Help Choosing New Electric/Hybrid Car

I’m planning to purchase my parents a new electric or hybrid car as surprise Christmas present for them this year. Although I’m pretty big into motorized vehicles, I’ve never driven or ridden in an electric or hybrid vehicle and I’m frankly pretty overwhelmed by the large number of models with non-traditional drivetrains available now.

They do have other vehicles, so the range limit on a pure electric vehicle would not be a problem. And most of their driving is within a 20 mile radius of their home anyways. I’ve been doing some online research and have been looking at the Nissan Leaf pretty hard. With the $7500 federal tax credit, the price on the Leaf is pretty dirt cheap. But I am worried about the rare time they would take a longer drive in the car and the possibly of them ending up stranded - not because of personal safety or health issues, but just because of the huge inconvenience it would be.

I do like the concept of the Chevy Volt as well, but generally have a bias against domestic car makers, and especially GM, due to them being bailed out by taxpayers.

I’m sure plenty of dopers have experience with electric and hybrid vehicles and could give me some pointers as to what they like or dislike about their vehicles. Anybody have any recommendations or suggestions as far as to what make and model to look at?

Based on viewing of last night’s US version of Top Gear, the Tesla S would be my choice with the Nissan Leaf a far behind second choice. :slight_smile:

We’re currently on our second Prius and been happy with both the 2004 and 2010 models.

Here’s my impression from a test drive

I know someone who just got a new electric Fiat 500, and loves it. It’s much cheaper than a Tesla. It might be hard to find – it’s a lot rarer than the gasoline powered Fiat.

I just noticed this car is only available in California at the moment.

Yeah, the Tesla would be my first choice as well…unfortunately they haven’t been THAT good this year, so Santa is crossing the Tesla off the list :slight_smile:

Yeah, I saw the Fiat online and was really, really interested in it, until I saw it was Cali only…too bad, it seems like a great car at a good price point.

That was a great write up! Do you recall variant you test drove? Was it the base S?

I think it was the S…

If you go into the test drive with low or no expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised, as an avowed petrol head and lover of performance, my mindset was "the Leaf is going to SUCK, it’s going to be utterly pathetic and have no performance and crappy handling…

…the only way the leaf could go was up with that mindset…

That said, it’s a good tech demo, but impractical for my purposes, would I buy one?
No frakkin’ way, but I understand why some might

I’m a performance car/motorcycle guy as well, so there’s no way I would buy a EV/hybrid right now (with the exception of the Tesla), but for my parents I think it would be a good car. They both have no interest in performance vehicles, so no real worry there.

I’m also looking at the new BMW 3 series diesel. It gets nearly the same gas mileage as a Prius and has a million times better performance and handling. It’s a little more than I would like to spend on an Xmas gift though, so I probably won’t go down that road but stick with an all-electric.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to confess my borderline-irrational hatred of the Toyota Prius. I can’t even stand to look at them, so I won’t be considering any models of the Prius in the following recommendations.

I have friends or family members who own the following- Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda CR-Z.

The Nissan Leaf gets good reviews and owner satisfaction is high. The main drawback is the fact that it’s an electric-only, plug-in and if you run out of juice, you’re stuck!

My dad’s boss (who I consider a friend) purchased a Chevy Volt shortly after they were introduced a few years ago. He currently has over 20k miles on it and is still very happy with his decision.

The Honda Civic Hybrid has all the positive attributes of other Civic models plus even better fuel economy. It’s officially rated at 44mpg city and 44mpg highway. Real-world tests and owner results show 40-41mpg overall to be realistic.

Consumer Reports rates the Toyota Camry Hybrid very highly. It has ratings of 40/38mpg and achieved 38mpg overall in their long-term testing.

Honda has introduced two hybrid versions of the Accord for 2014. One is a plug-in with a gasoline engine for backup (like the Chevy Volt) but it is only being sold in CA and NY for now. The other is a more conventional hybrid with city/highway ratings of 50/45mpg. Motor Trend magazine drove one for 1850 miles at an average speed of 63mph and achieved 41.5mpg overall. During a 596-mile stretch of highway driving at 65-70mph, it managed 45.8mpg.

As fuel efficient as most of these hybrids and/or EVs are, many ‘regular’ (non-hybrid) vehicles have also made impressive strides in fuel efficiency. Some automakers are exploring technology other than hybrid and/or electricity to improve fuel economy. Mazda, for example, has developed very efficient 4-cylinder gasoline powertrains and will be introducing diesel variants of some models early next year.

A 2014 Mazda3 4-door is rated at 30mpg city and 41mpg highway and various independent tests have shown 38mpg+ to be realistic. It’s a much less mechanically complex vehicle and offers better acceleration than many hybrids. It’s also less expensive.

What kind of car do they drive now? How many seats needed? How many miles do they drive? City/highway? Short commute? Putter around town? Long Highway commute? First car or second car? Mileage #1, performance #1, using the HOV lane #1? Need a sedan or SUV or AWD or what? Give a few parameters and it will be easier to help out.

I’ve been looking at hybrid/EV’s these past few weeks. I like the Ford C-Max for a lot of reasons (including no bail out), but really there are so many variables to consider

They have a Lexus ES300 and a GMC Jimmy right now. I’d imagine they would keep the SUV as they use it for towing and hauling. Realistically they only need 2 seats, they only use the backseat when they are watching my kid (in reality, my dog). They both are 60 years old and recently retired, so no commutes and don’t care much about performance, but they aren’t ready to be the 90 year old driving a Buick around town either. We don’t have HOV lanes here, with the exception of entrance ramps, so no benefit there. They have vacation property about 5 hours away, but would be taking the SUV there, so the limited range of an all-electric isn’t a disadvantage. For the most part, it would be used to run errands around town.

