Does the recent oil pipeline hack have you freaking out and filling plastic shopping bags with gasoline? Don’t do that! Instead, consider an electric car.
“But I can’t afford the $100,000 Mercedes EQS,” you say.
You don’t have to buy the S-Class of EVs. I have taken the liberty of researching a few very much entry-level EVs, and even sub-entry level EVs for you. Of course, they are all used, but there are plenty of them out there.
There are caveats, as there are with any used car. The biggest gamble on these is battery life. You don’t really know what kind of shape your used EV’s battery will be in. Almost all the internet postings for used EVs—by either dealerships or by outfits like CarMax that are big businesses—list the range of the car when it was new. Hence all the 2011-2013 Nissan Leafs were listed at 73 miles range regardless of how many miles they had, and all of the Mitsubishi i-MiEVs were listed as having 62 miles range. Those figures applied when the vehicles were brand new.
So if you’re going to take a test drive, try to start with a full charge, go 10 miles and then extrapolate from there to gauge the range remaining state of health (SOH) of the car’s battery pack. Or ask the seller how they came up with the range figure they are claiming.
Even if you are looking at an EV with a depleted range, you may find that it’ll work just fine for the amount of driving you actually do. Try keeping track of your daily mileage throughout a typical week. Write it down. You will almost certainly find that you don’t need the 250-plus miles of range offered by fancy new electric cars. You may find you only need 35 miles a day. Or 20. Or 15.
There are many advantages of going electric. The cost of electricity is still well below the cost of gasoline. The average price for electricity in the United States is still 13 cents per kWh. An EV can go about 4 or 5 miles on a kWh. The average cost of a gallon of gas in the U.S. is now $3.08, according to AAA. The average gasoline-powered vehicle gets 24.9 mpg, according to the EPA. So to go a mile in an EV costs less than three cents. To go a mile in a gas car costs 12 cents or more. Someone check my math, but you are saving money with an EV.
And EVs are cleaner, no matter your source of electricity. Coal is only used for 19 percent of power generation in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And even an EV charged on a coal-powered grid is more efficient than a straight-up gasoline car. Cleaner natural gas produces 40 percent of our power nationwide. Renewables make 20 percent, with the percentage of wind and solar climbing steeply. So EVs are cleaner.
None of which helps you pick a used EV for under 10 grand. Let’s get started on that.
Nissan has made over half a million Leafs since introducing the car in 2010 as a 2011 model. Over 150,000 of those were sold in the United States. So they’re everywhere. Seems like all 150,000 are for sale.But being one of the first EVs meant there were teething problems. The original batch of 2011 to 2014 Nissan Leafs, for instance, were notorious for running out of capacity. Later Leafs (Leaves?) were much better, but watch out for those first ones. You can get a 2011 to 2013 model Leaf for less than $6000 easy, and that’s just what the dealers and the CarMaxes of the world are asking for them. Private sellers will take less.Before you buy, to find out how good or bad the battery is in the Leaf you’re looking at, download an app called Leaf Spy for $15. It’ll be worth its weight in kilowatts.
Full disclosue: I own an iMiEV and I love it. Mine was the first one sold in California, or so they told me. Everybody likes to bash the iMiEV, and on a specs-box-basis everybody has a point. When it was new it only got 62 miles range out of its 16 kWh battery. Nowadays the average Tesla has 100 kWh. Some electric motorcycles have bigger batteries. But the iMiEV easily seats four full-sized adults and has room for groceries in back. For all your city driving, it’s just fine.
It was built on a widened version of a Japanese-market kei-class car that was originally powered by a three-cylinder gas engine. Now it’s pure electric. The rear-mounted motor makes a whopping 63 hp and 133 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to push its 2380-pound curb weight around. It’s rear-wheel drive, too, with a DeDion rear suspension, if it ever tried to get racy.
You can get them for between $5000 and $8000, depending on mileage. All the dealers still quote the original 62 miles range, so try and get a 10-mile test-drive loop and see how much real range is left. Each bar on the battery charge gauge represents one kWh, so it’s not hard to figure out how much you used. Some of them even came with a Level 3 DC fast charger, though mine did not.
