Electric cars are among the best deals in the resale market these days. That’s because they generally tend to suffer lower than average resale values, due to still-limited demand and other factors. For example, according to Kelley Blue Book, a 2016 BMW i3 with a sticker price that started at $42,000 when new can be found on a used car lot listed for less than $19,000; it could go for as little as $15,000 if purchased from a private party. A base model 2014 Nissan Leaf that was originally priced at around $29,000 can currently be found listed for $8,000, and could go for as little as $6,000 if purchased directly from an owner.
The exceptions here would be Teslas, which buck the trend and hold onto their resale values tenaciously. A 2016 Tesla Model S P100D with a 315-mile range, for example, is estimated to list for around $85,000 at a dealership. That’s actually a higher price than what a brand new Model S commands ($79,000) that can go for 370 miles on a charge.
As you can see, some electric cars are better values than others in the pre-owned market. We’ve picked five of the best used battery-powered vehicles for the money from the 2014-2016 model years. They’re all extremely affordable and should still have a good percentage of their original battery capacity intact. At that, we’re concentrating on electric cars that were either offered nationwide, or at least in 10 or more states. This eliminates so-called compliance cars like the Chevrolet Spark EV that were sold in limited numbers with availability restricted to California (and perhaps one or two other states) to fulfill its mandate for zero-emissions cars.
We’re featuring our top five picks in the above slideshow, and you can find examples of all of them listed here on MyEV’s national marketplace for used electric cars.
Be aware, however, that while many of the latest models now boast operating ranges in excess of 200 miles, three-to-five-year-old used electric cars typically run for far fewer miles on a charge. The models featured here will run from 76 to 106 miles with a full charge. Though that wouldn’t suffice for cross-country road trips, it’s still enough for most daily commutes. Even the shortest-range used models can prove to be an economical means to get to and from a commuter rail station, or for running errands around town. In addition, note that not all used electric cars support Level 3 charging, with fast charging capability optional on some models. Be sure to check the charge port to see if it can accommodate a DC Fast Charging plug.
We’re including information on each recommended used electric car’s range and energy efficiency, as well as estimated values for each model year. These figures come from Kelley Blue Book and represent what a dealer would ask for a base model with average miles and in good condition or better (the actual out-the-door transaction price can usually be negotiated lower). We chose the San Francisco market as a reference because of its higher-than-average percentage of electric car ownership. As with all other types of used cars, prices will vary from one area to another based on local supply and demand. Check online sources for local pricing and availability.
And as with any type of vehicle, be sure to give a used electric car a thorough test drive to ensure it’s to your liking and that all accessories are in working order. Be sure to check the vehicle’s state-of-charge indicator before you hit the road to see how many miles the battery can still support on a full charge. Shorter-range EVs that have been subjected to aggressive charge and discharge cycles tend to be more prone to degradation than longer-range models that rarely come close to being fully discharged. On the plus side, EV batteries are covered under warranty for at least 8 years/100,000 miles and that transfers automatically to a subsequent owner.
The BMW i3 is a rather futuristic (some might say eccentric) looking compact electric car with lively acceleration and athletic BMW-like handling. Aggressive regenerative braking affords “one pedal” operation. It debuted for the 2014 model year with nationwide availability and an 81-mile range on a charge (it’s been since bumped up to 113 miles). It gets the electric equivalent (MPGe) of 137/111 mpg in city/highway driving. There’s also a version that comes with a small gasoline engine that extends it to a combined gas/electric range of 150 miles. Level 3 DC Fast Charging was optional on the 2014 i3 and became standard thereafter.
Typical dealer list price for a 2014 model: $14,511; 2015: $16,294; 2016: $18,900.
The compact Ford Focus Electric dates back to the 2012 model year and was available nationwide. It looks nearly identical to a gas-powered Focus, but feels livelier given its torque-happy electric motor and low center of gravity. Unfortunately, while it carries the lowest listing prices among our picks, it’s also the lowest-range model at an estimated 76 miles on a charge. It got an increase to 115 miles for 2017, with Level 3 Charging capability added, but the Focus was discontinued at the end of the 2018 model year. It’s EPA-rated at 110/99 MPGe.
Typical dealer list price for a 2014 model: $8,057; 2015: $10,067; 2016: $10,582.
The compact Nissan Leaf hatchback has been available nationwide since 2011, and for many of those years was the top seller among electric cars, which makes used models plentiful in the resale market. It performs well, though isn’t as sporty feeling as some of the other models represented here. Examples from the 2014-2016 model years were sold nationwide, with a Level 3 charge port optional. They offered an estimated range of 84 miles on a charge, and an EPA rating of 126/101 MPGe. The SV and SL trim levels on the 2016 version came with a higher-capacity battery pack that upped the range to 107 miles with a rating of 124/101 MPGe. That makes it the longest-range model among our five picks. (The higher-capacity battery became standard in 2017, and the Leaf’s range was boosted to 151 miles with a 2018 redesign; the Leaf Plus was added for 2019 with a 226-mile range.)
Typical dealer list price for a 2014 model: $8,285; 2015: $9,521; 2016: $11,756.
The Kia Soul EV combines the quirky boxy styling, voluminous passenger room, and well-finished interior of the gas-powered version, and adds peppy electric propulsion with zero-emissions operation. You’ll find used models nicely equipped with navigation, a power driver’s seat, and a backup camera standard. The Soul EV includes a DC Fast Charging port. While the car was launched in California in 2014 for the 2015 model year, availability soon extended to Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington. The Soul EV is estimated to run for 93 miles on a charge and is rated at 120/92 MPGe.
Typical dealer list price for a 2015 model: $12,969; 2016: $14,844.
The full-electric Volkswagen e-Golf was introduced for 2015, and remains among the most fun-to-drive battery-powered rides for the money. It’s both quick and nimble, and its tall-roofed hatchback design makes it roomy and practical. Sales were limited to California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C., but you can find used versions listed in other, especially adjacent, areas of the country. The 2015-20i6 models could manage 83 miles on a charge, though this increased to 125 miles for 2017. It’s EPA rated at 126/105 MPGe.
Typical dealer list price for a 2015 model: $10,605; 2016: $12,354.
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