The 8 Best Affordable Used Electric Cars

Feb 26, 2021

Category: Rides

In its infancy, the electric vehicle sector has been historically marked by high prices and somewhat underwhelming ranges, though as the segment has evolved over the last decade or so and hugely grown in popularity, the MSRPs on new vehicles have started to decline as autonomy and performance increase. And it’s not just the new EV space that’s started to see more accessibly priced offerings, but the secondhand market has also been treated to an even more affordable range of options.

The ever-capable nature of today’s latest and all-electric automotive offerings has helped to further drive down pricing in the used segment, resulting in some thoroughly competent secondhand electrics that can now be had for a bargain. With this in mind, we’ve thoroughly pored over several years of model releases and classified ads, diving into the spec sheets and proverbially kicking the tires to bring you this condensed, hand-picked list of the best used electric cars. So, whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly electric economy car or a more plush and premium proton-powered ride, this list has got you covered.

Photo: Ford Focus Electric

Quantifying The Best

The Criteria For Selecting Used EVs

Generating almost any “best of” list will involve at least some subjectivity — assuming you aren’t going purely based on spec sheets — and knowing this, we’ve landed on a few based criteria to help us narrow down our choices. Rather than simply looking at range, amenities, and performance capabilities, or exclusively focusing on price, we’re honing in on widely available production models that afford solid performance, range, and features relative to their used price. What’s more, each model on this list represents a substantial discount over their original MSRP while still offering relatively modern performance specs.

Photo: Fiat 500e

Used EV Shopping 101

The Unique Aspects To Consider When Purchasing A Secondhand Electric Car

Regardless of the style of vehicle or its powertrain type, there are common elements that should be taken into account across the board when purchasing a used car. And while these areas undoubtedly apply to secondhand EV models, the electric segment carries a few unique aspects and benefits that are worth touching on — some of which have only emerged in recent years. Below we’ll briefly delve into some of the more crucial areas to consider when purchasing a used electric car, as well as a few strengths possessed by EVs.

The Environmental Factor: While this probably won’t come as a shock to anyone, electric cars don’t put out any emissions and are therefore markedly better for the planet to drive. The production of these vehicles can involve a good amount of waste and a decent portion of the electricity used by EVs is harnessed from non-green methods, plus there’s the issue of disposing of spent electric car batteries (much of the time in landfills). Even with that said, EVs are objectively a more environmentally-friendly means of transportation and offer the same utility as petrol-powered cars without the smog and environmental footprint.

Upgraded EV Infrastructure: In the early years of EV production, finding somewhere to juice up your car’s battery packs was a bit of a hassle, though in more recent times both OEMs and outside third party companies have been installing an increasingly robust and widespread electric vehicle charging infrastructure, making it easier than ever before to find somewhere to plug your vehicle in. And, on top of the number of charges available, the speed and efficiency of these units have massively improved, with fast-charging quickly becoming the new standard.

Photo: Ford Focus Electric

EV Upkeep & Tuning: When EVs first hit the market, there were very few mechanics and shops that were willing to wrench on electric cars, at least outside of dealership service centers. However, with EVs exploding in popularity, a growing number of shops have popped up that either work on, or outright specialize in maintaining electric-powered vehicles. This not only makes it easier, cheaper, and more convenient to have your EV serviced, but it also means there’s both better access to new and used parts, as well as more shops willing to perform jobs like battery swaps. By and large, electric vehicles also tend to require markedly less upkeep compared to gas-powered cars. In a similar vein, the influx of interest in the EV space has also given rise to a handful of tuning outfits that focus exclusively on EVs and frequently offer multi-stage tuning and performance kits.

Battery Degradation: Over time, a gas engine’s original horsepower and torque output will begin to wane as seals fade and general wear and tear take their course. Electric vehicles suffer from a similar issue, and just like with the battery inside your smartphone or laptop, an EV’s cells will degrade over time, resulting in shorter and shorter battery life and thereby a shorter range. It’s worth exploring how old a used EV is, its mileage, and the rate at which a respective model tends to lose its battery potency. Having said that, it’s important to point out that electric vehicle batteries typically last anywhere from 10 to 20 years before they need to be completely swapped out for fresh cells.

