But before going into the long list of options for affordable EVs, let’s come up with a precise definition of what “affordable” means, because certainly what one person thinks of as affordable may be entirely different from what the next thinks. In October of 2023, according to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics the median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers in the US was $1,118 per week, or $58,136 per year. If we take the advice offered by Nerdwallet.com no more than 15-20% of one's monthly income should be spent on car expenses in total (so not just a car payment, but also fuel, maintenance, insurance etc.), or put another way no more than 10% of monthly take home pay on a car payment (only). 10% of the median value equates to a car payment of $484.47 and I am going to use that value as the definition of affordable, not to all people but to those whose earnings resemble the median. Of course there are all kinds of other factors that may determine whether someone whose earnings are close to the median would actually consider that an affordable vehicle, but for the sake of argument this is a reasonable definition. How much of a car (in terms of sale price) might one get for $484 and change per month? Considering all sorts of taxes, fees, loan rates, markups, trade in values, down payments and such determine that, let’s just assume that we are talking about a vehicle that, when all is said and done, costs between $25,000 - $35,000. Such a vehicle could see such a monthly payment, depending.
Motor Trend identified 8 different new cars that cost less than $25,000 (MSRP) currently on sale in the US, and while all of those are fuel efficient vehicles, none of them are EVs. Since GM decided to stop producing the Chevy Bolt (or rather take a yearlong break as the Bolt EUV will return in 2025), there are really only 3 EV models currently on sale in most (if not all) of the US that have a starting MSRP below our upper limit of $35,000: the Nissan Leaf, the Hyundai Kona EV (only on sale in 22 states, though that includes 6 of the top ten most populous), and the Mini Cooper SE Hardtop Signature. I’ll note that the Chevy Equinox EV, in its base trim level, is supposed to begin deliveries later this year at a starting MSRP of $34,995, too, but that price could go up or deliveries could slip into 2025 for all we know. But let us not forget that more expensive EV models can actually fall within our $25-$35k range if we factor in incentives, which can vary by state to state. Given the US federal EV incentive of up to $7,500 off, state incentives that can effectively double that incentive, plus other manufacturer, regional or other incentives, we can include at least the lower tier trims of certain EVs available now or coming in 2024 that cost $6,000 - $15,000 over our $35k limit as one or more of those incentives would bring the cost of these EVs into our stated affordable range. Those EVs would include: the Tesla Model 3 (the base RWD and the Long Range AWD models start at a little over $35,000 and a little over $44,000, respectively, as of today, Jan 13th, 2024) and Tesla Model Y, the Volkswagen ID.4, the Kia Niro EV and EV6, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6, the Toyota bz4x, the Subaru Solterra, the Fisker Ocean, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Nissan Ariya, the Polestar 2 (in its most limited, base form, before any fees and taxes), the Volvo EX30, and possibly other EVs/trims from other brands that have yet to be announced. Then we should not forget that used EVs can meet our criteria for affordability too, just don’t believe the hype around used EVs and of course, do your research! Also note that used EVs that cost $25,000 or less have a $4,000 federal incentive. There are plenty of used Teslas, Chevy Bolts, Nissan LEAFs and other brands out there that fall into that $25k or less range.
As you can see, there are plenty of affordable EVs either on sale now or coming this year, no less than 18 different models and still more trims. These models also represent the best selling EV models as well (though admittedly many will only be in the affordable range in their base or mid tier trims). So do not despair, those of you in search of an affordable EV, you have a lot of options to choose from.
Please leave any questions or comments below.
Images courtesy of Kia, Hyundai, Nissan and VW.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Torque News Kia or X for regular electric and hybrid news coverage