We bought an electric car but not the one we originally wanted

I’ve been in love with electric cars for a few years now. I’m not going to geek out on why I love them, but I have a real passion for them. I really want a Tesla Model S, but we don’t have or want to invest $55,000+ into a car. A few months ago Tesla announced an “affordable” electric car at $35,000. They call it the Model 3. Government incentives offer $7,500 as a tax credit and our state, Maryland, offers $3,000 off. That bring the cost of the Model 3 into a more reasonable ~$25K range. It’s still more than I ever wanted to pay for a car, but the overall cost of ownership makes it a deal.

Tesla is unlike other car companies and required that you put a $1,000 refundable deposit down in order to reserve your Model 3. The car isn’t scheduled to begin production until the end of 2017, and the deposit basically holds you spot in line. Seems a little crazy, but I was able to talk Smalls into putting down a deposit.


I was beyond happy and I couldn’t stop talking about my future car for days. And then the trouble hit.

The trouble

When I say the trouble hit. I mean quite literally, trouble hit. A deer hit our 2006 Buick Rendezvous. The car already had been in a previous collision, there was rust on the hood, a cracked windshield, and needed new tires. When we took it to the shop to see the cost of fixing the damage from the suicidal deer, it came in at $1,500. Not awesome.

We decided that we should consider looking for a new car since the Buick was 10 years old and needed some major repairs compared to its value. I had already done lots of research on electric cars because I’m a nerd like that and decided to go test drive a few cars after work one day.

The decision

After driving a few cars and looking at the total costs of everything we decided on a 2016 Nissan Leaf. The car has a sticker of ~$30,000 for the 24kWh battery. Thanks to the currently low gas prices, the dealer was able to knock the purchase price down to ~$23,300. The same incentives that are in place for the Tesla are also in place for the Leaf, so our final price for the car is a little under $13k.

Electric cars have terrible resale values because the second buyer gets none of the tax benefits. We don’t buy cars for resale since we plan on driving them until they cost more than their value to repair.


The economics

We purchased the car for about $23,300 and we were able to get it on a 72 month, 0% interest loan. In general, I’m against loans and I would rather pay cash for things, but at 0% interest, I have no issue with taking out the money. We also have enough money saved that if we needed to pay it off today, we could. Our payment is $323 a month. We really wanted to keep our payments down to no more than $250 a month but with the gas saving we see now (Buick averaged 18 MPG) it brings the price down to that range.

We will have a higher electricity bill because of this car. To charge the car fully it costs about $2.50 in electricity and we estimate that we will need to charge it 6 times a month. Our car insurance also went up by about $100 every six months.

In terms of maintenance the Leaf is incredibly inexpensive to operate. There are no more oil changes and the only liquid that I need to put into the car is windshield washer fluid. The tires need to be rotated every 7,500 miles. The brakes last significantly longer than other cars since it has a regenerative braking system that does the bulk of the braking. There is also no transmission to speak of. I mention these things not to sell electric cars, but to show the value of low maintenance and therefore lower overall future costs. In general, electric cars cost 1/5th to 1/3rd less to operate than traditional cars.

How do we like it

It’s a car. Neither Smalls or I are car people (minus the Tesla) and cars serve one purpose; to get us from Point A to Point B safely and reliably. It’s fun to drive and has enough space for our family. We are happy with our purchase and look forward to seeing the returns on our investment.

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