How to Buy an Electric Car Cheaper (Complete Guide)


Buying an electric vehicle is one of the best things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. Electric cars don’t have a reputation for being cheap, but if you do your research and stay patient, you can find a great deal on your perfect car.

So, here’s how we recommend buying an electric car for cheap:

  • Buy used
  • Buy small
  • Do your research
  • Narrow down what you want but keep your options open
  • Shop around at multiple car dealerships
  • Insure for cheaper by getting multiple quotes
  • Check if you’re eligible for the Federal Tax Credit on electric vehicles

This guide will give you a complete outline of the process of buying an electric vehicle, from how to decide what vehicle you want to how to insure your new car. Keep reading for all our best money-saving tips along the way so you can find the best deal on your electric vehicle.

Decide if You Want a New or Used Vehicle

If you’re in the market to buy an electric car, but you’re on a budget, buying a lightly used car might be your best bet. Buying a used car, electric or not, is always much cheaper than buying a new one because a new car loses up to 30% of its value in the first year. That means when you buy used, you’re getting at least 30% off the price of that new car.

Used cars are:

  • Cheaper to buy
  • Usually cheaper to maintain
  • A better decision for the environment

We’ll go more into detail on this below.

New vs. Used Electric Cars

If you’re not sure whether you want to buy a new or used car, here’s a quick comparison between new and used electric cars.

New Electric CarsUsed Electric Cars
– Lose value quickly+ Depreciate slowly
– Expensive to insure+ Cheaper insurance plans
+ Not as prone to mechanical issues– Can have unknown issues
+ Up-to-date technology– Dated features

It’s completely up to you to weigh the pros and cons of a new or used electric car. However, if you’re on a budget, used cars will always be a less expensive option.

Why Buy Used?

Here are a few more reasons why we think that buying used electric cars is a better option if you’re looking to save money.

  • They depreciate slowly: If you buy a used electric car, its value will likely stay about the same for the next couple of years after you buy it. This means you’d be able to sell the used car and get a much heftier return than if you had bought the car new.
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  • Cheaper insurance: The car is also cheaper because you’ll have to pay less to insure it. These cars are older and worth less compared to new cars so insurance companies will charge you less to insure them.
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  • Better value: A used 2020 electric car and a new 2020 electric car will have drastically different prices because new cars lose so much of their value as soon as they leave the lot. You’ll be getting better value for your money with a used car.

Buying a used electric vehicle is cheaper in many ways and can be a great option as long as you do your research. We’ll get into how to buy a used car later on.

Choose the Car You Want

Once you’ve decided that you want to buy a new or used car, you’ll want to start deciding what features are a must-have in your car.

When buying an electric car, you need to make the following decisions:

  • A plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicle
  • How much room you want in the car
    • Micro
    • SUV
    • Hatchback
  • Options for make and model of electric vehicle

It’s important to go into the process with a general idea of what kind of car you want. For example, you could look for a hybrid, foreign-made car. However, if you’re looking for a bargain, it’s important to keep your options open because good deals on cars, especially on the used market, come and go so quickly, so you must be flexible.

Decide Between a Plug-In Hybrid or Fully Electric Vehicle

Electric cars can be either:

  • Fully electric- meaning they are powered solely by electricity and take no gasoline.
  • Plug-in hybrids- where the motor can be powered either by gasoline or by electricity.

It’s a good decision to choose one of these two options before you start looking for cars. Here’s a table of pros and cons to help you decide if you want a plug-in hybrid or a fully electric vehicle:

Fully ElectricPlug-In Hybrid
– Has a shorter range (around 200 miles depending on the car) because it is not gas-powered+ Has a longer range because it uses gas when battery power runs out
+ Better for the environment because it does not pollute the air– Releases carbon dioxide when using gas to power the engine and pollutes the environment
– Needs a charging station within range at all times+ Can be driven in areas without charging stations
+ No gas payments– More expensive to own if you use gas to power the engine
+ Cheaper to maintain–Gas-powered engines have more maintenance issues

There are great, inexpensive options for both fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The decision to choose one or the other is up to you and may depend on the electric vehicle infrastructure in your city.

