AOL Readers' Secret for Buying Electric Cars

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NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 07:  The all new 100% electric Nissan LEAF at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on June 7, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for NPG)
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A little while back, I asked DailyFinance's readers for their stories about buying vs. leasing cars. While many of their responses focused on fairly common concerns -- financing, mileage, long-term value, and so forth -- another trend quickly emerged. Many readers were traditionally car buyers, but switched to leasing because of another consideration entirely: rapid changes in technology. Several readers offered suggestions of ways to get the best technology -- and the best price -- through a lease

Stable vs. Unstable Technology

While nobody wants to get stuck with an outmoded car, the danger of driving last year's technology is increased when it comes to electric vehicles. With improvements in batteries and electrics constantly on the horizon, there is a very real possibility that this year's technological marvel will be next year's Betamax on wheels.

This concern definitely played a large part in "Mary's" decision to go with a lease. She wrote that "We always bought our cars new," but that she switched to leasing when got her electric Nissan Leaf. "Electric car technology is changing and so fast that we didn't want to be tied to soon-to-be-obsolete technology for the long term," she wrote. She has a three-year lease, and expects electric car technology to be "greatly improved" by the time it runs out. Next time around, though, plans to buy a hybrid crossover, based on the idea that the technology is "stable" and less likely to change as rapidly.

Getting Help From Car Companies

Future shock is nothing new when it comes to consumer purchases: Apple, for example, often finds itself on the sharp end of furious screeds about their incredibly short product cycle, which takes roughly six months to transform the hot new thing into an outmoded dinosaur. But, unlike Apple, car companies often have a hard time selling their unique value proposition. Put another way, electric car manufacturers can't rely on customer loyalty; they need to find some way to help car buyers overcome their worries.

It's not surprising, then, that so many car companies seem to be working around this technology concern. As "DElia3630" notes, she got a special deal on her electric car: "The deal was a special factory lease with a low out of pocket expense and a low monthly payment." Like Mary, DElia is wary of getting stuck with outdated technology. On the other hand, if electric car technology proves relatively stable, she explains, "I can buy the car at the end of the lease and take advantage of its popularity."

On Tuesday, Tesla Motors' Elon Musk offered another solution. Taking advantage of government incentives, the car company has structured a lease that -- it claims -- costs as little as $500 per month. The really interesting aspect of the lease, however, is that Tesla is pegging its cars' residual value to the Mercedes S-Class sedan, guaranteeing that the resale value of the Tesla Model S will be the same as the Mercedes. In other words, Tesla is effectively promising to protect its buyers from being financially undermined by advances in electric car technology.

Gas Prices: The Real Payoff

"John" also got a good deal on a Nissan Leaf lease. Because of a friend, he was able to get his car at $1,000 below invoice, and an added $7,500 government tax incentive helped seal the deal. The real kicker, however, was the gas bill. "I looked at my gas purchases in Quicken for the last year and I was spending over $250 to $300 per month in gas," he wrote. By comparison, he estimates that his electric car saves "over $200 per month in fuel."

Caveat Emptor: The Downside of Electrics

This isn't to say that leasing an electric is all rainbows and sunshine. John estimates that he also has to pay an extra $600 a year in insurance. Then again, with gas costs consistently high, an extra $50 per month in insurance pales beside his savings at the pump.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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The Best And Worst Vehicles For Under $30,000
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AOL Readers' Secret for Buying Electric Cars

By Michael Zak | AOL Autos

A recent Interest.com study looked at the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to see which median-income households in those respective areas can afford to purchase a new car, the average price of which was $30,550 in 2012, according to TrueCar. The study found that in only one city can residents actually afford a car with this sticker price -- Washington, D.C.

Households with an average income in Washington, D.C. can afford a payment of up to $628, which would allow for purchase of a $31,940 vehicle. The next closest city, San Francisco, can only afford $537 per month, equating to a $26,786.

While it's not news that Americans like to buy things that they can't afford, the data is a little surprising given how many great cars there are out there for well under $30,000. Solid hybrids, CUVs, sedans and sports cars can all be had for less than this.

We've racked our brains and come up with 5 of the best cars that are cheaper than the average car's purchase price. These are affordable, versatile, fun and fuel efficient. Of course, there are some stinkers in this price range, as well, so we've included 5 vehicles we think you should avoid.

Subaru BRZ

MSRP: $25,495 - $27,495
Invoice: $24,327 - $26,112
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway

The Subaru BRZ proves that driving bliss doesn't have to cost a fortune. The rear-wheel drive sports coupe is one of the most engaging vehicles on the road today, with utterly superb dynamics and looks. The best part? You can have one for $25,495.

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Volkswagen Golf

MSRP: $18,095 - $25,200
Invoice: $17,371 - $24,192
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway

Although the redesigned 2014 version of this handsome hatch will be on sale in the near future, the current generation is still worth buying. It's fuel efficient, fun and surprisingly versatile. Starting at less than $20,000, the Golf is also quite affordable.

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Toyota Prius v

MSRP: $26,650 - $30,295
Invoice: $24,809 - $28,202
Fuel Economy: 44 mpg City, 40 mpg Highway

The Toyota Pirus v is essentially a bigger version of the popular Prius hybrid. This hatchback acheives stellar fuel economy while allowing for transport of numerous people and all of their stuff. Starting at $26,650, you can have all the benefits of a versatile hybrid for an agreeable price.

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Mazda CX-5

MSRP: $20,995 - $28,595
Invoice: $20,396 - $27,771
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

The Mazda CX-5 is one of our favorite crossovers here at AOL Autos even when taking more expensive ones into account. Remarkably fun to drive, fuel efficient and starting at a low price, there's a lot to love about this agile utility vehicle.

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MSRP: $16,695 - $21,115
Invoice: $16,208 - $20,218
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

This small sedan continue to be the darling of both critics and consumers nationwide. Available with tons of standard features, great looks and sweet fuel economy, the Elantra is one of the best cars on the planet right now.

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MSRP: $18,995 - $32,820
Invoice: $18,770 - $31,334
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway

The 200 is a holdover from when Chrysler was owned by Daimler and then private equity-firm Cerberus Capital. It's not that this car is awful, especially since the new Chrysler, managed by Fiat, made a series of improvements. It's that the other cars in this category are so good, and much better designed and engineered.

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MSRP: $18,725 - $21,815
Invoice: $17,789 - $20,725
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

The Scion tC is intended to be a sporty coupe. The problem? It's not sporty. At all. In fact, the tC finds itself on the Consumer Reports list of the least fun cars to drive and we're inclined to agree with that assessment.

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MSRP: $18,995 - $30,795
Invoice: $18,800 - $29,276
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway

Short on features and with pretty poor driving dynamics, the Dodge Journey is one you should skip if you're shopping for a sub-$30,000 crossover. We're looking forward to Dodge's next attempt.

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MSRP: $25,900 - $29,200
Invoice: $24,452 - $27,507
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

Don't be fooled by the badge. This is not really a luxury car. With uninspired driving dynamics and a lackluster interior, you should pass on the ILX even though its low sticker price seems very tempting.

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MSRP: $12,490 - $17,890
Invoice: $11,616 - $16,638
Fuel Economy: 34 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway

The idea of the smart fortwo is great. It's the execution that's the problem. The fortwo is loud, terrible to drive and really isn't all that fuel efficient, considering its size. There are way better options between $10,000 and $20,000.

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