Opinion: Now is the Time to Buy a Used Chevrolet Bolt

Jo Borras
by Jo Borras
opinion now is the time to buy a used chevrolet bolt

You have to feel for the people in charge of marketing the Chevy Bolt. After months of news stories about the company’s first mainstream EV bursting into flames in customers’ garages and various statements blaming everyone from the battery manufacturer to the charging stations to the owners themselves for failing to stick to the NHTSA safety recommendations, General Motors launched a massive recall.

The short version is this: Every single Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV ever made – that’s 110,000 electric cars – will be getting a brand-spanking-new LG battery, free of charge. What’s more, this one won’t burst into flames. (Pinky swear!)

Now, call me crazy, but when I read about fires burning down homes and massive safety recalls like this, I have to ask myself: Is now the best time ever to buy a used Chevy Bolt?


Before we get too deep in the weeds here, let’s take a minute to reflect on the Chevy Bolt, itself. First launched in 2017, the Bolt was GM’s first mainstream EV. It was decently quick, offered 200+ miles of range if it was driven sensibly, and even qualified for the biggest, $7,500 tax incentive for a while. Upon reviewing the car back in 2018, our own Tim Healey wrote, “Forget the EV powertrain or the nearly 240 miles of range for a second. The Bolt is a well-packaged small car with interesting design and infotainment tech. That alone may make it worthy of a look.”

I feel like that’s high praise around these parts. Other people I know in the industry spent their own money to buy an actual, new Bolt, even – which, if you’ve ever actually met anyone in this industry, is almost unheard of.

Finally, let’s look at what brought us here (that’d be the fires – natch). Sure, it looks bad when your product catches fire suddenly and violently and burns down some poor bastard’s house while his wife and kids and impossibly photogenic golden retriever are sleeping snugly in their beds, but for all the ink that’s been spilled on this story, there’s surprisingly little meat to it. According to Sam Abuelsamid, lead auto analyst for Guidehouse Insights, only seven Chevy Bolts have caught fire, or about 0.006 percent of those on the road. By comparison, the National Fire Protection Association said 212,000 gas and diesel vehicles caught fire in 2018, or about 0.07 percent of those on US roads.

I’m no mathematographer, but 0.07 looks like it might be more than 0.006. It makes sense, though, when you consider that the average parked car is usually filled with a highly flammable liquid and moves because of … well, combustion.

So, the Chevy Bolt is a decent car. It’s highly unlikely to burn you and your family to death, too – and, unlike just about every used car on the patently bonkers market right now, you just might be able to get a deal on a used one, thanks to all that ink I mentioned earlier.


If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m an EV guy. I like the tech. I like feeling like we’re moving on to the next thing. Heck, I’ll even admit to feeling ever-so-slightly morally superior to the guys that are still rollin’ coal in 2021. That said, I’m no preacher – and one thing I am absolutely not here to do is try to convince you to buy an EV.

I’d rather meet people where they are. And, if where you are is in an EV-curious/might want to buy something soon phase of your car-buying journey, I think a 2017-2019 Chevy Bolt is definitely worthy of your consideration because if you buy one now, you are going to get a 100 percent brand-new LG battery pack absolutely free of charge. And, if you’re buying an EV, you want one with a new battery.


Depending on who you ask, the weak link in the EV chain is the availability of chargers. That’s nonsense, for a number of reasons. The actual weak link in the EV chain – and the tin-foil hat reason that almost every manufacturer has jumped all over EVs as opposed to, say, alternative or synthetic fuels that could take advantage of the existing infrastructure – is the battery. Specifically, the degradation of said battery.

All batteries degrade over time as they’re charged and discharged, and won’t hold the same capacity as when they’re new. That’s why older laptops and cell phones don’t hold a charge like they used to, and it’s also why many used EVs don’t have the same range as their fresh-off-the-truck counterparts.

Some carmakers’ batteries fare better than others, of course, but it’s been hard to pull reliable figures from the deluge of anecdotal evidence out there. That’s why, when Geotab did a major study on the subject, analyzing the battery health of 6,300 EVs and 1.8 million days of data, it’s worth paying attention to what they found.

