A few years ago, I lived in California and had a friend who had a Chevy Volt. I was fascinated by the idea that I could have a car that didn’t require gas (and also by the privileges that California gives to electric vehicles, including access to HOV lanes). I couldn’t get a charger at my apartment, so I ditched the idea until a few years later, when I needed a car and coincidentally found that GM had really attractive lease deals on the Chevy Volt. I leased one, drove it for three years, and loved nearly everything about it.
Fast forward to now. The Volt is gone, I needed a car again, and saw that Chevy was again offering very attractive incentives on the Bolt. The Bolt is a pure electric vehicle; unlike the Volt, it doesn’t have a gas motor at all. On a full charge, it can go as far as 259mi, which is farther than I intend to drive (if I need to go more than 100mi or so in any direction, it’ll be in the plane!)
The Bolt comes in two trim levels: LT and Premier. There are only a handful of options; the two that I was insistent on were DC fast charging and the fancier stereo system. I was mostly agnostic on color. A little poking around on Chevy’s website showed a ton of potential vehicles, but I wanted to minimize the amount of hassle in the shopping process. Here’s what I did:
- For each of the nearby dealers I found on Chevy’s website, I found their “contact me” link (most of which use a common GM-provided customer management system) and sent some variation on the following note:
Here’s what I’m looking for:
* 2020 or 2021 Bolt Premier
* MUST HAVE: Infotainment package, DCFC
* MUST NOT HAVE: black exterior
* DON’T CARE: interior color, Driver Confidence II
Financing will be a 3-year 15K mile/year lease with the Costco incentive. This is not a trade-in. Send me your best offer and whoever makes the best deal by September 30 gets the sale.
- Weeded out the dealers who didn’t sell Bolts
- Weeded out the dealers who couldn’t read or understand English and said things like “Hey, I see you wanted a Bolt– did you know about the great incentives we have right now on Silverados?”
- Sorted the results by price.
The two clear winners were Freeland Chevrolet and Donohoo Chevrolet. (Bonus negative mention of Rick Hendrick Chevrolet, which wrote me a $600/month lease offer on the car– including an oil-change service package and mandatory $199 nitrogen in the tires. No thanks.)
After doing a little more thinking about what I wanted to use the car for, I went back to the top three dealers and asked them to run the numbers for a purchase. Donohoo was the clear winner here. The car they quoted me had an MSRP of $43,735 from Chevy’s build-and-price page. Donohoo priced it at $37, 235. Costco members get $3,000 off purchase or lease of a wide range of GM vehicles, and Chevy itself has an $8,500 purchase incentive– so with a $1500 down payment, that brought my price out the door to $25,573.
I chose to finance through Redstone Federal Credit Union. In retrospect, this wasn’t a great choice because they were super slow. It took more than two weeks to close the loan and get a check to the dealer. As one example of their general slowness, they sent the check on a Friday using UPS Next-Day Saver, which meant the check went from Huntsville to Montgomery to Fort Payne, so it wasn’t delivered until Tuesday. Great job, guys.
So that’s the car. One final note: I paid Donohoo extra to deliver the car, and they did a great job: the car showed up as promised, with a chase vehicle to drive the driver back to Ft. Payne. It was well worth the $175 delivery charge to not have to drive down there to get it.
Because it’s an electric car, of course I needed a way to charge it. Chevy ships a “Level 1” 120-volt charger than can provide 12 Amps (12A) charging. That’s enough to add about 4 miles of range per hour… which isn’t a lot. Level 2 chargers require 240V outlets, so I hired Budget Electric to add a 240V outlet and bought a Clipper Creek Level 2 charger. Although the Clipper Creek unit cost just under double the cheapest unit on Amazon, it’s American-made, includes a three-year warranty, and comes from the same company that builds the charger that comes with the car. I had a Clipper Creek charger for the Volt and liked it quite a bit.
So far I’m delighted with the car: it’s quick and fun to drive, thanks to a 200hp electric traction motor and its short wheelbase. The infotainment system works flawlessly with Apple CarPlay; the only thing I haven’t tested is the DCFC charging capability. I look forward to a world when the only time I stop at a gas station is to buy Diet Coke.