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Electric Vehicles

You Can Score an Outstanding EV for Just $12,000

I will rave about my Chevy Bolt to anyone who’ll listen.

A Chevy Bolt.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Chevrolet

Growing up, I begrudgingly attended the annual Father’s Day car show on our local Main Street. My dad liked to spend the morning ogling muscle cars and chatting up their often tattooed or bearded owners. I tried my best to feign interest, but as much as I love my dad, I just couldn’t get excited about cars. I don’t think he passed along the “car guy” gene to me.

At least that’s what I thought until about a month ago. I’m now the proud new owner of a (used) 2020 Chevy Bolt Premier, and I’m ready to talk about it with anyone willing to listen.

There is a dearth of options for a small, affordable electric vehicle. The Chevy Bolt is one of the very few cars that meets that criteria today.

So what’s to like about the Bolt?

First off, it’s a blast to drive. Its small size and zippy acceleration makes me feel like I’m in the driver’s seat of my childhood remote control car. It never feels too small, however. We comfortably fit our family of four, including two carseats, and the hatchback and spacious trunk provide ample cargo space.

The Premier trim also comes with what to me — whose last primary vehicle was a 2006 Civic — feel like luxury features: a 360 camera (that makes parking this small car that much easier), a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, and a Bose sound system.

It also has impressive range for a car its size. On a full charge, the Chevy Bolt can travel an estimated 259 miles. That’s 100 miles more than another small and affordable EV, the Nissan Leaf.

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  • But most importantly the Bolt is an insanely good deal — maybe one of the best car deals of all time, particularly if you buy one used and live in a state that has additional used EV incentives.

    And you probably will have to. Early in 2023, GM curiously (a nice way to put it) decided to discontinue the Bolt, though they more recently reversed that decision thanks to growing demand. However, there will be no 2024 model. As such, it’s easier today to find a used Bolt than a new one.

    You can easily find a used Bolt for under $20,000. Pair that with a federal $4,000 used EV tax credit, and in some cases a state rebate (Massachusetts, where I live, offers a $3,500 used-EV rebate for certain income thresholds), and you just got yourself a steal of a deal.

    For instance, suppose you don’t opt for the “luxurious” Premier level trim and give up that heated steering wheel. Using Autotrader.com, I found a used 2020 Bolt EV on sale in Massachusetts with just 9,900 miles. It’s listed at $17,795. Add on sales tax and some other fees, and now you’re looking at $19,500, give or take. However, that’s before the incentives kick in.

    Screenshot of Autotrader.com.Screenshot of Autotrader.com.

    Subtract the combined federal and Massachusetts used EV incentives of $7,500, however, and this (hardly) used EV now only cost you $12,000.

    By comparison, I used the same site to see what other non-electric 2020 vehicles I could buy for $12,000, and I came up with less than 10 results within a 100 mile radius. All but one had 100,000 miles or more. The only comparable vehicle was a 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE with 36,400 miles. And really, there is no comparison. On the fun factor alone, the Bolt can accelerate from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, while the Mirage takes nearly twice as long at 12 seconds.

    If you’re thinking about buying a Bolt (or any EV, really), there is more good news. Beginning in 2024, many dealerships will even offer the federal credit at point of sale instead of having to wait until tax season.

    Another pro-tip for potential buyers: due to a recall, it’s possible to find a used Bolt that has recently received a brand new battery which resets the 8 year/100,000 mile battery warranty to its installation date. Many Bolts have just received a software update instead, but you can ask your local dealer to keep an eye out for one with a new battery.

    Now, the Bolt isn’t perfect.

    Even though its range is great, it is one of the slowest charging electric vehicles out there. Even for Bolt models with high speed DC fast charging, it takes about 30 minutes to charge 100 miles, compared to 10 minutes for the Hyundai Ioniq 6.

    But if you’re like the average American that drives 37 miles a day, and you have somewhere at home to plug into, the relatively slow fast charging speed doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. My family has so far gotten away with almost exclusively trickle charging our Bolt at home using a standard 120 volt outlet which yields us about 4 miles per hour charged.

    We’ve even managed to find some free level 2 chargers (about 39 miles per hour charged) in neighboring towns. Imagine just rolling up to a gas station and getting a couple of free gallons for your tank with no strings attached. We basically found that, but with fewer emissions.

    If you’re on the fence about a Bolt, don’t just take it from me, someone who couldn’t care less about cars until last month. Tom McParland, an automotive consultant and contributor at Jalopnik, wrote a similar screed this past summer.

    Given used car prices have been falling across the board in the last few months, I called McParland to see if his recommendation of buying a used Bolt still stands.

    I just had to get one qualification out of the way to start my interview. “Do you consider yourself a car guy?,” I asked the automotive consultant that has written over 1,600 articles about cars.

    “Yes,” he replied and said no more on the topic. Car guy confirmed.

    “Overall, my thesis still remains,” he said. “Right now the Bolt doesn’t have a lot of other competitors that match it for range, recency, and the other key thing here is remaining warranty balance.”

    In his article, McParland concludes, “used Bolts should get most folks where they need to go and offer a ton of savings.”

    I can’t wait to take the Bolt 100 miles south to my parent’s house for the holidays and answer all of my dad’s questions about the car while he takes it for a test drive.

    Read more about EVs:

    The Next Great Electric Vehicle Will Be Cheap

    Editor’s note: This story originally misstated the acceleration speed of the Mitsubishi Mirage. We regret the error.

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    Mike Munsell profile image

    Mike Munsell

    Mike is the VP of Sales at Heatmap. He previously was the founding director of growth at Canary Media, where he authored a column on the intersection of climate and culture.

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