The prices of used electric cars are falling. Here’s how to get a deal

Henrietta Burroughs was so deeply committed to her 1991 Dodge Dynasty that she kept the floor mats to honor the car’s twenty years of service.

But everything else about its replacement – ​​a bright red all-electric 2017 Chevy Bolt, now adorned with the Dynasty’s old floor mats – is better.

“It’s reliable, practical and modern – and what really sold me on this car was that it was within my price range,” says Burroughs, an East Palo Alto journalist whose son and daughter also own electric cars.

The high cost of electric vehicles is the biggest barrier to average Californians looking to trade in their gas guzzlers. This has slowed the widespread adoption of cleaner cars that help combat climate change and improve air quality, according to a 2023 University of Texas study.

But a price war is engulfing the EV industry, led by Tesla, causing a surge in the supply of used electric vehicles – causing prices to plummet.

Chart showing used vehicle prices from February 2023 to February 2024Used electric cars are now just as cheap as petrol and hybrids, according to an analysis by research firm iSeeCars of used cars from one to five years old sold in February 2023 and in 2024.

“Stacked” incentives, as well as reduced maintenance, help reduce costs even further. Electricity is cheaper than gas. And income-qualified residents can drive solo in carpool lanes and receive discounts on tolls.

For example, by “stacking” incentives, a low-income family in San Mateo County could get a 2020 Chevy Bolt for free – if they qualify for the $10,000 Clean Cars For All grant, the Peninsula Clean Energy grant discount of $2,000 and the $4,000. PG&E rebate.

Falling prices are expected to accelerate the transformation of the automotive market. On Wednesday, the Biden administration issued a regulation with strict new exhaust pollution standards that will ensure that more than half of new cars sold in the US by 2032 will be zero-emission vehicles. California has already gone much further and has set a goal of selling 100% zero-emission cars by 2035.

When EVs were first introduced, owners were often enthusiastic early adopters who were affluent, tech-savvy, and white or Asian. Vehicle inventories were low and dealer incentives were rare.

That is changing.

“There’s a misconception that electric cars are only for the rich,” says Irvin Rivero of Acterra, a Palo Alto-based environmental nonprofit that offers free one-on-one consultations to help consumers learn if they qualify come up with price-lowering incentives.

“It’s really no longer a problem for lower-income people to find an affordable electric car. The market has a lot of used models that cost less than $20,000,” he said. For people who qualify for various incentives, the price could drop below $10,000.

Max Perez was just 23 years old, fresh out of UC Santa Cruz, when he bought his blue 2017 Chevy Bolt. He made a down payment with his college savings and then applied for Alameda Municipal Power’s $1,800 rebate to install a charger at his rental property.

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