If you want to pick up one of the cheapest electric cars, your options are pretty limited. Electric cars are already more expensive than an equivalent gas-powered car, and to make matters worse automakers tend to work from the top down. So we see them focus on premium and luxury vehicles before moving onto cheaper segments.
It’s great to want to ditch gasoline and buy an electric car, though it does rely on you being able to afford one. Buying a used electric car might expand your options a little, but even then it helps to know which ones were on the cheapest end of the spectrum already. So here are the cheapest electric cars you can buy right now, all with starting prices under $40,000.
Chevy Bolt — from $25,600
The Chevy Bolt is currently the cheapest electric car on the market, before you take the federal EV tax credit into consideration. With credits, however, Chevy is still lagging behind the Nissan Leaf. That looks like it’ll change come January 1, when the sales cap is lifted and potentially gives the Bolt a chance to earn that discount.
The Bolt already offers some pretty spectacular value at its current price. All thanks to 259 miles of EPA-rated range, a 6.5 second 0-60 time and 57 cubic feet of cargo space when you fold the seats down. None of it is record-breaking but as far as cheap electric cars go Chevy is offering a heck of a lot for a pretty low price tag.
There are downsides, of course. The Bolt doesn’t have SuperCruise, General Motors’ hands-free autonomous driver assistance system, and the rapid charging isn’t the best. In fact, it taps out at 54kW, and recoups 100 miles in 30 minutes and 160 miles in an hour. That’s not particularly fast, and shows some of the caveats of buying a cheaper EV.
But that shouldn’t put you off. The Chevy Bolt has a heck of a lot to love, and while it won’t be competing with the Teslas of the world, the price point makes that more than palatable.
Chevy Bolt EUV — from $27,200
It’s a little more expensive than the Bolt, but the Chevy Bolt EUV still offers plenty of bang for your buck. Especially once the tax credit sales cap lifts in January, and gives drivers the opportunity to save $7,500 on the list price. Essentially a small SUV, this is an electric car with plenty of tech, solid performance and a pretty stellar range for its price.
You’ll be able to get up to 247 miles out of the Bolt EUV, which is a little less than the standard Bolt, but there’s plenty more to make up for it. Like the fact that this electric car offers SuperCruise, the hands-free autonomous driving assistance system, more interior space for passengers and 56.9 cubic feet of cargo space when the seats are folded down.
Of course, some of the Bolt EV’s main flaws carry over to the Bolt EUV. For one, the 0-60 time is worse, clocking in at 6.8 seconds, and the charging speed could be better. 95 miles in 30 minutes is pretty weak, when the likes of the Tesla Model 3 can get almost twice that in half the time. The Bolt EUV also suffered as a result of last year’s battery recall, which threw some large cracks into the Bolt brand — but things seem to be all good these days.
As we noted in our Chevy Bolt EUV review, this is a very capable commuter car that’s a joy to drive. It doesn’t matter what kind of roads you’re on, the Bolt EUV can handle them all. Especially with the range that should hold up fairly well against high-speed highway driving.
Nissan Leaf — from $27,800 ($20,300 with tax credit)
While not as appealing as the cheaper Chevy Bolt or even the Bolt EUV, the Nissan Leaf’s low price and tax credit eligibility means it’s worth your attention. But if money is tight, you better be ok with some incredibly mediocre range estimates. Because the cheapest Leaf models are rated for only 149 miles.
If you’d rather boost that figure to 212 miles you’ll need to part with at least $35,800. Again, not very impressive, and in both instances you’ll need to contend with the fact the car uses a CHAdeMO rapid charger instead of the CCS used by all other cars. The Leaf certainly doesn’t do a great job of selling itself these days.
Still the Nissan Leaf does have a lot going for it, provided you stick to local journeys. As we noted in our Nissan Leaf review, it’s surprisingly feature-rich for an entry-level electric car, and it’s one of the few cheap cars that’s consistently been eligible for the federal EV tax credit. On top of that, it manages to squeeze in 41.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and certain models have Level 2 autonomous driving with ProPilot.
The Nissan Leaf’s short range and the CHAdeMO charger aren’t ideal, but there’s still plenty to love — especially if you only need a compact around-town car.
Mini SE — from $29,990
If you like the design of the modern Mini, but want to drive around on electricity, this might be the EV for you. Though the iconic design is about all this car has going for it, since its range estimate is a measly 114 miles.
