In this article, we show that significant deviations from the classical quasi-steady models of droplet evaporation can arise solely due to transient effects in the gas phase. The problem of fully transient evaporation of a single droplet in an infinite atmosphere is solved in a generalized, dimensionless framework with explicitly stated assumptions. The differences between the classical quasi-steady and fully transient models are quantified for a wide range of the 10-dimensional input domain and a robust predictive tool to rapidly quantify this difference is reported. In extreme cases, the classical quasi-steady model can overpredict the droplet lifetime by 80%. This overprediction increases when the energy required to bring the droplet into equilibrium with its environment becomes small compared with the energy required to cool the space around the droplet and therefore establish the quasi-steady temperature field. In the general case, it is shown that two transient regimes emerge when a droplet is suddenly immersed into an atmosphere. Initially, the droplet vaporizes faster than classical models predict since the surrounding gas takes time to cool and to saturate with vapour. Towards the end of its life, the droplet vaporizes slower than expected since the region of cold vapour established in the early stages of evaporation remains and insulates the droplet.