Here’s Where All the Cheap Electric Vehicles Are

2015 Nissan LEAF
Nissan Leafs from the 2012 model year and older are the type of cheap electric vehicles on sale near L.A. | Source: Nissan

The electric vehicle segment has been a tricky one to navigate in its first five years of existence, financially speaking. There were the sky-high costs of new models like the Chevy Volt and Ford Focus Electric, both of which had starting prices of $40,000 in 2013. Just two years later, you could find either on the used market for a fraction of that figure. So EVs not made by Tesla became known for their terrible resale values. But there was the flip side: cheap, used plug-ins.

You had to take into consideration the generous incentives that came with every purchase. Anyone buying a Volt or Nissan Leaf a few years back would have taken the $7,500 tax credit and another $2,500 (at least) in state credits, given the purchase took place out west. So the cheap electric vehicles on the used market weren’t a disaster for their owners. If you’ve been looking for one, most are located in California and are equally distributed between north and south.

2013 Chevy Volt
Models like the 2013 Chevy Volt selling for around $12,000 with fewer than 50,000 miles in Southern California | Source: General Motors used listings for L.A.’s east side show over 100 pure electric models going for under $15,000 within a radius of 50 miles. At the top end of that price range, you’ll find many offerings from as late as the 2015 model year, including the Fiat 500e and Leaf. At the low end, between $7,000 and $8,000, you can find the 2011 Nissan Leaf (30,000 miles), 2013 Ford Focus Electric (28,000 miles), and 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive (19,500 miles).

None of these cars top 80 miles of range, and after these years probably come closer to 70. However, as a new study about range anxiety by MIT showed, that type of range is more than enough for the vast majority (87%) of trips taken on the average day by American drivers.

2014 Focus Electric
Great deals on used Ford Focus Electrics are available in California | Source: Ford

The focus of the MIT study was on “affordable” models already on the market, with the 2013 Nissan Leaf as the point of reference for the authors, who estimated 73 miles of real-world range in the battery. Nowhere are they more affordable than on the used market, and Angelenos are the beneficiary of these deals, as are Bay Area residents. A home charging system retailing at $400 or so would be necessary for fueling, but as a commuter car any of these early EV models would do.

For those who need the comfort of several hundred miles of range, many Chevy Volts from the 2011 model year on are available for under $14,000, with several cars reading fewer than 50,000 miles. Anyone worried about the dreaded battery degradation with this plug-in hybrid can take solace in the fact there have been zero Volt battery replacements for general capacity loss since it went on sale years ago.

To recap, as of summer 2016, we are still several months away from the time the Chevy Bolt EV will arrive in dealerships with a list price of $37,500 before extras and incentives. We are over one year away from the moment Tesla Model 3 ($35,000) deliveries begin. Anyone who wants to go gas-free now has the opportunity to pick up a pure electric model for under $7,000. There are many available across America, but the most are in Southern California near L.A. and in the Bay Area up north.

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