If you're EV-curious but cash-strapped, consider a pre-owned model.
Though some of the latest electric vehicles, like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3, can run for well over 200 miles on a charge, if you’re on a budget you can find some real bargains among used models with an 80-to-90-mile range. That’s sufficient for a frugal daily commute and/or zero-emissions around-town use.
Best of all, with the exception of the costly Tesla Model S, EVs are dirt cheap in the pre-owned market. Because new EV sales and leases are subsidized by a $7,500 federal tax credit (plus additional incentives in a few states), and their popularity is still limited, their resale values take a huge hit. For example, according to NADAguides.com, a used 2015 Nissan Leaf with average miles on the odometer that originally sold for $29,000 now commands just around $9,000. Want to drive an EV at a rock-bottom price? If you can find one, a 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV sells for $4,000 or less.
And that’s on top of the money you’ll save in operating costs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average three-year-old EV costs around $550-$650 to run 15,000 miles, while the typical new vehicle drinks $1,600 worth of petroleum over the same distance. You’ll also save money in maintenance costs, given that an EV eschews over two-dozen mechanical components that would normally require regular service. What’s more, given their range limitations, EVs tend to be driven fewer miles than the norm, and thus typically endure less wear and tear. On the downside, depending on where you live you may not find many – if any – used EVs for sale locally.
Which used EVs are best? Considering examples from the 2015 model year, we checked used-EV values from NADAguides.com and long-term reliability data from Consumer Reports to come up with a short list of what we consider to be the top pre-owned battery-powered rides for the money. Range and equivalent fuel economy (“mpg-e”) estimates come from the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov website. All used EV prices quoted are what used-vehicle dealers would ask for a 2015 model with average miles and in good or better condition; prices can vary according to the region and are subject to negotiation.