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Image: A screenshot of Tesla's old announcement of a future $25,000 vehicle.

Cars

No, There is NOT Going to be a $25,000 Tesla – and That Might be OK

After word that a $25,000 basic Tesla has been put on the back burner in favor of other products, I saw a lot of complaining. For many people, a car priced around $25,000 is important. Whether it’s lower or fixed incomes, a desire to be frugal, or just that people would rather spend money on something other than their car, there’s good reason to wait for a cheaper EV. But some people have a high mileage gasoline vehicle they’re trying to limp along with until the right EV comes along, and that can’t go forever. To those readers, I want to say that it’s going to be OK. Other manufacturers have our backs!

Need an EV ASAP? Consider The Used Market.

Before I get to the new cars that can be had for under $25,000, I want to be responsible and put in a good word for used EVs. Buying a car that’s 2-3 years old can be a very smart financial move, because a new car can absolutely murder your finances with depreciation in those first years. Sure, you miss out on the best most trouble-free miles the vehicle will ever have, but modern cars of all kinds are lasting a lot longer and have fewer problems compared to old used cars. If you buy the right EV, you’ll be even better off because there’s less to go wrong.

A screenshot from Car Gurus showing a car with a new battery pack for under $20,000. These are easy to find.

The big key when used EV shopping is to get something liquid-cooled. Why? Because the battery pack will be a lot less worn out. For example, a used Nissan LEAF might look like a great deal on the surface, but it’s going to lose range and start having more serious issues a lot sooner than something that kept its battery safe.

Want a swinging deal on a used EV with brand new batteries? Consider a Chevy Bolt EV. They ended up in a recall last year because some of them caught fire. The cause? Faulty battery cells from LG Chem. After trying smaller fixes that failed, GM ended up having to put brand new (and non-faulty) battery cells in all 2017-21 Bolts. If you find a good deal on one, make sure it either has the recall work performed, or that you’ll be able to get it in for the recall. It’s no Tesla, and the 50 kW charge rate makes it difficult for longer road trips, but it’s got liquid cooling and is generally a decent hatchback.

Another vehicle that’s in the same spot, due to the same faulty LG cells, are used Hyundai Kona EVs. They’re going to get brand new battery cells just like the Bolt EV, and should be available at low prices. Once again, they’re not a Tesla, but they’ll get the job done if you’re trying to save money and can’t wait to buy something else.

If you live in a cool climate and/or don’t want to take road trips, you might also consider a used Nissan LEAF. The older ones didn’t have much range, but a 2018-2020 has either a 40 kWh or 62 kWh battery pack, giving them much better range. I’m not a big fan of mine, but people who don’t drive as much as I did and who don’t live in the southwest still swear by them on social media.

So, if you have to get a vehicle now, want it to be an EV, and want to keep it under $25,000, it’s going to be OK. Go with something used until you can get a newer one (assuming you want a new one).

New Vehicles Coming Up Sooner Than The $25,000 Tesla

If you commute alone or don’t have a family, the upcoming 2-seater Aptera is going to be a great option. Not only will the cheapest one be super efficient (250 miles on a 25 kWh battery pack, larger packs will be available), but it will also have solar panels on the top that give you free range. With the extra solar panels option, most drivers will almost never have to plug the car in for their daily driving. You can get a discount on a reservation fee here.

While not $25,000, Chevrolet is going to offer an Equinox EV starting at $30,000. Full specifications aren’t available, but it appears that it’s going to be a 5-seat crossover. Like many non-Tesla EVs, it’s sticking with a familiar interior layout that doesn’t depart deep into the forest of minimalism.

As this Cars.com article points out, there are other cheap EVs on the market. A new Nissan LEAF can be had for under $30,000, but with its CHAdeMO DC fast charging, you’ll have a harder time finding stations than with CCS vehicles. But, if you almost never need a fast charge, it’s a good option. There’s also the Mini Cooper SE (with limited range). Compromises have to be made to get a new EV for under $30,000 today, but for some buyers the compromises are worth the savings. It all depends on your needs.

But I Wanted A Tesla! (Still, It’s Going To Be OK)

I know some people just want a Tesla. Whether it’s a fascination with the company’s founder, the prestige of having the Tesla logo on your vehicle, not wanting to deal with dealers, or a distaste for “legacy auto” interiors and software, I get it. Teslas are pretty cool, so there’s nothing wrong with wanting one no matter what. We all have our own tastes and needs.

If that’s you, it’s going to be OK. You just need to be patient or flexible, or both.

Older Tesla Model S vehicles with a few more miles on them can be had for less than $30,000 if you shop around. It took me only a minute or two to find one for $32,000, so with work, you’ll probably be able to find something even cheaper. Looking at auction sites, finding a buddy who can get you into a “dealer only” auction, or finding a wrecked one to fix up are all good options for getting that Tesla addiction fed for cheap. Often the wrecked ones just have damaged bumpers, so it’s not a big deal.

You might also consider buying a used EV or PHEV to hold you over until things change. In a few years, you might be making better money and can afford more. Or, Tesla just might circle back to the $25,000 car and get it into showrooms. Going with something else for now might just be a good way to keep yourself in line.

Finally, if you live in an area where you can get away with not owning a car, that’s a good possible option for now. Bikes are as close to zero emissions as you can possibly get, and e-bikes are close behind. By giving up cars for a while, you could save thousands of dollars up during that time, and that might be enough to get you into a Tesla that you otherwise couldn’t afford. If you wait and save, you might even buy a $25,000 Tesla for cash.

Featured image: A screenshot of Tesla’s old announcement of a future $25,000 vehicle.

 

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba

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