So you’ve been saving your hard-earned money and it’s finally time to invest in a new vehicle—the mechanical beast that makes our modern lifestyle possible. As an average person, you most likely use your car on a daily basis (or at the least several times a week) and therefore you need something that will make the most of your painstakingly acquired cash. We’ve all heard the recent ongoing discussion of electric cars (powered by batteries) versus traditional gas-powered cars, but what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? And how do they apply to you?

Let’s start with the familiar: the gas-guzzling (or sipping) cars that we all know of, and that most of us drive. The most obvious advantage is that gasoline is everywhere. However, a growing disadvantage is the rising price of gasoline. As the oil supply dwindles, prices will only continue to rise. In addition to this, gas engines are fairly inefficient; for every gallon of gas you put in your tank, only 1/5 produces mechanical energy that moves your car. The other 4/5 is lost as heat. This is why your traditional engine has so many parts. It has parts to convert gas to energy, and more parts to manage the excessive heat. Therefore, the maintenance is going to add up if you plan on keeping your car for a long time. But the initial cost of a gas car is much lower than its electric equivalent.

What about battery-powered cars? They are relatively new to the market and most consumers don’t know very much about them. Electric cars, until recently, were not viable for today’s lifestyle; they took forever to charge (well, about 12 hours, actually) and could only travel about 60 miles on a full charge. But the world of electric cars has taken off in the past few years; new lithium ion batteries are smaller, lighter, and more efficient, allowing cars like the infamous Tesla to travel up to 300 miles on a full charge that takes only 3-4 hours (and you can plug it into the wall socket in your garage!). High-end models like the Tesla accelerate faster then a Ferrari, and have no lack of speed or power. Mile for mile, electric power is significantly cheaper than gas. The recently introduced Nissan LEAF is slightly less impressive, having a tested range of 60-140 miles on one charge, depending on weather, load, driving style, and other variables. Many of the electric cars on the market today are not compatible with normal outlets, which incurs an additional cost of installing a charging station. But battery technology is constantly improving, and car companies are realizing the demand for viable electric cars.

So which one is your best bet? It depends on your lifestyle. If you are looking for an every-day commuter car that will save you money in the long run, an electric car might be worth the investment. But don’t plan on embarking on a cross-country road trip unless you find places to charge up before hand. It’s also important to keep in mind that electric cars are a fairly new technology and are constantly improving; but if no one shows interest, the idea might be abandoned by manufacturers. Eventually it boils down to a higher initial cost with lower maintenance (for electric cars), or a lower initial cost with costly fuel and maintenance; choose the one that is compatible with your financial situation.