And, no, a Tesla is not among them.
Electric vehicles are among the best bargains in the used-car market, with a solid selection of late-model EVs going for under $15,000, and earlier examples selling for less than $10,000. Used EVs tend to be especially affordable because older models suffer an accelerated rate of depreciation due to a convergence of factors. As with all used cars, a given EVs value will vary by region, and depend largely on the vehicle’s condition and the number of miles on the odometer.
On the downside, most pre-owned EVs are able to run for fewer miles on a charge than some more-recent models that boast operating ranges in excess of 200 miles. Most used EVs, with the notable exceptions of Teslas, tend to have a range of around 80-125 miles. Still, that’s more than enough to cover the average commute, which the U.S. Department of Transportation says is 15 miles each way. Plus, even a short-range used EV makes for an economical second or third car for around-town use and/or for getting to and from a commuter rail station.
We combed the pre-owned EV listings here on MyEV.com as well as other sources to determine the six best used models that can be purchased for less than $15,000. We’re featuring them in the above slideshow.
Kicking The Tires
As with any type of vehicle, be sure to give any used electric car you’re considering a thorough test drive. You’ll want to ensure it drives well, is sufficiently comfortable, and that all of its accessories are in good working order and can be operated while driving without undue distraction.
One element to which you should pay extra attention is a used EV’s state-of-charge meter. Be sure to check it when you examine an EV to see how many miles the battery can still support with a full charge. All EV batteries will lose some of their capacity gradually over time, and this should not be much of an issue with newer models. However, shorter-range EVs that can be subjected to more-aggressive charge and discharge cycles tend to be more prone to quicker degradation than longer-range models that are most often just topped off for the night. Fortunately, EV batteries are covered under warranty for at least 8 years/100,000 miles and that transfers automatically to a subsequent owner.
Also be aware that an EV’s range can be cut short by sustained high-speed driving, extreme ambient temperatures, and use of accessories, especially the heater and air conditioner. Make sure any EV you’re considering has more than enough range to cover an unexpected shortfall.
It’s always a good idea to have a used vehicle of any kind inspected by a trusted mechanic to ensure it’s mechanically sound before signing a bill of sale. One problem here is that few corner garages are proficient in EV technology, though any technician would be able to check conventional mechanical components like the suspension, steering, and brakes. If there’s a dealership nearby that sells and services the EV you’re considering you may be able to take it there for an inspection.
Depending on the model, local EV inventories may be slim. This is compounded by the fact that not all electric cars were sold in all 50 states when new. Some were limited to California and perhaps a few other states that adhere to its zero-emission-vehicle regulations. While you can always find a used EV online and have it shipped to where you live, you may not be able to have the electric powertrain repaired at the nearest dealership in a worst-case scenario. It’s best to check ahead. For example, while the Fiat 500e is only sold as a new car in California and Oregon, the brand’s website lists dealers in 26 states that are able to service it.
Finally, be sure to run a title check on any EV you’re considering via a service like Carfax or AutoCheck. This will verify the chain of ownership and the last reported number of miles on the odometer, document a model’s maintenance records, and will indicate if it’s been in a wreck or was flooded, branded a lemon or was salvaged and rebuilt. Many dealerships will provide a free search, especially for later-model vehicles.
6. 2015-2016 Volkswagen e-Golf
The compact Volkswagen eGolf hatchback is decidedly peppy and takes the corners tenaciously. It’s rated to go for 83 miles on a charge. When new, Volkswagen limited e-Golf sales to California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C. At that we found several being listed for sale near Chicago via dealerships that likely purchased them at auction. You’ll easily e-Golfs from 2014 and 2015 selling in the $13,000-$14,000 range.
5. 2015-2016 Kia Soul EV
The Kia Soul EV compact wagon is every bit as funky, roomy, and practical as the gas powered versions, and it comes well equipped. It’s rated to run for 90 miles on a charge. The Soul EV was originally sold when new in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The Soul EV seems to hold its value a bit better than some other pre-owned EVs, but you’ll still find 2015 and 2016 versions listed for under $15,000.
4. 2013-2017 Fiat 500e
One of the more energetic electric cars on the market, the subcompact Fiat 500e comes wrapped in distinctive Italian styling, and drives as well as the gas-only version. The EPA estimates it can run for an estimated 87 miles on a charge. The Fiat 500e was originally sold in just California and Oregon, but we found a few used models listed for sale in the Chicago and New York City areas. You’ll find examples from the 2013-2015 model years easily going for around $10,000 or less.
3. 2014-2016 Chevrolet Spark EV
The all-electric version of Chevy’s smallest car is a perky performer, comes well equipped and is economical to own. Its battery pack is rated to deliver an 82-mile range on a charge. Though the Spark EV was originally sold only in California, Oregon and Maryland, we came across used model listings in other states including Illinois and Indiana. If you can find one where you live, most used Spark EVs will typically go for less than $10,000.
2. 2012-2017 Ford Focus Electric
Ford’s since discontinued Focus Electric hatchback is nearly identical looking to its gas-powered brethren, and is every bit as roomy and comfortable inside. The Focus Electric was originally available in all 50 states, which may make finding a used model easier to find where you live. Earlier models had a 76-mile range, but the Focus Electric got a bump up to 115 miles for 2017. Examples from 2012-2014 will easily go for under $10,000, and you could well find a 2017 model selling for just shy of $15,000.
1. 2012-2016 Nissan Leaf
With 50-state availability and strong sales over the years, used Nissan Leaf models are both plentiful and affordable. Versions from the 2012-2015 model years had an original range of 84 miles on a charge. The 2016 SV and SL trim levels came with a higher-capacity battery that upped the range to 107 miles. Early examples can easily be found listed for under $10,000, with even later-model examples going for under $15,000.