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To Buy Or Not To Buy A Used EV Market: Point/Counterpoint

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We’ve waited for this moment in the EV Early Adopter community for a long time: the gap in price between electric and gas vehicles is getting oh-so close. Maybe it’s the right time to convince our friends, family, and neighbors to take the plunge into buying a used EV. There’s no better way to gain an appreciation for the clear benefits of zero-emissions personal transportation than to add a lower priced, used EV to a driveway fleet and learn firsthand why so many of us swear by battery electric transportation.

It’s a shame that there is so much financial stress and fluctuation in the marketplace right now. How can we balance helping our community to see the pluses of making a move to a used EV in contrast with the backdrop of inflation and other economic pressures? What are the selling points you need to share with your EV-interested pals?

Let’s do a point/counterpoint (though, not every point has a counterpoint, as you’ll see) about buying a used EV right now and see if there ends up being a clear winner.

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Point — Pricing is Better This Year than Last Year: Year over year, the average transaction price (ATP) for an EV was down 8.5%, thanks in part to price pressure driven by slowing sales, healthy inventory, and more competition. EV incentive packages remain well above the industry average, in many cases more than 15-to-20% of ATP.

Counterpoint — EVs Have a High-ish Price Point: According to data from Cox Automotive, the average transaction price for April for electric vehicles was $48,510. That price seems to be too high for many US drivers. A recent poll from online auto marketplace Edmunds concurs, finding that 47% of potential EV buyers want to spend $40,000 or less on an EV. (Note, though, that this concerns new vehicle purchases.)

Point — ICE Vehicles aren’t Cheap, EitherKelley Blue Book data shows that the ATP for all new cars — including those with internal combustion engines (ICEs) — was $48,510 in April, a 2.2% increase over March. Cox Automotive analysts calculate prices year-over-year were flat at 0.5%. Jeep, Ram, Jaguar, and Alfa Romeo sit among the brands with days’ supply at least twice the industry average. Brands with inventory well below the industry average include Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Kia, Subaru, Porsche, Land Rover, and Chevrolet.

Counterpoint — Interest Rates: The Federal Reserve governs rates for car loans, among others. Last year it raised interest rates to combat inflation but said it expected to cut them this year when the trick worked. We’re still waiting. The typical new-car loan interest rate was an average of 9.7% — ouch. But that can be offset with special used electric models that qualify for up to $4,000.

Point — Cost to Own: The important cost of ownership over the life of a vehicle tilts in a used EV’s favor. Battery EVs do not need gasoline, routine oil changes, and other maintenance that ICE vehicles require, which is another cost savings.

Point — Electricity is Cheaper than Gas: Typically, gasoline or diesel costs more than electricity, which is another money saver for people who drive EVs. In 2023, the nonpartisan policy firm Energy Innovation released a report showing that every EV model in every US state is cheaper to fill than a gas-powered vehicle.

Point — Super Users & their Emissions: If gasoline Super Users switched to EVs, a major reduction in transportation emissions would result. “If we want electric vehicles to have the greatest impact, we need to get the highest mileage drivers behind the wheel,” John Helveston, an assistant professor of engineering at The George Washington University, told the New York Times.

Point — Much Better Batteries: An early fear of EVs was about battery degradation. Today’s EV battery pack consists of hundreds or thousands of cells packed into modules with enough space for sensors and other hardware that preserve temperature and extend its lifespan. That means that today’s batteries lose only about 1% to 3% over the course of a year, so, a decade later, they’ll still be good to go. Most EVs come with a warranty that covers 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. If a used EV’s battery capacity drops below a certain level, the manufacturer will usually replace it.

Point — Range Anxiety is Less: Improved battery technology since the early EV days means fewer drivers refuse to buy a used EV because of range anxiety. Share with your EV pal novices that the US Department of Transportation estimates the average automobile owner drives fewer than 40 miles a day. For example, if you only need a go-around-town or city vehicle, there continue to be lots of low priced/low mileage used and perfectly acceptable Nissan Leafs available — that’s where I started.

Counterpoint — Road Trips & Range: Last year I traded in my part-time, summer car, a 2013 Honda Civic Si, for a used 2017 Chevy Bolt. I matched the used EV I had found online with my personal circumstances for summer tooling around New England roads. I knew that taking long road trips would be a challenge with the Bolt, as its fastest charging capacity wasn’t up to my Florida car, a 2022 Tesla Model Y. But for jaunts around the area it would be just fine. Not sure how much range that sparkling EV on the dealer’s lot will max? Get the dealer to charge the vehicle to 100% (which may take awhile if they haven’t kept up with charging their EV fleets). When you come back, check out the dash to see how many miles it indicates you can drive before the next charge.

Point: More Chargers are Opening Everyday: When charging at home isn’t a possibility, it’s time to locate other common destinations for EV charging. They include major highways, strip malls, hotels, restaurants, car dealerships, and other places. Is it a bit of an art to locate an available and reliable EV charger? Sure, but if you become familiar with the most popular charging apps, you should be all set.

Counterpoint — EVs are the Object of Partisan Gamesmanship: Attacking EVs is so common that no longer is logical reasoning about their inherent value necessary or even persuasive to some audiences, and EVs are in a whirlwind of symbolic partisanship and rancor. Electric vehicles are one of Trump’s favorite targets, and the evocative language he has used to describe them is rife with the ugly symbolism of war and destruction. His not-so-lightly veiled threats of automotive manufacturers’ economic ruin ring true to many of his followers.

Point — EVs Grow More Popular Each Year: EV sales continue to grow despite supply chain disruptions, macro-economic and geopolitical uncertainty, and high commodity and energy prices. Trajectories for mass EV adoption are supported by current sales.

Counterpoint — Auto Salespeople Dismiss EVs: I learned quickly (and occasionally in not very pretty ways) that auto salespeople as a general rule seem not to know much about EVs. Their pay plans hitch to ICE-powered vehicle sales, so it’s important to boost self-advocacy skills in your EV fact-finding friends. Maybe, if salespeople had company cars that were battery electric, they’d have more first-hand knowledge about this new and wonderful personal transportation technology.

Point — There’s that Whole Environmental Devastation Thing: In a move being hailed as one of the most significant climate rules in US history, the Biden administration announced new regulations regulating tailpipe emissions on March 20. Making the switch to EVs is the right thing to do. ICE vehicles have a dangerous impact on the environment when gasoline or other fossil fuels are burned to power vehicles. ICE power releases carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that continues to fan the climate crisis. EVs are zero emission. Case closed. They help us to restore and protect biodiversity and will contribute heartily to saving our planet.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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