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The best affordable EVs (and how the federal tax credit can save you $7,500)

Looking for the best EV under $50,000? How about under $21,000? Here are the best affordable electric cars. Most of them meet the federal tax credit requirements, too, so we detail how much you can save on each one if you qualify.
Written by Sherin Shibu, Contributor on

Electric vehicles (EVs) can help your household save $1,000 in fuel per year, on average. They're cheaper to maintain than fossil fuel-powered vehicles, as they don't need oil changes and have single-speed transmissions and regenerative brakes. 

They're also some of the safest cars to drive, with EVs like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 receiving five-star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

If you're concerned about air pollution from cars, EVs are the way to go. While vehicles running on gasoline emit about 11,000 pounds of CO2 equivalent annually, all-electric vehicles emit about 4,000 pounds annually while producing zero direct emissions. Because of all of these benefits to the environment, especially when compared to alternatives, EVs are a popular buy. 

Here are some of the most affordable electric cars on the market that combine functionality with safety. Most of these options meet the requirements for the federal tax credit, so they were assembled in North America and are powered by batteries with materials sourced from the US or its free trade partners. I've broken down how much you can save on each EV if it qualifies. The prices listed here exclude destination freight charges, tax, title, license, dealer fees, optional equipment, and other miscellaneous costs. 

Pros & Cons
  • Considerable value
  • myChevrolet app helps you calculate when you need to charge up
  • Built-in 10.2-inch tablet with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Built-in Alexa
  • Chevy Safety Assist
  • Isn't eligible for a tax credit
More Details

Features or specs

  • 120 MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent)
  • Up to 259 miles on a single charge
  • Max speed: 90.1 mph
  • Max power: 200 horsepower
  • Accelerates 0-60 in 6.5 seconds
  • Price: $26,595 

The Chevy Bolt took the best affordable EV title on our overall list and it tops this one too. It's a highly efficient EV with some powerful safety features. The standard model includes Chevy Safety Assist, with front pedestrian braking, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, distance indicator for a vehicle you're following, and auto high beams, which adjust to traffic conditions.

Don't worry about charging: Customers who purchase or lease a 2022 or 2023 Bolt EV or EUV will get a free home charging station. Chevy covers the installation of a Level 2 (240-volt) charging outlet at your home, which means faster and more convenient charging. There are also more than 40,000 public charging stations.

Unfortunately, you can't get a $7,500 EV tax credit with the Bolt because Chevy reached its cap of 200,000 credits on the 2022 and 2023 models of the EV and EUV. Still, the Bolt's sticker price is low for a dependable car. 

Pros & Cons
  • Price could be lower after potential federal tax credit
  • Safety features
  • Slightly more horsepower than the Bolt
  • Standard six-speaker audio system
  • Comes with an eight-year/100,000 miles limited lithium-ion battery warranty
  • Slightly less miles on a single charge than the Bolt
More Details

Features or specs

  • 121 MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent)
  • Up to 212 miles on a single charge (with 60 kWh battery)
  • Max speed: 106 mph (on the SV Plus)
  • Max power: 214 horsepower
  • Accelerates 0-60 in 7.4 seconds
  • Price: $27,800 ($20,300 after full federal tax credit)

The Nissan Leaf comes in two models: the S and the SV Plus -- and both are eligible for the full federal tax credit. The standard Leaf S has a 40 kWh battery, meaning a range of 149 miles per full charge, and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. The SV Plus has a more powerful 60 kWh battery and a higher range per full charge -- up to 212 miles. You're covered for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first, under a warranty that will take care of any defects in the materials or workmanship of your car battery.

Another feature included with both the S and SV Plus is an 8-inch display that can be integrated with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can also remotely start a charge, check on how much your Leaf has charged, and turn on the heat or A/C.  

The e-Pedal function allows you to start, accelerate, decelerate, and stop by using the accelerator pedal. For safety, there's automatic emergency braking that detects pedestrians, warnings for lane departures, blind spot warnings based on radar, rear cross traffic alert warnings, high beam assist, rear automatic braking, and more. 

The SV Plus comes with Nissan's semi-autonomous driving mode with ProPILOT Assist.

