For the past year, Recurrent has been publishing market reports and thought leadership about used electric cars. It's been a wild year - EV sales have more than doubled since 2020 and almost all major automakers have made commitments for an electric future. All car prices have skyrocketed over 2021 but a lack of inventory in new cars has driven more shoppers to consider used cars. In particular, used EV prices have skyrocketed more than 25% since Q1 2021.
Buyers must consider lots of factors when looking for any used car, and used electric cars are no exception. While many of the traditional under-the-hood pitfalls are less of a concern because electric cars have fewer moving parts, vehicle range is certainly important to understand and verify.
Most shoppers want the longest range for their dollar. One way that we have thought about it is average EPA-rated cost per range mile, like you can see in this chart from a recent EV market report.
Another change over the past year is awareness about electric vehicles. Most EV shoppers understand that battery condition and available range are important factors to consider, as well as recognizing that electric car ownership is cheaper than gas car ownership. Still, the total, up-front purchase price is still a deciding factor. A few extra miles of range are not important if the car is out of your budget. This article looks used electric cars by price categories from under $10,000, under $15,000 and under $20,000. While many of these low cost options will offer lower range or be older models, they can still fit the needs of most drivers.
Click through to the individual vehicle pages, if available, to learn more about each car.
Best Used EV Under $10,000
For many years, it seemed like electric cars were toys for the wealthy. It made headlines in 2017 when Tesla came out with the “affordable” electric Model 3 - meant for the general car buying public - priced between $35,000 and $42,000 for the base models. Although Model 3 has become the best selling EV in the world, the price tag does exclude many drivers.
Luckily, EVs don’t start and stop at Tesla. There is a universe of affordable choices when you’re ready to go electric. If your budget is under $10k, you will likely wind up with an older model such as:
2013 or 2014 Chevy Volt Plug-in Hybrid
EPA range: 38 miles electric/ 300 combined
The Chevy Volt, not to be confused with its cousin, the Bolt, is a zippy plug in hybrid sedan that drivers love for its reliability and flexibility. When you’re running daily errands, it’s easy to stay within the 38 mi all-electric range, but you have the option of using the gas engine and extending your trip up to 300 miles. Many Recurrent drivers report that they rarely fill up the gas tanks on their Volt, making it an affordable yet stress-free way to drive electric.
2014 or 2015 Ford Energi C-Max Hybrid
EPA range: 20 miles electric/ 550 combined
This Ford hybrid hatchback boasts great fuel economy - the all electric range is only 20 mi, but goes up to 550 including gas. For those without access to a 220V plug, or those who don’t mind switching to gasoline, the C-Max Hybrid is a great value. It takes only 7 hours to recharge using a standard household plug. It also has a trades some of its all-electric range for a longer combined range than the Volt, for instance.
2015 VW e-Golf
EPA range: 83 miles
An older VW e-Golf is a great around-town, hatchback option. The original EPA range was 83 miles, and even a six year old car is still likely to hit 50 miles reliably, It also takes under 4 hours to charge at 220V - far faster than many other all-electrics. The e-Golf is beloved by drivers for sporting 1970's Volkswagen style and being fun to drive. It is also a very low maintenance car, which may be great for new drivers.
2015 Nissan LEAF
EPA range: 84 miles
The Nissan LEAF is one of the original mass market all-electrics and its drivers are fiercely loyal. A new 2015 Leaf was rated at 84 miles range, and depending on where a Leaf was stored, it may still get 60-70 miles. However, older LEAF batteries were notoriously sensitive to hot climates, so we advise using a tool like Recurrent battery reports to check vehicle history.
Many of the individual vehicles in this price range will have higher mileage, but luckily - mileage is not everything for an EV. Several of these choices are also plug-in hybrids, meaning that they will use up available electric range before switching to their internal combustion engine to recharge the battery. If you don’t have very far to go everyday, something like the Chevy Volt can get you around without even touching the gas engine. Hybrids are also a great option for anyone who has to occasionally make a longer drive or may have surprise soccer pick-ups or grocery runs to make.
