Leasing has become popular in recent years as an alternative to buying and financing a car outright. It’s especially prevalent in the electric vehicle market, where reports suggest nearly 80 percent of all EVs are leased. Leasing an EV not only helps make down payments and monthly expenditures more affordable, it enables EV enthusiasts to keep up with the latest technology without enduring the hassle of having to sell what could become an outdated car after several years down the road.

That means there’s a fresh fleet of two- and three-year-old electrified rides with low miles and in good condition headed back to dealerships. While they may not have the extended operating ranges of the latest models, buying an off-lease EV can prove to be a money-saving proposition in several ways. And as with other cars, you’ll find some pre-owned EVs sold as “certified” used cars that come with an extended warranty.

For starters, with the notable exception of the Tesla models, used electric cars generally suffer low resale values. While that’s bad news for original owners, it means most used EVs are eminently affordable. This is due in large part to the one-time $7,500 federal tax credit granted to EV buyers and lessees, compounded by less marketplace demand and the aforementioned limited range on a charge with older models.

For example, according to Kelley Blue Book a base model 2016 Nissan Leaf in good or better condition and with average miles driven that was originally priced at $29,875 will command $10,465 at a New York City-area dealership. By comparison, a 2016 Honda Civic sedan with an automatic transmission that originally started at $20,275 now goes for $14,096 in the used-car market.

Electric cars are also cheaper to run than conventionally powered models. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the aforementioned 2016 Nissan Leaf is rated at the electric equivalent of 114 miles per gallon (“MPGe”), which at average electricity rates will cost an owner $600 to drive for 15,000 miles in combined city/highway use. That’s $850 less per year than it would cost to fuel the average 2016 model and drive it the same number of miles. It’s also an annual $550 cheaper to run than the aforementioned 2016 Honda Civic, at 34 mpg.

What’s more, Kelley Blue Book says electric vehicle owners spend, on average, 25 percent less in maintenance costs than those who drive vehicles with internal combustion engines. Because they utilize an electric motor and a simple single-speed transmission, EVs eschew over two-dozen mechanical components that would normally require regular service. Driving an electric car means being able to avoid oil changes, cooling system flushes, transmission servicing and replacing the air filter, spark plugs, and drive belts.

The biggest downside to buying a used electric car is their operating ranges tend not to be up to current levels. Models like the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Kia Niro EV and the recently introduced Nissan Leaf Plus can run for over 200 miles on a charge. Most models from 2016 and 2017 go for around 80-125 miles. That’s still more than enough to cover the average commute, which the U.S. Department of Transportation says is 15 miles each way. Plus, it’s ideal for around-town use and for getting to and from a commuter rail station if you take the train into the city for work.

And while all EV batteries will lose some of their range on a charge over time, it should not be pronounced on a model that’s two or three years old. Batteries are covered under warranty for at least 8 years/100,000 miles and that transfers automatically to a second owner. Be sure to check the vehicle’s state-of-charge indicator when you give the vehicle a test drive with a full battery to see how many miles it can run. Also be aware that an EV’s range can be cut short by sustained high-speed driving, extreme ambient temperatures, and use of accessories, especially the heater and air conditioner.

Another hurdle to buying a used electric car that may be insurmountable depending on where you live is a lack of supply. Having accounted for only a slim percentage of new-vehicle sales over the last few years, they’re not especially plentiful in the resale market. What’s more, not all battery-powered models were originally sold in all 50 states when new.

Here’s a quick look at what we consider the five best deals in off-lease three-year-old used EVs (all estimated prices are from Kelley Blue Book and are quoted for the New York City area).

5. 2016-2017 BMW i3

Fair purchase price: $17,636/$21,173. With widespread availability, the compact BMW i3 hatchback is distinctively styled inside and out, with a true “car of the future” look and an overall sporty demeanor. Considering its original sticker price for 2016 was $42,400, it’s a great deal in the used market. The 2016 model’s operating range is estimated at 81 miles on a charge, and it’s rated at a combined city/highway 124 MPGe. Look for 2017 models equipped with the optional battery that affords a longer 114-mile range.

4. 2016-2017 Kia Soul EV

Fair purchase price: $12,403/$14,885. The Kia Soul EV compact wagon is every bit as funky, roomy, and practical as the gas powered versions, and it comes well equipped. Unfortunately, sales of the 2016 model were limited to California, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Texas. It’s can run for an estimated 93 miles on a charge and gets 105 MPGe.

3. 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

Fair purchase price: $17,885. One of the more fun-to-drive electric cars, the compact Volkswagen eGolf hatchback is peppy and takes the corners tenaciously. Sales were limited to 10 Northeast and West Coast states, but we’ve seen used models listed for sale elsewhere. It previously had an 83-mile range on a charge, but the 2017 e-Golf can run for an average 125 miles with a full battery. It’s rated at 116 MPGe.

2. 2017 Ford Focus Electric

Fair purchase price: $12,990. Ford’s now departed Focus Electric hatchback is nearly identical looking to its gas-powered brethren, and is every bit as roomy and comfortable inside. Earlier models were saddled with a 76-mile range, but the Focus Electric got a bump up to 115 miles for 2017 and is rated at 107 MPGe.

1. 2016-2017 Nissan Leaf

Fair purchase price: $10,465/$13,334. Long a top seller, Nissan Leafs are relatively plentiful and affordable in the resale market.  Models from 2016 equipped with the standard 24 kWh battery pack can run for an estimated 84 miles on a charge. We suggest looking for 2016 SV and SL versions that came with a 30 kWh battery pack that garners a 107-mile range. It’s standard with 2017 models and affords a combined city/highway energy rating of 112 MPGe.



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