I was worried. I bit my nails, I wondered whether I was making the right decision. What if I buy this expensive thing and in a short time it becomes obsolete. I’d feel like a dinosaur and people would laugh at my clunker when the sped by me.
It was towards the end of 2013 and I was just buying a brand new Chevy Volt. The salesman said to lease it, not buy it, because the technology moves so fast. I saw that it got about 38 miles on the battery and then a backup generator would kick in and I could drive on gas for about 35 miles per gallon. At the time no other plug-in hybrid even came close to that much battery life. But what if after 3 years of owning it I would say “I regret this, I want one of these fancy new electric cars instead!”.
Well, it’s more than 3 years later. I would have returned the lease by now and would be in the market to buy a new car. What plugins would I look at buying?
- Hyundai Sonata Plugin is 27 miles on battery, then 39 mpg on gas
- Kia Optima Plugin also goes 27 miles on battery.
- Volvo XC90 Plugin also goes 27 miles on battery, and 30 miles per gallon on gas.
- Toyota Prius Plugin goes 25 miles on battery, then 43 mpg on gas.
- Ford Fusion plugin goes 22 miles on battery, then 42 mpg on gas.
- Ford Cmax Energi goes 20 miles on battery then 38 mpg on gas.
- BMW i3 REx goes 83 miles on battery then 35 mpg on gas.
- Chevy Volt goes 53 miles on battery then 42 mpg on gas.
Well. Uh, so my 4-year old car still does better on battery range than most new plugin hybrids on the market in 2017. Except for the newer version of the Volt, and the BMW i3. I took an i3 for a test-drive when it first came out because I thought that maybe it would make me feel sorry for having bought instead of leasing. Turns out… no. I think the i3 looks cool, drives ok, and has impressive EV range. It also had a terrible gas range because its tank was tiny, and has some complaints about its ability to drive up mountains on gas. One of my use-cases is driving up to Tahoe, which is 8,000 feet of climb often in snow. So, while the new Volts and the i3 look appealing, they’re nothing that makes me look at my car and think “aww, I want to sell it and get these fancy new ones”.
It’s good thing I don’t want to sell it because the depreciation on plugin cars is painful. Truth be told, my Volt’s list price was $40,000, and I paid $22,000 after end-of-model-year discounts, plus state and federal government incentives, and haggling the dealer until he threw me out of his office (twice!). Today, Kelly Blue Book lists it at $9,000. Ouch. Even if you look at depreciation from purchase price, then it’s 40% of what I paid for it. Not a good percentage. Other EV and Plugin owners feel the same way. This trend will continue with electric cars and with plugins for the foreseeable future. So today, if I bought an i3 or a new Volt then I would be looking at the same depreciation problem. New Volts are $33,000, new i3’s are $42,000. 4 years from now they will also be valued at $9,000 or less.
So, the dealer was right. The lease would be a better deal than the depreciation of the car, and the technology on the Volt did advance. The dealer was wrong in that the whole market didn’t move that fast, in fact my 4 year old car is still competitive with most other plugins being sold today. So, in the end, it may have been marginally better to have leased.