EV Ownership Incentives: In an effort to encourage EV sales, state and federal government bodies have introduced a growing number of incentives for electric vehicle owners such as generous rebates and tax cuts. And though buying used eliminates some of these, there are still benefits that all EV owners can enjoy including the use of the HOV (or “High-occupancy Vehicle) lane, even when riding solo.

Photo: BMW i3

Unrivaled Torque: The growing array of available electric supercars has admittedly helped to alter the public perception of EVs, though in general most electric cars aren’t viewed as high-performance offerings. And while they do have limited range and horsepower compared to a gas-engined ride, one area in which EVs objectively best their petrol-powered counterparts is raw torque. Not only do electric powertrains offer gobs of torque, but they do so instantaneously, without needing to reach a “sweet spot” in an engine’s rev-range.

Premium EV Options: Though they took longer to enter the space, luxury car makers have been breaking into the EV space at an astounding rate, with pretty much every premium OEM having tossed its hat in the EV ring over the last few years. These offerings almost always boast more impressive ranges, markedly more plush and well-appointed interiors, and generally superior performance, albeit they come at much steeper MSRPs. The used EV market can be a stellar means of picking up a high-dollar electric ride at an enormously discounted rate — in some cases by more than half off of a car’s original sticker price. You very well may be surprised by some of the higher-end EVs that you can afford when taking the used purchasing route.

Disclaimer: All used prices shown reflect Kelley Blue Book values for “Good” condition cars, without any options, purchased through a private seller, and showing average mileage based on the model year.

BMW i3

Because EV batteries are so heavy, BMW put an enormous amount of effort into adding lightness when developing the i3, resulting in a carbon fiber chassis adorned in carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic bodywork — a la the six and seven-figure hypers from Lamborghini and McLaren. In addition to the textiles in the car’s thoroughly modern being entirely composed of recycled materials, a quarter of the rest of the EV’s raw materials are also made from recycled post-consumer bits. And, despite its admittedly cute appearance, the i3 is objectively a much more entertaining car to drive than models like the Volt or LEAF, sharing its powertrain with the peppy electrified Mini Cooper.

New Price: $44,450
Used Price: $10K – $13K
Torque: 199ft-lbs
Range: 153-Miles

Purchase: $10,000+

Cadillac ELR

Yes, the Cadillac ELR is technically a hybrid vehicle, though considering that it can operate purely on battery power and offers arguably one of the best deals in the used hybrid/EV space, we’d argue the American-made ELR is more than worthy of a spot on this list. With a nearly 6.5-second 0-60mph time and a top speed just north of 100mph, the ELR clearly isn’t a high-performance vehicle, though that was never Cadillac’s intention when building the thing. Available on the secondhand market for roughly a quarter of its original $66K MSRP, the ELR comes loaded with a generous bevy of tech, amenities, and creature comforts, and offers an incredibly smooth ride.

New Price: $65,995
Used Price: $17.6K – $20.6K
Torque: 373ft-lbs
Range: 37-Miles Battery Only (340-Miles Total)

Purchase: $17,600+

Chevy Volt

Here we have another electric powertrain vehicle with a proton-powered motor that’s helped along by an 84hp 1.4L inline-four internal combustion engine — though, like the Caddy, the Volt can run purely on its batteries, albeit for a limited range. First introduced in 2010, the Volt has received a slew of awards including winning both the 2011 North American Car of the Year, the 2012 European Car of the Year, and multiple Green Car of the Year titles. The Volt doesn’t greatly excel in any one area, though it stands as a comfortable and reliable, more environmentally-friendly daily driver than regular gas-powered sedans. The later generations of the Volt also offer increased performance and better range.

