With all of the headwinds EVs are facing in recent weeks, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: affordability is a giant factor. With inflation kicking families in the butt at grocery stores, economic challenges leading to lower or lost pay, and interest rates climbing, car buyers are feeling the squeeze. People simply can’t afford as much of a monthly payment as they did before, and at the same time, that monthly payment doesn’t buy as much car (because more of it goes to interest).
This sad set of facts is causing everyone to pull back on plans they had. Elon Musk sounded pretty depressed in the most recent earnings call. GM is pushing off Silverado EV production at one plant. Ford’s cutting an F-150 Lightning shift and delaying plans for a battery plant in Kentucky. But, all of these EVs have one big thing in common: they’re expensive, and sometimes damned expensive. Even the cheapest Teslas just aren’t that cheap, and have slipped out of many families’ grasps.
On the affordability front, GM has taken another hit: a breakup with Honda on plans to produce a cheap EV together. This, of course, leaves them scrambling to come up with an affordable EV fast enough. So, instead of doing a new, affordable Ultium EV, the company instead is going to do a revamp of the Bolt EUV to get an affordable electric vehicle back to market a lot sooner.
While the updated Bolt will eventually come out, it could take years to get back on dealer lots. Not everyone can wait years, though. Some of our readers might need a car right now, or have an old ICE vehicle that’s on its last leg. Among those of us who need to replace a car, some of us aren’t going to be able to buy one that costs more than around $20,000, and probably won’t be able to in 2-3 years (even if interest rates improve).
Fortunately, a perfect storm of EV affordability is going to arrive in about two months (January 2024). If the vehicle I’m going to describe at the prices they’ll be available for works well for your needs, it’s a deal that you’ll have a narrow window to jump on.
How’s A sub-$20,000 Bolt EV or EUV Sound?
If you’ve been reading my articles, you’ll know that I’m pretty happy with the Bolt EUV. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a small crossover EV that GM sells through its Chevrolet brand. Like the regular Bolt EV, it’s front-drive, has five seats, and reasonably good cargo room for a small vehicle. Its electric motor puts out 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque at a very low RPM. The range for the EUV is EPA-rated at 247 miles, with the slightly more efficient EV getting about a dozen more miles.
The biggest differences between the cars is mostly cosmetic. The EUV has a taller, more SUV-like hood, but still has excellent visibility. The EV is more of a wedge in the front and its headlights and grille area looks kind of “squinty” compared to the EUV. The biggest functional difference between them is that the EUV has a little more legroom in the back, but slightly less cargo room behind the second row.
Lower-spec Bolts start in the $25,000-$28,000 range MSRP, and that’s before any incentives or credits, so the pricing is excellent.
But, there’s one big downside to the Bolts compared to other EVs on the market: charging speed. At home, they’re actually pretty quick at charging, able to pull as much as 11.5 kW if you have a home charger that can supply that kind of power. Overnight charging isn’t a problem at all. But, on road trips, you’ll find that the Bolts’ battery charges at only 55 kW maximum, no matter how fast the station is that you plug it into. This means it charges around 5x slower than a Tesla Model 3 and around 2-3x slower than the Volkswagen ID.4.
Road trips are still very much possible, but expect to spend 40-60 minutes at each station instead of spending 20-30 minutes. For the occasional long road trip and many shorter regional trips, it’s not that bad. For a city commuter that only rarely needs to charge away from home, it’s not really a problem at all. It just depends on your personal needs, really.
How To Get $7,500 Off The Purchase Price
The Bolts are able to qualify for a $7500 tax credit plus any available state incentives, but there’s a catch that leaves many Bolt buyers in a lurch. Tax credits are not refundable, so you have to have some pretty good income to actually get the benefit from the tax credit. If you owe more than $7,500, you’re in good shape come the next tax time. If you don’t owe $7,500, then you’re not really able to take advantage of it.
What’s really stupid about that is that affordable EVs tend to attract people with lower incomes, so the people who need a break on price the most miss out.
But, there’s good news. The law that gave Bolts the tax credit back also changes the tax credit into a point of sale rebate starting in January. Instead of waiting for tax time to maybe get a tax credit, you can give your tax credit to the dealer instead, and they can in turn take the $7,500 right off the price of the Bolt. For states with no other incentives, this puts the price at or a little below $20,000.
But, if you live in a state with more EV incentives, you could knock the price of these brand new EVs even further below the $20,000 mark. Some buyers will be able to get the price of their Bolt down below $15,000. That’s an absolute steal, isn’t it?
There Are Two Things You Have To Watch Out For
If you want to get an absolute steal on a Bolt, there are two big things that can go wrong.
First off, some dealers are going to try to steal your $7,500 rebate. They’ll pretend to be giving you a discount, but not the full $7,500 discount. Any part of the discount that doesn’t come off the price of the car goes straight into the dealers’ pockets. Some will try to sell Bolts for full MSRP, and steal the whole rebate for themselves. Others will come up with other tricks to get you to accept a price hike.
So, whatever you do, stick to your guns. Don’t pay a dime over the vehicle’s MSRP (you should look this up online and not trust any papers they hand you) minus the $7,500 credit. For a base EUV, that price should be pretty close to $20,000. For a regular Bolt EV, the price should be below $20,000. At those prices, the dealer is still making thousands of dollars, so don’t feel bad for them!
Another thing that will eventually go wrong is that dealers will simply run out of Bolts. Production for this generation of Bolt ends on December 20th, about ten days before the rebate starts. There will be a rush for the low prices at some dealers (and they’ll rip people off). At others, Bolts will sit for a few months before selling. But, either way, the last Bolts will eventually sell and leave the lots, and your chance for this deal ends.
So, see if you can find a dealer with a backlog of Bolts on the lot right now. They’re likely to let you put down a deposit and negotiate the deal between now and New Year’s Day, and they can help you do the final deal during the first few days of January to get that price.
If you miss out, don’t worry too much. New affordable EVs will come in the next 2-3 years, and with better features. But, if you’re in need of a car quick, this just might be the cheap ticket to kicking gas.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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