2014 BMW i3: Depreciation Gut Punch
by Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor on December 21, 2015
Electric vehicles tend to make for poor used-car values. All the tax credits and rebates are aimed at the first buyer, which in turn affects the vehicle's resale value. Why buy a 2- to 3-year old EV when you can lease a new one for less per month?
And yet despite knowing this, I wasn't prepared for the ridiculously low offer that CarMax gave us when we brought them the 2014 BMW i3. It's not that I was expecting our i3 to magically buck the low-value EV trend, but my research showed that I should have gotten a better deal.
Edmunds trade-in True Market Value® estimates that our 2014 BMW i3 is worth about $30,875. There was only one i3 with a range extender for sale on CarMax's website (located in Austin, Texas). It had 2,000 more miles than ours, cloth seats (we have leather) and base wheels (we have the optional 20's). CarMax was asking $36,000.
I estimate that CarMax paid about $32,500 for it, given that it usually prices its cars at about $3,500 over the trade-in offer. Our i3 had fewer miles and more options. We stood to get at least $33,000, right? Wrong.
My first clue should've been the glut of EVs sitting on CarMax's lot, occupying the same prime real estate out front, where luxury cars would usually be parked. I counted eight Nissan Leafs, three Chevrolet Volts and two Ford Focus Electrics.
The offer came in at $26,000. For reference, we paid $50,000 (before tax and title) for the i3 when we bought it new last year. This was a depreciation of nearly 50 percent! After picking up my jaw from the floor, I politely asked the sales rep to go back and see if perhaps the pricing department hadn't noted that we had the range extender. I even asked him to pull up the other i3 in CarMax's inventory as a sign that my expectations weren't out of whack.
The offer is correct, said the salesman. "The other car is scheduled to get a price drop sometime soon."
It wasn't the answer I wanted, but I understood the logic. It was likely the first i3 that CarMax encountered and estimators didn't have a baseline for the price. My guess is that this car has sat on the lot and forced CarMax to reconsider the prices on any others i3's they took in. Either way, it didn't help our situation.
We have seven days to consider the offer. In the meantime, I'm going to contact a couple of BMW dealerships. Perhaps they're willing to offer us more.
So much for the preferential treatment that some folks think Edmunds gets at CarMax.
Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 10,233 miles