Used electric cars continue to drop in value. Willing to cut the fuel hose out of your life? It might prove less expensive to buy a used electric vehicle than its gas-powered counterpart.
The CarGurus CarValues page helped me do some research on the Instant Market Value of used electric vehicles and their gas-powered counterparts. It’s a helpful tool that helps you see the true cost of what used cars are selling for in your area in real time. (Your results may vary from mine based on geography and other fluctuations, because Instant Market Value can change as more cars get listed for sale.)
Let’s look at the Fiat 500e as an example. A 2014 model has an Instant Market Value of $13,445 for a used version with 24,000 miles on it. In this instance, a 2014 Fiat 500 in the Pop trim level will be less expensive at $11,929.
However, as the EPA’s fuel economy site points out, it will cost you $7,000 in average in fuel costs to drive the gas-powered Fiat for 5 years. The 500e has a 5-year energy cost of $2,500. It will take you only about 18 months to make up the difference. That’s probably worth it depending on how long you plan to keep the car.
After researching Nissan Leaf prices, there’s no logical reason to buy the much smaller 500e—unless you like Italian styling and 2-door coupes. A 2014 Nissan Leaf with 24,000 miles on it has an Instant Market Value of $11,802. A comparable Nissan Sentra (probably the closest Nissan in size to the Leaf) has an Instant Market Value of $15,648.
That’s a $3,846 difference, not factoring in how much will be saved in fuel over 5 years ($2,500, just in case you were wondering). Sure, you don’t have the range of a gas engine, but a used Nissan Leaf is a great commuter vehicle or used car for a high-schooler. Plus, that high-schooler won’t bankrupt you by always borrowing money for gas.
Okay, so maybe range anxiety is an issue for you. Well, it’s going to cost you. A 2014 Chevrolet Volt has an Instant Market Value of $21,068, but it does have a gas engine for when your electric juice runs out. As long as you have gas, you will never be stranded (and a motoring club can always bring you a couple gallons of gas, but not a miles-long extension cord).
A comparable Chevrolet Cruze costs $15,351 according to its Instant Market Value. Based on EPA figures, it will take you slightly less than 3 years to make up the price difference when you factor in fuel savings.
There’s one more thing to consider regardless of which used electric car you buy: You’re going to have to consider the cost of the purchase and installation of a charger, unless you just plan to plug it directly into your house. Having just spent 17 days with a Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Kia Soul EV, I know it can be done without a lot of inconvenience. The cars just need about 8 hours to come to a full charge, which is reduced to only about 4 hours with a 240-volt system custom installed. Figure on prices to start from $600 before installation.
Shopping for a new or used sports car this weekend?
Bring along CarGurus’ mobile app to help check prices, find good deals, and research cars on your smartphone.