Should we buy a new EV and sell it in 18 months?

rreditors-blog-entry3So, here’s the dumb thing: We really want to be driving a solar-charged EV. Yet we can’t do it yet. Or maybe we can — but only if I manage to figure out a way for it to make sense for us, and, to do this, I could really use some feedback and ideas from you.

First, the background: We’ve had a 5.59 kW home solar system for 1 ½ years. During that time, we’ve created a bank of 7,000 kWh of electricity that’s worth about $3,500 in gasoline replacement.

In October, people in Colorado could start ordering Nissan LEAFs, and, a few weeks ago, a Denver area family drove away in the first Colorado dealer delivered LEAF. We didn’t order one, though.

Off to Europe?
Here’s why. For a long time, it looked like we might be going to Europe in the fall of 2014, where I would work for up to a year. This gave us time to buy a new EV and pay it off before we’d leave. Then, at exactly the time LEAFs became available for order in Colorado, it started to look like we’d either go to Europe in the fall of 2012, or in the fall of 2013.

Given this turnaround, it didn’t seem to make economic sense for us to buy or lease a new EV. I tried to swallow some of my eagerness to add EV to our home solar PV, and we decided to continue to go on with our two aging clunkers, a 1994 Toyota Camry with 281,000 miles on it, and a 1992 Acura Integra, with 156,000 miles on it.

Fair enough, you might say. Only our aging clunkers suddenly aren’t cooperating. Both are ceasing to be reliable at exactly the same time. In fact, they’ve both been towed twice within the last three months, for a total of four tows.

acura-front1Clunkers & repair costs
Plus, we’ve been forced to sink thousands of dollars into repairs. New fuel injectors, ignition, batteries, distributor — the list goes on and on. Sinking this money into our clunkers is still cheaper than a new car — over the past three years we’ve spent about $100 per month on maintenance for the 1994 Camry and about $140 per month for the Integra.

But we need reliable transportation, especially my wife, who’s had it with being stranded and having to get towed (she’s been stranded three of the four times our cars have refused to start).

She wants to do something — now! But, with the possibility that we’ll be in Europe for a year soon, it’s really hard to figure out how to balance our need for reliable transportation with my strong desire to go EV + PV as soon as possible with what makes economic sense.

Different options
Below are a few options I’ve come up with. Unfortunately, some do not involve buying an EV until we get back from Europe in late 2014 (sure hope that $7,500 tax credit doesn’t go away before then, or, poof, there go our EV dreams).

If you have feedback/additional ideas, please let me know in comments stream below.

Option 1: Buy a LEAF and sell it in the summer of 2014 after owning it only 1 1/2 years. This would allow us to add EV to our home solar PV right away, and to tap those 7,000 extra kWh of electricity we’ve generated. On the other hand, no one knows what the re-sale value of an EV like a LEAF will be in a little over a year.

Option 2: Buy a LEAF and convince my brother or a friend to take over payments for the year we’re in Europe. This is the idea that excites me the most. However, it’s contingent on my brother, or a friend, being willing to take over a year’s worth of car payments. The plus for him, or a friend, would be being able to test drive an EV for a year. The downside would be — you got it, the payments! The plus for us is that we get a new EV, and leave our unreliable car issues in the dust while getting to drive on sun for a year and a half.

volt-blackOption 3: Abandon our two-car household model, buy a Chevy Volt and sell it in the summer of 2014 after owning it only 1 1/2 years. As you can see, this is a variation of Option 1, but with a twist — we go with just one car in our household, partly because the Volt is about $5,000 grand more than the LEAF, and partly because with the Volt we could be a one-car household. The pluses are lots of Sun Miles© for us right away. The downsides are the inconvenience of having one car — both my wife and I work full-time jobs in different places and we’ve got a 5- and 7-year-old to cart around to various places — and having to eat the depreciation value.

Option 4: Buy a new “gasser” such as a Nissan Versa and sell it in summer 2014 after owning it just 1 1/2 years. This isn’t very attractive to me because it doesn’t move us into EV + PV land. However, up front, it’s a lot cheaper than shelling out for a new plug-in — and it does solve our unreliable car problems, assuming we don’t get a lemon. Again, there’s the depreciation problem, though it’s not as big an issue because the car itself will cost us so much less than a brand new LEAF or Volt.

Option 5: Buy a used “gasser”, then sell it, either in summer 2014, or, perhaps later. I have no idea how much we’d need to pay in order to get a used car that would be both more reliable than our 1994 Camry or 1992 Integra and cost us less in monthly maintenance. I’m thinking it’d be at least $10,000 — which puts us not that far from the cost of a new Versa, etc. On the other hand, if we buy a one or two-year old car, we’ll have saved ourselves a big depreciation hit — or will we have? Also, this option doesn’t get us to EV + PV land until after we come back from Europe in late 2014. On the other hand, it may well be the most reasonable and cost-effective route.

Option 6: Buy a used EV, then sell it, either in summer 2014 or perhaps later. I know there are a few used EVs out there, but my sense is that they’re way overpriced — I’ve seen $15,000 or more being asked for some of the early 2000 Toyota RAV4 EVs. But maybe I’m wrong about this, maybe you can find a reasonably priced used EV. Anyone?

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Option 7: Pay for an EV conversion for our 1992 Acura Integra. I have no idea how much this would cost, though I’m guessing we’re looking at at least $15,000, maybe $20,000, possibly even more. At $15,000, it might make sense, though I have to wonder about suspension elements that are now up to 20 years old in our car. Will they hold up?

Option 8: Continue with our two gas clunkers and cross our fingers. Short term, this probably would be the most cost-effective route. However, running the next 1 ½ years with our two gas clunkers doesn’t appear to be an option anymore. Two breakdowns and two tows for each in the past three months is just too much for my wife. She’s had it! She wants at least one reliable vehicle in our garage. And I can’t blame her — if only we could get to where she wants to be while also going EV + PV and having it all not cost us too much in the short term.

Option 9: Sell our house, which is 10 miles from my workplace and the kids’ school, move to a house within walking distance of these and within walking distance of a light-rail station for my wife, give up owning cars altogether, and start car sharing. This is a radical option — especially considering we’d lose at least $35,000 selling our house, and we’d lose our 5.59 solar system to boot. It’d be stressful too. Then again, I do hate commuting, except when I do it by bicycle, which I only get to do once or twice a week. Hmm….

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