You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

It's a Great Time to Buy a Used Electric Vehicle

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 9/1/2018 Jeff Plungis
© Provided by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

For car shoppers who are interested in trying out electric-vehicle technology but who don’t have Tesla money to spend, now is a great time to buy an emissions-free car for less than $15,000.

There are 3-year-old Nissan Leaf EVs to be had for a little more than $10,000, compared with the $30,000 to $36,000 sticker prices when new, according to listings.

Shoppers could spend a little more and pick up a nice used Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. Even luxury green cars like the BMW i3 and Cadillac ELR are available for a fraction of their original prices, experts tell CR.

“What you have is a glut of inventory in a low-demand environment,” says Eric Lyman, chief analyst at TrueCar. “That’s why we’ve got really low values on these vehicles.”

Electric cars provide quiet, energy-efficient transportation and, often, some of the latest safety technology. They lower greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce the national dependence on petroleum. Plus, operating costs for electrified cars are lower than for their gasoline counterparts. And with fewer moving parts, EVs can be more reliable and longer-lasting than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

The downside is practicality. The cheapest used EVs are also the ones with the shortest range, meaning this would probably be a second car for errands around town rather than a long-distance cruiser. EV owners also need to invest in some home charging infrastructure, which isn't practical for apartment-dwelling urbanites.

None of the first-generation EVs hitting the used-car lots in big numbers earned a CR recommendation. But we found things to like about every model out there. We liked the Leaf’s reliability and comfort. We found the BMW i3, Chevy Volt, and Volkswagen eGolf fun to drive.

Among newer electric and plug-in hybrid models, CR has recommended the Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, the Honda Clarity, and Tesla’s Model S and Model 3.

Check out our buying guide to EVs and hybrids as well our vehicle ratings

A note about Tesla: Like a lot of other things about the brand, its models aren’t behaving like the rest of the market. They are holding their value better than most of the electric cars discussed in this article, so there are fewer bargains for used-car shoppers. 

A used 2015 Leaf may fetch around $10,475 at auction now, compared with the average nonluxury 3-year-old car price of $15,262, according to Manheim Auto Auction data.

A 2016 BMW i3 base model goes for $17,400 ($43,395 new). The website Jalopnik recently pointed out that there are formerly $75,000 Cadillac ELRs to be had for $25,000.

At Manheim, the nation’s largest wholesale market, consumers can expect to pay 10 percent to 25 percent above the wholesale price (what dealers pay for a used vehicle), according to Consumer Reports automotive analyst Mel Yu. 

It’s the flipside to a few years of low gas prices and consumers embracing trucks and SUVs. There’s more supply than there is demand for EVs, especially models, such as the Leaf, that were often offered to consumers through cheap leases that baked in the available federal tax credits.

Vehicles such as the Leaf are showing up in large numbers at Manheim, says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive. There are likely to be three times as many Leafs as other models to show up at auction, he says—leading to lower resale values.

“In general, it’s been a perfect storm of high incentives and tax credits, separating what people really paid (for a car) vs. the sticker,” Smoke says.

The full article is available to subscribers. Sign in or subscribe to read this article.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2018, Consumer Reports, Inc.


Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon