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How to Buy an Electric Car in California

Buying an electric car in California is a lot like buying any other kind of vehicle. However, buying an electric vehicle (EV) in California can be more affordable if your income and the vehicle you’re interested in qualifying for rebates and discounts.
At Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal), we make buying an electric car in California easy.
Call 866.287.6225 today to schedule a no-obligation consultation and learn about our auto loans, home equity lines of credit, personal loans, checking and savings accounts, and other banking products. As a full-service financial institution, we look forward to helping you with all of your banking needs.
Read on to learn more about what to know before buying an electric car.

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What is an Electric Car?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric vehicles (EVs) include hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).
Below is a full breakdown of the different types of electric vehicles:
All-Electric Vehicles (EVs). All-electric vehicles (EVs) — also referred to as battery electric vehicles (BEVs) — run entirely on an electric charge from a rechargeable battery, with no other fuel source needed.
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). These are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. PHEVs can operate in all-electric (or charge-depleting) mode. To enable operation in all-electric mode, PHEVs require a larger battery, which can be plugged in to an electric power source to charge. To support a driver’s typical daily travel needs, most PHEVs can travel between 20 and 40 miles on electricity alone, and then will operate solely on gasoline, similar to a conventional hybrid.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs). Sometimes referred to simply as “hybrids,” HEVs are powered by a gas-powered internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The vehicle is fueled with gasoline to operate the internal combustion engine, and the battery is charged through regenerative braking, not by plugging in.

Which Electric Vehicle (EV) Type Is Right for Me?

While a particular vehicle may be visually appealing, your decision on which vehicle to purchase may come down to the cost of the vehicle and how much you can afford to pay in monthly payments.
Other considerations may include how you intend to use the vehicle (commuting to work vs. weekend road trips), the number of miles you drive, and whether or not you’ll install a charging station at your home or use one of the publicly available chargers in your town and beyond.

Before You Buy

Buying an electric car in California can be more economical if the vehicle qualifies for any of these state of California offers incentives on alternative fuel vehicles:
  1. California Clean Vehicle Rebate (CVRP) Project. This is a popular California electric car rebate that makes buying an electric car or plug-in hybrid more affordable. Consumers can buy or lease a qualifying electric vehicle and receive $1,000 - $7,000 in savings. Read more about the advantages of the California Clean Vehicle Rebate (CVRP) Project. ADD LINK TO BLOG:
  2. California Clean Fuel Reward Program. The California Air Resources Board offers point-of-sale rebates of up to $750 for the purchase or lease of a new all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle through the Clean Fuel Reward Program.
  3. Voluntary Vehicle Retirement and Replacement Incentives. Through the California Bureau of Automotive Repair's (Bureau) Consumer Assistance Program (CAP), the owner of a personal motor vehicle may receive $1,000 to retire the vehicle early from operation and purchase a replacement vehicle that meets emission fuel economy and model year requirements. Learn more.
  4. Clean Vehicle Assistance Program. The Clean Vehicle Assistance Program provides grants and affordable financing to help income-qualified Californians purchase or lease a new or used hybrid or electric vehicle.

EV Car Buying Guide

Here are some important considerations that consumers should be aware of regarding how to buy an electric car in California.
Buying an EV in California can be easy, once you become familiar with the buying process.
Here’s a step-by-step look at what to know before buying an electric car:
1. Check your credit score. While each lender has its own criteria, the higher your credit score, the easier it will be to get a loan, and you’ll likely get a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, you can still get a car loan, however you may pay a higher interest rate. Learn more about what credit score is needed to buy a car. Visit to check your credit report for free. Each of the credit reporting agencies provides people with an annual free check credit score report. Visit Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
2. Create a budget. Creating a budget means doing the numbers by hand or using a car affordability calculator. Add up your monthly income and expenses, then subtract expenses from income to see what’s left. You should always have money left to put into a savings account. Knowing how much you can afford to pay for monthly car payments is crucial to making a financially smart choice. Try these suggestions on how to save up money for a car.
3. Research different electric cars. Electric vehicles have soared in popularity and there are many to choose from. Here’s a list of the electric vehicles available in 2022.
4. Check safety ratings. Today’s cars are safer than ever, but it’s always a good idea to take a deeper looking into the particular make and model you’re considering. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website lets you search vehicle safety ratings.
5. Test-drive different models. A vehicle may look appealing on the showroom floor, but does it suit your driving style or have enough room for the kids? Always test drive several makes and models to find the one that best suits your needs.
6. Read the warranty details. Carefully read the warranty details so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Each auto manufacturer will have the warranties on their website, and you can also ask the dealership for this information.
7. Get pre-approved for a loan. Loan interest rates and terms will vary from lender to lender, and the rate offered to you will depend on whether you choose to purchase a new or used vehicle. Learn more about how to finance a new or used car.
8. Review the numbers. Most of all, the vehicle you choose to purchase or lease should be affordable to you, and the monthly payments shouldn’t leave you broke or unable to pay your other bills. Use this handy Car Loan Payment Calculator to determine how much you can spend and estimate your monthly payment.
9. Close the deal. Once you’ve located the car you want at a price you can afford, it’s time to close the deal with the dealership. CU SoCal can help you finance your new EV purchase or lease. Apply now to get a great rate.
Still have questions on the car buying process? Check out these auto loan FAQs.
10. Apply for California EV rebates. Some rebates have specific timeframes during which the application must be submitted.

Is Buying an Electric Car Worth It?

Although the initial cost for buying an electric car in California may be high, California electric car rebates and incentives can make them more affordable. The money the average driver spends on gas can also add up, which means electric cars may save drivers money in the long-run.
While many electric vehicle car owners choose to install a charging station at home for added convenience, many EV manufacturers provide complimentary charging at public charging stations. Plus, electric car charging stations are becoming more common and easier to find.
California drivers may also be eligible for the Clean Fuel Reward Electric Vehicle Rebate Program.
The California Air Resources Board also offers point-of-sale rebates of up to $750 for the purchase or lease of a new all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle through the Clean Fuel Reward Program. For more information, including vehicle eligibility requirements, see the Clean Fuel Reward website.

Where Can I Get Financing for an Electric Vehicle?

If you need electric vehicle financing here are the most popular options:
  • Credit Unions. CU SoCal, and other credit unions, can provide better lower interest rates than traditional banks. A CU SoCal auto loan can put you in the driver’s seat with no loan application or funding fees, and electric vehicles get a .25% loan discount!
  • Banks. All traditional banks offer auto loans. Check with your current bank for the latest interest rates.
  • Online Lenders. While there are many online auto loan lenders to choose from, you’ll need to do some research to make sure you choose one that’s reputable. Working with a trusted lender at a financial institution where you already have an account is safe and convenient, and you’ll get personalized service.

Why Savvy Consumers Choose CU SoCal

For over 60 years CU SoCal has been providing financial services, including car loans, mortgages, Home Equity Loans, HELOCs, personal loans, credit cards, and other banking products, to those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.
Please give us a call today at 866.287.6225 today to schedule a no-obligation loan consultation with a CU SoCal representative.

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Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) is a leading financial institution empowering those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County to reach their goals and build strong financial futures. CU SoCal provides access to convenient money management services and offers competitive rates and flexible terms on auto loans, mortgages, and VISA credit cards—turning wishing and waiting into achieving and doing.


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