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Be sure your situation is right for an electric car

Automakers have sweetened deals in recent months for plug-in electric cars in a bid to boost sales and move the vehicles off dealer lots as the end of the year nears.

General Motors knocked off $5,000, or 13 percent, off the sticker price of the Chevrolet Volt this summer. Earlier in the year, Nissan dropped the price of its electric Leaf, helping boost its sales. It’s now offering a three-year lease at $199 a month.

You can drive around in a plug-in hybrid for next to nothing if you were already spending $200 a month on gas, said John O’Dell, a senior editor at auto site Edmunds.com. For drivers enticed by the possibility of dramatically reducing their reliance on gasoline, the discounts on plug-in electric cars — particularly when leasing — are worth considering.

But owning an electric car has limitations that may not make them a wise choice for many drivers, nor ultimately translate into big savings.

Here’s a checklist of factors to consider:

1.) Do you fit the profile? The most immediate potential cost-savings can stem from avoiding volatile gasoline prices.

But electric cars have limits on how far they can go before they need to be recharged. For the 2013 Leaf, that’s 75 miles. If you need to drive more than that per day, without access to a public charging station, it’s not going to do you much good. (One place to locate battery recharging stations is on Plugshare.com)

Plug-in electric cars, which have a gasoline engine that can kick in when its batteries run down, offer more versatility.

For all electrics, you need to have access to a power outlet, and ideally a 240-volt charger, which can cut the time it takes to recharge electric car batteries to as little as four hours. That typically means being a homeowner.
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