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Buying Or Selling a Used Electric Car? What You Need to Know

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2011 Nissan Leaf for Sale on eBay - Screenshot March 28, 2011.

2011 Nissan Leaf for Sale on eBay - Screenshot March 28, 2011.

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On the face of it, buying or selling a used electric car could seem like a great idea if you either need to make more room in your garage for your shiny new plug-in ride or you just can’t afford the sticker shock associated with buying new. 

However, we’ve been watching Internet auction site eBay over the past six months and have noticed a couple of trends in the sales of used electric cars. To help you make the right decisions, here are a few pointers we think will help you buy or sell those plug-in vehicles which may not be quite as new and shiny as cars like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Nissan Leaf. 

Many points of course are the same as they are for regular gasoline cars: Don't assume listed price is what it will go for, don't overpay, make sure you view the car before you buy and remember that new electric cars have dropped the price of used electric cars dramatically over the past year. 

Overinflated prices don’t work...

Over the past six months we’ve seen time and time again great looking electric cars come up on eBay with asking prices well above their true market value.  Take one recent listing for a 1999 Ford Ranger Electric pickup truck. 

Ford Ranger EV For Sale on Ebay (Screenshot)

Ford Ranger EV For Sale on Ebay (Screenshot)

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Listed as having 59,500 miles on the clock, this 12 year old truck is in average condition for its age. Citing that it is only one of 300 remaining in existence, the buyer gives a good argument that the truck is worth buying. But with an opening bid required in excess of $15,372 this truck has had no bids and literally hours left on its listing. 

It’s hardly surprising. A 12 year old truck, well outside of warranty and using a battery pack technology no-longer officially available, the owner of this truck would be taking a serious gamble at the asking price.  It also uses a charging protocol now considered obsolete, even though there is still plenty of charging infrastructure for its inductive style charging paddle system in certain areas of California. 

Our advice to the seller? Start with a low opening bid level, ideally no more than half of what you think is a realistic price. You'll find more people are willing to bid and the chances of selling your car your ideal asking price are increased. 

...unless the vehicle is truly unique, rare or desirable

1938 S100 Replica Electric Car

1938 S100 Replica Electric Car

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Occasionally, you’ll find plug-in cars for sale which are truly unique, such as pre-production prototypes, or one-of-a-kind conversions which are both in excellent condition and highly desirable, or vehicles which truly are among the last few of their kind. 

But these cars are rarely snapped up by people who will drive them on a daily basis as electric transport. Often snapped up by collectors they will either sell for such high prices that very few can afford them. 

And if you have a rare electric car there really isn’t any guarantees that you’re sitting on a future gold-mine.  Remember, a used car is only valuable if you can find someone who shares your valuation and is willing to part with their money in exchange for your car. 

As we’ve proven before even an opportunity to own a 2011 Nissan Leaf without joining the queue or a hyper-rare experimental hybrid from the 1980s doesn’t guarantee a sale. 


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Comments (2)
  1. Interesting story, but I'd really like to see a how-to guide for buying a LEAF or Volt for us unfortunates outside of the early marketing areas. What's the LEAF/Volt situation on eBay? Is it possible to buy one over the phone from a dealer in California or other early-tier state? Have people been doing this? Is there a price premium? It would be interesting to know about the inevitable "grey market" that pops up whenever a high demand meets a limited supply.
     
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  2. I can confirm this. I bought a Chevy S10 EV in 2007 for $20,000. Now I am selling it for $10,000 (maybe less) to make room for a new Nissan Leaf.
     
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