If you’re looking at an older EV, you should consider carefully how far you need to drive every day, whether you have a second or backup vehicle for longer trips, and if you can accommodate charging your battery every day at home, work, or an easily accessible public charger. If your driving needs are suitable for an older EV, you will find them reliable and safe cars. Fewer moving parts on an EV means less age-related wear and tear.
Best Used EV Under $15,000
If your budget is between $10K and $15K, there is a wider range available. You can get a slightly newer model, or a more luxury experience. Again, it is important to think about what you need from your EV. Do you have a reliable and fixed commute with access to charging at both ends? Do you drive for a rideshare service, with many short, local trips? Or, are you driving off into the mountains looking for adventure, wanting a little bit more flexibility? There are options for everyone:
2015 BMW i3
EPA range: 81 miles
The i3 has a wide fanbase, despite its relatively short electric range of 81 miles when new. Expect the 2015 to get between 50 and 60 miles most of the time. There is a model available with a range extender, or REX, as well. Drivers love the sporty i3’s handling and braking, visibility, and peppy acceleration.
2016 Ford Fusion Energi
EPA range: 21 miles electric/ 600 combined
The updated Ford Fusion Energi offers 21 mi battery range with up to 600 miles including gas. This makes it an ideal car for impromptu road trippers or city dwellers who make longer trips on weekends.
2016 VW e-Golf
EPA range: 83 miles
This newer e-Golf will retain more of its 83 mile range than an older version, depending on where and how it has been stored. Otherwise, it is simply a newer version of the same city or short-commuter car.
2017 Chevy Volt
EPA range: 53 mi battery-only, 420 mi total
The 2017 Chevy Volt is a great choice. In addition to the stats listed above, the newer model has adaptive cruise control and automatic braking option with the same reliability and slightly more all-electric range.
2017 or 2018 Nissan LEAF
EPA range: 150 miles
A more recent Leaf is a reliable, durable all-electric choice. It gets between 90 and 150 miles range, which is at least three times what the average American drives each day. With a 220V charger, it will fill it in 6 or 8 hours. Certain trim levels or optional packages allow for DC fast charging.
Again, there are a lot of hybrid options in this price range, giving you flexibility and helping to alleviate range anxiety.
Best Used EV Under $20,000
If your budget goes up to $20K, you start to see some newer models and serious all-electric range. 2017 and 2018 turned a corner in the EV game and many of the models you see around this price reflect the wide range, impressive vehicles that started to hit the market in these years.
2017 BMW i3
EPA range: 84-114
Later years of the i3 still offer the range extended, but the base range is also more: the EPA rates it at 84-114 miles based on trim. Depending on driving conditions, the higher range models may still frequently hit 100 miles. The charge time is only 4.5 hours with a 220V plug.
2017 Mercedes B-Class
EPA range: 87 miles
If you’re interested in luxury and don’t need a lot of inter-city driving, the B-Class is an option for you. Of the original EPA rated range of 87 miles, you should be able to bank on around 70 miles, plus it’s only three and a half hours to charge at 220V
2018 Chevy Bolt
EPA range 238 miles
Chevy Bolt stormed the market with its 238 miles of EPA rated range at a modest price point. When it came out, only high-end vehicles like Tesla were offering over 200 miles of range. Today, a 2018 Bolt will still give you over 200 miles of range, but be sure to check whether it has been serviced under recent recall announcements. With new modules, it is essentially a brand new EV! Note that a new battery may raise the price a bit.
2018 Chevy Volt
EPA range: 53 miles electric/ 420 combined
Still on the list is the Volt, although $20K will get you a newer model with more of the all-electric range available.
2018 Honda Clarity
EPA range: 47 miles electric/ 340 combined
Another attractive hybrid sedan is the Honda Clarity. Brand new, the Clarity is rated at 47 miles all electric, 340 with gas. It has three drive modes and for many people, filling us the gas tank is a rare event.
2018 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid
EPA range: 28 miles electric/ 600 combined
The Hyundai Sonata is a midsize hybrid. At 28 miles all-electric range, you might find yourself filling up the gas tank more than with a Volt or a Clarity, but it’s total combines range hits 600 miles, making it a road trip powerhouse. You’ll need a bathroom break before this hybrid will.