“From the telematics data processed,” reads the Geotab website, “we have gained insight into how real-world conditions influence the battery health of electric vehicles, providing aggregated average degradation data for 21 distinct vehicle models, representing 64 makes, models and years.”

In their data, Chevy’s LG batteries were the absolute best in terms of degradation, losing 0 (zero) capacity after a year of use. That’s better than Tesla, better than BMW, and worlds ahead of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (the worst of the bunch, losing 4.1 percent of battery capacity after just one year).

That kind of performance is, in a word, expensive. That’s why this recall is such a big deal, in the end: Because it is costing someone billions of dollars, and all to solve a problem that seems like it might be imaginary, assuming the percentages are to be believed.

But people don’t believe things they don’t understand, do they? And people – especially Americansdo not understand fractions. As such, when you tell someone that 0.07 percent of gas cars vs. 0.006 of Chevy Bolts are catching on fire? Jesus. Look at all those zeroes! That must be bad news for EVs!

Not you, though. You’re the Best and Brightest, and some of you might just be thinking about getting an EV. If you are, you’d be insane not to waltz into your nearest dealership with your phone open to an article about the Bolt fires and drive down the price to something acceptable. The older the better, in this case, because you don’t care about what your range is today. After all, you’ll be getting a brand new, super-expensive battery in just a few months’ time – and your Bolt will literally be good as new after that. That’s my take, anyway. I invite you to scroll on down to the comments section and let us know yours.

Disclaimer – This is not advice. In fact, this is a Wendy’s Drive-thru, and if you buy a Chevy Bolt based on anything written here and it happens to burn your house down that is fully on you.

[Image: Chevrolet/GM]

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3 of 51 comments
  • Socrates77 Socrates77 on Sep 07, 2021

    Hell no, If can't afford a used model 3 then I get a used rav4 hybrid. Bolts are cheap made won't last 100k miles. If it doesn't catch fire first.

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Sep 07, 2021

      "If can’t afford a used model 3 then I get a used rav4 hybrid." Which is going to cost around much as an used Model 3.

  • Phillip Phillip on Jan 03, 2023

    I seem to recall Ford motor company recalling nearly 3 million trucks and SUV’s because They were catching fire in people’s garages and burning their houses down. That’s a lot of gasoline powered vehicles. I don’t know the percentage of vehicles that caught fire but the news was showing photos and videos of people’s homes burned down, stories of people having died in their sleep due to the fires. Ford happens to be number 1 in truck sales and this didn’t affect the number of people waltzing into their local ford dealerships to purchase a truck or SUV. As a side note, cellphones have exploded in people’s pockets and test we all still buy these things regularly. The comment “If it doesn’t catch fire first” is a bit of an exaggeration when so few of them actually caught fire. I would totally buy one if it we’re practically for me and my family.

  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.
  • Peeryog OK , my fault. But there were a number of inadvertent scatalogical references in the original post. To which, having the intellectual maturity of a 12 year old boy, I snickered.
  • Ajla People that buy a new Silverado or Sierra without a V8 are like the people that get salmon at Peter Luger.
  • MKizzy The Mazda 6 wagon needs to be brought here pronto. Sexy looks aside, it would look less out of place in Mazda's CUV lineup vs the sedan, and since Mazda wants to go "premium," wagon customers tend to be the most affluent (if Daimer-Benz is to be believed). My second choice is the attractive Hyundai i40 wagon, which would replace the defunct VW Sportwagon in the small/mid size wagon niche.
  • Carlson Fan GM needs new leadership. A 9000lb off-road vehicle???? Don't get that thing stuck in a remote area.Imagine if they had brought back the iconic K5 Blazer name and built something to compete with the Wrangler like Ford did with the Bronco. They could have offered that with an electric power train in addition to the gas models. Ford may have some quality issues right now but whoever is steering that ship knows what they are doing. The Bronco & Maverick where both brilliant ideas.