This is the price you pay for something cheap and visually memorable. But, range aside, the Mini SE has an awful lot going for it. There’s a reason our Mini SE review called it the “king of compliance cars.”
The Mini SE is small and capable, albeit limited to urban travel rather than long-distance road trips. It’s also extremely fun to drive, which is part of what makes a Mini a Mini. While the 0-60 time is a pretty weak 6.9 seconds, it’s got a great go-kart feel to the drive — which is perfect for winding back roads with a lot of corners. The small stature also makes is much easier to park.
If you have a short commute, or you don’t plan on driving very far, the Mini SE could prove to be an excellent addition to your garage. Just make sure you have some sort of back-up plan, should those pesky long-distance journeys become a necessity.
Mazda MX-30 — from $33,470
When it comes to cheap cars, there’s usually a reason why the price is what it is. In the case of the Mazda MX-30, it’s all pretty obvious — and mostly down to the car’s horrendous 100-mile range. It’s also not particularly powerful, with a 0-60 time of more than nine seconds
In fact, just about the only major benefit the MX-30 does have to offer is its design. The MX-30 certainly looks futuristic, and the crossover SUV configuration comes with many of the usual benefits that kind of car affords — namely a high driving position and a safety bonus.
However, despite being pillarless the MX-30 still lacks the roomy interior, with minimal space for rear passengers and just 41.3 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s slightly less than the much smaller (and cheaper) Nissan Leaf.
If you can get beyond the poor range and limited interior space, it’s been noted that the MX-30 can be fun to drive. It won’t be driving very far, or particularly quickly, but if you want to make an electric car the designated “second car” of the household, this Mazda is worth a look.
Hyundai Kona Electric — from $34,000
The mid-range Hyundai Kona is one of those cars that’s available in almost every kind of drivetrain: gasoline, plug-in hybrid and electric. But the electric model is definitely noteworthy, with 258 miles of range and a bunch of other cool stuff.
The Kona doesn’t look like much, and it can’t charge as fast as the flagship IONIQ 5 (10-80% charge in 47 minutes at 100kW speeds), and it lacks autonomous features like auto-steer and adaptive cruise control. Then again, it’s cheap for a reason, and its dollar-to-range ratio is a lot better than the cheapest IONIQ 5 model on sale.
Plus, you have all the basics you need to get out on the road. The Kona has an 8-inch touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a spacious interior, reversing cameras, 45.8 cubic feet or cargo space (with the seats down) and optional extras like heated seats. So if you want an electric car on the cheap, this is definitely one to consider.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 — $39,950
The Hyundai IONIQ 5 is a fairly premium electric car with a starting price under $40,000. Though, naturally, the more expensive models do get a few more of the perks — range in particular.
While the IONIQ 5 offers up to 303 miles of EPA-rated range, the cheapest model offers only 220. That’s roughly comparable with the 60 kWh Nissan Leaf, but still miles below Chevy’s low-cost offerings. That said, there’s still plenty to enjoy here, including super fast 250kW charging (10-80% in 18 minutes), 59.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seats folded down, a 0.85 cubic foot frunk and a spacious interior for driver and passengers alike.
There’s also adaptive cruise control and lane centering tech as standard, alongside other safety features. Though some things, like 360-degree cameras, are exclusive to more expensive models. As we noted in our Hyundai IONIQ 5 review, all that tech is one of the car’s major selling points — alongside a great design and fantastic performance.
So if you want the taste of a more luxurious electric car, without necessarily spending Tesla money, the IONIQ 5 is well worth checking out.
2022 Kia Niro EV — from $39,990
Rocking 239 miles of range and with a $39,990 price tag, the Kia Niro EV might be the kind of car to consider if the Kia EV6 is just a little too pricey for your liking.
Inside you have a 10.25-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, Harman Kardon Premium surround sound, heated seats and an SUV design that offers the very best of what the segment has to offer. That includes 53 cubic feet of cargo space, with the seats folded down, and plenty of room for passengers. No frunk, though, at least not in the 2022 model.
The best way to think of the Niro EV is that it’s like the Hyundai Kona to the Kia EV6’s IONIQ 5. It’s a basic car that lacks a lot of the hi-tech luxuries you will get in the newer model, but still has all the basics you need to drive around using electrical power
Of course the 2023 Niro EV is on the way soon, with an all-new design and plenty of other changes. The car is rumored to cost around $40k in the U.S., but it currently isn’t clear when we’ll find out concrete details. Until then the 2022 model is still available to order.