Virtue signaling car suggestions
March 23, 2018 10:01 PM   Subscribe

I am going to buy a new (to me) electric or hybrid or plug-in hybrid car... tomorrow! What should I get?

I'm looking to buy a car in the 2015-2016 age range that is dependable and will last many years. Looking on Consumer Reports, I'm leaning toward a Ford C-Max Energi, but I'm open to a Leaf, plug in Prius, or...? I have solar at home so plug in is extra appealing to me. On the other hand, I have to drive about 85 miles to visit my parents about every other week. So having a super limited range is not very appealing (although possible, as I could probably trade cars with my spouse for those drives?)

So my goals are: cheaper, longer range, reliable (I know, pick two, right?)

Do you have an electric or electric-ish car? What do you like and dislike about it? Tell me all that you know, please! Thank you!
posted by latkes to Shopping (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We have a 2012 Chevy Volt. We love it. It gets about 40 miles on a battery charge on a warm day and 25 on a cold day. It automatically switches from battery to gas powering the electric engine directly for long trips. We've driven it from Illinois to Vermont and back multiple times. It's comfortable and easy to drive.
posted by daisystomper at 10:46 PM on March 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also we've plugged it in a bazillion different places, including outdoors in the rain overnight, without issues.
posted by daisystomper at 10:47 PM on March 23, 2018

Chevy Volt is almost certainly the right answer, I kinda remember this from my research done during those model years. Look. I have always been partial to the LEAF. I don't think I see them on the road as much this past year, so I think that's a bad sign? Acquaintances loved their's so much they wanted to keep it. I see A LOT of Tesla's, but I'm in LA.

2 weeks ago I ran into a couple that had a RAV 4 Hybrid! I did not know such a thing existed. The size was perfect.

It was a lease. They looooooved it. Their lease was up and Toyota no longer makes the RAV Hybrid, they were stumped on what to get next. Like, they were down to the last few days of the lease with no idea what was next.

The Volt is smaller than the RAV 4. I believe the RAV 4 existed in 15/16, but I don't know what that means for service and parts going forward from today.

I'll keep watching this thread for the latest opinions. Good luck, I know you'll find a great car that makes you feel good.
posted by jbenben at 11:31 PM on March 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Rav4 Hybrid still exists; it's the EV (made with Tesla) that is no longer produced (they made only 2,500 to begin with). My parents have the EV and I love it.
posted by acidic at 12:06 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am very happy with my 2016 RAV4 hybrid. 2016 was the first model year they were made. But the fuel economy isn't a whole lot better than the regular RAV4 unless you do a lot of city driving. Prius and Prius Prime (the plug in version) have a lot more design features to improve fuel efficiency.
posted by jkent at 1:17 AM on March 24, 2018

Don't forget a 230/240 outlet for recharging in reasonable time. I have not gotten around to buying the Prius that I have always wanted so I don't know if the long extension cord comes with the car.
Someone I know has an electric BMW and loves it. It is quite roomy and recharges at her work after her 30 mile commute. The groundskeepers golf carts are in use - so their plugs are available for her to use during the day.
posted by Cranberry at 2:03 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

We have a 2017 RAV4 hybrid and like it. However, it is not a plug-in hybrid.
posted by ShooBoo at 6:49 AM on March 24, 2018

I've mentioned on here before that our family bought a 2015 Nissan Leaf from CarMax in January 2017. It had just under 25k miles and CarMax offered it for $10,500. We have loved it for the past year and two months! We live in the city of Charlotte; my wife uses it to commute 3 miles to her work and the whole family uses it for in-city errands. More recently we bought a 2016 Hyundai Sonata from Hertz to use for really long trips (to the beach, to family in KY, OH, and MI). Just last week, Charlotte's light rail opened up to the University, so now I should be able to commute to my job via light rail.

We charge the Leaf nightly from a regular household outlet. You can program the car to calculate when it needs to start charging so that it's ready by 8 am; in this way, it uses off-peak electricity to save you even more money. I think we are spending around $15/mo to charge it so far. This is a lot less than we were spending on gas for the car the Leaf replaced. The car is super quiet, except at highway speeds, where the door seals could stand to be better. I imagine they scrimped a bit here, as the car was pretty expensive at its introduction. It accelerates like mad, especially if you take it out of "Eco" mode. I don't do that very often, though, as the smooth, quiet operation is plenty pleasing without zooming around (which is a more dangerous style of driving, anyway).

