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

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 Cars.com, 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.”
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