If you know that there are tons of charging stations nearby and don’t plan to go on many road trips in the car, then fully electric is a perfect option. However, if you anticipate making long trips or don’t have many charging stations nearby, plug-in hybrids may be a better option for you.

However, if you’re looking to save money, fully electric cars are cheaper to buy and maintain than plug-in hybrids.

Decide What Size Car You Want

Electric cars are generally smaller than gas-powered cars, so if you want a minivan, there are many fewer options. Unfortunately, the cheapest electric cars are also the smallest, and you have to spend more money to get more room.

Here are some different car sizes in order from cheapest to most expensive, as well as some examples of electric and plug-in hybrid cars of that size:

  • Micro– This is the smallest and least expensive electric vehicle. An example of a micro-sized electric car is the Smartcar.
  • Hatchback- This is a small four-door car with a shortened trunk. These will be more expensive than microcars but they are still affordable and very practical. Think the Nissan Leaf or the iconic Toyota Prius.
  • SUV- SUVs are larger four-doors with more head-room and trunk space that will be more expensive and harder to come by. However, if you need the space there are some good options. Some examples of electric SUVs are the Hyundai Kona and the Tesla Model X.

Pick a Preferred Automaker

Almost every major automaker available in the United States has an option for either a hybrid plug-in car or a fully electric car. However, some cars have a better reputation and will last longer than others.

While Honda and Toyota are most car-buyers go-tos for reliability, these following brands are known for slightly less expensive and higher quality used cars:

  • Nissan
  • Mitsubishi
  • Hyundai

If you’re looking to buy an American-made car, we’d recommend:

  • Ford
  • Chevy

American-made cars are typically less resilient and lower quality compared to foreign cars. However, their affordability can’t be beaten, especially in the used car market. If you don’t plan to put too much wear and tear on your car, these can be great options.

We recommend creating a list of 2-3 automakers that you’d like to stick with based on the price range of their cars as well as the reputation for how long-lasting their cars are.    

Make a List of the Best-Value Cars

By now, you may have narrowed down a list of two to three manufacturers you want to buy your car from, and we can start getting into specifics.

When it comes to picking the model of your car, the “best” car will vary widely based on your specific needs. A good way to go about starting preliminary research is googling the size of car you want, along with the make of car you want. This will start to narrow down your options.

Check Consumer Reports

To get the best information on a car you’re considering, make sure to read lots of reviews and Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports is a great website if you’re searching for a car because they are a non-profit organization that showcases unbiased reviews of cars.

Consumer Reports have an option to filter only hybrid/EV cars, and from there you can choose, make, model, and/or year. In addition, the website will show each car that meets those requirements along with the car’s overall grade, price, as well as details about customer satisfaction with the car.

This website and others can help you figure out what specific car you want to purchase based on your needs and price range.

How to Find the Best Deals

Once you’ve narrowed down some options for the make and model of your electric car, you can start browsing for places to buy the car you want. In this section, we’ll go through some tips covering the types of dealers to look for and what to do once you’ve chosen a car.

Types of Dealers

There are several different places you can look to find your new car, including:

  • New car dealerships
  • Used car dealerships
  • Online used car websites
  • Individual sellers

There is no one best place to look for a car; instead, once you’ve narrowed down what you want, you should continually look around through all of these different options until you find a great deal.

Now, we’ll go through each type of dealer and discuss some benefits or drawbacks to shopping at each type of dealer. Remember, though, we don’t recommend ruling out any type of dealership as you never know what great value car you can find.

New Car Dealerships

This kind of dealership is what you probably think of when you imagine a car dealership. These dealerships have a direct association with the company which produces the cars, and only sell new or certified pre-owned cars that are made by that company.

