Welcome to 2023. With nearly two years of an overly-inflated used car market, second-hand car prices are finally trending downwards across the board. Used electric cars are now becoming more attainable, and with the recent signing of the controversial Inflation Reduction Act, there is an opportunity some consumers can take advantage of: a $4,000 used EV tax credit. But before going ahead and purchasing a used EV, it's essential to understand how the credit works.
The tax credit will be available at dealerships starting on January 1, 2024. Until then, it'll function as the outgoing federal EV tax credit. For instance, if you owe $3,000 in federal taxes, you'd only get to use 75% of the $4,000 credit on your federal taxes. Moreover, there are a strict set of guidelines your vehicle will have to check off to get the credit:
- Individuals must make under $75,000 annually to claim the credit. The head of household can make up to $112,500, and joint filers can make up to $150,000.
- Buyers must purchase the vehicle at a dealership, and the purchase price must be under $25,000.
- The car must be at least two years old.
- The vehicle can be a plug-in hybrid, though the battery would have to be at least 7kWh (for example, the Mercedes C350e, Toyota Prius Plug-in (not Prime), and the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid won't qualify, among others).
- If the vehicle is $13,333 or less, the tax credit will then only cover 30% of the vehicle's price.
- Finally, the car must be on this list to qualify.
With this in mind, here is InsideEVs' curated list of the best EVs for under $25,000. We wanted to select a wide array of compelling used EVs, with mileage and age considered in our list. Since all EVs have at least an 8-year / 100,000-mile battery warranty, we chose 2018 and 50,000 miles as the cutoff so buyers would get at least three years and 50,000 miles of warranty left. Finally, please refer to Recurrent's EV Tax Credit tool to confirm that the EV you're purchasing would qualify for the credit.
The Fiat 500e makes the list as the most affordable option. The Fiat 500e isn't a fantastic car, but it offers a small footprint suitable for urban environments and a playful driving demeanor.
While the measly compliance-themed 24kWh pack may seem pedestrian, it's more advanced than other compliance cars of the 2010s. Unlike the VW e-Golf and Nissan Leaf, the 500e has a liquid-cooled battery. However, there is no fast charging capability, but for an economical daily driver, fast charging may likely be of no need.
- Battery size: 24kWh
- Power: 111 horsepower
- Range: 84 miles
- Fast charge: no
Before the ID.4, Volkswagen's first EV sold stateside was the e-Golf. Unlike the ID.4, the e-Golf was only available in select states. Sold as a compliance car, the electric Golf rides on its ICE-powered counterpart's platform utilizing an air-cooled battery pack from Panasonic. Despite not having liquid-cooled batteries, VW claims that Panasonic's battery chemistry provides excellent heat resistance, and a liquid-cooled battery pack would add too much weight.
For the 2017 model year, VW implemented a larger 35.8kWh battery allowing for 125 miles of range. Still, it leaves more to desire, but buyers wanting the charm of a Golf with an electrified powertrain would find value in the e-Golf.
- Battery size: 35.8kWh
- Power: 134 horsepower
- Range: 125 miles
- Fast charge: optional 50kW
The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq EV was the Korean automaker's first mass-produced EV. For the 2020 model year, Hyundai updated the design and added a larger, liquid-cooled 38.3kWh battery pack yielding an increased range of 170 miles. The engineers also beefed up the powertrain with a slight power bump to 134 horses. In its entirety, the IONIQ EV is a smart-looking, efficient electric hatchback, and for the price, it's a solid option.
- Battery size: 38.3kWh
- Power: 134 horsepower
- Range: 170 miles
- Fast charge: yes 100kW
The redesigned 2018 Nissan is a good electric car, and while it's a massive improvement over the prior models, it still lags in a few areas. Namely, there is no liquid-cooled battery, even in the longer-range Plus variant, which was one of the main complaints of the original Leaf. Nissan also gives the Leaf optional fast charging, but it utilizes a CHAdeMO port, which automakers have virtually abandoned in the North American market.
Besides the batteries and chargers, the updated Leaf drives very pleasantly. Its front-mounted motor provides just enough power to feel quick, and the power delivery is nice and smooth.
- Battery size: 40 to 62kWh
- Power: 147 to 214 horsepower
- Range: 151 to 226 miles
- Fast charge: CHAdeMO 50kW (100kW on Plus) optional on "S," standard on "SV" and "SL."
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV was the first affordable long-range EV to hit the U.S. market. The Bolt offers significantly more range and horsepower than all its competition in the used sector. Zero to sixty takes around 6.5 seconds, making it the quickest vehicle on this list.
Some downsides of the Bolt EV are the poor interior quality (pre-2022 facelift models only) and the driving position, which feels somewhat awkward due to the forward-reaching A-pillars. Besides the negatives, the Bolt has one aspect that buyers cannot ignore: almost all used examples have had their old battery replaced due to the fire recall. This means that even if someone buys a 2017 Bolt EV with 100,000 miles, it'll have a fresh, 66kWh battery installed with around 259 miles of range.
- Battery size: 66kWh
- Power: 200 horsepower
- Range: 259 miles
- Fast charging capabilities: optional, 50kW
The BMW i3 is the most performance-oriented, premium, and obscure option on this list. The i3 is the only one that offers a RWD setup and is built upon a carbon-fiber monocoque. Regardless of one's opinion on the looks, the i3 is undoubtedly the most fashionable of the bunch with coach doors, frameless windows, futuristic lines, and an interior and exterior that still hold up incredibly well nearly a decade after its U.S. market launch.
Another perk of the 2018 (and 2017) i3 is its liquid-cooled battery pack. It has a total battery capacity of 33.2kWh, but its usable number is 27.2kWh. This means the i3 has a relatively large 18% buffer, enhancing long-term battery health. Paired to the battery is the i3's 170hp rear-mounted motor, allowing it to accelerate to sixty in under 7 seconds. The i3 feels quick, and unlike front-wheel-drive EVs, there is no torque steer or traction loss.
- Battery size: 33kWh
- Power: 170 horsepower
- Range: 114 miles
- Fast charging capabilities: 50kW
For the 2016 model year, Chevrolet released the updated Volt with improved efficiency and performance. With an 18.4kWh liquid-cooled battery pack allowing for an electric-only range of 53 miles, the Volt's electric range is easily enough for daily driving. An onboard 1.5L I-4 acts as a backup generator (technically, it operates as both a series and parallel hybrid), and then the car can travel up to 420 miles on a full tank and charge. Overall, the Volt is the only car on this list that drivers could easily take on a long trip without issues. It also offers decent performance figures and sharp accelerator response in Sport mode.
- Battery size: 18.4kWh, 1.5L I-4 ICE engine
- Power: 149 horsepower
- Range: 53 miles EV only, 420 incl. gasoline
- Fast charging capabilities: no