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Electric cars lose 30 percent of value after one year, NADA says

The dealer assocation said values for EVs and plug-in hybrids are dropping twice as fast as those of standard hybrids and gasoline-powered vehicles.

By Douglas Newcomb Jun 20, 2013 1:14PM

2013 Nissan Leaf. Photo by Nissan.If you’re looking to sell or trade in a used plug-in hybrid or electric car, prepare to take a major hit on depreciation.

According to a report from the National Association of Automobile Dealers, plug-in vehicles perform considerably worse at resale than regular hybrids or gasoline-powered cars do.

In 2012, NADA estimated that all plug-in vehicles lost nearly a third of their value in one year (the average depreciation was 31.5 percent). By comparison, similar regular hybrids like the Toyota Prius and gas-powered cars such as the Honda Civic saw significantly lower depreciation rates of 14.0 percent and 12.4, respectively – or less than half that of pricier plug-in hybrids and electric cars. 

NADA predicted that the depreciation rate of plug-in EVs will improve only slightly over the next two years -- down to 29.7 percent in 2013 and 27.4 percent in 2014. But the organization said in the report that it expects “used plug-in EV depreciation to continue to outpace the overall market’s rate of loss by a significant margin in the coming years."

Significant hurdles, especially for all-electric cars, have contributed bigger losses. Limited range, few nationwide public charging stations and imperfect battery technologies that cut the vehicle's total range over time all stand in the way.


For vehicle-specific examples, NADA looked at the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, the two most popular plug-in cars for sale. The May 2012 edition of NADA’s Official Used Car Guide noted that the 2011 Volt and Leaf carried average trade-in values -- assuming an average mileage after one year -- of $31,060 and $24,857, respectively. But by May 2013, estimated values for each model had dropped by approximately $10,000 to $21,235 and $14,792, respectively.


NADA noted that average trade-in values for a similar Toyota Prius hybrid fell by only $4,735 to $16,490, while a Ford Fusion with a four-cylinder gasoline engine declined by just $3,150 to $16,490.


NADA expects “subtle improvements” in the depreciation rate of plug-in vehicles as the technology matures and becomes more prevalent. It added that this is consistent with depreciation trends of early hybrids, which initially declined at annual rates of 24 to 26 percent before gradually improving to a range of 16 to 18 percent over five years.


“In dollar terms," it added, "this means a plug-in EV worth $20,000 in 2012 is predicted to lose $9,792 of its value by the end of 2014, while similarly priced gasoline and hybrid vehicles are expected to lose $5,573 and $6,455, respectively, over the same period.”

Although NADA did mention the tax incentives available for many EV buyers -- and how this doesn't help used EV buyers -- the organization didn't take those after-sales savings into account for its depreciation values.

"It's important to remember that most buyers of plug-in electric cars received federal income tax credits of $2,500 to $7,500 for purchasing those cars," John Voelcker, editor of, told MSN Autos. "It's much more appropriate to look at the post-incentive new-car price versus the used-car value," he added, "since otherwise it looks like the original owner lost far more money than is actually the case once all incentives are factored in."

NADA vehicle price depreciation chart. Image by NADA.

[Source: NADA]

Jun 23, 2013 3:03PM
Electric car sales are dismal.  Rapid depreciation, poor performance, limited range, huge percentage of buyers don't buy another (also a problem with hybrids)  High purchase price.

Now try owning one where there are hills, mountains, below zero weather...all conditions that limit the range even more.  Someday they will be great.  Today isn't the day.

Jun 20, 2013 2:14PM

Does this surprise anyone?  (It doesn't surprise me)

Jun 20, 2013 6:02PM

I think the vehicles need to have more range, a lower MSRP and a little more time on the market before they begin to hold their value like more traditional designs.

Jun 24, 2013 1:02AM
Electric cars are nothing new, they have been around for 100 years. They have the same problems today, short range, long recharge time, expensive and limited appeal. How many Volts do you think would have been sold if the government wasn't handing out incentives?
Jun 21, 2013 5:45AM

This data supports my long standing prediction that these vehicles will be worth exactly NOTHING when they're about 8 to 10 years old.


Anyone who wants one better understand that it will be "buy it, drive it until it quits and then throw it away"!


Of course, they better not then sit down and calculate their actual costs per mile lest they determine they would have been better off driving a Hummer!

Jun 20, 2013 1:35PM
Ouch! Not good news for electric car companies.
Jun 24, 2013 1:12AM

Yep..Little over 2 years ago I watched someone build an electric recharging station on

a Walgreens store parking lot...Not sure what it cost to build, my guess would be Over $100,000 dollars..To this day I have Only seen ONE car using it to recharge..? Talk about Waste, lol

Jun 23, 2013 11:46PM

Face the truth folks...Its hard to find a battery powered cart in Target and Walmart That Works..

I Don't want one sitting in my garage...? If you got the money to waste..Yall go buy one..!

Jun 24, 2013 4:41AM
Well, the problem here is simple math. These are small cars and they should be cheaper, so after an idiot pays thirty grand for one new what should you expect. People that are looking for used cars see a small car that should be worth  maybe 14 or 15K. I hate to say but the person that paid that much for an EV new is the one that is being duped in the first place.
Jun 20, 2013 4:11PM
Especially if it's as UGLY as the Leaf !  This has to be the most HIDEOUS looking vehicle of all time !
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