Pros & Cons
  • Eligible for federal tax credit
  • BMW Ultimate Care warranties
  • Active protection system
  • BMW Assist eCall feature
  • 10-speaker sound system
  • Acceleration, speed, and horsepower are impressive
  • Higher price point
More Details

Features or specs

  • Max speed: 130 mph
  • Max power: 288 horsepower
  • Accelerates 0-60 in 5.6 seconds
  • Price: $43,300 ($37,464 after partial federal tax credit)

The BMW 330e sedan maximizes performance and efficiency with a total power output of 288 horsepower. It also prioritizes safety with an active protection system that detects accidents and automatically prepares for them by closing the windows and moonroof, pre-tensioning safety belts, and activating post-crash braking. You can use the BMW Assist eCall feature for any emergency requests.

This vehicle comes with luxury touches, including power-folding, heated side mirrors, and a better-than-the-standard 10-speaker sound system. The windshield wipers are rain-sensing, and the two-way glass moonroof activates with just a touch. The vehicle and key memories are better than your average car's -- they stores your most recently used temperature, lighting, mirror, and other preferences for a seamless ride.

The 330e sedan starts at $43,300 without including a federal tax credit (which is capped at around the $5,800 mark). You're covered under BMW Ultimate Care, which includes an 8-year/80,000-mile high-voltage battery warranty. 

Pros & Cons
  • 7,700 towing capacity
  • 15.5-inch touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Phone as a key
  • Automatic software downloads
  • Hands-free driving
  • Higher price point
More Details

Features or specs

  • Up to 230 miles on a single charge 
  • Max speed: 120 mph
  • Max power: 452 horsepower
  • Accelerates 0-60 in 4 seconds
  • Price: $39,974 ($32,474 after full federal tax credit)

This six-seater F-150 is also eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit. It has a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds, a 15.5-inch touchscreen, a B&O sound system, plenty of safety features, and a phone-as-a-key capability. 

The FordPass app is central to this experience. You always know how much charge is left on your battery through the app. You can use the app to earn points towards maintenance, and you can even start/stop, lock/unlock, schedule a start, and locate your vehicle from the app. 

BlueOval charge network includes more than 75,000 chargers across North America -- so if you're on the road, you can find a charger on the way. 

Ford BlueCruise hands-free driving works with a camera that faces the driver: You can take your hands off of the wheel for more than 130,000 miles of highways in North America. 

When it comes to safety, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, auto high-beam headlamps, and intelligent adaptive cruise control are just a few included features. 

Pros & Cons
  • Google built-in
  • Air purifier
  • Bowers & Wilkins audio system
  • More expensive
More Details

Features or specs (for the Recharge)

  • 74 MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent) 
  • Max speed: 112 mph 
  • Max power: 455 horsepower 
  • Accelerates 0-60 in 4.3 seconds
  • Price: $41,300 ($33,800 after full federal tax credit)

This list is all about electric cars, but the Volvo S60 at a price point of $41,300 had to make an appearance. It's on the list of cars eligible for the tax credit, and you don't even have to plug it in. You'll reduce tailpipe emissions (fully electric cars eliminate them altogether) and reduce fuel consumption. The car comes with an air purifier and a Bowers & Wilkins audio system, and it has Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Play built-in. 

The 2022 Extended Range model is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit, but if you get an older standard model, then your savings will drop to around $5,400. The S60 Recharge is more expensive at $51,250, but it's fully electric. It has 455 horsepower and similar perks to the S60. It, too, is eligible for the full $7,500 credit.

What is the best affordable electric car?

The Chevy Bolt offers considerable value for its price point, so it takes the lead for the best cheap EV. It's popular -- its sales cap has been met for the tax credit. The Nissan Leaf is another popular option, and its sales cap hasn't been met yet, so it's still eligible for the full credit. With the credit, it would be a lower price than the Bolt. 



Max speed

Max power

Chevrolet Bolt


90.1 mph

200 horsepower

Nissan Leaf

$27,800 ($20,300 after full federal tax credit)

106 mph

214 horsepower

BMW 330e

$43,300 ($37,464 after partial federal tax credit)

130 mph

288 horsepower

Ford F-150 LIghtning

$39,974 ($32,474 after full federal tax credit)

120 mph

452 horsepower

Volvo S60

$41,300 ($33,800 after full federal tax credit)

112 mph 

455 horsepower 

Which is the right affordable electric car for you?