New Price: $16,565
Used Price: $8K – $10K
Torque: 294ft-lbs
Range: 53-Miles Battery Only (420-Miles Total)

Purchase: $8,000+

Fiat 500e

Originally introduced in 1957, the Fiat 500 is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most iconic Italian cars of all time, and since the reintroduction of the modern 500 in 2007, the brand has rolled out a myriad of model variants including the turbocharged track-ready Abarth-spec and the affordable proton-powered 500e. Like the contemporary gas-powered 500, the 500e offers just enough storage space to accommodate two passengers, just enough range to tackle a daily commute, and just enough oomph to be comfortable on the freeway. Once you consider the 500e’s secondhand price, however, it becomes abundantly clear what a serious bargain this car truly is.

New Price: $33,210
Used Price: $5.4K – $6.8K
Torque: 147ft-lbs
Range: 84-Miles

Purchase: $5,400+

Ford Focus Electric

After spending a dozen wildly successful years on the market, Ford was prompted to produce an all-electric variant of its hatchback, bestowing the compact five-door model with a 143hp (107kW) synchronous motor that draws off of 23kWh (or 33.5kWh) Lithium-ion battery packs. This BEV was recently phased out as Ford has expanded its current electric vehicle lineup, though this has only resulted in even lower asking prices on the used market. Wearing the “Glider” generation of the petrol-powered Focus’ bodywork, this EV can actually be outfitted with a variety of aftermarket bolt-on parts meant for the regular model, meaning if you were so inclined, you could outfit the thing with a body kit or any other number of upgrades — though it probably won’t do much to change its admittedly underwhelming 10-second 0-60mph or 85mph top speed.

New Price: $29,120
Used Price: $8.7K – $11.8K
Torque: 184ft-lbs
Range: 115-Miles

Purchase: $8,700+

Nissan Leaf S

The Nissan LEAF S is a shining example of the extremely noteworthy deals that can be had on the used EV market, with roomy seating for five, plenty of cargo space, and enough range to travel from the Santa Monica pier to Riverside and back, and still have juice leftover — all while costing as little as $7,500. On top of a range exceeding 225-miles, the newer versions of the LEAF also come loaded with cutting-edge tech such as connectivity to a smartphone app, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection with automatic emergency braking, and blindspot, lane departure, and rear cross-traffic alerts. And while we wouldn’t go as far as to call it a sleeper, the LEAF does offer smile-inducing acceleration off of the line and surprisingly nimble handling, making this one of the more fun daily driver options on this list.

New Price: $31,670
Used Price: $7.5K – $9.3K
Torque: 236ft-lbs
Range: 150-Miles

Purchase: $7,500+

Tesla Model S

With a $70,000 MSRP, the Tesla Model S probably isn’t a car you’d expect to see on this list. And while the latest version of the Model S offers class-leading performance in several areas — including best range and being the fastest accelerating car currently in production, proton or petrol-powered — the older generations of the high-performance luxury sedan still afford similar performance capabilities and range, though can be snagged for over 58% off its original price. It’s also worth mentioning that even the first model year Model S came packed with cutting-edge tech and creature comforts (such as a massive 17” touchscreen display) that by no means have grown long in the tooth. Lastly, the oldest versions of the Model S sport a (faux) grille arrangement that many prefer to the smooth-nosed, grille-free current generation Model S.

New Price: $69,420
Used Price: $29K – $33.7K
Torque: 487ft-lbs
Range: 390+-Miles

Purchase: $29,000+

Volkswagen e-Golf

Since debuting in 1974, the Volkswagen Golf has become an icon in the automotive world, so it’s only logical that the German brand would eventually opt to jettison the Golf’s gas engine for a modern electric mill and battery setup. The e-Golf exhibits similar handling to the regular version, and shares the same outward aesthetic design, save for the lack of exhaust and muffler. The e-Golf does make for a solid daily driver, though it is worth pointing out that it pales in comparison to the gas-powered version in terms of sheer performance prowess, with the electrified Golf topping out at a tad over 90mph and reaching 0-60mph in a little over 9.5 seconds.

New Price: $15,263
Used Price: $9.5K – $13.7K
Torque: 214ft-lbs
Range: 186-Miles

Purchase: $9,500+

The 20 Most Powerful Production Cars Under $50,000

Interested in checking out another selection of surprisingly capable yet accessibly-priced production cars? Well, our guide to the most powerful new cars under $50,000 features 20 high-performance rides that won’t break the bank.

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