2018 VW e-Golf
EPA range: 125 miles
The 2018 e-Golf boasts 125 mi range, and around 5 hours to charge at 220V. You should handily get 100 miles of range in a used 2018 and you’ll find more contemporary interior features than in an older model.
As EVs continue to grow and become more mainstream, there will be more and more used vehicles on the market - and plenty of affordable options for all budgets. The sweet spot on many makes is three years after the model year, when 36-month lease terms end. The exception to this is if you’re shopping for used Teslas, which are leased far less frequently than cars from traditional automakers.
Things to Consider When EV Shopping
The battery is the heart of an EV. Rather than burning gasoline to power a car, electric cars use a very strong lithium ion battery, like a far more complex version of the battery in your cell phone or computer. An EV can do almost anything a conventional car can do - except fill up with gas!
Here are some important things to keep in mind.
When your phone battery is close to depleted, you plug it in to a charger that’s connected to an electric outlet. EVs are no different. While you can plug an electric car into your wall, it’s a pretty big battery and it may take a long time to fully charge. Many EV drivers have special, higher voltage chargers installed at home (or at work!) so they can “refuel” their car in a matter of hours. Just as a reminder, a 240V plug is the same as what a typical washer/dryer unit needs. You may be able to get rebates, incentives, or tax credits if you install an EV charger at home or work - this varies state by state and by utility company.
Like with a gas car, you don’t always have to refill the entire battery, but you can “top off” or just add enough energy to get you where you’re going next. Lithium ion batteries fill up more quickly at first then slow down as they get past 80% charged.
Beyond the fancy settings and gadgets, EVs are much simpler machines than their gas-using counterparts. There are no internal explosions (“combustion”), no spark plugs, and no gears. This means that a lot less can break. However, EVs are still expensive pieces of equipment that you invest in, and they do come with warranties. While the powertrain and mechanical parts of the warranty are similar to gas fueled cars, what most people care about with EVs is the battery warranty. This protects the most expensive part of your EV from serious malfunction, and often guarantees that it will maintain a certain degree of battery health over a certain amount of time. Most often, batteries are insured for 8 years or 100,000 miles.
Note that drivers of plug-in hybrids in certain states that adhere to California’s air quality rules may have longer or more comprehensive warranties on their batteries - 10 years or 150,000 miles in PZEV states.
Efficiency for EVs is expressed in MPGe, or “miles per gallon (of gasoline) equivalent” is a way to compare the energy used by an EV to that used by a conventional vehicle. MPGe is calculated using the standard value of 33.7 kilowatt-hours (121 megajoules) of electricity being equivalent to one gallon of gas. This is an estimate based on the standard value of energy in one gallon of gasoline, and is also equivalent to 115,000 British thermal units (BTUs).
The overall MPGe value is usually a combination of city and highway values. Unlike traditional cars, electric cars tend to drive more efficiently on city streets, due to recaptured energy from regenerative braking.
Other values you may see on an EPA Fuel Economy sticker are kilowatt hours per 100 miles, or kWh/100mi. This is an expression of efficiency that may be more familiar to drivers: it is similar to how many gallons of gas you need to go 100 miles. The lower the number, the more efficient the vehicle. The average miles per kWh is between 2 and 4 for most commercially available EVs, with that value varying on how fast and where you’re driving.
Final Tips for Finding the Best Used EV
In general, you’ll find that less expensive EVs are older and have smaller batteries that can travel less on a charge. This is largely due to the price of lithium ion batteries, which has dropped around 85% in ten years on a per kWh basis. This means that even modest batteries in 2013 were far more expensive than bigger batteries in 2020.
Also, you’ll note that our charging times are estimated with a 220V charger. This is the same sort of outlet you need for a washer/dryer, and an electrician usually needs to install it. Standard 110V plugs can charge most EVs but at a much slower rate. The charge times listed are for full charges, but you can usually get to 80% charge much faster than listed. EV batteries charge faster when they are near empty and slow as they approach 70-80% in order to protect the battery health.
Looking for your first electric car? Check out by our free e-book on EV range.