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What It Cost to Outfit 6 Homes With EV Chargers

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Cars.com set up six of its editors with 240-volt home chargers in preparation for the promised flood of new electric vehicles and the questions potential and current owners are sure to have. With installations ranging from simple to elaborate, half in garages and the other half outdoors, we got a glimpse of how tricky this process can be, and how expensive — an average of $3,817, all in.

We found the cost to be higher than expected, though all of the installations were in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, which certainly skew higher than some regions. Also, we all used one company that’s highly experienced with EV chargers (and licensed, of course) for even cost comparisons, and we got permits in all cases. Permits, which are required to exploit most rebates and incentives, proved a vexing part of the process, which I’ll detail at the end. Our price breakdowns exclude the federal Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit, which covered 30% of installations completed before Dec. 31, 2021, because employer involvement in this endeavor conflicted with the homeowner nature of the tax credit. Prices for the Level 2 chargers vary because we opted to obtain a variety of brands for future comparison reporting.

Related: Electric Vehicles: Understanding the Terminology

It might help your understanding of the various scenarios and terms below — such as conduit, the pipe that encases wiring — to view our animation that explains the basics of EV charger installation.

Side of the House

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Installation: $900
48-amp charger: $743
Permit: $95
Time to complete: 3 hours
Challenges: None
Total cost: $1,738

What we knew would be the cheapest, least complicated installation was mounting a Level 2 charger right next to the meter on the side of a house. Rather than tapping into the service panel (fuse box) in the basement, drilling through the wall and running conduit more than 30 feet out to where the reviewer typically parks test cars, this was a simple solution that this particular western suburb allowed.

The estimate came back higher than expected, probably because of the need for a subpanel — a small box seen below the charger in our example — to house a 60-amp circuit breaker; the electrician would tap into the supply lines downstream of the meter that tracks the home’s usage but upstream of the service panel. Convinced the $900 was high based on the compactness of the installation, the homeowner got a quote from another licensed electrician. It was $1,000. So much for that.

Detached Garage With Service Upgrade

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Installation: $6,045
48-amp charger: $750
Permit: $125 (estimated)
Time to complete: 2 days
Challenges: Service upgrade from 100 to 150 amps required
Total cost: $6,920

An installation in a northern suburb was our most expensive, resulting from two things. One was the distance from the house to the garage, which required installers to dig a trench through the yard and a tunnel under a paver walkway to bury a dedicated circuit. But the greater expenses — ones not associated with the garage being detached — were associated with the house having only 100 amps of service, which wasn’t enough to accommodate EV charging.

Adding service doesn’t necessarily lead to charges from the electric utility itself, but it requires upgrades. In this case, the meter had to be updated, and the riser, which is the large-diameter pipe that routes power wires down to it from above, had to be enlarged. Typically, a house with 100-amp service will have a 100-amp service panel, but this one already had two boxes connected just to have enough slots for its obsolete Pushmatic circuit breakers. Installers replaced these side-by-side boxes with one new, large panel; wiring in a whole new service panel like this is always an expensive endeavor. There are ways around service upgrades like this, depending on the home, as in our Attached Garage No. 2 example below.

This installation called for two grounding rods spaced at least 6 feet apart, which resulted in a conspicuous conduit span across a concrete stairway. The job took longer than estimated, but the installer honored the original estimate.

Attached Garage No. 1

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Installation: $1,450
48-amp charger: $650
Permit: $50
Time to complete: 4 hours
Challenges: None
Total cost: $2,150

Attached-garage installations can be among the simplest because they don’t require subpanels, trenching or the like. It’s just a matter of how far the garage is from the electric service panel and what’s in between them. (Having the service panel inside the garage, as we’ve seen in townhouses, can be the best-case scenario.)

In this case, the service panel (200 amps) was in the basement, and the installer had to drill through the ceiling, floor and a wall to route the conduit to the wall where the editor wanted the charger mounted. Even with the drilling and long conduit run, this installation required the least and simplest equipment of all six, as reflected in the final price and time to complete.

Attached Garage No. 2 With Plug-In Charger, Energy Management

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Installation: $3,012
40-amp charger: $690
Permit: $94
Time to complete: 4 hours
Challenges: 100-amp service required upgrade or energy management device
Total cost: $3,796

This installation in a southwest suburb wasn’t unlike Attached Garage No. 1 in that the service panel was in the basement and wall penetration was required, but there were two main differences. One is that this was our sole install for a plug-in charger, chosen to provide flexibility, portability, additional use for the outlet — such as a garage heater — and because the installer recommended a charger of no greater than 40 amps. (The maximum current rating for any plug-in Level 2 charger is 40 amps, and the difference in cost between an outlet and the hardwiring of a charger is typically negligible.)

The greater difference versus Attached Garage No. 1, responsible for the higher price of this installation, is that this house had 100 amps of service instead of 200. Rather than upgrade the service, which would have cost close to $5,000 total for installation, this editor was given the choice of installing an energy management device for much less money that allowed for the addition of a 40-amp charger with the existing 100-amp service. The device, called a DCC-12, is a box that mounts alongside the service panel and can feed the EV charging circuit while monitoring the overall power use of the home. If ever the total draw gets too close to the home’s maximum, it can discontinue vehicle charging. While this solution isn’t an option for all consumers with borderline service, those whose actual power usage is modest — as determined by a load calculation — might be eligible.