This car not only looks cute but came in some of the coolest pastel colors seen since the Packard Caribbean. It’s an evolution of the Daewoo Tico, a Class A five-door hatchback built by Daewoo in Korea for GM and sold in the U.S. by Chevrolet to meet government ZEV requirements. With five doors, one being the rear hatch, it is loaded with practicality. Battery size was 21.3 kWh in 2014 MY then dropped to 19 kWh from 2015 to 2016, so it’s a step up from the iMiEV in that regard. Maximum EPA range when new was 82 miles, which every single dealer ad lists as the current range, which could only be true if the car was wrapped in celophane and buried in a helium vault. So your range will vary. Your price will vary, too. While some 40,000-mile+ 2014 models listed for $7,000 to $8,000, lower-mileage examples cleared ten grand and even 11. Most owners have said they can get 80 or so miles on a charge when their cars were closer to new, 70 miles after a few years, and one guy we read on a forum said he gets over 100 miles on a charge. Level 3 fast-charging is available.
This is the EV of which long-departed, well-loved Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne once said, “Please don’t buy this car. Every one you buy I lose $10,000.” Such is the deal with so-called compliance cars, those converted from internal combustion to electric-drive solely to meet government standards. However, Fiat did that conversion right, basically turning the whole thing over to Bosch, so you get a Bosch motor, inverter, and battery. What could possibly go wrong? Output from that Bosch motor is 111 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque while range was 84 miles when new.
I know one guy, a real car guy with a Bullitt Mustang and an original Ford Bronco, who got two of these as lease cars, one right after the other. He saw no significant decrease in range in either car.
This is another one that registers on the cuteness scale for many buyers. Many others were simply drawn by irresistible lease deals. Another guy I know, a Ford GT- and Dodge Demon-owner, saw a lease for $68 a month and was pretty much forced by math to get one. He loved it, too.
The 500e was available in California as a compliance car starting in 2013 and was produced until 2019. A new 500e came out last year but doesn’t fit into our used-EV census here. Cars I found on internet used car lots ranged from eight grand to 10 or 11 grand. One 2017 model with only 150 miles on it had a sticker of 18 large. The cheapest one I found was a 2015 with 51,000 miles for just under $8,000.
You’d think that a fairly bland-looking compliance car from a manufacturer so big that it would have forgotten it even made it would cost next to nothing on the used-car market. Yet I was shocked to see that most of the Ford Focus Electrics were priced on the internet sites at well over $10,000. This for a car that started as a 2012 third-gen Focus hatchback into which Ford slapped a 23-kWh battery pack, later upgraded to 33.5 kWh in 2017. Range went from the original 76 miles to 115. The Magna-developed powertrain hit 143 hp when our Car and Driver colleagues tested one, while the EPA gave a range estimate of 115 miles. Yet the battery took up a significant amount of cargo space, revealing its compliance-car roots.
If you want one of these for less than 10 grand you’re going to have to accept a few miles and a little older model year, like 2014 or 2015. But for that you get about a $9,000 asking price.
(There was a concept of a Ford C-Max electric way back when that did not get the green light, which was too bad. I would have bought one of those. I wound up with the iMiEV, which was slightly smaller.)
Based on the 2015 to 2019 Mk7 VW Golf, the e-Golf has all the sporty charm of the fossil fuel-powered versions with none of the tailpipe emissions. Though this, too, was a compliance car made just to meet the letter of the law in Zero-Emission Vehicle mandates, Volkswagen seemed to do a much better job than most of its competitors of making such a car fun, almost a hot hatch, even. This was the precursor to all of those coming ID cars that, while more efficient, might not be as much fun on a good road. While the IDs will make over 300 miles in range, the e-Golf managed a still-respectable 125 miles on a charge.
Looking at used e-Golf prices, though, I only found one for under 10 grand, a 2016 with 43,000 miles and 83 miles of range for $9,800. The rest ranged from $11,500 to almost $20,000, a testament to this limited-production car’s spunky driving feel.
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