Recurrent has been tracking the used EV market for over a year – and what a year it has been. After steep upticks in prices and demand, this quarter we check back in with our EV index bundle. Starting next month, we are reorganizing it to factor in some newer models, too.
The Recurrent bundle is a set of representative EVs that we use to track pricing trends. We use these same cars every month to avoid anomalies from skewing trends.
- 2017: BMW i3, Chevrolet Bolt, and Tesla Model S;
- 2018: Nissan LEAF, BMW 530e, and Honda Clarity;
- 2019: Audi e-tron, Tesla Model 3, and Volkswagen e-golf
Also shown in the chart are price trends over the past year for three common 2019 models.
Higher Used EV Prices Are The New Normal
The Recurrent bundle price as of March 2022 is around 25% higher than it was in March 2021, and there are no indications that it will come down significantly.
Since gas prices began to rise, there has been an almost 70% increase in shopper interest towards EVs. Supply chain issues, especially with semiconductors, also continue to stifle production. However, compared to the year over year consumer price index of 41.2%, the change in used EV prices is a bargain.
What does this mean for you?
If you are shopping for a used EV, it may not pay to wait for prices to come down. These prices may persist for the rest of the year. If the car of your dreams is out of budget, consider an older model. Although the daily range may be less than a newer EV, most drivers go under 35 miles a day. The savings will help you rent a car for longer road trips.
If you are an EV owner or dealer, now is as good a time as any to list a used EV. Since we speculate that prices will not change much in the coming months, by holding on to your car, you risk higher inventory flooding the market.
The Model 3 Takeover is Here
As far back as a year ago, we predicted a Tesla Model 3 takeover in the used market, and it’s finally here. The Model 3 has been the best selling EV in the US and abroad since 2018, and those original purchases are appearing as second hand inventory. Most of the first deliveries for the Model 3 happened in the second half of 2018, which is about three years before used inventory skyrocketed.
Interestingly, as of March 2022, there are as many 2019 Model 3s for sale as 2018s. This is likely due to the incredibly strong demand for EVs – owners know they can get great prices selling their used Teslas, sometimes even making back most of the original purchase price. This touches upon a larger issue that we’ll explore in more detail below.
Rise of the “New” Used Car
When we started tracking the used EV market in March 2021, models from 2017 were still the most popular on the market. However, in late spring 2021, we saw a switch to more 2018 models. Now, 2019 model years are starting to catch up, making up 17% of the total inventory. That follows what we should all expect to see.
What is unexpected is that there are more 2021 model years for sale on the used market in the US than the 2019s. We suspect this is because of the incredibly high demand and low supply for used EVs throughout 2021. Anecdotally, we’ve heard of many owners who sold pretty new cars to dealers and made back more than their purchase price, and the numbers show this makes sense.
Reselling a barely-owned car works differently for different cars. In terms of Teslas, the price of new vehicles increased so much last year, and waiting periods are so long for new vehicles, that the value of used cars skyrocketed. For example, the MSRP for a base trim Tesla Model 3 in April 2021 was $39,000. If you were lucky enough to have bought one back then, you would have seen the value of your car appreciate between $10,000-$16,000 in a year, according to prices for used 2021 Model 3’s today. It would be easy to turn around and make a profit on your purchase, especially if you have another car to fall back on while you wait for an upgraded EV. Apparently many people decided to go this route. Teslas make up 66% of the 2021 used EV inventory.
In terms of non-Tesla EVs, the federal tax incentive, combined with used price inflation, made for a similar effect in other brands. Ford Mustang Mach-E is the next highest model in inventory, after Teslas, making up 13% of 2021 stock. The Mustang was only released in 2021, at a starting MSRP of $43,895. When you factor in the available $7,500 tax credit, this brings the potential up-front cost down to $36,395. However, the Mach-E had overwhelming demand, so much so that many dealerships were adding high market adjustments when reservation holders came to pick up their cars. The average used price for a Mach-E today is $59,000, meaning that an owner could see a tidy profit selling their like-new used car.
Diving deeper into a model year breakdown, we found something strange. Looking at the average price of models per each year, 2016 models are anonymously expensive. They are even more expensive than 2017 and 2018 models.
It turns out this price anomaly comes down to Tesla. In 2016, the Model X was released as a high-end addition to the lineup. There was no Model 3 in the lineup yet, so the price of 2016 Teslas skews heavily to a luxury price point. Over 66% of all inventory from 2016 is Model S and Model X, meaning that there are few lower priced alternatives to choose from in that model year. This is compared to 35% Model S and Model X in 2017 and 27% in 2018. In 2017, the arrival of the Prius Prime and the Bolt split the market. In 2018, the Model 3 really took hold and it makes up 23% of that year’s inventory.
Bolt Replacements Prove Battery Calendar Age Matters
Recurrent has been following the Chevy Bolt recall with periodic updates from our own research fleet. Recently, with increasing reports of battery replacements from our drivers, we took a look at range data from those vehicles with and without replaced batteries. Bolts with new batteries saw 10-13% higher range than those without. While these results were not surprising, they should remind us that vehicle odometer and model year are unreliable predictors of an EV’s performance. Battery age will always matter.
New Vehicle Price Hikes Will Impact Used EV Prices
Each month, Recurrent publishes a Tesla-focused newsletter. Last month, we dove into all the recalls that had affected Tesla in Q1. The frequency of Tesla recalls would be shocking to most major car manufacturers, but Tesla seems unfazed. The many issues cited in 2022 have caused no recorded collisions or injuries. Thanks to over-the-air updates, they can be addressed with relative ease for the company and almost no bother to the owners. However, lawmakers are turning their attention to the way Tesla releases, tests, and updates new software.
