Free Car for next 2 years? Chevy Bolt

Ok, so this isn’t exactly a lease, but I did use a lot of insights and hacks from this site to figure this one out. (Thanks to everyone’s input on this site!)

I found a way to get a car for essentially free if I buy it and sell it within 2 years (kind of like a 2 year lease where my monthly payment is effectively a savings account). Here’s how…

A few Chevy dealers in SoCal have significantly reduced their prices on Chevy Bolt electric vehicles. Why? A few reasons… End of month (buy by 9/30), end of model year (2019’s must go) and on October 1 the federal tax credit cuts in half for the Bolt ($3,750 ends 9/30 and becomes $1,875 on Oct 1). I think the combination of these factors has caused dealers to slash prices on the Bolts to get them to move.

I just bought a $44k MSRP Bolt Premier for $34k out the door. I got $7k in GM rebates and $7k in dealer discount (including a bit of negotiating to bring the price down). So that’s a pretty good discount right there and when you add in $3,750 in tax credits PLUS $2,500 in CA tax rebates, then my effective purchase price for the car is $28k.

So the question is, can I sell the Bolt for $28k or more within the next 24 months? Since the residual value on a 36-month, 10k miles lease is $24,703 on this same car, and I only drive 7,000 miles per year, I believe it’ll be easy to sell the car in 2 years for at least $28k. In addition, not all dealers are discounting and are unwilling to (I asked many of them) because they don’t have a huge inventory to get rid of or just don’t have the same relationship with GM to get the same incentives, etc.

Proceed at your own risk, but I do think this is a rare opportunity to have a very decent EV (238 mile range!) for a severe discount and value if you buy it by 9/30/2019 (that’s Monday folks). Read up on the tax credits - not everyone qualifies or can use the credit, and if you’re not in CA then you may have different state rebates or credits, or none, IDK.

BTW, I wasn’t going to buy an EV but when I discovered this deal and then drove the car (it’s fast!) I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to drive a Bolt for free?” and the answer is “of course!!”. Best of luck fellow hackers.

I appreciate everyone poking holes in this gamble of mine. I did my homework before committing my money to this deal, including finding out the residual value that GM is betting the car will be in 3 years. Weeks ago used Bolts (2017,2018) were selling above $28k (assuming same trim, features, mileage, etc.). Right now those prices are depressed because dealer prices on new cars are so low.

The key assumption here is that the dealers will return to a state of normal pricing after 9/30 or by year end when the 2020’s are out, when GM incentives expire, and when tax credits expire, etc. I do not believe that GM will suddenly change their MSRP downward nor do I expect dealers to keep pricing this low. I’ve been monitoring their trend over the past few weeks, looked at historical pricing charts, and even today they’ve lowered prices slightly to help clear inventory, so I am willing to bet this is a temporary lull in pricing.

The other key assumption is that I will be monitoring pricing and find a time to sell when prices aren’t artificially low. Of course I could be wrong - this is a gamble. Ultimately my goal is to be around $100 per month or less in cost for the duration of having the car and I think this car can even be zero (especially if you add in gas savings at $100+ per month). I’ve been very successful doing this with other vehicles over the past decade and have confidence this car will work out. I also don’t need to hold this car for any specific period of time as I’m not in love with this car (and I have another car), I just expect it to be low cost to have this one.

As for opportunity cost, I have no illusion about value - cars are no asset, they’re a liability and I do everything I can to mitigate the downside. I’m financing this at low interest (4.99% from GM for the first month and then refi at 2.9% with credit union) - I’m keeping my cash to do better things with it.

For me, the only real opportunity cost is the time I’ve invested in this deal… but I like doing these deals and researching cars, and love this website, so call it my hobby. :slight_smile:

If anyone doesn’t like the risk of this deal, you can always hack a lease for $200-250 per month and have a definitive outcome. Then, if the car value is higher than residual at lease end you could always buy it and flip it at that time to recoup some cost. With gas savings you’ll still be around $100 per month in net cost and that’s a great outcome.

UPDATE - May 4, 2021
I’ll be the first to admit and accept that I was wrong. Terribly wrong. This deal sucked. Don’t buy a Bolt - lease one if you need to have a Bolt.

