I talk to drivers each day who are in the early stages of selling their cars. For some, they are converting from plug-in hybrid (PHEV) to full battery electric vehicle (BEV). Others hope to trade their secondary car – maybe an older EV with shorter range – in for a primary car with a bigger battery. Still others are simply trading their EV for a new model.
All of those reasons make sense. The question, however, is how can you get the most for your existing electric car? I used to recommend that you start the process by determining a baseline, non-EV specific price for a vehicle like yours, but since buying and selling used EVs is a totally different world, there is now have a better first step.
1. Check the EV-specific Value
Most traditional calculators use combustion engine metrics like odometer to guestimate your car's value. Why value a battery on wheels based on things that don't directly impact the battery?
Black Book and Recurrent partnered to create an EV valuation tool to get an instant report for your EV, including a premium for your a well-maintained battery. It's definitely the best place to start, even if just to get a baseline offer.
With a Range Score in hand, you may want to cross-check your car's evaluation with non-EV specific resources. This creates a price floor that any similar car could be sold for in your area and will help you find the best price for your EV. I like to determine that figure by looking in three places -- think of it like triangulating your car’s value!
2. Traditional Trade-in Calculators
Although these tools are designed for ICE cars, not electric cars, they can still be helpful. Most work by entering your vehicle information in exchange for a range of valuation.
Some popular trade-in calculators include:
- Kelly Blue Book
- Consumer Reports
3. Online Offers
Sometimes the valuation range offered by trade-in calculators is broad. That’s why I follow that step by generating an offer from national retailers. Similar to the previous sites, these companies collect some vehicle details and make you a (tentative) offer to buy your car. Lots of strings are attached and you should pay attention to whether it is a cash offer or a trade-in offer that is dependent on buying a car from them, too.
A few national retailers that make online offers:
4. Check Pricing Trends
It’s helpful to understand the broader trends in EV prices. Car values dropped at the start of the pandemic when no one was driving and soared after chip shortages limited new car supply. Timing matters and auto industry reports equip you with important information.
Each quarter Recurrent publishes a used EV buying report that tracks values over time – if you own a Tesla, there’s also a monthly Tesla report.
It should be reiterated that any estimate you get online is a sight-unseen estimate and should be weighted as such. The actual max value of your electric car might not be as high, and the min value is probably not as low. Our only goal here is to establish a foundation. Once you’ve done that, check the box (metaphorically) and move on to the next step.
Odometer Matters Less for Electric Cars
The odometer is a decent indicator of past, present and future performance in an ICE vehicle. Consider that the auto industry has had 100 years of studying pistons and transmissions so the aging process is fairly predictable at this point.
Electric cars are different. Aside from not having pistons or transmissions, an EV has only about 20 moving parts -- an ICE vehicle has 2,000. Overall, the most important part of an electric car is the battery, which directly impacts your range today and in the coming years.
That’s why it is critical to demonstrate a strong battery to maximize your trade-in value. Traditional trade-in calculators do not consider battery health, so you can highlight this important metric to get more for your used EV.
In addition to getting a Range Score evaluation when you're ready to sell your car, make sure to enroll in Recurrent Reporting in the months ahead of your sale so you have a documented history of being a responsible EV owner.
Monthly EV Monitoring
If you don’t plan to sell in the next couple weeks, I definitely recommend connecting your vehicle to generate monthly reports. These are also free, and do an even better job of highlighting your electric car’s value. The report records a few anonymous data points from your battery management system each day so your good charging behavior is even more apparent.
These reports arrive in your email at the start of each month. I recommend receiving 1-2 months of reports before starting the trade-in discussions. That will arm you with great data and evidence to support a higher valuation.
The Same Old Tips
Some things never go out of style, although they do change a little bit for electric vehicles. Here are some old tips that have been amended for you and your EV.
1. Clean Your Car (Ugh!)
A carwash never hurts. Similar steps, like removing your ice skates from last winter and vacuuming the interior, make your car look great while also suggesting that you actively maintained and cared for your vehicle.
2. Check for Regular Maintenance
If you drive a fully electric car, there’s no oil to change. But I recommend checking the tires, collecting any old maintenance receipts, and confirming the last time that you rotated the tires.
3. Collect Your Documents
Anyone who buys your car will want to confirm its details. It is worth taking a few minutes to organize your paperwork, including the title, registration, insurance, and sales documentation, if you purchased the vehicle new from a dealer.
You’re starting a selling process that can either be enjoyable (when you are pleasantly surprised by your trade-in value) or a long, tiring slog. While I can’t promise that every sales process will be painless, I know that these steps will make you a more prepared and informed seller. And that tends to make everything a bit better.
Starting the Search for Your Next EV?
We’ve got a bunch of resources to help you, including a breakdown of the most efficient electric cars and a summary of the top used EV under $20k.
However, the #1 tip I have for any EV shopper is to read this used EV guide. It’s written by our very smart battery science team and supported by the research of thousands of electric cars.
It’s also got a really helpful free e-book that offers a crash course in EV battery charging best practices. The battery is the most expensive part in your car so it is best to take care of it!