With most new electric vehicles priced in the $30,000 range, and luxury-minded battery-powered rides costing $70,000 or more, choosing a pre-owned EV is a far more affordable way to go.
Though won’t find many deals among pre-owned Teslas, which hold onto their resale values tenaciously, most used EVs are bona fide bargains. Recent models can be found selling in the $10,000 range, and you can find a few older examples going for as little as $5,000. That’s because most electric cars tend to have sub-par resale values, due largely to the $7,500 federal tax credit given to new-EV buyers, automakers’ often-hefty cash rebates, and other factors.
While the distance on a charge that many older models could muster has since been eclipsed, at cut-rate prices a used EV would make a great second or third vehicle in a family’s fleet, and provides an affordable means to get to and from a commuter rail station or for making local shopping trips.
What’s more, you’ll enjoy all of a battery-powered vehicle’s benefits, none the least of which are lower operating costs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a typical three-year-old EV will cost around $550-$650 to run for 15,000 miles. With the national average price of gasoline having spiked to around $3.00 per gallon, the EPA says you’ll save as much as $5,750 less in fuel costs over a five-year period than will someone driving an average gas-powered vehicle the same distance.
You’ll also save a substantial wad of cash in maintenance costs compared to a internal-combustion-powered vehicle. You’ll never have to take an EV in to the shop for oil and fluid changes or tune-ups. An EV's simple one-speed transmission has far fewer moving parts than a typical automatic gearbox. Electrified rides further eschew wear-and-tear items like spark plugs, valves, muffler/tailpipe, distributor, starter, drive belts, hoses, and a catalytic converter. Regular service visits are typically limited to rotating the tires and checking brake pads and other components.
But which used EVs give the most bang for the buck? We researched resale values for two-and three-year old models, reliability data, and our own experience behind the wheel to come up with a short list of what we consider 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 prices quoted are what used-vehicle dealers would ask for base models with average miles driven. Be aware these prices can vary according to region, and are subject to negotiation. We’re featuring our five top picks in the above slideshow, ranked in descending order by price.
Be aware, however, depending on where you live you may not find many used EVs for sale locally. You’ll find the most up for grabs in California, with other EV-centric states including New York, Washington, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey. On the plus side, MYEV.com makes finding one easier no matter where you reside, thanks to our extensive used-EV listings (and if you have an EV to sell, listings are 100 percent free).
Estimated retail price: $24,175. Debuting for the 2017 model year, the Chevrolet Bolt EV is the longest-range model represented here, at a generous 238 miles on a charge. While it’s holding onto its resale value better than most EVs – it’s the costliest car on our list – you get your money’s worth. The EPA rates it at the equivalent of 128/110-MPG with an average cost of $0.92 to drive 25 miles.
Estimated retail price: $16,850-$17,400. The Volkswagen e-Golf is a peppy compact hatchback that’s both fun to drive and practical, given its large cargo hold. It was originally offered in California and Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C. The 2016 version is rated at the equivalent of 126/105-MPG in city/highway driving and costs an average $0.95 to drive for 25 miles. It received a boost for 2017 to 125 miles on a charge, with a 126/111-eMPG rating and a $0.92 cost to travel 25 miles.
Estimated retail price: $14,900-$19,625. The upscale BMW i3 is futuristically styled and possesses a sporty demeanor. A shockingly low resale value (the 2017 model originally started at over $42,000) makes it a real steal. The 2016 and 2017 models came with a 60 amp-hour battery that affords 81 miles on a charge and is rated at the equivalent of 137/111-MPG city/highway, with an average cost of $0.88 to run for 25 miles. The 2017 further offered a 94 amp-hour version with a 114-mile range that’s rated at a modestly less-frugal 129/106-eMPG, and a higher $0.94 energy cost to drive 25 miles. You’ll also find some used i3s fitted with a small gas engine that acts as a range extender.
Estimated retail price: $13,015-$15,825. The Kia Soul EV may not be easy to find in the used market, as sales when new were limited to California, Georgia, Hawaii, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, but the effort would be well spent. It affords a roomy cabin, funky styling, and a utilitarian nature. With a 93-mile range on a charge, it gets the equivalent of 120/92-MPG with an operating cost of $1.04 for every 25 miles driven.
Estimated retail price: $11,850 $13,075. The Nissan Leaf is relatively plentiful in the resale market as it sold well when new and has been available across the country. It’s the least-expensive used EV on our list. The 2016-vintage Leaf came standard with a 24 kW-hr battery that afforded an 84-mile range and the equivalent of 126/101 MPG, with a projected cost of $0.96 to run for 25 miles. Optional for that model year and standard with the 2017 Leaf was a 30-kW-hr battery pack with a 107-mile range. It’s rated at 124/101 eMPG, with an energy cost of $0.97 for a 25-mile trip.
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