The car was a fun car and great for short commutes to work every day. When the pandemic hit and we stopped driving to work, the car was nearly pointless (except for not going to get gas was nice). Then I moved to a new state. In February 2021 I sold the car. The math sucks on this deal for a few reasons: 1) Pandemic changed people’s desire for commuter cars. 2) GM flooded the market with these cars and was selling brand new ones, just like mine with no miles for $24k.

Seeing that the car was only losing value and not providing enough personal value to keep it, I sold it for $20,400 to a dealer. Ironically I could have sold it 6 months earlier when I was offered $27k but I thought that was too low back then. Oops. So all in, I spent $34k, got $6,250 in rebates and sold for $20,400 so I spent $7,500 in 17 months to drive 10,000 miles. Had I leased it for $200 per month I would have done better. (NOTE: I did save about $100 per month in gas and I might have to give back $2k in rebates since I didn’t keep the car for 30 months, but I haven’t heard anything about that yet.)

My new car is a slightly used 2020 4Runner that I purchased for $6k under market price. For my specific model and features there were only 7 for sale in the entire USA and the one I wanted happened to be 20 minutes away. The Chevy dealer made a mistake in their pricing and didn’t account for all the vehicle features properly, so it was priced at their cost… or they just really didn’t want a Toyota on their lot? IDK, but I’m very happy with the deal and my new ride. It’s my second 4Runner and I’m sure you all know they hold their value very well.

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How much are the used 17-18 premiers going for in your area?

I think you’re going to be sorely disappointed at the end of two years when you go to sell this for $28k.


Yea, unfortunately I think $28k is optimistic. I had actually thought about doing this very thing, but I think low $20’s would be more realistic, and honestly that might even be a stretch.

Absolutely 28k is going to be optimistic. However at around 25k, your two year depreciation cost is 1.5k a year or 130 a month. Not a bad deal at all.

Does your effective purchase price include tax? You won’t ever recoup that

I don’t think it will work with the Bolt. If you want an ev that has a shot at this then look at the base eGolf with an OTD of about $15k.

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Best of luck selling for anything higher than mid 20’s

If you consider the opportunity cost of tying up 28K for the next 2 years assuming you could get that for it then no, not exactly free.

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Love the opportunity cost thing…you know that can be positive or negative, right?

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It can go either way but with depreciating assets that see regular use in less than ideal conditions not a safe gamble unless someone is guaranteeing term end value (a lease)

Do I think the OP should buy a new Bolt EV for $28,000 effective cost to use as a commuter? If it makes them happy, why not? Do I see it as a wise short term investment? Absolutely not.

I am in the same boat. Got a 39.5k LT for 26.5k. It should make a good flip but I am not thinking thousands - just hundreds … AS for the opportunity costs, insurance, fees etc, true those will not be recovered and only go towards the gas money that I may save for the next six months …

I think you have to keep it for 30 months to qualify for federal tax credit


Beat me to it, but yes this, except it’s for the CA state rebate ($2500). I don’t believe there is a time requirement for the federal (except perhaps you need to still have the vehicle registered upon claiming the tax credit? Dunno.)

30 months for CVRP. Also you need to add several grand for interest from financing. I was thinking something similar but you should have gone with the LT as a flip as you will not recoup the premium you paid for the premier. Also not getting sales tax back for your $44k car.

That’s a .500 batting average. Correct on CVRP but no minimum for fed tax. The first purchaser to put the ev in service gets the credit. It must be put in service hence titled and registered.

And hope no one crashes into you or vice versa

Actually, that’s one way to make the math work…insurance payoffs.

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Or a bad carfax, tanking your resale.

Dude, no. Please just enjoy it (and not because you think it is only going to cost you $100 per month, it won’t).|Premier&sortBy=derivedpriceASC&numRecords=25&firstRecord=0

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I think you are misinterpreting what was said here…and it almost seems like you are getting a bit defensive…don’t! That is a great deal! So what if it’s not free…since when car deals have to break even? I’m pretty sure you didn’t get it with flipping in mind anyway so enjoy its benefits. Guessing where these Bolts will be value wise especially after GM releases its new version and their upcoming SUV is dangerous…you will most likely overshoot.