The $99 EV Lease: Great Deals Are Out There if You Look Hard Enough

By · February 03, 2014

Smart ED

The Smart ED for $99 a month: Get 'em while they're hot. (Jim Motavalli photo)

If you look around, you may be able to find great lease deals on electric cars, especially if they’re 2013 leftovers.

It’s hard to beat the $99 a month for 36 months (with $900 down) I found for the 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive (with the $80 per month battery assurance plus feature) at the dealership in Fairfield, Connecticut. That’s reduced from $139 a month and $999 down ($199 for the cabriolet model).

Three cars were in stock at the dealer. Sales consultant Mitch Clinton said he’d sold twice as many electric Smarts as gas versions (but he was only talking about moving two cars instead of one).

The Lowest Price, Ever

Mitsubishi has gone as low as $69 per month (for 24 months), with $2,100 down, on the 2013 I-MiEV, but dealers I talked to didn’t have any more 2013s in stock. A revamped 2015 model is coming in the spring.

Still, it’s hard to beat the purchase deal on the 2014 I-MiEV, because the $23,845 including shipping becomes just $16,345 after the federal tax credit. And although I-MiEVs have some serious shortcomings, there are real bargains to be had out there—one friend picked up a barely used one for a price in the mid-teens.

Paul Scott, the EV advocate who has sold 500 Nissan LEAFs at Nissan of Downtown Los Angeles, says he’s able to offer modest discounts on 2013 models. “We have about 25 left,” he said. He’d just leased a loaded car with the fast-charging option for $240 a month, which is what you’d pay for a base 2014 S without quick charging. Scott said that 90 to 95 percent of his customers were opting for lease deals.

The $139 LEAF—It'll Cost Ya

But you can go even lower on a base LEAF. With enough money down—a whopping $6,610.82—you can pay $139 a month instead of the advertised $199, according to Rebecca Lindsay of Connecticut’s D’Addario Nissan. Nissan also advertises $8,150 “cash back” on the $199 leases, but you won’t see any money. According to Lindsay, “This is what you would get as a tax credit if you were to finance or buy the LEAF.”

A number of quality EVs are now available for that same $199 a month, including the Chevrolet Spark. The Spark has proven popular, so it might be hard to find any leftovers, plus they're only sold in California and Oregon. The Fiat 500e is $239 a month, and for $259 (with no down payment) you can get a Honda Fit with a garage charger included.

Elon's Fuzzy Math

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, says he can get you into a Model S for less than $500 a month, but he’s talking about a net cost after all your savings from free Supercharger electricity and the like. The actual lease payment is $1,199 for the top-of-the-line 85-kWh model, and $1,051 for the 60-kWh model. And, of course, through a deal with US Bank and Wells Fargo, you can finance a Model S with 10 percent down.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. What Is An Electric Car?
    Before we get going, let's establish basic definitions.
  2. A Quick Guide to Plug-in Hybrids
    Some plug-in cars have back-up engines to extend driving range.
  3. Electric Cars Pros and Cons
    EVs are a great solution for most people. But not everybody.
  4. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  5. Federal and Local Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  6. Eight Factors Determining Total Cost of Ownership of an Electric Car
    EVs get bad rap as expensive. Until you look at TCO.
  7. Quick Guide to Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.
  8. Electric Car Utility Rate Plans: Top Five Rules
    With the right utility plan, electric fuel can be dirt cheap.
  9. The Ultimate Guide to Electric Car Charging Networks
    If you plan to charge in public, you'll want to sign up for charging network membership (or two).
  10. Eight Rules of Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette
    Thou shalt charge only when necessary. And other rules to live by.