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Electrifying the used car market

Sean O'Grady

A further sign of public interest and acceptance of pure-electric cars is the upward trend in the prices used electric cars are commanding. This is of course in marked contrast to the usual pattern of used car prices for any given model of vehicle – invariably and inexorably downwards. It mirrors the long waiting lists and firm new car pricing for the latest generation of alternative propulsion vehicles such as the Hyundai Niro electric, and is reflective of a shortage across the scene.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that, year to date, sales of new electric cars have increased by 125 per cent compared with 2018. Albeit still only about 2 per cent of the total.

Research from CarGurus, a car pricing service, indicates that some versions of a used Renault Zoe EV, for example, are up by 18 per cent on the year.

CarGurus examined prices for the four most searched-for EVs on – the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Tesla Model S – since the start of 2017. The results showed that prices either rose or remained level for months at a time, and in all cases far outperformed the most searched-for petrol and diesel equivalents listed over the same period.

The Renault Zoe electric supermini performed particularly well. CarGurus’ figures show that between January 2017 and November 2019 the average asking price for a used 2015 model year Renault Zoe increased by 18 per cent, from £6,425 to £7,612. By comparison, the average price for the most popular petrol and diesel supermini of the same age, the Ford Fiesta, decreased by 22 per cent over the same period, from £9,165 to £7,160.

Another strong performer was the BMW i3, with prices of 2014 examples on the used market increasing by 1 per cent since the start of the year – still bucking the trend in a market suffering from oversupply of almost every other kind of car. In contrast to the i3, the values of petrol or diesel-engine Mini hatchbacks, the most searched-for premium small car on CarGurus, fell by 14 per cent over the same period.

This is one Leaf that won’t fall as quickly in valuation (Nissan)

The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling pure EV in the UK, yet despite a good supply of used car stock its values remain consistently high. Earlier models perform even better than later versions, with the average price for a 2015 Nissan Leaf in November 2019 just 9 per cent lower than in January 2017, at £10,438. By comparison, the average price for 2015 examples of the most searched-for petrol or diesel family car on CarGurus, the Volkswagen Golf, dropped by 17 per cent over the same period.

“Our data shows that the residual values of EVs have turned a corner as an increasing number of buyers are starting to take advantage of the benefits of electric motoring, such as the low running costs and easy driving manners of cars like the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe,” said Chris Knapman, editor.

Founded by TripAdvisor co-founder Langley Steinert, CarGurus combines dealer reviews with comprehensive car valuation analytics.

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