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Experts help navigate EV purchases during car shortage, gas price surge

With new car prices up 12.6% and used car prices up 16% over the past year, is it worth tracking down high-demand electric vehicles right now? Experts weighed in.

OREGON, USA — As gas prices surge in Oregon, Washington and around the country, many consumers are fighting to join the electric vehicle (EV) market.

Buying any car in 2022 has proven to be a big challenge for consumers.

Shortages of computer chips and raw materials for car parts and batteries have cut into new car supply. Car production around the world has also slowed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Websites such as Cars.com show ordering a new car can take at least two months.

J.D. Power reported earlier this year that 56% of vehicles are sold within 10 days of arriving at a dealership. The average number of days a new vehicle is in a dealer’s possession before being sold was about 18 days, down from 49 days a year ago.

These factors have all contributed to low inventory for prospective car buyers everywhere. 

Lower supply has resulted in higher prices. The Consumer Price Index showed in May, new car prices were up 12.6% over the past year, and used car prices had risen 16%.  

As of Tuesday, the national average for a gallon of gasoline was $4.80, and that average is even higher in Oregon ($5.47) and Washington ($5.45), according to AAA.

Consumer interest in more efficient hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs has understandably increased, and supply is limited.

"It's a tough ticket right now," said Derek Wing with Pemco Insurance.

RELATED: Tesla plans super-sized charging station in small Oregon town

A Pemco survey in April 2021 found about one in 10 Northwest drivers had a hybrid or EV, and about two out of three drivers would consider one for their next vehicle.

"Since [that survey], gas prices have exploded," Wing said, noting the number of potential EV shoppers is likely higher now. "There is an aspiration and a hope for people in the northwest to have electric vehicles, but it's just a matter of can they afford them and can they find them?"

The Oregon nonprofit Forth helps consumers navigate EV purchases and ownership, with a goal of boosting access to greener transportation.

JR Anderson, a program manager with Forth, said some Oregonians are having trouble finding vehicles within the local market.

"If it's a specific car you want, you may just have to wait," Anderson said. 

He explained if people want a particular make and model, it could take six months to a year to get a new electric vehicle.

However, he said if people are willing to be more flexible about which car they buy, groups like Forth can help find other EV options.

Anderson uses a number of resources to find available cars on the market. He recommended Platt Auto in Milwaukie as one of them, a dealership that specializes in used electric and hybrid vehicles.

A barrier to entry in the EV market for some consumers is price. EVs and hybrids typically cost $5,000-$10,000 more than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

However, Forth helps consumers navigate the many cost-saving options buried in the fine print, including state rebates, federal tax breaks and charging incentives by local power companies.

Anderson said jumping through the hoops can cut the cost of an EV, new or used, by thousands of dollars. 

"Once you cross that line, life gets so much easier," Anderson said.

EVs do come with a cost of electricity, about $30-$60 per month according to Pemco. However, the company said insurance is typically cheaper for newer vehicles that have advanced safety features.

EV maintenance costs tend to be lower, without the need for oil changes and gas engine fixes. However, in the rare event of EV battery failure, replacement can cost many thousands.

Overall, the average cost to drive an EV per mile is cheaper than that of a gas-powered car, but consumer experts emphasized drivers have to take initiative to lower upfront costs and ensure access to charging.

RELATED: Oregon expands electric vehicle charging statewide

For those with their hearts set on a particular new model of EV, the current market could make it tricky.

"You might want to consider waiting a little bit until there's more inventory," Wing said.

"I think it will go back to normal at some point," Anderson added.

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