Townhouse No. 1 With Remote Parking

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Installation: $3,750
40-amp charger: $550
Permit: $150
Time to complete: 2.5 days (complication-related)
Challenges: Wi-Fi repeater required for full charger functionality; circuit runs through neighbors’ property
Total cost: $4,450

One of our editors lives within the Chicago city limits in a townhouse with a dedicated parking space just off the alley (we have those here). It required a very lengthy, 140-foot conduit run— including a span underground through a neighbor’s property— to a post-mounted charger. On the upside, it was a lawn rather than concrete, and there is no formal homeowners association to contend with, but the editor did have to get verbal approval from five neighbors.

All of our chargers are “smart,” meaning networked, and this installation, far from the residence, required the addition of a Wi-Fi repeater on the wall closest to the parking area to ensure that the JuiceBox 40 would be able to connect to the internet, report electricity usage and ensure that only approved operators could use the charger. This solution has been dodgy and remains so.

On this job, complications extended the installers’ onsite time from the estimated one day to roughly two and a half days. The trenching took longer than anticipated because the conduit had to be buried deeper than planned to accommodate future landscaping aspirations of that property’s owner (who happened to be the landlord). Also, initially the charger’s mounting post was mistakenly sunk in the wrong location. The installer honored the original estimate.

Townhouse No. 2 With Homeowners Association

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Installation: $3,050
48-amp charger: $650
Permit: $150
Time to complete: 3 days (weather-related)
Challenges: Homeowners association, concrete sidewalk
Total cost: $3,850

The second city townhouse was similar in that the editor has a dedicated parking spot distanced from the structure, not in a garage. In this case, it’s in a parking lot roughly 10 feet from the residence. The space had been farther away, but by trading for a closer one, she shaved $500 off the installation cost and minimized the unsightly conduit, which is of extreme concern to homeowners associations, which we’ll get to.

Fortunately, the residence is closer to the charger location than for Townhouse No. 1, and the electric service panel is right on the other side of the wall closest to the parking space. It’s also close enough that the home’s Wi-Fi signal reaches the JuiceBox 48 on its JuiceStand (post) without additional measures. The biggest obstacle was the sidewalk, a strip of which had to be cut and removed to bury the conduit, and then patched. Unrelenting rain was behind the delays for a job estimated to take less than a day.

As the second resident in her development to add EV charging, our editor’s experience with her homeowners association proved uneventful, but she stood on the shoulders of the first resident, who had gotten the association to develop and institute a new rule — a process that required the votes of 75% of unit owners and took four years. All our editor had to do was attend one meeting, submit a proposal showing where the charger would go and what the modifications would look like, and then provide a permit and proof of insurance for the installer.

Beautification Costs Extra

Homeowners associations are obsessed with aesthetics for a reason. To keep costs down, we went with the simplest, surface-mounted installations, but there’s no question that metallic tubing — the most basic, shiny metal conduit — clashes with everything. In an unfinished basement or garage, this might not matter, but elsewhere it might call for paint, at minimum, which falls to our homeowners. Any steps required for more aesthetic or hidden installations would have required more work and more money. For instance, hiding the conduit run in either of our garages would require drywall removal and replacement or routing the conduit elsewhere out of sight. As our animation explains, more elaborate installations may require additional contractors who specialize in those areas, depending on the range of services your installer provides. And that means more money.

More From Cars.com:

Permits: A Necessary Evil

Even at its best, the permitting process is irritating because buying a conventional car never involves this extra step (or steps), cost or scrutiny. Remind yourself that the annoyance you experience now, once past, eliminates the annoyance of regular visits to a gas station.

For our installations, the permits ranged in cost from $50 to $150 and were highest in Chicago. But there was a balance: The $50 suburban one took weeks to process, while the city permits and some of the other suburban ones were turned around in as little as a day or two. In some cases, due to permitting delays, administrative errors or confidence on the part of the installer, the work was completed before the permits were issued. In some jurisdictions, this is against the rules. Even where it’s not, it might be frowned upon and can be risky for the consumer, especially one who’s already paid for the work. If the permitting body doesn’t approve the proposed plan (which is already completed), the homeowner may be at the mercy of the installer and responsible for additional charges if alterations are demanded.

We also learned that an experienced EV charger installer can know more about this stuff than a housing inspector, because it’s still the early days and EVs are just starting to filter out to all parts of the country as more mass-market automakers sell them in earnest nationwide. One of our permit requests submitted after installation resulted in plan revisions that didn’t make sense to our installer, and in fact could cause problems: specifically, the call for a ground-fault-interrupter circuit breaker inline with a hardwired charger that itself has a GFCI.

Last we heard, the installer had left messages for the inspector to contact him and discuss the problems he saw with the revisions. That was months ago. It turns out that not all of the municipalities we dealt with require, and few pursue, post-installation inspections. Perhaps it’s because the permit fees are paid upfront. Contractors point out that in some cities, housing inspectors almost always get the last word regardless of what the code books say. Being right doesn’t always matter. It’s 2022.

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Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Joe Wiesenfelder
Former Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a Cars.com launch veteran, led the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE. Email Joe Wiesenfelder

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