Thermal, electric or hybrid car: which one is cheaper to maintain?

You want to change your vehicle and you don’t know which engine to choose? Electric, hybrid or internal combustion, each of them seems to have its advantages and disadvantages. In order to help you make an informed choice, we present you in this guide the services you can expect for each type of vehicle, as well as price indications.

What needs to be maintained in an electric car?

You’ve probably heard about it: the maintenance of an electric car is less expensive than that of a thermal vehicle. This is because the mechanics of an electric vehicle are less complex than those of a gasoline-powered car. For example, electric vehicles do not have a gearbox and require few consumables. You won’t have to change the oil in your all-electric car.

However, an electric car requires the maintenance of a number of elements:

  • The air filter: it prevents external particles from entering the ventilation system of your car;
  • Brake pads: You will notice that your brakes wear less with your electric car than with your old combustion engine vehicle. This is due to the existence of a regenerative braking system in the electric vehicle;
  • Tires;
  • Shock absorbers;
  • The electric battery.

Good to know: electric cars have only three fluids: brake fluid, coolant and windshield washer fluid.

Maintenance of an electric vehicle before it is 5 years old

Electric models are more economical to maintain during their first years. Professionals recommend servicing your vehicle every 30,000 km, whereas for internal combustion engines, the same servicing is recommended every 15,000 or 20,000 km. Once again, it is the mechanics of the vehicles that are at issue. New electric cars are simpler and require fewer inspections.

And of course, if an electrically powered car goes to the garage less often, it will cost you less. A study by Consumer Reports reports that a vehicle running on electric power saves its owner an average of €4,000 over its lifetime.

Many experts claim that electric vehicles represent a savings of about 25%. This is generally the percentage one finds when looking into the subject.

In 2018, UFC Que choisir estimated that with the check of the battery, cooling system and electronics the savings during a visit to a garage varied from 15 to 35% depending on the type of vehicle.

Maintenance of an electric vehicle after 5 years

An electric car, like a combustion engine car, tends to show more signs of fatigue as its mileage increases. Thus, the “green vehicles” see their parts getting damaged, and you will have to change them.

This will be the case for your tires, for example. However, buying an electric car is still a good option if you are looking to save money, as it costs less to maintain, even in the 5th year, than a diesel or gasoline car.

To give you an idea, you should know that taking care of your all-electric vehicle that is more than 5 years old will cost you about 800 € per year. With a thermal vehicle, you will have to pay about 1 000 € per year.

Conclusion: the purchase costs of an electric vehicle are offset by lower maintenance and operating costs than with a combustion vehicle.

Good to know: after 10 years of service, you will probably have to change the battery in your vehicle, and this may put you off. Be aware that your high-mileage car is not necessarily good for the impound lot. Depending on your household needs, you can use it as a second car, one that you prefer to use for short trips. This can save you from having to replace the batteries.

Good to know 2: because good news never comes alone, you’ll be happy to know that the engine of an electric car has an exemplary life span. The engine will still be running when the rest of the car has already given up its last kilometers…!

The data was collected by Consumer Reports, which analyzed responses from thousands of motorists.

The simplified motorization of the electric car: a bonus during maintenance

In simple terms, the motor of an electric car is powered by a simple battery. This one comes into action when you press the accelerator pedal. As a result, this device is composed of relatively few parts (about 20). By comparison, a combustion engine has more than 1,000 parts! Obviously, this will be reflected in your bill when you pay your mechanic!

Mechanical friction is almost non-existent on electric motors. Not only is wear and tear reduced, but oil changes are also unnecessary since this type of motorization does not require lubrication. The elements that need to be replaced on combustion engines (such as filters or spark plugs for example) do not exist on the electric car. Real savings in perspective!

The electric vehicle battery: the consumable to watch

The biggest problem with your electric car will be the battery. While it requires almost no maintenance when it’s working properly, when it needs to be changed, the bill quickly climbs. That’s why some people choose to lease an electric car rather than buy it. One small consolation: the battery you buy will last longer than the original one!

Maintenance of a thermal vehicle: the essentials

You surely know if you already own a combustion engine vehicle: the mandatory service every two years can be expensive in the long run! Indeed, each visit rhymes with oil change, replacement of various filters, wearing parts such as brakes, clutch or exhaust, the timing belt when there is one, or the particulate filter.

Even if the study is a bit dated, it has the merit of allowing comparison with today’s realities. In 2012, the Institut für Automobilwirstschaft stated that maintaining an electric vehicle cost about €3,652 over 8 years, compared to €2,350 for an electric vehicle, a difference of 35% in favor of the electric.

Obviously, as an electric car has no turbo, no particle filter, no EGR valve, everything that can be a source of breakdowns and is expensive out of warranty is removed.

Thermal/electric mileage comparison

The tests conducted by Fatec, a fleet management company, involved Renault ZOE and a Renault Clio on the one hand, and the Renault Kangoo ZE thermal and electric on the other.

  • Frequency of visits

These tests show that the frequency of maintenance visits is predictably lower with electric vehicles. The famous brand itself confirms this: it recommends maintenance visits every 15,000 km for a petrol car, every 20,000 km for a diesel, and every 30,000 km for an electric car.

  • The cost of revisions

The study states that only €325 was required to maintain electric vehicles over a 3-year period. This would amount to a division by 4 of the costs required by thermal vehicles. These figures should be treated with caution, as the cost of maintenance is roughly the same for all the engines in the cars studied.

