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Used Cars Are Stupid Expensive Again. E-Bikes Could Save The Day

A recent post by CarDealershipGuy on Twitter shows us that buying a cheaper used car is tough right now, and that’s true whether you’re the final buyer or the dealer trying to get ahold of something to sell to you. Why? Because all of the good stuff that doesn’t need a serious repair to be saleable is selling for more. This leaves it tough for people with a budget of under $20k to get a car they can depend on.

There are, of course, exceptions to this. Some makes and models can still be had in good condition for under 20 grand, and if you know what you’re looking for, you could even get an EV with a brand new battery in that price range (2017-20 Chevy Bolt EVs are a good example). But, that doesn’t mean that it’s generally easy for anybody to get a decent car at lower prices.

This Can Really Hurt In Places With Bad Transit

I know there are people who would cheer this situation on, largely because they hate cars. Cars take up a lot of space both for parking and for roads to drive them on, congestion in cities sucks, and there are still some pollution issues even for EVs (which are mostly overblown, and are a case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good). 

Sure, the lack of available cheap cars might be good in the long run for the biggest cities, but that’s cold comfort for everybody else who doesn’t live in a place with decent public transit options. Sure, even small cities often have at least basic bus service, but what happens when a single mom working two jobs gets asked to come in for a night shift? That basic bus service often doesn’t run at night, so it’s a choice of having a car or losing one’s job, and you’re not going to convince small cities to offer 24-hour bus service with a new bus coming every ten minutes.

EVs (Of All Sizes) Can Save The Day Here

As I pointed out earlier, the dilemma of cheap cars can at least partially be solved by shopping for an EV instead of a gas-powered car. If you have a house or live in an apartment with an open-minded property manager who will let you run an extension cord, used EVs can be a great way to keep overall transportation costs low. But, there aren’t enough used EVs on the market to solve everybody’s transportation needs.

Fortunately, there are other options that are both more environmentally friendly than an EV and couldn’t be stopped even by the most stingy and risk-averse property managers. Perhaps more importantly, they’re a lot cheaper than a car.

The obvious one is an electric bike. While non-electric pedal bikes are also a good option, it sucks to show up for work sweaty and in need of a shower. Larger employers offer a shower, but who wants to have their hair drying out at work? And for those of us who do makeup, who wants to do that at work instead of at home? Plus, who wants to go 10 MPH to work when you can go 15-20 MPH without breaking a sweat? Exercise is good, but you can always turn the pedal assist down or off on the way home and work up a sweat.

You might not be able to take a bike in the building at an apartment complex, but you can definitely take a battery inside and charge it at night. You can probably also charge the battery at work, at friends’ houses, or almost anywhere else that won’t mind if you take a nickel’s worth of electricity. But, in many cases, you’ll be able to wheel the sucker right in your door and keep it safe from theft and vandalism at night.

It’s important to keep in mind that e-bikes are not the only other cheap electric option out there. There are also electric kick scooters, electric motorcycle-like scooters (which are often legally a moped, and thus require no license in most places), full-on electric motorcycles, and weird stuff like hoverboards, electric skateboards, and even electric skates and rollerblades.

One of the biggest problems for all of the above options is the open-air experience. On a nice day, this is a good thing. But, in 110-degree Phoenix heat, -20 Alaska cold, and Pacific Northwest rain, the experience can get bad in a hurry. So, we need to think about people who live in places where it’s highly uncomfortable to ride something like a bike or a scooter.

One answer to this problem sits between an e-bike and a car: mini-EVs. These are popular in Asia, and some can even be charged by onboard solar, but what you might not know is that there are already similar options for sale in the US and Europe. One good example is Arcimoto (assuming it survives as a company and you outfit yours with doors), but there are other mini-EVs that can both keep out the weather and keep from emptying your wallet out.

Car Dealers & Manufacturers Should Embrace Micromobility & Mini-EVs 

Before I close this article out, I want to circle back to the dealers. Knowing these cheaper options are available is great for people who need cheaper transportation in a place where transit sucks, but the people trying to sell cars need to think about how they’ll keep that part of the business going during times that options dwindle.

From the dealer’s perspective, there’s probably not as much profit in selling e-bikes or mini-EVs as cars, but making something is better than making nothing because the customer goes somewhere else. Also, keeping the relationship open with that customer by helping them out of a bind with other options probably means they’ll be back when it’s time to buy a car again.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that a car dealer needs to stock an inventory of bikes and mini-EVs. In many cases, just referring customers to these other options could be enough to make a little money without having to go through a bunch of work and expense. There’s also an “in the middle” option where a dealer can have a couple of demo vehicles they can use to sell one, and the refer the sale away or order one in and mark it up a bit.

In other words, there are a lot of ways that money can be made while helping people keep their livelihoods moving and improving urban and suburban environments.

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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 get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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