The options below show that you don't have to sacrifice quality for affordability. If you want a rugged electric truck that can seat six people, the Ford F-150 is a dream come true. If you're more about having an air purifier and Bowers & Wilkins audio system as part of the interior, go with the Volvo S60. As of the time of writing, all of these options, except for the Chevy Bolt, qualify for the Clean Vehicle Credit under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Choose this affordable electric car…

If you want…

Chevrolet Bolt

The best affordable EV overall

Nissan Leaf

The cheapest option with some great features

BMW 330e

A luxurious but still affordable sedan

Ford F-150 Lightning

A 6-seater truck that's fit for adventures

Volvo S60

A powerful sedan with 455 combined horsepower -- plus Google built-in and high-end audio

How did we choose these affordable EVs?

After writing about the changed considerations for the EV tax credit and looking at the manufacturers on that list, I decided to target both affordability and eligibility for the credit. I looked at different types of vehicles, including sedans and trucks, and in the honorable mentions at the end of this article, I even highlight a plug-in hybrid minivan that qualifies for the credit -- the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV. I wanted to ensure that the vehicles on this best list met the standards set by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and that they had quality features at an affordable price point.

How much is the federal tax credit and how does it work?

The federal EV tax credit is only available to individuals reporting modified adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of $150,000 or less, heads of households with AGIs of $225,000 or less, or $300,000 for married couples filing jointly. The credit only applies if you buy a new vehicle with an MSRP of $80,000 at most for vans, sports utility vehicles, and pickup trucks or $55,000 at most for other vehicles. In addition, the seller must report your name and taxpayer identification number to the IRS in order for you to attempt to claim the credit.

On your end, make sure to file Form 8936, Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit (Including Qualified Two-Wheeled Plug-in Electric Vehicles) with your tax return, You have to provide your vehicle's VIN on the form. 

You cannot simply go out to a dealership and expect the dealer to give you these savings up-front. However, according to the US Department of Energy, starting in 2024 you should be able to get your credit at the dealer.

Which electric cars qualify for the latest federal tax credit?

Most of the EVs on this guide do qualify for the federal tax credit beginning Jan. 1, 2023. But go to fueleconomy.gov to learn more about whether a specific car qualifies and how much you can save.

What are three disadvantages of an electric car?

We've talked about the good side of EVs and how they can save you money and help you lower your carbon footprint. There are disadvantages though:

  1. EV charging stations can be harder to find on the go. Chevy will install a Level 2 charging station in your home if you purchase the 2022 or 2023 Bolt EV or EUV, and other companies also provide charging stations, apps, and planning services so you can chart out where to find a charge on your next road trip.
  2. Charging times. You're not pumping gas into this car and zooming away from the gas station immediately. While the cars on this list charge pretty quickly, they aren't instantly ready to go. Some need an overnight charge. If you're someone who can never remember to charge your phone or dislike waiting in general, an EV might be difficult to get accustomed to at first. On the bright side, you don't always need to charge the car to 100% and the battery lasts for over 200 miles. 
  3. Higher upfront costs. While EVs can be more expensive up front, the cost of maintaining them is lower than a car that runs on fossil fuels. 

What is the lifespan of an electric car?

The lifespan of an EV depends on the battery pack. Consumer Reports estimates the average EV battery lifespan to be around 200,000 miles or 17 years of use if you drive 12,000 miles every year. The vehicles usually come with a battery warranty of at least eight years. In general, most EV batteries last between 10-20 years and after they wear out, you can choose to replace just the battery or the car itself.   

What is the cost of a new battery for an electric car?

You can usually get a replacement battery at no extra cost if you're within the warranty period for your vehicle. If you're out of the warranty period, a new battery can cost up to $20,000.

Are there alternative EVs worth considering?

Of course! The first qualification for consideration on this list is final assembly in North America -- so while these vehicles might not be the cheapest of the cheap vehicles out there, they're under $50k and offer a broad range of features. With the tax credit, they come out to under $40k.

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