So the all-electric mode is really advantageous on these aspects.

The price of labor: is it the same?

This time, it is the consumer protection institute Que Choisir that has looked at the price of labor. And there, we see that the data “change sides”. Indeed, electric vehicles require specific equipment and special skills. This inevitably has an impact on the bill. This means that labor is more expensive for an electric vehicle than for a combustion vehicle.

Despite this little “surprise”, the budget allocated to the maintenance of an electric car remains lower than that of a combustion car:

  • For a micro-city car: we note 826 € of maintenance costs for a period of one year for a Volkswagen e-Up!, against 1 267 € for a Suzuki Swift Hybrid. A difference that amounts to 35%;
  • For a city car: the Renault ZOE required an amount of 1 046 € while the Renault Clio required 1 314 € of maintenance costs, a difference of 20%;
  • For a compact car: if the Nissan Leaf requires €1,336 in maintenance costs, the Peugeot 308 diesel costs €1,556, a difference of about 15%.

Plug-in hybrid vehicle maintenance: what you need to know

Thermal, electric or hybrid car: which one is cheaper to maintain?

Depending on whether your car has a gasoline or diesel engine, you will not have to service your car with the same frequency.

Maintenance of a gasoline hybrid

If your hybrid car has a gasoline engine, you will need to have it serviced once a year, or every 15,000 km. Hybrid cars also need an engine oil change and a new engine oil and oil filter. However, hybrid models often need fewer services. This is because when the 15,000 km have been done, the combustion engine has not been used for the whole 15,000 km. Especially if you drive in urban areas or at low speeds. In these cases, the electric motors of the hybrids do most of the work.

If you are unsure about the maintenance frequency of your plug-in hybrid, don’t hesitate to refer to your vehicle’s maintenance booklet. It will give you the best information.

In electric mode, the engine does not require much maintenance. If your hybrid city car is equipped with a new generation battery, you’ll have ten years to live before it starts to show signs of weakness! Of course, this duration can vary depending on how often you recharge the battery.

Finally, as with electric cars, plug-in hybrids recover some of their kinetic energy when braking. This results in less wear and tear on the brake pads and discs.

As you can see, the maintenance of hybrid vehicles is much less demanding than that of internal combustion vehicles.

Maintenance of a diesel hybrid

Your vehicle should be serviced every year, or every 10,000 or 20,000 km. It includes changing the engine oil and the oil filter. As with the diesel hybrid, the combustion engine is used less if you drive in the city and at low speeds. You can therefore space out the visits to your garage.

Unlike a diesel engine, your vehicle has no clutch, no alternator, no timing belt and no accessories.

Brake wear is reduced by about 50%. Brake pads and discs are therefore “saved”.

How much does it cost to service a hybrid?

It follows from the above that a hybrid vehicle is less expensive to maintain than a gasoline-powered model. As we have seen, it is the engine that makes most of the difference.

It is also important to know that the cost of a complete overhaul is lower. Because some parts do not need to be changed, the overhaul is less expensive. In addition, the technology in a hybrid car wears out less quickly. You should therefore plan on a budget of around 150 to 240 euros for what we would call an intermediate service; 240 to 420 euros for a general service for a gasoline hybrid and between 300 and 420 euros for the general service of a diesel hybrid.

Less expensive servicing for hybrids than for internal combustion engines

This is due to the frequency of oil filter and oil change: every 15,000 km for a hybrid, and every 10,000 for a diesel.

Overhaul packages are more or less the same: they vary between 150 and 250 € every 15,000 km.

The batteries have a 5-year warranty for Peugeot and Citroën, and a 10-year warranty for Toyota (this data varies according to the car model).

A test over a long period of time was conducted on a Toyota Prius. To give you an idea, here are the repairs that had to be done over this period:

  • 15,000 km: oil change and air filter replacement ;
  • 30 000 km : small maintenance + replacement of the pollen and air filter ;
  • 45 000 km : small maintenance + brake fluid replacement ;
  • 60 000 km : small maintenance + replacement of the pollen and air filter ;
  • 75,000 km: minor maintenance + replacement of front brake pads and wiper blades + replacement of tires;
  • 90 000 km : small maintenance + pollen and air filter replacement + brake fluid ;
  • 110 000 km : small maintenance + replacement of rear brake pads.

It has been noted that the vehicle has not had any breakdowns. The total cost of the vehicle is less than 2,000 euros over 5 years. This amounts to a rather reasonable budget of less than 400 euros per year. A small reminder that may be useful: a hybrid vehicle costs as much to buy, or less, than a combustion vehicle, and guarantees lower maintenance costs than those required by a combustion vehicle.

Can we expect a decrease in the price of maintenance in the future?

As technology advances, the cost of maintaining a fully electric vehicle will become less and less expensive. If you buy your car now or in the future, the battery of your rechargeable vehicle will have been designed to last longer, with a greater range. And because you’ll be able to drive more kilometers without having to stop at a charging station, your car will cost less.

It’s not just the maintenance costs!

Apart from the maintenance costs of your vehicle, there are also the “fuel” and the purchase. Several subsidies exist and make it easier to acquire an electric car and install a charging station at home.

In summary

For all the reasons mentioned in this article, it appears that an electric car is less expensive to maintain than a hybrid or a combustion car. However, it is difficult to put a precise figure on this item, since these technologies are still new. In addition, many parameters come into play and can change this amount. For example, the model of the car, the driver’s driving style, the mileage, …

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