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A new car is an expensive investment and they’re getting pricier all the time. According to figures collected by Kelley Blue Book in May, the average new vehicle transaction price has climbed to just over $48,000, around 25% more than the May 2023 average.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Looking closer at the same data, the average new electric vehicle prices are actually down by around $10,000 compared with prices in 2022, settling at around $55,000 on average thanks to a combination of increased supply and the arrival of more affordable models and trim levels.
That still leaves EVs, on average, more expensive than their fossil-fueled contemporaries, but if you’re interested in making the switch to an electric car, there are still plenty of affordable options to choose from — especially the ones that qualify for state or federal EV tax incentives. To that end, here are the 10 most affordable electric cars you can buy today, ranked by their manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
Do EVs cost more than gasoline cars?
Compared to their gasoline-powered counterparts of similar size and equipment, yes, electric vehicles are usually more expensive. Electric powertrains are mechanically less complex than a combustion engine and gearbox, but the large batteries that EVs use are often constructed using rare materials which drives up manufacturing costs (and sticker prices) up.
Viewed by consumers and manufacturers as high-tech items, the current generation of electric vehicles also usually roll out with a high level of equipment, connectivity and technology as standard equipment, which again causes the base price to swell. (Higher prices for first-generation models also helps automaker’s recoup the high development costs and factory retooling, which is why many EVs launch with fully loaded first-edition models aimed at early adopters before trickling out lower cost trim levels later.)
However, as EV manufacturing continues to scale up, automakers are constantly seeking new ways to reduce the cost of materials and production. Some are looking into motors that use less or no rare earth materials while others are investing in new battery technology and solid state energy storage. Meanwhile, we’re also starting to see more budget friendly, entry-level EVs like the upcoming Volvo EX30 poised to enter the market in the coming months.
Are EVs cheaper to operate than combustion cars?
With few moving parts and much lower thermal needs, electric powertrains are generally low- or no-maintenance machines. That saves you money over the long term on oil changes, coolant, air filters, brakes and other routine service items.
Electric cars are also usually more efficient than gasoline cars, wasting less energy (fuel) to heat to travel a given distance. How much you can expect to pay per kilowatt will vary depending on where you live, but generally electricity is less expensive than gasoline. This is especially true if you charge at home during off-peak twilight hours.
Long-term reliability is also a key concern when choosing an affordable electric car. True, EVs are less expensive to maintain, but with more expensive components under the hood, they are often more expensive to repair if things do go wrong. This can lead to more expensive insurance costs and higher unexpected repair bills.
What to look for or avoid in an affordable electric car?
The first thing you’ll want to consider is what affordable EVs deliver the range you’ll need to get where you need to go. Lower cost electric cars tend to have smaller batteries and modest range. I wouldn’t say outright steer clear of the lower end of the range spectrum — 100- to 150-mile EVs like the Mini Cooper SE still serve an important niche in tight, urban environments — but most drivers would be most comfortable in the flexible 200- to 250-mile range.
Affordable electric cars (at or below around $40,000) tend to be compact or subcompact in scale, so finding a model that physically fits your needs with the right amount of interior volume is also important. And remember, looks can be deceiving. Purpose-built EVs, like the VW ID 4 or Hyundai Ioniq 5, often have the advantage of longer wheelbases and more spacious cabins than gasoline-driven counterparts of similar overall length.