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Purchasing an Electric Vehicle in California

It was shockingly difficult to find a checklist of things to do when purchasing a new electric vehicle. Here’s a list of things I needed to do. This checklist is non-comprehensive, your situation may be different from mine.

Step 0: Have a California driver’s license

You need a California driver’s license to drive in California. You’ll need to go to the DMV to transfer your license. If you want a REAL ID, make sure to have the documents in the checklist.

The DMV is often booked out months in advance. It took me two hours (from arriving at the DMV to leaving) to do the necessary paperwork / wait in line. YMMV.

Make sure to study for the test. You can fail.

Step 1: Purchase the vehicle

Self-explanatory. Other resources can give you information on the pros/cons of leasing, financing, or purchasing with cash.

Step 2: Have insurance

Since this was my first vehicle, I needed the VIN to purchase insurance. If you have insurance, you’ll need to bring proof of insurance to the car purchase/pickup.

There are many factors to consider when purchasing insurance. Think carefully about what balance of protection / premium you want.

Step 3: Tax credits

Purchasing an EV gives you both state and federal tax credits. Make sure to take advantage of these. The amount depends on the vehicle and time of purchase.

Step 4: Charging

Figure out your charging situation. You’ll likely want to sign up for ChargePoint.

Step 5: Wait for your license plate

You’ll have to wait 5-6 weeks for your license plate to arrive in the mail.

Step 6: Other EV benefits

In California, owning an EV lets you drive in the HOV lane for 4 years. You can figure out what you’re eligible for here.

You will need to wait for your official license plate to arrive before applying for the sticker.

Step 7: Car accessories (optional)

Some accessories are nice to have for a car. I think these are useful:

  • Phone charging cables
  • Dashcam or USB stick if your car comes with a camera
  • Floor mats
  • Front reflector (your dashboard can crack if left in the California sun)

and for safety:

  • Flares
  • Car jack
  • Spare tire

You’ll likely want a FasTrak transponder if you plan on driving in California regularly. You can probably get the FasTrak CAV transponder for a 50% discount. The CAV transponder requires the DMV CAV certification (which I believe you’ll get with your HOV sticker).

Step 8: Recurring maintenance/administrative tasks

Owning a car comes with many recurring tasks. Luckily, EVs are generally less maintenance than standard gas vehicles.

Maintenance (depends on your car, read your manual):

  • Check your tire pressure (likely every 6 months)
  • Rotate your tires (likely every 6-12 months)
  • Check/replace your brake fluids (likely every two years)
  • Check/replace your filters (likely every two years)

Administrative:

  • Update your registration yearly
  • Update your address with the DMV if you move