Electric vehicle prices get lower every year, but they’re still not on par with the rest of the auto industry. Just look at the Chevrolet Bolt EV, GM’s pioneering compact car with legitimate range (238 miles). While there is plenty to recommend about this car, it starts at $37,495. By comparison, an Audi A4 starts at $36,000.
Clearly, the top EVs (we won’t even mention Teslas) are out of the range of most car consumers in 2018. However. all hope should not be lost on people with a budget. One of the great equalizers for the plug-in segment is the $7,500 tax credit. Many states offer their own incentives (many above $2,500) to further bring EV prices down to size.
If you’re looking for an EV but can’t push your budget beyond $35,000, here are seven models that start below that number (including destination charges). Note: We listed these models in order of the overall value they offer at the starting price, based on each model’s specs and our experiences behind the wheel.
7. Fiat 500e
- Range: 84 miles
- MSRP: $32,995
The Fiat 500e is in many ways stuck in 2015. These days, 84 miles of range is simply not competitive. Meanwhile, the 500e’s base price has not come down to compensate for what’s become a glaring weakness.
On the other hand, Fiat’s lone EV does offer some style and a fun drive character. As a city car that’s easy to park, we suppose you can do worse than the 500e, which would come to about $23,000 after state and local incentives in California, its primary market.
6. Hyundai Ioniq Electric
- Range: 124 miles
- MSRP: $29,500
While there’s a lot to like about the Hyundai Ioniq Electric’s range (124 miles) and base price (about $30,500 with destination charge), it has limited availability. As of fall 2018, only folks in California can buy one.
However, considering many of that state’s residents can claim $10,000 in tax credits on this car, it’s not a bad place to be. Here’s another big selling point: At 136 MPGe, Ioniq Electric is also the most efficient car on sale in America. In city driving, you’ll get the equivalent of 150 mpg.
5. Kia Soul EV
- Range: 111 miles
- MSRP: $33,950
Like Fiat and Ford, Kia jumped out of the box relatively early with the Soul EV, an electrified version of the boxy (and popular) wagon. Since 2015, we haven’t seen many changes to this model, other than a 20% range boost.
That left the 2018-19 Soul EV with 111 miles on a full charge and a starting price that nearly crashes into $35,000 after destination. In the 12 states where it’s available, most buyers will be able to knock about $10,000 off the MSRP.
4. Ford Focus Electric
- Range: 115 miles
- MSRP: $29,120
If you ask nicely, you can probably get a Ford dealer to get you a Focus Electric in 2018. That’s just to say: Ford never really never put any effort in marketing or producing this car in volume, and it will soon go the way of every other Focus (i.e., it will soon be extinct).
As of late 2018, lease deals (that include the EV incentives) knocked down this car’s MSRP below $18,000. If you want to own your Focus Electric, the federal tax credit could bring the price below $22,000 before you consider state incentives. Those are good prices for a fun-to-drive car that gets close to 120 MPGe in city driving.
3. Chevrolet Volt
- Range: 53 miles electric (420 total)
- MSRP: $33,520
While the Chevrolet Volt is technically a plug-in hybrid, the size of its battery qualifies it for the same credit ($7,500) as a pure EV. The thing is, Volt owners with a reliable source of charging use it mostly as an EV, too.
Once the 53 miles of EV range (106 MPGe) go, you can drive another 370 miles or so using the economical hybrid system (42 mpg). With state and federal tax credits, you can get the Volt for less than $25,000 in many places.
2. Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
- Range: 47 miles electric (340 total)
- MSRP: $33,400
What if you had the comfort of the midsize Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid and the range of a Chevy Volt? Honda answered that question with the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, the best new green car we’ve driven in years.
With 47 miles of electric range (110 MPGe combined), owners will drive this car as an EV most of the time. Once the battery gets low, you have another 290 miles or so to drive on the hybrid system at 42 mpg combined.
If you claim the tax credit — and the feds consider this model worthy of a $7,500 deduction — the Clarity PHEV’s starting price dips to $25,900. In places like California, you can take advantage of incentives that take the price to $24,500.
1. Nissan Leaf
- Range: 151 miles
- MSRP: $29,990
The Nissan Leaf has been the most practical and affordable EV for most of this decade. That reign continued in 2018 with the release of the latest model capable of 151 miles on a full charge.
Priced just below $30,000, you can’t get more range for the money. In fact, we’d argue it’s the only pure EV in wide release that can handle the whole day’s travels (i.e., regular commutes and other errands) without needing a charge.
For the people who live in a state with EV incentives on top of the federal credit, you’ll likely start building your Leaf below $20,000.
Up ahead later this year will come the 2019 Leaf that will be the first to crack 200 miles — and we’d bet that model stays below $35,000, too.