Tesla Model 3 Price Too High? Dirt-Cheap Used Electric Cars Can Be Good Deals

The used EV has arrived.

It was only nine years ago that the first won’t-break-the-bank electric cars arrived.

Those non-Tesla EVs — like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt — weren’t priced at $80,000 like the Model S and the first- and second- generations of those cars have been hitting the used car market over the last several years.

And with a Long Range 2020 Tesla Model 3 starting at about $47,000, “dirt cheap” for an EV is anything under $20,000.

A couple of the better sites for used EVs are MYEV and CarGurus.

Most of the used EVs cited below are first- and second-generation electrics that were sold roughly between 2011 and 2017.

Note: all prices are based on a used vehicle with under 40,000 miles. Price ranges are typical but some listings may be lower or higher:

Table notes:

*Used Nissan Leaf EPA-rated battery range depends on year and model: typically, the older (pre-2018), cheaper Leaf models have 107 miles of range while the newer have 150 miles. The oldest Leaf models have a range from approximately 70 to 84 miles. I am not including the oldest 70-75 mile range models, which typically start at about $5,000.

*Used Volkswagen e-Golf EPA-rated battery range depends on year and model: typically, the older (pre-2018), cheaper e-Golf models have 83 miles of range while the newer have 125 miles.

**Chevy Volt is an EV but is also referred to as a plug-in hybrid because it has a range-extending gas-engine generator that boosts the total range to 420 miles for gen 2 Volts (models after 2016 have 53 miles of battery-only range) and 380 miles for gen 1 (pre-2016 models have 38 miles of battery-only range).

**The BMW i3 also offers a range extender option which delivers a total of 151 miles of range.

The used EV is a good deal because…

Electric cars require relatively little maintenance because they don’t have all of the moving/complex mechanical parts that gas cars have – a point Consumer Reports made this past week.

I can attest to this. I have owned EVs since 2013 and have gone two years without any maintenance on a Chevy Volt I owned. Otherwise, I did nothing more than tire rotations.

And total ownership of EVs is cheaper than gas cars. “When total ownership cost is considered—including such factors as purchase price, fueling costs, and maintenance expenses—EVs come out ahead, especially in more affordable segments,” Consumer Reports said.

Cheap with a caveat

The cheapest of the cheap EVs are meant for local driving. You don’t want to take one on a long trip. I speak from experience. We owned a 2016 Chevy Spark EV (the last model year of the Spark EV). We tried a couple of long-distance trips. It turned out to be an exercise in fear (range anxiety) and frustration. I would not recommend a long-range trip for any EV with less than 200+ miles of range.

But a cheap EV for local driving could be the ticket for many looking for a second car. I have a family member who bought a used 2015 Chevy Bolt and drives it locally: it is a pure EV for him, despite the gas-engine range extender – the latter he almost never uses.

And speaking of local driving, I had a next-door neighbor who drove a first-gen BMW i3 to work and back every day. It has only an EPA-rated 81 miles of range but it worked well for him because he didn’t have a long drive and could recharge at work if necessary.



First and second generation EVs: Probably the best example of the evolution of the first pure electric car is the Nissan Leaf. That initially offered a range of only 73-75 miles back in 2011 but in later model years offered 84 then 107 and most recently 151 and 226 miles (2019), depending on the model.

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