BMW i3 EV faces steep depreciation

Modern electric cars have only been on sale in large numbers for a few years, but now some of the first of those cars are beginning to appear on used-car lots. That’s triggered plenty of analysis of used electric-car values, and how much depreciation owners can expect.

Some of that analysis doesn’t look to good for BMW i3 owners, at least at first. Edmunds recently noted high depreciation of its 2014 i3. Used-car chain CarMax offered it $26,000, which calculated to be about 50 percent of its original cost. That sounds pretty bad, but some other factors may be at work, notes Inside EVs.

The original purchase price used by Edmunds for the comparison did not include the $7,500 Federal tax credit for electric cars, or any state or local incentive that may have been applied to the car. Since Edmunds effectively paid less for the i3, Inside EVs argues that the lower, post-incentive price is the one to use when measuring depreciation. Note that the Federal tax credit and other incentives only apply to new cars, so used shoppers rely solely on the fact that a car is pre-owned to get a discount.

Those incentives close the gap between new and used electric-car prices, and buyers of new cars can qualify for promotions, like the two free years of DC fast charging BMW currently offers to i3 buyers under its ChargeNow DC Fast program. If customers won’t bite, dealers are forced to drop prices. That’s bad for sellers, but good for anyone who is actually interested in a used electric car.

The i3 isn’t the only car with reportedly high depreciation. The Nissan LEAF topped a recent list of cars with the lowest resale value, despite encouraging write-ups from Consumer Reports. Used LEAF prices have reportedly hit rock bottom, although its unclear how the i3 compares overall. But if demand for used electric cars really is low, then their values can’t be expected to remain high.