In March, we reviewed recent price increases for new Teslas, and how that impacts used EV prices. Hint: we suspect it will follow last year’s playbook.
Sign up for the Tesla newsletter to track the updates each month.
About This Quarterly Report
We partner with Marketcheck, a vehicle inventory data provider, to provide this insight into the pre-owned EV market. Our analysis is updated each month.
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 recently became available to the public.
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!
Q1 2022 Report
This month we cover several new topics in the booming used EV market. The September 2021 report:
- It’s still a seller’s market for used EVs
- Used EV prices are continuing to rise
- Used EV prices still higher than used ICE prices
- New Tesla price hikes in 2021 are causing used Tesla prices to soar
Q3 2021 Used Electric Car Buying Report
This month we cover several new topics in the booming used EV market. The September 2021 report:
- Compares climbing used EV prices to all used cars
- Revisits the state of the used EV market six months after our first report
- Determines the percent of used EV values below an important $25,000 price point
- Monitors a significant contraction in used EV inventory by state
In July, both Recurrent sales data and national analyses suggested that used car prices were starting to level off. The past two months of price data is further evidence that the market has stabilized. For used EVs, we saw a 2.32% price increase in from July to August, and a 0.39% increase going into September. Meanwhile, the overall used car price index saw a decline of 1.5% from August to September, meaning that used EVs pricing outpaced the used combustion engine market. We will continue to track this trend after this year of anomalous pricing.
Despite the used car market leveling off, the ongoing semiconductor shortage is still affecting US automakers. Last week, GM announced that most US production would pause after Labor Day, and many other auto manufacturers foresee temporary layoffs and production slow downs. This suggests that although used EV prices may have stabilized, they will not go back down to pre-summer levels anytime soon. An EV can require ten times more semiconductors than an ICE car, so expect electric inventory to remain limited as buyers looking for new EVs compete with buyers in the used markets.
Our methodology to calculate the used EV price index is to use a representative sample of popular vehicles and compare national averages for retail prices. The models we included in our bundle are: 2017 BMW i3, Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model S; 2018 BMW 530e, Honda Clarity, 2018 Nissan LEAF; 2019 Audi e-tron, Tesla Model 3, VW e-Golf.
Looking for your first electric car? Check out by our free e-book on EV range.
In March, Recurrent released its first used EV buying guide to highlight the growth of the market and report on trends that were not being covered by other automotive sources. Six months later, we have seen meteoric price increases, drastic inventory contractions, and a shift in what model years are most popular in inventory.
As of September 2021, over 48% of all used EVs in the US are under $25,000 and nearly 30% are under $20,000. The $20-$25K price range is the target for auto manufacturers looking to produce a mass market EV to win over everyday, budget-conscious drivers, as rumors of a Tesla Model 2 or Volkswagen ID.2 suggest. New EVs available for around $25K will inject the used market with a supply of reliable electric cars priced around $10-$15K in a few years, and attract new drivers to the electric market.
As reported in March, there had been an almost 50% increase in used EV inventory since summer 2020. However, since that report, the inventory number has dropped 21% despite a modest increase in the last 2 months. Supply has dropped at least 35% in top EV states since March. Both Oregon and Virginia lost over 63% of their inventory in six months. The only state that remained near constant was Tennessee, losing only a handful of total inventory since March. These numbers are consistent with the overall used car market, which saw unprecedented low inventory this summer.
Refreshing the used EV stock has been incredibly difficult with inventory shortages around the country, and dealerships are struggling to find cars to sell. This inventory shortage has several causes.
In part, it is due to the global semiconductor shortage, which is causing significant production delays in new cars. That has pushed shoppers to consider the used market. Since EVs require ten times the number of semiconductors as ICE cars, this is a strong effect in the used EV market.
Secondly, the market is still reeling from the pandemic: dealerships that initially scaled down their supply or offered deep discounts to move cars off their lots are now scrambling to replenish a fleeting inventory that is not being filled by rental car sellers or fleet vehicle turnover.
We can expect inventory to remain very tight through the end of 2021.
- Who sells the most used Teslas? The answer would depend on which model you’re interested in.
- How have the ongoing Chevy Bolt recalls impacted the market for used Bolts?
- How do lease rates for new EVs impact the availability of used EVs?
- Used electric car retail prices in June continued to climb, but at a slightly slower pace, which could indicate the beginning of a market equilibrium being reached.
- We looked at different brands to determine the most popular EV by state. Overall, Tesla continues to be the most popular used electric car brand, with 26% of the used market nationally.
- The Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 are two of the most popular all-electric vehicles on the road today. We did a Bolt vs Model 3 comparison to learn how their individual battery is aging across makes, models, years and climates.
- Chevy Volt has found its way to the top of the used electric list by selling more than any other EV model. Combined with new Bolt sales in 2021, GM is having a very big year. Although there could be a surge in Model 3 inventory soon.
- Used EV prices are still climbing. We recorded another 9% increase in average prices over the last 30 days.
- Used Teslas sell faster than any other used EV. We reviewed the number of vehicle sales for various brands compared to the number in dealer inventory to arrive at a relative proxy of used car turnover. Tesla is way ahead.
- Used EV prices have been soaring by $1000’s over the last few months -- driven up by high demand and the same chip shortages that are hindering the new vehicle market.
- There’s incredible price volatility from state to state. We’re seeing $3000 - $6000 price differences for the same vehicles across state lines.
- The used Tesla ecosystem is such a big part of the overall used EV market that it makes sense to look at how that’s evolving. Tesla.com itself is a player, but it only represents 7% of the used Tesla inventory, a far cry from its complete control of new Tesla sales.
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, including the biggest EV states like California, 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.
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.
- 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.