Going EV doesn’t have to break the bank, if you can compromise on range.
Each year, new cars continue to get more and more expensive. Buying electric cars can really hurt, even with available federal and state tax incentives. However, there are plenty of good deals out there on the used market if you’re looking to stick to a budget. In this video, TFL’s Roman Mica and Nathan Adlen discuss 10 EVs that offer a cheap way to greener driving, without having to go all-in on, say, an $86,000 Tesla Model X (or even a $39,000 Tesla Model 3.
While new prices may bring on some serious sticker shock, used electric cars suffer from massive depreciation. While some like Tesla hold their value better than others, depreciation actually helps here when you’re looking to buy second hand.
Used electric car bargains
For the prices on this list, we looked in classifieds around Los Angeles and southern California. That’s one of the nation’s largest EV markets, and one awash with used electric car deals.
10) 2014 Toyota RAV4 EV: $16,990
The most expensive model on this list actually costs around the same amount as a conventional five-year-old RAV4. With just 113 miles, the Toyota RAV4 EV kicks off our used electric car list more or less in the middle of the range spectrum. It’s certainly not the best, but 113 miles should be enough for most commuters. What’s more, this car cost a truly eye-watering $49,995.
Yes, nearly $50,000 for a Toyota RAV4. Granted, these did come with tax credits to bring the effective price down. Against that sort of sky-high starting price, though, $16,990 is definitely a bargain, even if it does have 60,000 miles on the clock.
9) 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier: $16,900
While the Toyota RAV4 EV went on sale in California to comply with the state’s zero-emissions mandate, the Chevrolet Bolt is an electric car available nationwide. It also comes packing a 238 mile range, which is pretty good for the current pack. It only loses out to Tesla, but it’s also much less expensive. New models top out around $40,000. If you’re willing to go back a couple years, though, you can find examples for less than half that price. Mind you, they will have some mileage for that price.
Still, the Bolt is a fairly new model with no major updates through the 2019 model year. The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt will get a slight range bump to 259 miles, but is that enough to justify buying new over used? Likely not.
8) 2014 BMW i3 w/ Range Extender: $15,995
BMW’s first foray into the electric car world is a quirky one, without a doubt. Its boxy shape looks like no other BMW on the road, and the car’s electric powertrain offers up an airy, spacious cabin. Range on older models isn’t particularly great at 81 miles. However, you can buy an i3 with a gasoline range extender, which only kicks in to charge up the battery. Both the battery and range extender combine to offer 150 miles of range, which is a pretty decent compromise.
Again, while the BMW i3 was heartbreakingly expensive to buy new, they’re absolute bargains when buying used. Early examples with less than 40,000 miles are changing hands for $15,995. Search for one with a bit more mileage on it, and you can get them even cheaper than that.
7) 2016 Kia Soul EV: $14,499
Do electric cars have soul? Some would argue not, but it doesn’t matter because this one is a Soul. The first-generation Kia Soul EV offers up just 93 miles on a charge. However, because it’s based on the inexpensive conventional Soul, it doesn’t have a shocking price tag, either. If you’re in the market, you can find some examples with under 30,000 miles for $14,499.
Later models did get a battery upgrade which helped the range. What’s more, there is also a 2020 Kia Soul EV with even more range, but it also inevitably carries a higher price tag. If you’re looking for an inexpensive commuter car, the first-generation model may be worth a look.
6) 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf SE: $11,488
You can’t go wrong here — it’s a Golf. Except it sort of isn’t, because this one is a pure EV. The Volkswagen e-Golf takes the standard car’s well-rounded, pleasant characteristics and removes the combustion engine from the equation. The result is a range of 83 miles, at least in older versions. Not great, but then the price isn’t sky high, either.
The Volkswagen e-Golf will soon be supplanted by VW’s “ID” range of electric models. Right now, it’s available for around $11,500 with a little over 30,000 miles. Wait a little bit, and prices may drop even more.
5) 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV 2LT – $8,880
You expect an inexpensive buy with the Chevrolet Spark, as the standard model starts at $13,220. Search hard enough, and you can find five-year-old versions of those for under $6,000. However, a three-year-old Spark EV isn’t a bad deal either, at just $8,880.
You get a fun, zippy experience with the Spark EV for that price. Its 140 horsepower electric powertrain also offers up 327 lb-ft of torque. With that, you get 0-60 acceleration in the 7 second range, which is way faster than the standard models. The down side comes with its range, at just 83 miles. It’s not really any worse than some of the other small EVs on this list, but something to consider if this will be your only car.
4) 2015 Fiat 500e: $8,500
Another step up the list is another step up the ladder of cheap used electric cars. The Fiat 500e offers just 84 miles of range, which isn’t mind-blowing. However, even the standard 500 is meant more as a city runabout, and that’s what most people who buy these tiny Italian cars do with them.
If you do want a Fiat 500e, you’ll soon have no other option than to buy used. Fiat will discontinue all 500 models, including the 500e, for 2020. Examples we’ve found in the $8,500 price range have about 33,000 miles, which isn’t bad for a four-year-old car.
3) 2015 Smart ForTwo Electric: $6,990
The Smart ForTwo epitomizes the small urban car, even more than the Fiat 500. It’s absolutely tiny, but that does help with maneuverability around town. It only offers 68 miles of range, too, so you won’t be able to head far beyond most cities anyway.
It’s definitely not the most practical EV on this list, but earlier examples of the Smart ForTwo Electric cost under $7,000 with just a handful of miles on the clock. If you just need something to run around town and have another car for long trips, this may be a decent option for you.
2) 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV SE: $4,990
Will you stop laughing? Yes, EVs aren’t the sexiest cars in the world, but even as they go, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a cut above the rest in terms of its un-coolness. It only has 62 miles of range stored in its battery pack too, so forget about taking this out of the city. That said, it’s not an utterly terrible car, if you can get past its looks.
It was for a time one of the slowest-selling cars in America — can’t imagine why — but the up side of that is they are among the cheapest used electric cars you can buy now. We’ve found models with a little over 50,000 miles for under $5,000. This is in California mind you, which means you may get them even cheaper in other parts of the country.
1) 2012 Nissan Leaf SV: $4,450
It was one of the first, and still one of the most popular, EVs out there. On the used electric car list, the Leaf will be your most common choice, meaning it should be easy to find one for next to nothing. The down side with the earlier models, though, is range. Early Leafs had just 73 miles on a charge, not counting any battery degradation over the years. The range did improve throughout the first generation, while new Leafs can manage up to 226 miles on a charge.
If you’re willing to compromise on range, some of these used electric cars will offer cheap transportation and the benefits of driving emission-free. Reserved parking and HOV lane accessibility, for example. Electric cars are mechanically simpler than conventional models, as well, so you shouldn’t have to fork over tons of cash to keep these cars on the road, unless you need to replace the battery pack.