Woman charging her electric vehicle in driveway of home

Can You Charge an Electric Car at Home Without a Garage?

Many electric vehicle owners can charge their cars in the privacy of their garages. However, some EV owners aren’t so lucky. Maybe they don’t have a garage and park in the driveway or street, or perhaps they rent an apartment or condo without dedicated EV charging stations. If you’re looking to buy an EV but are currently in a similar situation, you can still charge your car. It just takes a bit of effort and planning.

About EV Charging

Before diving into how to charge your EV without a garage or as an apartment dweller, it’s important to understand the three types of EV charging: Level 1, Level 2, and DC fast charging.

  • Level 1 — When you purchase an electric vehicle, it’ll most likely come with a Level 1 charger, which allows you to plug your EV into any standard 120-volt outlet. Although these chargers are convenient and easy to use, they’re the slowest way to charge an EV — providing only 4-5 miles of range per hour.
  • Level 2 — Level 2 chargers allow you to charge your electric car via a 240-volt outlet, offering 25-30 miles of driving range per hour. These chargers are often free-to-use at public places such as grocery stores and malls. You can also install them in your home, but a licensed electrician must perform the installation.
  • DC fast charging — Some public charging stations offer DC fast charging, the fastest charging option available providing up to 250 miles of range per hour. However, you typically have to pay to use a DC fast charging station. Also, some EVs aren’t compatible with DC fast charging, so check with your EV manufacturer to find out your vehicle’s charging capabilities.

How to Charge an Electric Vehicle at Home Without a Garage

Let’s say you’re a homeowner but you don’t have a garage, or perhaps you have one but another vehicle occupies it or you use it for another purpose. Whatever the case, you can still charge your EV at home without a garage, as long as you have electric service and a dedicated parking space like a driveway.

First, you’ll need to purchase a Level 2 charging station rated for outdoor use. Since your car won’t be inside a garage, ensure your charging station offers enough cord length to reach your vehicle wherever it’s parked. Depending on the features, cord length, and power output, an outdoor-rated Level 2 charger can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,200.

Then, you must hire a licensed electrician to install your charging station on an external wall or a freestanding pole. The installation cost can range from $400 to $1,700 depending on how and where they install it, permit costs, and local labor rates.

How Do I Charge My Electric Car If I Live in an Apartment

If you’re an apartment or condo dweller, onsite charging can be tricky since your landlord probably won’t allow you to install a personal Level 2 charging station. So what can you do? Here are a few options to consider:

  • Find a standard outdoor outlet — If there are any outdoor 120-volt outlets around your property, ask your landlord if you can charge your EV with a heavy-duty extension cord and a Level 1 charger. They might reject the request due to liability concerns, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Petition for onsite EV charging stations — You can also try taking it one step further and ask your property manager to install EV charging stations in a common area for residential use. It’s a big request, but they may be open to the idea since this amenity can help retain current residents and attract future tenants.
  • Look for an apartment with garages or EV charging stations — On the hunt for a new apartment? Search for complexes that offer garages or onsite EV charging stations. If you rent a garage, ensure it's equipped with standard 120-volt outlets, so you can at least use a Level 1 charger to fuel your EV.

Public Charging Options

If charging your EV at home is not possible, public charging stations are your next best option. Here are a few tips to help fuel your EV.

EV Apps

First, you need to determine all the public charging stations near your home, which you can easily do with an app like PlugShare and ChargeHub. These apps provide an interactive map with all nearby stations, but they can also filter out stations that are currently in use, out of order, or not compatible with your EV, making it easier for you to find the perfect station.

Plan Charging Around Work or Errands

If you have access to a charging station at your workplace, take advantage by charging your EV during work. Most public stations provide Level 2 charging, so if you work an eight-hour shift, you could commute back home with a full charge. Does your workplace not offer onsite charging stations? Work with your employer to create a plan for adding EV charging stations.

You can also plan your charging around errands or activities since many EV charging stations are located at places such as grocery stores, malls, restaurants, and movie theaters. That way, you’ll give your EV some charge while going about your normal day.

DC Fast Charging

Many public charging stations are simply Level 2 units, but some provide DC fast charging, which can charge an EV’s battery up to 80% in around 30 minutes. While some Level 2 stations are free to use, you must pay for DC fast charging. Some stations base their pricing on the kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity used, while others charge you per minute. If there's a DC fast charging station nearby, this can be a great way to quickly charge your EV without having to plan ahead too much.

Ultimately, it's possible to charge your EV without a dedicated home charger, and all it takes is a bit of planning and getting accustomed to your car's range and charging times. Additionally, as more stations expand, charging speeds increase, and more long-range EVs hit the market, owning an electric vehicle without a home charger should become much easier.

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