California Rebates for Electric Cars and Plug-in Hybrids

By

Senior Pricing Analyst

Alex Bernstein is the Senior Pricing Analyst for CarsDirect.com. Each month he studies immense volumes of pricing and incentives data in search of trends that are useful to car shoppers. In the process, he often breaks industry news stories -- his analyses and insights have been featured on websites such as Automotive News, The Detroit News, Autoblog, The Truth About Cars and The Car Connection.

Follow On: Google+ | Website

, Senior Pricing Analyst - December 28, 2016

If you're a California resident considering an electric car or plug-in hybrid, chances are you've heard about the state Clean Vehicle Rebate. Along with benefits like federal tax credits, single-occupant use of the carpool lane and aggressive manufacturer incentives, shoppers are in a good position to get a great deal.

However, the program's rules and restrictions have changed quite a bit over the last year. In some cases, support has increased considerably. In others, a limit has been established making those earning above a certain income threshold ineligible.

We know it can be frustrating keeping track of the changes, so we've tried to boil it down to the essential elements.

Here's a look at what you can expect at the moment.

What's available for most folks

Most shoppers will be eligible for a $2,500 rebate toward electric cars like the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Bolt EV, or $1,500 toward plug-in hybrids like the Ford Fusion Energi and Toyota Prius Prime. Fuel-cell vehicles like the Toyota Mirai are eligible for $5,000.

Sounds simple, right? Well, not exactly.

Extra cash for those with low incomes

Earlier this year, more support was introduced for low-income applicants. "Low income" is defined as being at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Limit, which translates to $35,640 for individuals and $72,900 for a household of four.

Rebates were boosted from normal levels by $1,500, which brought potential savings to $4,000 for EVs, $3,000 for plug-in hybrids and $6,500 for fuel-cell cars.

That's not the whole story, however.

As of November 1, cash was boosted yet again by $500. The amounts now sit at $4,500 toward EVs, $3,500 for plug-in hybrids and $7,000 for fuel-cell cars.

On the flip side, those with the highest incomes were subject to a cap. Going beyond that limit meant being ineligible for the Clean Air Rebate. Heading into 2017, that limit has been lowered.

Back to top of page

Rebates by vehicle type

Here's a breakdown of current rebate amounts in California for applicants of the varying income levels.

Income Level Electric Plug-in Hybrid Fuel-Cell
Less than 300% of Federal Poverty Limit $4,500 $3,500 $7,000
300% of Federal Poverty Limit to $250k $2,500 $1,500 $5,000
> $150k for Individual Filers
> $204k for Head-of-Household
> $300k for Joint Filers
Not Eligible Not Eligible $5,000

For the latest info, please see the program website.

Back to top of page

New cap for high-income earners

Earlier this year, a cap was introduced barring assistance for individuals earning over $250,000, with similar caps for heads-of-household earning $340,000 or more, as well as $500,000 or more for joint filers.

The change caused quite a stir. Based on the latest program rules, some tweaks took effect in November of 2016. The cap was lowered to $150,000 for single tax filers, $204,000 for a head-of-household and $300,000 for joint filers.

Back to top of page

Examples (Most Applicants)

Here are some examples of what the average consumer should expect to see in terms of the state rebate and federal tax incentives.

Model MSRP CA Rebate Federal Tax Credit Max Available
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV From $37,495 $2,500 $7,500 $10,000
2017 Nissan LEAF From $31,545 $2,500 $7,500 $10,000
2017 Chevrolet Volt From $34,095 $1,500 $7,500 $9,000

Note: MSRPs include destination charge

Back to top of page

Examples (Low-Income)

Here are the same examples but with enhanced rebate amounts for low-income filers.

Model MSRP CA Rebate Federal Tax Credit Max Available
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV From $37,495 $4,500 $7,500 $12,000
2017 Nissan LEAF From $31,545 $4,500 $7,500 $12,000
2017 Chevrolet Volt From $34,095 $3,500 $7,500 $11,000

Back to top of page

Manufacturer Incentives

Manufacturer deals can change monthly, although we tend to see less fluctuation than traditional internal combustion cars. Expect to see an assortment of attractive offers like 0% financing, large rebates and lease deals on most models.

For example, the 2016 Nissan LEAF is currently eligible for 0% APR for 72 months plus a $4,000 bonus. On the other hand, the 2017 FIAT 500e can currently be leased from just $149 for 36 months with $1,999 due at signing.

Be sure to check out our Deals page for the latest rebates, lease deals and finance incentives. You can also sign up for email alerts and be notified when the latest deals are announced.

Each month, we also rank the best green car deals, showcasing the absolute best incentives when it comes to hybrids, electrics, plug-in hybrids and fuel-efficient gas cars.

Start your new car research »

Back to top of page

, Senior Pricing Analyst

Alex Bernstein is the Senior Pricing Analyst for CarsDirect.com. Each month he studies immense volumes of pricing and incentives data in search of trends that are useful to car shoppers. In the process, he often breaks industry news stories -- his analyses and insights have been featured on websites such as Automotive News, The Detroit News, Autoblog, The Truth About Cars and The Car Connection.

Follow On: Google+ | Website