I’m mainly leaning towards an all-electric simply because they do care quite a bit about gas mileage and could always keep 3 cars if the limited range of the electric would ever be a problem. And also because I think electric cars are a great technology and pretty cool toys that also serve a good purpose. They tend to look to me for tech/finance/large purchase decisions, so I do feel comfortable making a vehicle choice for them.

So I guess I would rank mileage first on the list, with everything else way down in importance. We do live in snow country, but again they can use the SUV until the roads get cleared. I will have to check out the C-Max, I haven’t done any research on that model yet.

I am still very happy with my Volt, 14 months in. But I bought it mostly to make Obama happy :).

Really, though, for 35 mile trips or less, and gas when you need it, it has a really comfortable ride, good electronics, and fun to drive.

I am quite happy with my C-Max Energi (that’s the plug-in version) but its biggest pluses over the Volt are the capacity to seat 3 comfortably in the back and its larger gas tank that takes regular for when a road trip is called for. The Volt’s bigger battery and greater range comes in currently at about the same net price and its customer satisfaction scores have been stellar. That said the pure EV Leaf would likely serve their needs fine too and fully loaded up is a wee tad less after tax credit than the Volt fully loaded up is.

I didn’t include my personal favorite hybrid in my previous posting because it’s fairly unique…actually, it is literally the only car in its class- Entry-level Luxury Hybrid Hatchback.

The Lexus CT 200h (also called the ‘CT Hybrid’) and, if I decided to purchase a hybrid, it would be my pick! It’s has a very upscale, slightly sporty exterior design and Lexus-grade interior. As a third vehicle, it might be a great fit for your parents?

I travel 36-42 weeks out of the year for work and spend a lot of time in rental cars. I’m an Auditor for Commercial insurance Policies and it’s not uncommon for my destination to be 100+ miles from the nearest airport. Sometimes the drive from the nearest airport to the company I’m auditing takes longer than the freakin’ flight! After more rental-car-from-hell stories than I ever want to remember, I renegotiated my employment contract to specify that I always get a “Premium” or higher class (Luxury, etc.) rental.

Earlier this year, I flew into DFW and the Nissan Maxima rental they had waiting for me wreaked of cigarette smoke. It was the ‘3.5 S’ model which has cloth interior which absorbs the smell much worse than leather. In any case, I couldn’t stand it and told the rental agent that I needed a replacement. He responded by saying “I have a Lexus but it’s a hybrid, would that work?” So I glady accepted…

It was a dark gray CT 200h with an interior color called Caramel. Everything but the seats was Black and the seats were covered in a beautiful Brown leather. I was immediately impressed.

The fuel economy is rated at 43mpg city and 40mpg highway. Consumer Reports and a few automotive sites achieved 40mpg+ over an extended test period in the CT. So the fuel economy ratings are very realistic. I put 280 miles on my rental and, even with my heavy foot and cruising at 75mph with A/C blasting, I managed 37mpg!

In addition to checking out the CT 200h in general, I was also curious if you had considered LEASING as an option? Since it will be used primarily for local driving and won’t be used much in winter, your parents sound like great candidates for a low mileage lease deal!

Just FYI, Lexus currently has a lease special on the CT 200h- $299/month for 27 months, $2199 due at lease signing and 10k miles per year allowed.

Regardless of whether you want to lease or purchase, it’s definitely worth a look- LEXUS CT 200h

I’m actually starting to look pretty hard at pre-paying a lease for them as well. Some of the lease deals are very enticing. I actually didn’t know Lexus had the CT 200h in their stable, I’ll look at that as well.

Has anyone used to do a purchase or lease? I ran a quote through them for a 2013 Leaf S and they are offering me a price of $2444 off of MSRP and $619 off of invoice after adding the 6.6kW Charger Package. So it’s coming down to $28,344 before the $7500 tax credit. I know when you lease, the tax credit gets applied as a capital cost reduction, so it would be available whether I buy or lease.

I would double check this point. Dealers here explained that for the Ford C-max energi, you don’t get the tax credit.

Also, there is a tax credit for the Leaf charger that doesn’t quite cover the cost.

I liked the c-Max and haven’t tried the Leaf. But as a second or third car for around town, I bet the Leaf would be just about perfect.

Yeah, I double-checked on the $7500 tax credit. It actually goes to the manufacturer in the case of a lease, so they roll it in as a manufacturer rebate back to the lessee. The $7500 and another $650 manufacturer incentive total $8150 off. Here’s the fine print on it:

Excludes taxes, title, and license. $1,999 initial payment required at consummation. (Includes $1,800 consumer down payment, $199 first month payment.) (INCLUDES $8,150 manufacturer’s rebate applied to $199/Month lease. Offer valid only when financed through Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation.) Subject to residency restrictions.

Check out this deal! Honda now has a fully-electric version of the Fit-

2014 Honda Fit EV
$259/month for 3-years
*$259 due at signing, no down payment or security deposit required
Charging Station, Maintenance, Roadside Assistance AND Collision Insurance Coverage are included in the monthly lease payment.
Driver only needs to maintain liability coverage (and possibly Comprehensive?)

It sounds like a freakin’ steal!

LINK to Fit EV

You might want to think twice about pre-paying a lease. If you prepay a lease and the vehicle is totaled in an accident, you don’t get a refund! The insurance pays the leasing company for the car (since they technically own it) and the lessee is screwed! The goal when leasing should be to put down as little as possible up front! Just some friendly advice.

I used TrueCar to buy my current vehicle (2012 Mazda CX-9 GT) and it was great! I also just helped my cousin lease a new 2014 Acura MDX using it and got her a great deal! $472/month for a $48k SUV for 3-years and $0 down.