Used Electric Cars: About To Get Big, What You Need To Know

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Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF

Think electric-car ownership is priced out of your league? It’s simply not. Even if leasing isn’t for you, or you don’t have the stellar credit required to get some of those deals, prices are plummeting on used electric vehicles—and that makes it a buyers’ market, especially for some of the more popular EVs like the Nissan Leaf.

It’s a bit hard to believe that the Nissan Leaf has been on the market for four and a half years, while the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has been available in the U.S. for three and a half. And it’s just short of three years since the first delivery of a Tesla Model S.

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Back in 2012 and 2013, special low (subsidized) lease prices were offered for the Leaf, the i-MiEV, and other early EVs like the Ford Focus Electric. Leaf prices back then rapidly fell to as low as $139 a month under some offers, while Volt offers have held at around $250 a month, according to the leasing marketplace, but recently dropped to $199.

Those earlier vehicles are now starting to return to dealerships; and they’re going to dramatically affect the the supply-and-demand equation for used EVs—far more than they already have this year.

The subsidized-lease hangover begins

About 85 percent of Nissan Leaf models registered this past year were leased, and around 49 percent of Chevrolet Volt models were leased.

Estimates from the NADA place the number of those two used models hitting the market at 25,000 altogether; that’s more than half of the annual new sales and leases of new Volts and Leafs, together.

Analysts are anticipating that this will push prices downward. Although with retail used prices on many electric cars already astonishingly low, it begs the question of how much cheaper can they get.

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The Leaf, according to current nationwide market-based data supplied by Black Book, has taken a plunge in resale value, with a 2012 Nissan Leaf SV already worth just $13,650, on average, by June 2014, and anticipated to be worth a lowly $8,050 in June 2015. That’s just 23 percent of its original $35,200 MSRP and $36,380 estimated retail price when new. And even when considering the $7,500 federal tax credit on electric vehicles, it’s a dismal 29 percent.

If a car’s been sitting in pristine condition, the story isn’t all that much better for the seller. Top ‘clean’-condition Leafs are only fetching about $1,500 more ($9,500) on the market.

Three Nissan Leafs

Three Nissan Leafs

One of our readers recently reported that they could purchase a 2012 Leaf SL with less than 10,000 miles and 12 battery-quality bars for under $14,000. “Since the slower level 2 charger didn't matter to us given sufficient CHAdeMO chargers where we need them, saving $7000 was a no-brainer,” they reported.

There are plenty of confirmations that the price is still moving downward. According to, prices for used Nissan Leafs sank more than those of any used car in March and April, dropping 14 percent year-to-date just through the end of April. reported a $14,495 average used price, factoring in 2012 through 2014 model years.

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