What Do I Drive is a series where the editors and writers of InsideEVs share with readers the cars we personally drive. These are the cars we bought with our own money and drive in our daily lives. As such, we've got a lot to say about them.
It has been a long journey to finally get to the point that I could afford to purchase an EV that works for my family of five. I've only had it a few weeks and I can honestly say it's the best car I've ever owned. More on that later.
Let's take a brief look back
Ever since I've been married with children, we've always had one new car. That car has always been a leased ICE minivan that we get a great deal on due to knowing a dealership owner. I know, leasing is not the most sound financial decision, but money has always been tight and we need one large, dependable vehicle with the lowest monthly payment possible.
We are currently leasing a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica. If we can afford it, we'd like to lease a Pacifica Hybrid in the future. Last time we checked, lease prices were quite high and there was no way we could swing the payment associated with financing a $40,000 vehicle, though the $7,500 federal tax credit would be nice.
Our other car — my car — has always typically been a small, used vehicle that I could buy cheap and drive for my commute. It never needed to fit the whole family and it never needed to be fancy. We could barely afford a second car, so this was just what worked for us.
Fast-forward to a few years ago and I retired early from my teaching job. The money wasn't cutting it, the health insurance contributions were getting difficult to afford, the commute was wearing on me, and I was missing out on many opportunities with my kids. Not to mention that with three kids we were at the point of constantly paying people to watch them and drive them around since my wife and I were both away from home often.
Taking a new job working from home as a writer meant that I didn't need my old commuter. However, it also meant that I'd be taking on the responsibility of transporting the kids to and from school and activities. I needed a more spacious, safe, and reliable car. Still, it had to be cheap.
What I Used To Drive (up until about three weeks ago)
I did my homework and ended up buying a 2016 Kia Soul with a manual transmission. It was honestly the least expensive (~$15,000), safe, reliable car on the market that offered enough space for my family. Plus, it came with a long warranty. I figured if I took good care of it and didn't put many miles on it, I may be able to sell it or trade it in for a used EV in a few years.
My Soul proved to be a fantastic car in many ways. It was roomy, never caused me a single issue, and held its value well. In three years, I only put about 18,000 miles on the car, since I work from home and only drive locally. The best part is I was able to trade it in for just about what I owed on it, which is typically unheard of.
However, I struggled to sell it on the private market (no one wants a base model with a manual transmission). I took it to a few dealerships and they were only willing to offer me $3,000 less than I owed on it. If that was going to be the case, I would be once again without an EV.
My EV Search And Discovery
I was looking at used Chevrolet Volts, but I needed a Gen 2 model with five seats. The only vehicles in my area that fit that description had around 40,000 miles or more on the odometer and were priced between $18,500 and $24,000. Roll in the $3,000 loss on my Soul and I was going to be in way over my head.
I was about to give up on my search, but a friend recommended that I check out Carvana. I submitted the information about my Soul and Carvana surprisingly offered me just about what I owed on it. We're talking about some $2,600 more than local dealerships were willing to give me. I was certain this wasn't true and something was going to go awry, but still, I decided to check Carvana's Volt inventory.
Rather than having three cars to choose from (based on dealerships close to home), I had hundreds. After poring over all the choices for a few days, I found a 2017 Volt with only 12,000 miles on it for under $18,000. Carvana took another $500 off the car due to a referral incentive I had. Keep in mind this was a ~$35,000 car when it was new. What an incredible deal!
My $17,300 2017 Chevrolet Volt arrived in my driveway on Labor Day. The same car hauler took my Soul away. Within a matter of days, my Kia loan was paid off with no issue and I decided to officially stick with the Volt, though Carvana would have allowed me to test drive it for a week and then swap it out with another option free of charge. I will never buy a car at a traditional dealership again.
Gallery: 2017 Chevrolet Volt
What Do I Love About My Volt?
The Volt is by far the best car I've ever owned. I've only put a couple of hundred miles on it, but they've all been gas-free. I really can't imagine ever needing to put gas in it. In this mild weather, I'm getting nearly 5 miles per kWh and have exceeded 80 miles on a single charge. Due to a new "time of use" plan, my first 83 miles only cost me 23 cents. At this point, I'm still charging on a standard 110V outlet, but that will change before winter sets in.
I love the Volt's eager acceleration, confident handling, and hatchback configuration. My three kids fit just fine in the back seat, though my oldest typically sits in the front passenger seat. She's 15 and just got her driving permit, so the Volt was sort of a gift to her as well. Thus far, she's done all of her driving without having to pump or burn gas. And, she didn't have to learn to drive a stick.
Plans For The Future
We are already saving for our next EV. I always said that by the time my oldest daughter gets her license, we'll own two electric cars. We're halfway there now and have about a year to figure out what's next. Of course, she'd like her own Volt. She's in love with the car. Perhaps I can give her mine and get a used Tesla Model 3 in the future? We'll see how that pans out.