Used EV Prices Are Increasing
A headline in Automotive News last week announced something unusual: used cars have been appreciating in value this spring, rather than losing value over time. Dealers are buying them - and selling them - at much higher prices than usual. This trend holds for most categories of used cars, and our used electric vehicle (EV) data certainly confirms it:
- After seeing national EV inventory contract from March to April, we’re tracking an overall increase in prices from April to May
- Pre-2019 EVs are being snatched up - over 19% of inventory has been depleted and average price increases are around $1200 since March
- Despite projected discounts on newer Bolt models, used 2019s and 2020s have increased in price since February
- This month’s top all-electric vehicle in inventory is 2018 BMW i3; top hybrid is 2018 BMW 530e
State by State Pricing Shows Huge Variability for Popular EV Models
Like many things, used EV prices vary from state to state. There isn’t a hard and fast rule about where EVs are more expensive, but there is a very wide range in the prices for popular models state to state. It’s common to see a $5,000 spread between the least and most expensive states.
Since many EV retailers will ship vehicles from out of state, it’s worth looking for your EV across state lines. Even with delivery fees, you still may find your dream car within your budget. Additionally, a new bill, Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now, would offer a new tax credit on qualified used EVs. This credit is in addition to any local or income-based rebates.
We looked at a representative sample of popular vehicles and took national averages so we could compare the vehicle bundle price in each state. The models we included in our bundle are: 2017 BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model S; 2018 BMW 530e, Honda Clarity, Nissan Leaf; 2019 Audi e-tron, Tesla Model 3, VW e-golf. To compare state averages, we only look at models for sale in the state.
The California used EV market is the largest in the country, with almost four times as much in inventory as the next biggest market: Texas. You can find any price or level of luxury. The average price for our vehicle bundle in California is $30,715 - just under the nationwide average of $31,031. Notably, 2018 and 2019 Model 3’s can be found around $42,500, around the same price as a 2015 Model S.
The Oregon car bundle is just about at the national average: $31,160 to $31,031. It’s a very strong buyers market for Chevy Volts - a 2017 can be found under $17,000 and the 2018 is just around $20,000. Oregon has fewer very high-end EVs than other states in this analysis, with the most expensive model being a $85,000 2019 Model X. With no sales tax in Oregon, these prices may look even better.
Washington had no 2019 e-trons or 2017 i3’s left on the market this month, but it’s a great place to look for a Nissan Leaf. However, the Washington average, excluding the two missing models, was $27,069 - higher than the national average of $25,900. Washington does offer sales tax exemptions on used EVs costing under $45,000.
BMW rules the road in FL with the 530e and X5 as the most popular listing in the state - $30,700 and $37,800, respectively. The 2017 and 2018 i3 are also popular, with prices straddling $20,000. The state average is about $900 below the national for our bundle: $31,380 vs. $32,258 - excluding the 2019 e-golf, which was not available in dealer listings this month. In general, Florida prices seem to be lower than national averages.
Texas is a Tesla state with almost double the amount of listings for Teslas as for BMW, the next most popular EV brand. It also has the cheapest average price for a 2018 Model 3. The Texas state average cost is about the same as in Florida - $31,367 to a national $32,258. However, there are some high-end models available here: newer Model X are around $90,000 and five Karma Reveros are for sale with an average price at $142,000.
BMW is the most popular overall make, but Chevy Volt and Leaf are most stocked models, with average price across years around $15,000 for both. The state has very few Model S or Bolts in stock. The vehicle bundle average in Arizona is $30,209, only a few hundred dollars more than the nationwide average of $29,870.
Drilling into the Used Tesla Market: Lots of Choices
- Tesla direct sales represent just 7% of the used Tesla inventory
- Five national online retailers (Carvana, Vroom, Tred and Shift), along with Tesla direct, collectively represent 37% of the used Tesla inventory.
- Thirty two large regional dealerships represent 24% of the current used Tesla inventory
- Nearly 530 smaller dealerships across the country represent the remaining 39% of used Tesla inventory
Tesla’s business model was built to avoid dealerships and focus on direct sales. And, this business model has seen fantastic success: with over 3 million Model 3s sold through 2020, Tesla is undoubtedly the most popular EV in the world. Used Teslas have been flying off used car lots in 2021, too - 2013 to 2015 Model S inventory has dropped 30% while prices increased an average of $2,000 and 2019 Models 3s are around $3,000 more today than they were in March. But does the direct-to-consumer sales model hold for pre-owned Teslas? We found that only 7% of today’s used Tesla listings are on tesla.com.
