service or maintenance? The second one is, what is the cost of repairing an electric car after it has been involved in an accident?

Let’s start with average maintenance costs for electric cars. EVs have way fewer moving parts, and are therefore not as complex to repair mechanically, when compared to a gasoline vehicle. Unlike a gas vehicle, EVs don’t require thigs like engine oil changes every few months. In fact, EV maintenance basically amounts to replacing the cabin air filter, checking the windshield wipers, and rotating the tires. As such, EVs generally cost a lot less to maintain.

Unlike gas-powered cars, most EVs will never need a coolant flush, a “tune-up,” or an oil change – and they have fewer moving parts that will eventually need to be replaced. They generally have single-speed transmissions and don’t have spark plugs that need to be replaced. There’s no muffler to go bad, no clutch, belt drives, hoses, or expensive catalytic converters to replace.

Indeed, the federal Office of Energy Efficiency says that the average gasoline-powered vehicle costs ten cents per mile to maintain while EVs cost just six cents per mile. If you drive 15,000 miles per year, you’ll likely save at least $1,500 per year on service and maintenance over a traditional vehicle.

Close up of an Electric car tire

Electric Car Tires

For most electric cars, a 7,500-mile maintenance check might include various mechanical inspections, lubricating the door locks, topping off the coolant level for the battery pack, and checking the electric power converter, cabin heater, and charging module. But, one area you may need to pay increased attention is tires.

Heavy batteries mean EVs can weigh significantly more than conventional cars – and EV tires are designed especially to handle that added weight. As such, they are generally more expensive than the tires found on gasoline vehicles. EV tires also can wear out sooner, partially because of how much torque and acceleration most EV cars have.

Tire manufacturers are now making EV-specific tires that have low rolling resistance to maximize range and tire life. Because of their unique composition, EV tires can cost 20 to 30 percent more than conventional tires.

Technician analyzing an electric car

Comparable Maintenance Costs

According to Edmunds.com, the cost of maintaining an average electric car like a Chevrolet Bolt over a period of five years is approximately $2,800 – compared to over $4,400 for a gas-powered vehicle of similar size. However, luxury models tend to cost more to maintain, thanks to higher parts costs and more technology. Kelly Blue Book says a new Audi Q4 e-tron will cost just over $3,000 to maintain over a five-year period, while the gas-powered Q5 will cost over $5,000 – so an EV will still save you money over the same five years.

While EVs cost less to maintain when compared to gas cars, they will still need new tires, wheel alignments, and tire rotations. While regenerative braking means that brake wear will be reduced, your brakes will still eventually need servicing, and you’ll still need to eventually replace or repair suspension components. As for the battery pack that powers an EV, the batteries don’t require maintenance and are generally made to last longer than the car itself – with warranties* averaging eight to 10 years.

But while EVs cost less to service, what about the costs of repairing an electric vehicle that has been in an accident?

EV Crash Repair Costs

A recent study on repair costs found that the average accident repair cost for EVs is about $950 higher than for gasoline cars. But, a large part of the extra expense had to do with the higher repair costs of Tesla models – which dominate the electric car market. For comparison, the average cost of repairing a non-Tesla EV was only $269 higher than the average gas car.

In fact, the study found that overall, EVs are not particularly more expensive to repair – but that the real difference may have more to do with the fact that EVs are heavier than ICE vehicles and thus, sustain more damage in a collision. The increased weight means that the other car involved in a crash will sustain more damage as well.

One positive: EVs in the study had fewer claims than gasoline cars, and fewer reported collisions. EV accident claims were actually 19 percent lower than gasoline-powered cars.

A True Tesla Story

We’ve all heard stories about Tesla maintenance and repairs. The automaker is unique in the way it handles problems with vehicles. This story comes to us from GreenCars’ own Taylor Faust, who owns a Tesla Model S.

Taylor bought his Model S used in 2018. Four months later, while driving to Medford, Oregon, his Tesla flashed a warning that said it would stop working when it was next shut off. Taylor drove to a Tesla charging station, turned the vehicle off, and just as he was warned, it would not turn back on. He went to the Tesla app on his smartphone, and under “service” was connected with an agent from Tesla.

They tried to start the vehicle remotely, but based on the prompts from the car, Taylor was told a tow truck would be dispatched to tow his Model S to one of the brand’s service centers in Bend, Oregon – three hours away. The car was under warranty, so the tow was free – as was the repair for whatever electronic devils were menacing the car. However, Taylor would have to travel to Bend on his own dime to pick up the vehicle himself.

“Once the car was at the Service Center, a technician was assigned to it, and I was really pleased with the level of service. I would get texts nearly every day telling me when new parts were ordered, when they arrived, and when they would be installed,” Taylor says. “A week and a half later, my whole family drove to Bend and the service manager handed me the keys saying, ‘You’re good to go.’ The whole experience gave me a lot of faith in Tesla.”

However, when it comes to repairing damage from an accident, the story is often not so rosy. Sometime later, Taylor’s neighbor accidently backed into his Model S, denting and twisting the front bumper. It looked like a simple enough repair – but Teslas use aluminum body panels, and replacing a small part can actually be a big deal, and very expensive to make right. Taylor tells us that the whole invoice for the repair was over $17,000. Good thing his neighbor had proper insurance.

Overall insurance claims on the Model S are 2.4 times higher than the average for all Tesla vehicles – but that is not unusual for a high-end luxury car.

Technician looking over paperwork with a customer

Driving Higher Repair Costs

Why are repair costs for EVs higher than traditional gas cars? Some of the expense comes from the cost of highly advanced driver assist technologies that are making cars more efficient and safer. Plus, damaged tech hardware often cannot be repaired – and must be replaced at great expense.

EV repairs use up to 90 percent manufacturer-sourced parts, which are more expensive than third-party parts from the aftermarket – and 77 percent of EVs are upscale luxury models that cost more to repair anyway. Then there’s the “new tech” factor of using the electric vehicle brand’s service centers to handle the repairs, due to the training needed to safely handle EV battery packs.

Indeed, more hours of labor are needed for EV crash repairs – and that can contribute to a big chunk of the total bill. When an EV has been in an accident, the battery needs to be de-energized and removed. As the most expensive component in an EV, the battery pack is the main factor in a vehicle being written off as a total loss – which can happen even after a minor collision.

The Bottom Line

A recent study in the industry trade publication Automotive News revealed statistics from Mitchell, a software company specializing in the collision repair industry. The study compared average repair costs for EVs compared to ICE cars. Interestingly, the news was largely positive for EVs. As mentioned earlier, repair totals for EVs were only $269 more, averaging six percent over the cost of repairing an average ICE vehicle. So, for most EVs, minor collisions should not be a major concern for owners.

Plus, as EVs continue to populate our roads, vehicle purchase prices and repair costs should continue to decline.

*See dealer for limited warranty details