Five things to look for in buying an electric vehicle for below $50K
With gas prices soaring, more and more people are looking into electric vehicles (EVs) as a way to cut down on their costs — and help the planet at the same time.
But sticker shock is a big problem.
There still aren’t many electric vehicles (EVs) available below $50,000, and rising demand and supply-chain issues affecting the broader market aren’t helping the matter.
Price- or carbon-conscious consumers can still find deals on new electric and semi-electric vehicles — particularly if they are willing to consider hybrids.
“Finding one in this current market might be difficult,” Matthew Degen of Kelley Blue Book told The Hill. But “in theory, [deals] are out there.”
Here are five things to look for.
Compact EVs for the most price conscious customers
Two stalwarts of the EV market — the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt — both sell for below $30,000 with federal EV tax credits factored in.
Now in its 12th year of production and with a range of 150 miles per charge, the Leaf is a reliable EV for in-city driving.
With a range of 259 miles, the slightly more expensive Bolt “is a very competitive EV,” Matthew Degen of car review site Kelley Blue Book told The Hill.
Two electric SUVs you can buy now
The Leaf and the Bolt both put the compact in compact — which means they won’t be right for some buyers.
In general, Americans are looking for SUVs and light trucks in the first place, and the electric vehicle market is no exception, automotive specialist Ryan Robinson of Deloitte consulting group told The Hill.
For customers seeking those kind of cars — and who need a car now — Degen of Kelley Blue Book suggested Volkswagon’s ID.4, which offers 280 miles per charge starting at $41,000.
For a little more money, Hyundai’s “absolutely fantastic” IONIQ5 gives a little more range — 300 miles for about $45,000.
Both cars are still eligible for the federal tax credits — which are only available for new battery-electric or plug-in electric cars. These can reach a maximum of $7,500 based on the car’s battery size.
More e-SUVs are coming later this year
Coming out this summer with a range of about 250 miles, Toyota’s BZ4x is a small SUV that marks the first foray into fully electric cars from a company best known for gas-powered hybrids.
It costs between $44,000 and $48,000, depending on configuration and whether the car is front- or all-wheel drive.
Unlike the Leaf or the IONIQ5, that price isn’t subject to any tax rebates. Toyota’s federal tax credits — which only cover the first 200,000 electric vehicles that a manufacturer produces — will likely expire around the time the BZ4X hits roadways this summer.
That means a better choice for some consumers may be the SUV Degen described as the BZ4X’s “twin” — the Subaru Solterra, which costs about $45,000 but is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.
With a range of 220 miles, that model is set to go on sale this summer.
Another option available this fall is the 2023 model of Ford’s new F-150 Lightning EV. (The 2022 model has long since sold out.)
The base-model F-150’s model year 2023 is expected to go on sale in fall of 2022 for just under $40,000 for the base model.
That’s under $33,000 with a $7,500 federal tax credit — although Ford’s credits will soon run out, as Tesla’s did in 2021 and Toyota’s did this summer.
Finally, the Vietnamese startup VinFast aims to bring its two-row VF8 SUV to the U.S. market by December 2022.
In an unusual move, VinFast is rolling out the VF8 in two tiers: a 260-mile range version for $40,700 in 2022, and a 292-mile range version for 41,000 in 2023.
These will be eligible for the federal tax credit as well.
For the range-anxious, think plug-in hybrid
Options expand — and prices drop — the more gasoline a car can burn. For some customers, that means added advantages in addition to a lower cost.
“The truth is, EVs won’t work for everybody,” Degen said.
“Some people want the flexibility of a plug-in hybrid electric — where they can do their in-town driving on electricity — and then when they want to take a road trip across America, they can do that too, without having to worry about charging up every 300 miles.”
On the lower end, there’s the Kia Niro SUV — which gets only 26 miles on a charge but compensates by getting 52 miles per gallon.
The current 2022 model sells for just under $30,000, and the new 2023 model will sell for about $33,000.
If bought new, either model is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit.
On the somewhat higher end, there’s Toyota’s plug-in hybrid RAV4, which gets 42 miles per battery charge and about 40 miles per gallon when burning gasoline.
That car is also still eligible for the tax credit, at least until Toyota’s supply of the credits run out.
Without the credit, the 2023 model price will run in the mid-$30,000 range.
As tax credits expire, consider a hybrid
“You can get a great hybrid at half the price of the average new car cost,” Degen said.
Unlike plug-in hybrids, a conventional hybrid’s battery can’t be directly charged, and the car itself can’t run off pure battery power.
Instead, they use the gas-powered motor as a mini-generator to charge the car every time it brakes — allowing drivers to achieve more than double the gas mileage of a conventional car.
These cars have far lower sticker prices than their battery or plug-in hybrid competitors — although with federal tax credits factored in, the plug-in hybrids are sometimes less expensive.
For example, the new hybrid Toyota Corolla, which brings drivers 53 miles per gallon for about $24,000 — a price that is still slightly above the price of, say, a plug-in Kia Niro once the federal tax credits are factored in.
For a somewhat higher price point, there’s the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which brings 53 miles per gallon for under $28,000.
Light truck buyers reluctant to leave gasoline behind can look at Toyota’s conventional hybrid RAV4, which gets 41 miles per gallon and costs about $29,000.
Degen also singled out the Ford Maverick, with a fuel economy of 42 miles per gallon, which he called “a fantastic little truck” that is also “the first new compact truck in over a decade.”
Once Ford and Toyota EV tax credits expire, their respective conventional hybrids will also become better deals compared to electric models.