Used EV Resales Values Hold Firm, But Deals Can Be Had

By · July 10, 2012

Used Nissan LEAF

eBay's auction of this 2011 Nissan LEAF SL with 4,501 miles, is currently at $13,900—with three days left and no reserve price set.

Critics of electric cars say that they lack sufficient range and are too expensive. For most drivers, it only takes a few days of using an EV for daily transportation to realize that 70 or 80 miles of range is more than adequate for maybe 360 days of the year. And regarding price, total cost of ownership (TCO) calculations usually leave off a critical figure: resale value.

The plug-in car market is so new that, until recently, it’s been nearly impossible to get a track on how much a used Leaf, Volt, Roadster or Karma might be. But that’s changing. In the June edition of the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Used Car Guide, the organization projected that the average trade-in value for a typically equipped 2011 Leaf SV electric car would be $23,975—or 95 percent of its sticker price of $25,280, after the $7,500 federal tax credit. (Presumably, California buyers who took advantage of a $2,500 or $5,000 rebate, depending on the purchase date, would fare even better.)

NADA considers the tax credits and rebates just like any traditional cash incentive. "It behaves more like traditional cash incentive versus a finance incentive that you don't see," said Maynard Brown in an interview with Automotive News. Brown predicts that EV values will remain strong considering relatively low supply and volatile gas prices.

The projected trade-in value of the 2011 Volt, according to the NADA guide, is $29,325—or 90 percent of its post-incentive $32,780 sticker price. For comparison, typically equipped 2011 Toyota Priuses and Civic Hybrids, have projected trade-in values of 88 percent and 76 percent respectively.

Eric Lyman, manager of automotive residual values at Automotive Leasing Guide, has a less sanguine view of EV resale values after five years. ALG, which sets values for the auto industry, puts Volt and LEAF values at 32 and 31 percent respectively, while the Toyota Prius C is set at 44 percent, and the Prius liftback is at 42 percent.

These numbers were published yesterday on, in a post that posits the idea that like consumer electronics, the value of used EVs could significantly drop as soon as new and improved versions of the cars hit the market. Volt communications manager Michele Malcho, disagreed. "I don't think you're going to see as fast a change as we did with, for example, cellphone technology," Malcho said. "You'll see continuous steps, but that dramatic jump in technology—from a resale-value standpoint, I don't think it will be impacted."

Hot Deals on Used EVs on eBay

It’s still too early to know for sure about these values, because used EVs are only beginning to hit the market. However, a quick search on used electric cars on eBay reveals a couple of dozen listings.

There are six Tesla Roadsters on eBay, including a 2008 model with a But It Now price of $79,999. Other models are being auctioned including a 2010 model with nine bids topping at $45,100—with the reserve not yet met.

It’s fascinating to see three 2012 Fisker Karma already on eBay. (Is somebody upgrading to a Model S?) Their mileage ranges from 1,900 to 3,500 miles, with purchase prices as low as $95,000.

There are even four 2011 Nissan LEAFs, the best deal appears to be a “no reserve” auction of a 2011 LEAF SL with 4,501 miles, currently at $13,900 (with three days left). Act fast. A seller in Alvin, Texas, is also offering a But It Now price for the SL version at $28,990. Bidding is currently at $20,201.

I didn’t see any used any Chevrolet Volts on eBay, but Coda of Silicon Valley oddly has two 2011 Volts for sale. The model with 6,089 miles is offered at $33,988, while the 2011 model with 16,220 is offered at $30,988.

The biggest wild card is gas prices. Historically, demand (and therefore used prices for hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars) ride up and down with the price at the pump.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.