Kelley Blue Book’s LEAF Resale Values Lag Behind Other Vehicles

By · December 13, 2012

Nissan LEAF Resale Value

After recently hearing from some Nissan LEAF owners who were disappointed in trade-in offers they had received for their cars, I decided to look into Kelley Blue Book’s valuations of used LEAFs. What I found was more or less in line with the offers I had heard about:

2011 LEAF (Very Good Condition)

MSRP $27,700 after rebate

..............................Trade-in Value

3,000 mi............... $19,100 (71% of MSRP)

10,000 mi............. $18,650 (67%)

20,000 mi............. $15,100 (54%)

60,000 mi............. $18,200 (64%)

80,000 mi............. $13,200 (47%)

100,000 mi........... $11,350 (40%)

*figures rounded to nearest $50.

How do these values hold up to those of other vehicles? To get a rough idea, I selected two similarly priced sedans from the 2011 model year:

2011 Prius 4 (Very Good Condition)

MSRP $28,250

..............................Trade-in Value

3,000 mi............... $23,450 (83% of MSRP)

10,000 mi............. $22,550 (79%)

20,000 mi............. $21,700 (77%)

60,000 mi............. $18,200 (64%)

80,000 mi............. $15,900 (56%)

100,000 mi........... $13,700 (48%)

2011 Audi A3 (Very Good Condition)

MSRP $28,750

..............................Trade-in Value

3,000 mi............... $22,250 (77% of MSRP)

10,000 mi............. $21,750 (75%)

20,000 mi............. $20,950 (72%)

60,000 mi............. $17,600 (61%)

80,000 mi............. $17,100 (59%)

100,000 mi........... $13,300 (46%)

My less-than-scientific analysis seemed to confirm the anecdotal accounts I had received over the last few weeks—as did a USA Today article that happened to go live as I was doing my research. The article reported that Kelley Blue Book projects the 2012 LEAF to retain 20 percent of its value after 5 years, contrasting it with the 2012 Nissan Sentra, which is projected to retain slightly more than 30 percent of its value over the same period.

Just how damning are these numbers for the LEAF? At face value one might conclude that Kelley Blue Book’s projections put a significant drag on the economic argument for driving electric. But as KBB’s director of residual value consulting, Eric Ibara, reminded USA Today in the article, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. "If you only look at residual percentages, it's on the low side," said Ibara. "But if you look at dollars," how much people actually spend to keep an electric car compared with a conventional one, "it's not."

What Ibara was alluding to is that projected fuel and maintenance savings for the LEAF and other EVs are likely to bridge the gap in resale value for most owners. But what creates that gap to begin with?

To find out, I asked Alan Baum, a Michigan-based automotive analyst who head Baum and Associates. Baum blamed low residual values for the 2011 and 2012 LEAF on the forthcoming 2013 model of the car, which is said to be both cheaper and more efficient than previous models.

“The new version of the LEAF has improved capability, making these prior versions less attractive,” he said. “I think resale values will improve as volumes increase and the segment is better understood.”

Still A Guessing Game

No matter how fine the work companies like KBB have put into predicting the LEAF’s resale value, there aren’t actually any LEAFs out there on the used auto market with 100,000 miles on them just yet. It remains to be seen just how popular early versions of the LEAF will prove to be down the road. Several questions remain unanswered for current LEAF drivers who will one day look to trade or sell their cars with higher mileages on them.

What effect will normal battery deterioration have on values? How much more is a 5-year old LEAF still capable of 65 miles of range worth in comparison to one that is down to 55 miles? How will the LEAF battery pack fare beyond the 100,000-mile mark, and will there be added demand for cheaper, used EVs with significantly limited range from drivers who don’t actually need or want to pay for a car with battery pack capable of 80 miles of range?

Back when hybrids were new to the market, a myth began to circulate that they would lose most of their value once their batteries were worn down—forcing their owners to shell out big bucks for replacement nickel-metal packs. As we can see from the Prius 4’s value retention numbers, those warnings turned out to be a whole lot of hogwash. A few years from now we’ll have a better idea of just how resilient EVs prove to those fears.


· · 5 years ago

Checkout the wholesale auction values of Leaf. They are quite good. Those are the "real" used values.

· · 5 years ago

I'm not planning on selling my Leaf, so this doesn't really affect me.

But the fact is that EV technology is changing faster than ICE technology. That will tend to reduce the resale values of older EVs relative to new ones, particularly when the newer EVs as is the case with the Leaf can be had for less money.

· · 5 years ago

I bet part of the trouble with Resale Value is due to Nissan dropping the ball on support of Tucson Batteries (Arizona). People in general don't like being BS'd, and that British VP (Palmer?) has more than his share. Hopefully
Ghosn will realize this incredibly poor handling of a Warranty Issue will cause some needed changes in their Executive Suite.

