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How a Colorado woman bought a used EV for less than $700


The number of electric vehicles on the road in the U.S. is increasing. They're getting cheaper, but they're still too pricey for a lot of people who might want one. Sam Brasch of Colorado Public Radio met a driver who leveraged incentives and tax credits to get a used EV for - wait for it - less than $700.

CINDY TORRES: My name is Cindy Torres. I live in the Mapleton Mobile Home Park in Boulder, and this is my 2015 Nissan Leaf.

SAM BRASCH, BYLINE: Torres sweeps out her hand to introduce the small gray hatchback. It isn't anything fancy, but she's still struggling to believe the final price - $652.

TORRES: I have power steering. I have air condition. I have a heater. I have heated seats. I have a heated steering wheel. That's just ridiculous.

BRASCH: Torres drove a 1987 Subaru wagon until late last year when she noticed the return of a chronic oil leak. A replacement seemed like the best answer, but she relies on a disability retirement program and couldn't spare more than a few hundred dollars.

TORRES: One morning, I woke up, and I was just like, well, I'm just going to check the Boulder Nissan website, and there it was, you know, for like, $7,600.

BRASCH: That would have been way too expensive, but Colorado has some of the most generous EV incentives in the country. Her research revealed she qualified for a state program for lower-income drivers who agreed to scrap an older or high-emissions car, and her power utility offered another rebate. Those discounts combined to $7,000. Her new car is now parked outside her front garden. It's only good for about 80 miles of range, but Torres says that's all she needs for errands and trips to nearby trailheads.

TORRES: I didn't realize how much thought, mental and emotional energy went into having a car that was not in good condition. Getting into this, you know, everything on it works, which is - gosh, it's just a blessing.

BRASCH: Any working car for under $1,000 is a rarity, says Brian Moody, the executive editor for Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. At the same time, he thinks many consumers might be surprised by the EV market. An average new EV still costs about $56,000, but he says carmakers have been cutting prices.

BRIAN MOODY: I've been telling people, if you always wanted an electric car but price was a barrier, now is the time to go back and look.

BRASCH: With careful research, buyers can find incentives and rebates to save even more on new and used EVs. In 2023, the federal government started offering a $4,000 tax credit on used plug-in cars.

MOODY: I think a used electric car can be a great option for many people. It can be affordable, provided the car is still under warranty. If it's not, you're taking a bit of a risk, and you have to do more evaluation and do more research to find out if it's going to work for you.

BRASCH: If the battery is in good condition, Moody says used EVs can provide extra savings on fuel and maintenance compared to a gas car. That's why Colorado offers further discounts for less wealthy residents, says Carrie Atiyeh with the Colorado Energy Office.

CARRIE ATIYEH: There's really an emphasis right now on ensuring that all Coloradans can benefit from transportation electrification, and we don't want the upfront price of that vehicle to be a barrier.

BRASCH: Back in Boulder, Torres says there's just one issue with the new car - it's left her feeling even further from her roots in Southern Texas.

TORRES: I wear Birkenstocks, and I have a Nissan Leaf. And I think, you know, who am I? Who have I become?

BRASCH: Identity crisis aside, she says the car just made sense for her pocketbook.

For NPR News, I'm Sam Brasch in Boulder, Colo.


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