Of note, Tesla no longer offers certified pre-owned vehicles on their site. After the basic 4-year, 50,000 mile warranty, used Teslas are covered by a 1-year, 10,000 mile used vehicle limited warranty, but the specifics may vary based on where you purchase.
About This Used Electric Car Report
We partnered with Marketcheck, a vehicle inventory data provider, to provide this insight into the pre-owned EV market. Our analysis is updated each month. If you drive an electric car today, you can get monthly updates on your car’s value along with valuable battery health tips. The electric vehicle market moves quickly and, lately, news hits every day. Tons of car manufacturers are getting in the EV game and new battery technologies are on the horizon. This means that while you may want to get in on electric, maybe you’re hesitant to lay out cash for a new car right now. On the other hand, the used EV market offers affordability and accessibility, and is a good place to make the switch to electric at a low upfront cost.
What Else Should I Know About Used EVs?
The short answer is lots, especially as electric cars age and we learn about the effects of miles, temperatures and battery cycles on each model. If you’re an EV driver and you’d like to see how your car’s battery compares to others by joining our research fleet, sign up for our EV battery reports here.
If you are shopping for an electric car and want to verify its battery, try our new range report tool that will be available to the general public soon.
Each month we publish a new report with the latest industry data. Browse this section to review previous reports and their findings. Each image links to the full report!
- From last month, the overall trend in the used EV market is a decrease in inventory - in particular, GMs, Teslas, and Fiats are being bought up faster than their stock can be replenished. Dealerships across the country are noting inventory shortages on used vehicles in general -- as an indirect result of slower-than-expected new vehicle manufacturing.
- Despite these recent decreases, March inventory is still 37% higher than July 2020 signaling increased interest in used EVs.
- 2018 models have now surpassed 2017 models as the most popular used EVs on the market.
BMW Leads Used EV Market
Last month, we saw Teslas hold their place as the most common used EV on the market. However, the used stock of almost all EVs decreased through March - except for BMW. Perhaps it’s anticipation for the forthcoming i4, or delivery of new i3s, but there has been an increase in the availability of used 530e’s, 330e’s, and the X5 - xDrive40e. If you’ve been keeping your eye on one of these models, it may be a good time to check prices, as the average has dipped slightly in the past month. Used i3’s, on the other hand, continue to retain their value and even showed slight price increases, with 2018s being the best represented year in the market and 2017s at their heels.
Examining Cost per EPA Range Mile
One way to look at used EV prices is by comparing cost per range mile using EPA estimated range. One thing to keep in mind is that EPA range specifies how far your EV will go when the battery is new. EV batteries degrade based on age, how they have been driven, and how they have been stored. To really understand the value of an EV, it is critical to understand the battery in its current state, after several summers in the driveway or several hundred charging cycles.
Seasonality exists in used car sales and due to COVID-related economic changes, but this trend is real. Used car sales follow a predictable time delay, peaking at 3-4 years after being sold new. This pattern exists in electric vehicles as well: Six months ago, the most common model year for sale in used EVs was 2017 by far. Now, there are nearly as many 2018 model year used EVs for sale as 2017’s.
The Most Popular Used Electric Cars in March
- Used Tesla Model S, Model 3 and Model X are a large and growing part of the used electric market.
- BMW EVs are a surprisingly strong part of used EV inventories, but it’s not the i3’s that are growing in supply. Instead, there’s been a surge of the availability of BMW’s plug-in hybrids (5-Series 550e, 3-series 330e and the X5 xDrive40e) in the last 6 months.
- Despite the Nissan Leaf being one of the most recognizable EVs on the road for years, it’s only the 4th most popular used EV for sale today.
How do older EV batteries hold up?
EV owners and shoppers perceive that EV batteries last just seven years (Cox Automotive study), but the reality is generally better. A lot of factors play into the battery life of each EV over its life, including manufacturing variances, pack layouts and cooling systems, calendar age, use, temperature history, charging behavior. In our data analysis of 1000’s of EVs on the road, we’ve found that odometer reading alone isn’t particularly helpful in understanding each vehicle’s battery life.