· George B (not verified) · 5 years ago

Based on anecdotal evidence and a conversation or two with experienced LEAF dealerships, the resale value came under quite a bit of pressure lately. This manifests itself in lower auction wholesale values as well. From a purely financial perspective, it's a lot more difficult for existing owners to trade up to a new LEAF than it used to be. There are several reasons for that. This summer's battery PR fiasco is only one part of the equation. Heavy discounting of the outgoing model year, and limited initial acceptance of an all-electric vehicle in the US, are most likely the two main driving forces depressing the resale value of used LEAFs. Considering that this is a new and not well established market segment, even when compared to hybrids for example, then the LEAF is holding its ground well, even if existing owners can no longer count on getting very attractive offers for their all-electric rides.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

Well, it is "harder" to value an used battery which is one of the most important piece of the car. I am sure the Used Leaf are different from car to car. It all depends on how well the owner took care of it (number of deep charge cycle), what kind of condition has the battery experienced and whether there are battery defect or not. If Nissan had "warrantied" capacity, I am sure the resale value would have been good. Also, those battery will degrade. When they do, the useful range of the Leaf will be severely limited. A EPA 73miles EV with only 60% range left after 6 yr/80k miles is a 43 miles car at best. That is a very limiting car. With heat and highway speed cruise, it is barely a 30 miles car.

But I will pick one up if it is cheap enough. It would be a fun "project" car...

· · 5 years ago

It doesn't look like Nissan is going to do it. But if someone could come up with a replacement battery with the same capacity - AND a thermal management system - my guess is buying one of these 'bargain' LEAFs might be a smart investment; that is, assuming the rest of the car holds up well mechanically with age.

· · 5 years ago

This doesnt worry me too much, As I leased mine, my set turn in (balloon value) is $17,602 in 35 months. I do believe the cars will fair the price of 15-20k for the 3 year old vehicle if not more when/if fuel costs rise and more people adopt EV's. I take very good care of my vehicles, but I am pushing this lil car to the limits, exhausting 11/12 bars daily but I only leave the car at 100% for no more than 4hrs. This might be the absolute hard test for durability and longevity of the battery, car is borrowed from nissan, and they are warranting the battery. If the range drops drastically...the wife will have to drive it (drives only around town 20-30miles per day) and ill get a used prius until the lease is up. Next year we should start to see the the first flow of Lease turn-ins and their market price.

· Objective (not verified) · 5 years ago

Hey Justin...

shouldn't your first table have a label that is true?

..............................Trade-in Value
3,000 mi............... $19,100 (71% of MSRP)

should be:

..............................Trade-in Value
3,000 mi............... $19,100 (71% of MSRP after rebate)

the table for trade in value as percent of MSRP should look more like this:

3,000 mi. $19,100 (53% of MSRP)
10,000 mi. $18,650 (52%)
20,000 mi. $18,650 (52%)
60,000 mi. $15,100 (42%)
80,000 mi. $13,200 (37%)
100,000 mi. $11,350 (32%)

You put in a note about figures being rounded to the nearest %50... as if you were being accurate! That's a laugh.

Where anybody has found one of these cars with 100,000 miles on it to have any real figure for its sales transaction value then... is beyond me.

I just decided to post now to point out another example of the misleadingly positive press given to electric cars here all the time.

· Ernie (not verified) · 5 years ago

@Modern Marvel Fan:

Actually, it's *easier* to evaluate a battery. You actually have a measure of how good the battery is, but you can't tell me that your alternator is 23% worn, or your clutch has 80,000 miles left to it.

Mechanical parts have a tendency towards becoming unusable quite unexpectedly. Batteries, not so much. And since the Leaf has individual, replaceable, and just as importantly, easily diagnosed cells, it's not difficult to replace the parts of the battery that need to be replaced, while leaving the rest of them alone. If you find that your useful range is getting too low, you can *fix* that, and for a cost that's way less than the $12,000 some people like to toss around.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago


I am NOT sure I agree with you on that. It all depends on the component. Alternator don't wear out (assuming no defect) except for two things, bearing and rectifier bridge. Bearings have age and once you reach certain number of hours, it is pretty much on its last legs. Most Alternators don't last past 150k miles. With a 80k miles alternator, I know that I will be lucky to get another 80K miles out of it. I would probably expect to replace it around 120k miles if no additional stress are added. Just about every alternator that I have changed have signs before it failed. excessive noise/whining/heat or lack of current are usually the signs that it failed or about to fail compeletely.

Batterys are harder to tell in terms of how much "full cycle" charges it has gone through. Sure, you can detect if any cells failed or NOT holding charges or even generate excessive heat. But that would require special equipment to figure that out. I don't know if the Nissan battery pack can do that without taking the battery pack apart. So far, all Nissan has said that "degradation" are normal. Who is to say that 80k miles later, a "normal" Leaf battery pack would only give you 40 miles range?

Also, an alternator is fairly cheap to replace. But a battery pack range impact your EV far greater in terms of value.

· · 5 years ago

"If the range drops drastically...the wife will have to drive it (drives only around town 20-30miles per day) and ill get a used prius until the lease is up."

Bingo. This is what affect resale value, uncertainty.

· Gwido (not verified) · 5 years ago

How can the trade-in value be lower with more mileage on the car?

20,000 mi............. $15,100 (54%)
60,000 mi............. $18,200 (64%)

· Gwido (not verified) · 5 years ago

Obviously, I meant *higher*, not lower...

· · 5 years ago

This probably has nothing to do with being an EV and everything to do with the prices of new Leafs.

In 2011 and through early 2012 new Leafs were selling at MSRP or higher. Now new Leafs are being significantly discounted. So naturally the resale value of the older Leafs will suffer.

However, for people buying a new Leaf now, with a big discount, the resale values will probably be fine.

· · 5 years ago

In reference to the posts concerning the determination of battery condition of a used Leaf:

CarFax tells you of reported repairs to a used vehicle.

Nissan gathers statistics of my battery charging and discharging every time I use it.

Could Nissan provide "LeafFax" information when buying from a Nissan dealer?


New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.