Even with the price drops on many electric vehicles in 2015, the segment remains expensive enough for the inconveniences you get driving an EV. The last thing you want to learn is your plug-in has lost much of its value when you try to sell it a few years down the line.
According to a study released by the National Auto Dealer Association (that of the world’s best acronym: NADA), there are several EVs that lose over 50% of their value in a single year of ownership. That’s terrifying, right? Before we induce panic, we should mention that NADA did not calculate federal or state EV incentives in the purchase price of the vehicles, which would have had a major impact on the data. Likewise, the cost of electric cars has come down to earth in 2015, which offers perspective on the state of the current market (it’s far better now).
Nonetheless, we can see which vehicles held their value better than the pack and which had a substantial drop in worth once they hit the used car market. Here are the five electric vehicles that have been the worst at retaining their value after two years of ownership, according to NADA data.
Note: NADA compiled their data using average MSRP and average trade-in value. In addition to these stats, we include the post-incentive price using the model of California, where most EVs are sold ($7,500 federal tax credit + $2,500 state credit for EVs or $1,500 for plug-in hybrids).
5. Fiat 500e
If you want a Fiat 500e, you only have a shot in California or Oregon and you have to pay the price for such exclusivity. NADA listed the average MSRP of this ride at $32,600 for a 2013 model. Two years later, the average trade-in value slumped to $13,725, just 42.1% of the purchase price. Knock off the $10,000 available in California state incentives and the new price ($22,600) is much more palatable. With these incentives factored in, the 500e held onto 60% of its value.
4. Smart Fortwo ED
Why do so many people hate the Smart electric car? Well, it gets unanimously bad reviews and looks like it does, so you don’t have search too far for answers. According to the available data, it doesn’t do a great job at holding onto value, either. The average purchase price ($25,750) and the trade-in value after two years ($9,825) had the Smart ED retaining just 38% of its value. With California incentives, the MSRP drops to $15,750 and the retained value jumps to 62%.
3. Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf is the world record holder in EV sales (U.S. and foreign) and has its smart price point ($29,010) to thank for some of that success. (Ford and Chevy had their plug-ins priced much higher two years ago). So how did the big fish of the segment end up in third for worst retained value? According to NADA data, the Leaf’s average MSRP ($32,670) was too much for its two-year resale value ($11,916) to bear, representing 36.5% of its original price. The California numbers look considerably better (if still not good). Costing $22,670 at time of purchase, the two-year resale value was 53%.
2. Chevrolet Volt
Folks in the market for a 2013 Chevy Volt could not help but feel the burn of the $39,995 average MSRP. Just two years later, that delivered a trade-in value of just $14,333, or 36% of the purchase price. Even after subtracting $9,000 in California’s plug-in hybrid incentives, the 2013 Volt still lost over half its value in just two years. Looking ahead, things will get better for this nameplate as the 2016 model prepares its debut. With improved electric range (50 miles) and lower MSRP than the outgoing 2015 model, Volt drivers are going to get their share of value in the redesigned model.
1. Ford Focus Electric
It’s difficult to say what doomed sales of the Ford Focus Electric, but the high sticker price was certainly part of the equation. The 2013 model’s average MSRP ($39,995) was high by any standard, let alone for a car that cannot travel 90 miles without charging. Two years later, the Focus Electric was only worth 35% of its original cost at dealerships ($13,967). Ford took drastic measures and slashed the price below $30,000 in 2014, so today’s buyers could get one for around $20,000 after California incentives. That much more like it, though it still isn’t selling.