A Plug-in Hybrid and Two Electrics Are America's Fastest-Selling Used Cars

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
a plug in hybrid and two electrics are america s fastest selling used cars

Electrified transportation isn’t catching fire in the new vehicle market, but sales are positively scorching at used car lots.

The top three fastest-selling one- to three-year-old vehicles in the U.S. today aren’t pickups or SUVs, but a low-volume plug-in hybrid and two EVs, according to automotive data and research company iSeeCars.com.

Between January and May of this year, newer used vehicles took an average of 42.4 days to sell, but the Toyota Prius Plug-in slashed that number by more than half, selling in an average of 9.7 days. The Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S took second and third place with 24.3 and 26.1 days, respectively.

Statistics from 2.2 million used car sales went into the study.

So, while buyers aren’t too keen on new electrics, put some miles on the odometer, roll forward the calendar, and those same models suddenly become superstars. What gives?

The answer has a lot to do with buyer’s wallets — after all, the lower price of a used vehicle can be hard to resist — but some of the demand can be chalked up to regional policies. How else can you explain the Prius Plug-in’s selling time shrinking by nearly half since last year?

According to iSeeCars.com CEO Phong Ly, “The dramatic decrease in days on the market is at least partially due to the fact that 54 percent of these cars were sold in California and the distribution of the stickers that allow plug-in hybrids to be used in California’s HOV carpool lanes with a single occupant has reached its limit, pushing up demand for used cars that already have this privilege.”

The Nissan Leaf’s popularity on the used market can be blamed on good ol’ depreciation. Used Leaf prices dropped $2,219 this year, putting the average price of Nissan’s venerable EV at $12,533. That’s cheap for any newer used vehicle.

With a brand like Tesla, older models possess the same near-mythological status as new ones (and until recently, there were no design changes to distinguish between the two), so why spend more than you need to? The price of used versions of the Model S fell 17 percent between this year and last, giving many buyers a good reason to avoid handing Elon Musk their hard-earned cash.

When it comes to depreciation, electric vehicles are the polar opposite of, say, the Jeep Wrangler. The average price for all models in the EV market fell 15.2 percent in 2016, with plug-in hybrids falling 5.1 percent.

Other models on the top 10 fastest-selling used car list were more conventional. The Hyundai Veloster Turbo ranked fourth, followed by the Infiniti QX60 (5th) and QX56 (6th), Lexus CT 200h (7th), Toyota Highlander Hybrid (8th), Lexus RX 350 (9th) and Mazda2 (10th).

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

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2 of 22 comments
  • Healthy skeptic Healthy skeptic on Jun 17, 2016

    While I'm sure HOV stickers play a large part in this phenomenon, there's another takeaway here: consumers are receptive to EVs, but consider the current crop of new ones to be overpriced. I'm an EV enthusiast, and I consider current EVs overpriced compared to their ICE cousins in the same market segment. The only exception is Teslas, but they're in an expensive segment to begin with. So if manufacturers can bring the price of new EVs down further, sales might finally start to climb quickly. But the interest is there.

  • Eggsalad Eggsalad on Jun 17, 2016

    The Chevy Avalanche is a hot used car for the same reason the Prius Plug-In is. You can't buy either of them new anymore.

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  • Art Vandelay Crimes that are punished with fines encourage abuse by those enforcing them. If it is truly dangerous to the public, maybe jail or give the offenders community service. People’s time tends to be very valuable to them and a weeks lost work would certainly make a high earner think twice. If it isn’t a big danger why are police enforcing it (outside of raising money of course). Combine it with a points system. When your points are gone you do a week imitating Cool Hand Luke.
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