Affordable Used Electric Cars Arrive in Vermont
Plug-in electric cars are often praised for their low cost of ownership. Electricity costs less than gasoline to run on, vehicle reliability is good, and competitive prices offer smart consumers a compelling value. An added bonus is these cars have a much smaller environmental footprint over their lives compared to gasoline powered options. As electric car adoption continues to grow we are seeing more used cars enter the market. These are often available at a fraction of the cost of a new purchase and can further reduce household transportation costs.
The increased supply of used electric cars is driven by early buyers who leased electric cars to take advantage of tax credits, reduce the risk of depreciation, and allow them to keep pace with new and updated models. As the vehicles come off lease they often end up in the used vehicle market. This trend is expected to accelerate over the next few years, so several used electric cars are likely already in your area today.
The table below summarizes used electric car pricing and availability based on a search of Cars.com and Tesla.com in late January 2017. There were over 430 used plug-in vehicles advertised within 250 miles of White River Junction, Vermont. The table excludes a few low availability models, such as the Ford Focus Electric and VW eGolf. Some Vermont buyers have looked further afield and had cars shipped from larger markets in the south and west, so broadening your search area could be worthwhile.
Used Electric Car Pricing and Availability as of January 2017
Source: Cars.com and Tesla.com searches within 250 miles of White River Junction, VT
For those new to electric car technology, there are two basic types: Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs) are powered by either battery or gasoline, and generally travel 10-50 miles on the battery before seamlessly switching to running on gasoline for extended range.
All Electric Vehicles (AEVs) are powered solely by a battery. Official range varies by model from 80-300+ miles before recharging is needed. Range is reduced 20-50% by the coldest Vermont winter temperatures, so drivers with long commutes should factor this into their decision and may want to focus on PHEVs if workplace charging is not available.
Range and efficiency of electric car models can vary from year to year, and in some cases by trim level or options within the same model year. The FuelEconomy.gov website contains detailed information on estimated range and other vehicle characteristics by make, model, year and options that affect range.
Both varieties of vehicles can be charged by plugging into a standard 120V home outlet overnight at about 5 miles of range per hour of charging. Access to 240V power where you park can speed things up considerably to 10-20 miles of range per hour of charging depending on the vehicle and supply current. Some AEVs also include DC fast charging capability which provides an 80% charge in about 30 minutes. Fast charging is usually optional, so if this is important to you make sure the vehicle you are looking at includes it.
While Vermont does not currently offer a state incentive program, Vermonters are still eligible to claim the federal income tax credit on new electric car purchases, but this credit does not apply to used vehicles. Other states may offer incentives that include used vehicles, so check online for incentives available in your area if you reside outside of Vermont.
Electric cars have proven to be extremely reliable, but getting a car checked out by a qualified mechanic before buying can help avoid any costly surprises. Electric car batteries are one of the most expensive components to replace. Fortunately the batteries are engineered for 8-10+ year lifespans and the vast majority continue to work well. Smartphone apps are available for a few models that can connect with the on-board diagnostic systems to provide a detailed report of battery health. For example, this article on buying a used Nissan LEAF from a Seattle EV owners' group includes guidance on using Leaf Spy to check the battery health.
Want more information? There are many excellent online resources and forums with information on electric cars and used vehicle pricing. NerdWallet and FleetCarma have helpful resources or just search for used electric cars in your area to get started.
A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 edition of Green Energy Times.