UsedCarFilter: EV? Hybrid? Diesel? Dunno. Please advise.
August 14, 2017 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I drive about 500 miles per week, 75 miles minimum each way. Help me find a good used car choice.

Portland is expensive and I commute to work. My 17 year old car is probably not worth fixing much longer (blue book on it is less than any significant repair), so I am considering buying something used. Electricity where I live is 7.1 cents per kWh (relatively inexpensive), but increases about 15% a year lately.

I'd like to buy something used that's reliable and fuel efficient...and ideally is reasonably priced (i.e. Teslas are probably out since the new ones are 12-18 months away). I should be able to charge the car at work if needed (not sure of the cost, but it will be more than where I live). Please suggest away!
posted by OneSmartMonkey to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think you've pretty much cut out most EVs with your criteria. The range on the Leaf isn't high enough (100 miles), the Bolt is brand new, so probably not in your price range, and the Tesla is right out.

I think this is the boring, obvious choice, but I think you should just get a Prius. It has great range, gets very good mileage, is really reliable, and there are enough of them out there that maintenance and repairs are easy. I also wouldn't spring for the extra money to get the plug-in version. For your long trips, the battery isn't big enough for it to significantly benefit you.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:20 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Electric is coming, but not yet affordable for something with that range (e.g. that's too far for a used Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 EV). Remember EV range drops with battery age particularly so with the Leaf whose battery degrades badly (loses "bars"). Used Tesla S is great, and they age very well, but maybe not affordable by your definition.

Used Prius hybrid is plentiful and they are reliable with good MPG. Mine has gone past 100,000 miles with minimal problems. Used Chevy Volt hybrid is another option.

New Chevy Bolt is alternative to Tesla 3 if you want a pure EV. Not as pretty, but does not have a multi year waiting list.
posted by w0mbat at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2017

I put 15k on a prius in one year. My total maintenance bill was $35 for tire rotation and oil change.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:29 AM on August 14, 2017

Nthing the Prius recommendation. My 2005 still drives like a champ, is very comfortable for extended road trips, and generally gets 45-50 MPG on the highway, with the ability to nudge it higher depending on specific driving circumstances. If you're looking at a Prius that's around ten years old, or older, I recommend getting one that's already had the hybrid battery replaced, preferably with an actual Toyota name brand battery.
posted by the thought-fox at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2017

A used 1st gen volt isn't a good choice because it's relatively inefficient on gas. I love my 2nd gen Volt, and it goes quite a bit farther on electric and it's much more efficient on gas, so would be a better fit for your use case, but even if used they're new enough that they'll be pretty pricey and probably won't save enough money vs a 2nd or 3rd gen Prius hybrid to be cost effective.

Nthing used Prius recommendation.
posted by doomsey at 10:05 AM on August 14, 2017

Best answer: A Lexus CT200h is built on the Prius powertrain (similar mpg), but with better styling & comfort.
You could find an early model (2011-2012) that works for your budget.
posted by artdrectr at 10:10 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

And if you are looking at a Prius, don't go earlier than a 2006 or 2007. The most noticeable flaws of my 2005 (dodgy bluetooth implentation, no USB, no aux socket, no reversing camera option) were fixed around then.

in general get a Prius with a high numbered options package because the higher optioned vehicles are adding useful tech like keyless entry, camera, side airbags, etc. It's not like other cars where the higher end models are adding a bigger engine, more exhausts, etc.
posted by w0mbat at 11:49 AM on August 14, 2017

Good advice above. I'm a huuuuge fan of EVs (I'm on my 3rd, about to move to 4th) but your use case of 150 miles a day is not a good fit for EVs.

The Chevy Bolt EV could do it but is still a little overpriced and needs to mature a little more -- I expect the 2018 production (starting this fall?) will hit the sweet spot. So if you are still in the market when they start selling 2018 model year Bolt EVs, then see if they are offering lease deals, or discounts off MSRP. Otherwise pass.

I try to steer people away from the Prius. It has insane mindshare due to being the first major hybrid hit nearly two decades ago, but it's overpriced and torture to drive (Prius lovers: send your letters to Brian Williams at 30 Rock). There are plenty of other Prius-like cars that are nicer inside and out. I like to point people to the Ford C-Max and the Ford Fusion, either the regular hybrid models or the plug-in hybrid "Energi" models. All should have good discounts on them. Also the Lexus CT200 as mentioned above.

As wombat said, try to get a car with a decent set of options. You're going to spend a LOT of time in the car; make it nice.
posted by intermod at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2017

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