It wasn’t long ago that this reporter became tired of the endless whiplash that accompanies the vagaries of the global oil markets.
In more specific language, I was sick of spending $80 every time I filled up the family’s car’s gas tank.
Spending that amount was particularly galling for me because, as a long-time markets reporter, I and every trader I have ever met knows perfectly well that oil prices are rarely severely affected by supply issues or political speed bumps.
More often, they were simply a matter of wheeling and dealing by the member countries of OPEC or a sign that other parts of the market were feeling skittish — two things which made the price of driving around town annoying, but driving cross country to see the rest of our family downright painful.
So I went on the hunt for what many assured me was the unicorn of autos: A used, cheap, good condition electric vehicle.
Oh, and I wanted it delivered.
Figure Out What You Are Willing to Spend on The Electric Vehicle
My first step was parsing out how much I was willing to spend on adding a second vehicle to our five-person family, balancing how much it would be used against how much it would cost to maintain.
The cost of the car would also be determined by where I lived — a study from Recurrent Auto found that prices of used EVs could vary by as much as 33% between states, a massive swing that I was not prepared to pay for up front, and which also partially defeated the purpose of getting a used car in the first place.
Recurrent’s research compared popular used EV models of the 2017 BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model S; 2018 BMW 530e, Honda Clarity, Nissan Leaf, 2019 Audi e-tron, Tesla Model 3 and VW e-golf.
It then tracked their sales prices across California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Washington and Oregon.
It found that each state had something to offer: Washington had incentives, while California had four times as much inventory as everywhere else. Its conclusion? If you know what you want to buy, look for it in as many states as possible before settling on a deal.
“It is worth looking for your electric car across state lines since many retailers will ship vehicles from out of state,” Recurrent says. “Even with delivery fees, you still may find your dream car within your budget.”
How Do You Know Which EV Is The Best For You?
In doing my research, I found that every electric vehicle has its upsides and its downsides. Some had longer ranges for their batteries, others had more power. Some lasted longer as primary vehicles, while others had gadgets and amenities that were unbelievable in a mid-priced car.
Luckily, in August 2021, right when I was buying, U.S. News came out with its list of the best used electric cars and SUVs. They scored each model by range, price, trade-in value, features and a host of other metrics. Using that scale, they ranked them as:
- 2019 Kia Niro EV
- 2019 Jaguar I-Pace
- 2017 Nissan Leaf
- 2019 Audi e-tron
- 2017 Tesla Model X
- 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric
- 2019 Tesla Model 3
- 2017 BMW i3
Make Sure to Look Online For the Best Used Electric Vehicle
After I looked at all these factors, solidified my budget, and tried different states for different vehicles, I had one last tool in my toolbox: The internet.
And once again, it made everything else seem downright clunky by comparison. At first, it was as basic as just typing in the models I like into Google Search, then clicking on the Shopping feature to find out what was out there.
That honestly worked really well, and I was just about to buy a very nice little Nissan Leaf when I stopped and asked my nearest and dearest for their input on enjoyable car experiences. The two I kept hearing over and over for used EVs were Carmax and Carvana.
So the next day, I went to Carmax and test drove the few EVs they had on the lot. They said that with demand up so high during the pandemic they didn’t always have much inventory, so definitely call ahead first and search their site online before moseying in for a test drive.
Taking a tip from my sister, I then checked out Carvana — and it was love at first sight. In less than two minutes, I had set all the filters I wanted in my used car including price, age, size, electric.
Then lo and behold popped up my winner: A used, all-electric, 2013 Ford Focus for slightly less than $11,000.
Now came the best part: After buying the entire thing on sale, Carvana delivered it the car three days later right to our driveway.
The entire process took about 15 minutes and the car itself was exactly as pictured, easy to drive and charged using our washing machine outlet right off the bat.
So What Did We Learn About Buying an Electric Car?
And that’s what I have been driving very happily — and cheaply! — ever since. It’s been through hot California summers and frigid Kansas winters, three children under eight, and a springer spaniel.
But the most compelling part is happening right now: If you search Carvana within the same filters I did — all electric, used, no cash down, monthly payment $300 or less — they have more than 40 cars all available.
Over at Carmax, again using those same filters, around two dozen are up for sale now.
Which leads me, and hopefully the reader, to a somewhat optimistic conclusion — it is possible to buy a used EV quickly, simply and within your budget much more easily than we probably thought.
And they may even deliver.