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)
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
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.
Used car guy
Honesty, not hype
Honesty really does sell a car. If you’ve got a used electric car to sell, be completely honest about what it does.
After all, even mainstream automakers have found out to their peril what happens when they make over-exaggerated claims about range per charge. Instead of best-possible figures, give a range of figures or perhaps a more average range per charge.
Similarly, if the top speed really isn’t the 80 mph it once had, be honest and say so.
Most prospective buyers will go and test-drive or view car before handing over money, so honesty at this stage is more likely to lead to a sale than hype.
Low speed equals lower price
WheeGo Whip Photo by Rex Roy
It’s not uncommon to see low speed Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) like the Wheego Whip (not to be confused with the highway-capable Wheego LiFe) on auction sites like eBay with starting prices of at least $8,000.
If you’ve read our earlier evaluation of the 1999 Ford Ranger Electric pickup truck you’ll know what we have to say about overpriced NEVs: They just won’t sell.
Just because something looks like a faster car doesn’t mean it is worth a higher price. With that in mind, we’d advice buyers to always check top speed and crash test worthiness with an official bodies before handing over cash.
Every used electric car lost value last year
Every single used electric car lost value last year when the major automakers started building a new wave of plug-in vehicles.
Electric cars are just like every other consumable. When a new model comes out, the old ones lose value. Cars which could have commanded $20,000 two years ago are now generally worth a half to a third of that value. The logic is simple: why pay $20,000 for a ten year-old used electric car when you can pay $28,000 for a new one?
Admittedly, a 2012 Mitsubishi ‘i’ may not be as large as a first-generation Toyota RAV4 EV for example, but it would come with a warranty and full dealer support. Yes, you may have to wait a few extra months, but unless you’re a true classic electric car aficionado, we think most consumers would rather buy new.
It’s a “buyer’s market”
Our final piece of advice is simple: We’re in a “buyer’s market”. In other words, with more choices than ever electric car buyers really can be picky at last. As a seller that can be daunting, but follow the advice we’ve given and you should be able to sell your used electric car for its true value.
If that value is just too low for you then why not keep it? If you’re selling because you’ve got a new electric car on order why not ditch your gas guzzler instead and run a two electric car household?
Do you have any experience with selling or buying a used electric car? Do you have any advice? Let us know in the Comments below.