It’s not really fair to compare used cars to new ones. We get it. For every mostly-sensible, “Should I buy a three-year-old Lexus ES or a new Toyota Camry?” comparison, there are at least 1,000 examples that sound like, “Why would anyone buy a minivan when a 20-year-old sports car is so much cheaper?” (OK, maybe that’s not entirely scientific.)
But when it comes to electric cars, there’s no getting around the fact that the latest models are seriously expensive. Sure, you can ignore the six-figure Porsche Taycan since few people can afford a Porsche anyway. But the cheapest Tesla Model 3 is still almost $40,000. The Chevrolet Bolt is a little less expensive, but it’s still not cheap. Our recommendation? Buy a used Fiat 500e.
How is the Fiat 500e’s range?
If you look at how far you drive on a daily basis, we’d be willing to bet it’s pretty rare for you to ever go further than 50 miles. There are definitely people who drive all over the place, putting hundreds of miles on their cars every day. In fact, we know one gentleman who commutes approximately 150 miles per day. Or at least he did before the apocalypse happened. But that’s not normal.
No, people normally drive relatively short distances on a daily basis. If you’re one of those folks, then you may want to see how many Fiat 500es are available in your area. You should be able to buy a used one that realistically still has about 80 miles of range, and as long as you have the ability to plug your car in every night, that’s plenty of range for a daily driver. If you have an assigned parking space in an apartment building, or you’re forced to park on the street, that’s a different story.
So what’s the 500e cost?
As long as you can find one that’s for sale in your area (Fiat didn’t originally sell the 500e in every state), there’s a good chance it’s ridiculously cheap. Go for one of the older examples, and it’s not crazy to think that you could get out the door for less than $7,500. Savvy shoppers could probably save another $1,000.
For the kind of driver who only ever does 20-30 miles of driving in a day, why overpay just to avoid a little range anxiety? The Fiat 500e already goes further than you need, and it’s so much less expensive than the latest long-range EVs. Is it really worth $30,000 or more just to get an electric car that has a ton of extra range you’re never going to use?
The Fiat 500e vs. the Nissan Leaf
Since the Nissan Leaf is also an ultra-affordable used EV, we definitely understand why people would compare the two. If you don’t agree, search your favorite online car sales site for electric cars. Then sort the list from the lowest price to the highest. All you’re going to see are Nissan Leafs and Fiat 500es. As long as there’s a Fiat 500e for sale in your area, that is.
Anyway, the thing we’ve learned about the Nissan Leaf’s battery is that it tends to lose a lot of range pretty quickly. You might be able to find a few Leafs that are less expensive than the cheapest Fiat 500e, but odds are, the Fiat will have more range left on its battery. Even if it costs a little more, buy the 500e!
It’s also super fun to drive
We’d argue the price and range of a used Fiat 500e are enough to justify buying one as a daily driver over a Nissan Leaf. But the true trump card is just how fun the 500e is to drive. It may not be on the level of the Abarth-tuned version, but especially considering it’s almost silent, it’s pretty darn close.
You’ll probably spend the first couple of weeks learning how to modulate the accelerator because if you stomp it just a little too far, the electric motor’s torque will roast the front tires. And whether it’s special 500e suspension tuning, or the batteries just lower the car’s center of gravity, it’s shockingly fun to drive. Like actually, seriously fun to drive. For so little money, too!
No, seriously. It’s such a good deal, I actually bought one myself. I continue to take my chances at death with my Ducati Monster, but if I’m going to the grocery store for more than a few items, driving the 500e definitely has more space than a backpack. At this point, I honestly struggle to see the downside.