You might want to look at the tax credit situation, too. We recently filed our 2017 taxes and the credit for buying an electric car really took the cost way down on what was already a surprisingly affordable used car.

So, we love our Leaf! If you can have two cars in a household (and it sounds like you do), then the Leaf is a no-brainer in terms of cost and environmental impact.
posted by Slothrop at 6:51 AM on March 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think Toyota has the best UX in their cars - when you test drive evergone’s suggestions, be thinking about how easy it is to change audio sources, pause music, make phone calls, etc while driving.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:02 AM on March 24, 2018

You don't really say what you want to do with this car. Is this just a commuter car for shuttling your butt from place to place, or do you need significant cargo capacity? Volts are great, but they're small. Priuses are surprisingly spacious, especially in the back, and they have a big enough roof that you can strap stuff to it. Something like a Rav-4 Hybrid will give you even more cargo capacity plus AWD, but they are definitely less fuel efficient than a Prius, let alone a Volt.

What are your needs? It's no good buying the most efficient car possible if it can't do what you need it to do.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:05 AM on March 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

If there is a gas car in the household you can use when necessary go all electric if you can find something that has at least 20-30% more advertised range than the longest trip you take regularly.

The Bolt can be leased for a song in some parts of the country, as can the Leaf. Given how rapidly things are changing with electric cars, the extra money to lease a new one rather than buy a slightly used one would be worth it to me as reasonably inexpensive insurance that I'm not the one who ends up screwed if there ends up being some game changer that drives down the price of used ones.
posted by wierdo at 8:21 AM on March 24, 2018

We have a 2013 Volt. It is really a great car. It gets 40 miles in the summer and about 25 miles in the dead of winter before switching to gas. It is also our primary road trip car, and gets about 40 MPG on the freeway.
posted by rockindata at 9:03 AM on March 24, 2018

My co-worker has had a Leaf for a couple of years and overall likes it a lot, but has frequently had a problem with trying to charge it while they're out and about and all the charging stations are full. This is Southern California - not sure if it's better or worse in Northern California, but it's something to be aware of.
posted by mogget at 9:39 AM on March 24, 2018

Knowing that you have a pretty routine long trip, I would warn you away from the Leaf somewhat. (Though the newer Leafs might be able to make that round trip - or you could take your charging cable with you.) as the spouse of a Leaf driver, I find the car-swapping super irritating. My husband does LOVE his Leaf, but the limitations are definitely... limiting.
posted by obfuscation at 10:31 AM on March 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Check out the Kia Niro, it is a 2017 model but (being a Kia) may actually be cheaper than a newish used Prius and is a bigger car with better all-electric range.
posted by miyabo at 11:07 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, if you buy an older used Leaf that has enough range for everything but your biweekly trip the much lower acquisition cost (I'm not sure what the market is like out there, but I've seen decent examples for under $10,000 here) and savings from never buying gas or getting oil changes or other ICE-specific maintenance may well be enough to more than make up the cost of renting a car a couple days every other week.
posted by wierdo at 11:27 AM on March 24, 2018

Used Leafs (Leaves?) are cheap but the range goes down with age, known as “losing bars” since the number of bars displayed when the car is fully charged goes down as the battery degrades.
posted by w0mbat at 12:13 PM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a Volt for three years on a lease and I loved that car. It was so fun to drive, and was cheap to charge. I had a separate meter installed just for charging the car. There are good deals for these out there too.
posted by chocolatetiara at 2:48 PM on March 25, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone!! You really helped me research.

The Volt seems like a really good choice but I should have mentioned I was determined to get a hatchback. I test drove a Leaf today and it was fun and felt very Star Treky, and if I didn't have this frequent, 80 mile trip, I would have bought it, but considering that, I ended up choosing a C-Max Energi. Thanks again for your help!
posted by latkes at 8:47 PM on March 25, 2018

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