The cars from these dealerships will ultimately be more expensive. However, the retailers are knowledgeable about each car type and tend to be more personable with customers. New car dealerships also sometimes offer maintenance plans on your new car where they allow you to bring the car in to the dealer for any routine maintenance.

New car dealerships also sell certified pre-owned vehicles, which are used cars that have been certified by the manufacturer. These will be more expensive than used cars from a used car dealership, but they have significantly less risk of problems as mechanics has thoroughly inspected them at the dealership.

Used Car Dealerships

Used car dealerships may not have a great reputation, but they can be good places to find good deals on cars as long as you know what to look for. These dealerships have no connection to the manufacturer and will sell several different makes and models of cars.

If you have a specific car in mind, it’s a good idea to call around used car dealerships in your area until you find the perfect deal.

Online Used Car Websites

Online used car websites are great because they are super convenient. They allow you to browse, buy, and trade in. You’ll be able to look at a wider selection of cars compared to going to a dealership. However, online websites may be more expensive as you will have to pay for the cost of shipping the car to you.

Here are some examples of online used car websites to consider:

  • AutoTrader
  • CarsDirect
  • CarGurus
  • Carvana
  • Autolist

If you’re looking for a great deal it’s best to not stick with one website but continually browse multiple different websites until you find your perfect electric car.

Individual Sellers

This option for a car purchase is also called “For Sale By Owner”. Since you’re buying your car directly from someone, you don’t have to pay any extra fees associated with a company or organization. This might be the cheapest way to buy a car; however, cars from individual sellers could have issues, so you must ask the owner to get a full inspection before you purchase the car.

Here are some great places to look if you want to purchase a car directly from its owner:

  • Craigslist
  • Facebook Marketplace

Cars that are a good deal usually go pretty fast on these websites. So, if you find one you like, make sure to reach out to the owner immediately and offer to come to see the car and ask if you can pay for an inspection.

Tips for Finding the Perfect Car

Finding a great car for a great deal isn’t easy but if you put in the work you’ll be able to find the perfect car at a great price.

  • Negotiate- Don’t be afraid to ask for a better price on the car no matter who you’re buying from. Even if you think the price is reasonable, it’s worth asking for a couple of hundred dollars off the car.
  • Get an inspection-If you’re buying used, never purchase a car if you do not know its full history and mechanical issues.
  • Read the paperwork thoroughly- If you’re buying from a dealer, make sure you understand the complete terms of the payment and that the payment plan seems fair.
  • Be patient- This might be the most important tip. Cars come and go on the market constantly, and it may take a while to find your perfect car at your perfect price. Don’t settle for a car you don’t love or a car that’s too expensive. Wait it out, and you’ll be able to find a great car. 

If you’ve done your research and know what you want, finding your new electric car shouldn’t be too difficult.

Insure Your New Electric Car

Unfortunately, electric cars are more expensive to insure compared to gas-powered vehicles because electric car parts are more expensive to repair, and fewer mechanics know how to work with electric cars.

However, insurance costs vary widely between cars and some electric cars will be cheaper to insure than the average gas-powered car such as the Fiat 500c and the Ford Focus, which both have annual premiums under $1,700.

Since almost every major insurer will insure an electric vehicle, you can shop around at these insurance companies to find the best deal:

  • Allstate
  • Geico
  • USAA
  • Nationwide
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Progressive

To save the most money on your insurance, call each company and ask for an insurance quote. You also may be able to negotiate a lower price

  • Tip: Your electric vehicle may be eligible for a $7,500 Federal Tax Credit. Make sure to check if your car is on the list of eligible vehicles.

As long as you do your research and spend time comparing insurance quotes, you should be able to find a great deal on insurance. You might end up paying less for insurance than you would for a gas-powered car.

Conclusion

Finding a good deal on an electric car isn’t necessarily a quick and easy process, but it can be super fun and rewarding once you find your perfect car. We hope this guide covered all the information you need to know to buy an inexpensive electric car. Good luck!

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