A brand new 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid costs a pretty penny: $41,000. But according to Kelley Blue Book, after three years, the length of an average new vehicle lease, the resale value of the fuel-sipping car drops to $17,000—about 41 percent of its original manufacturing suggested retail price (MSRP).
That may seem like a very low residual for a three-year old car. But Kelley says if you factor in the $7,500 tax credit available for the first 200,000 Chevy Volts sold (or mainly, leased) the original price drops to $33,500. Of course, the effective drop could be greater if you paid a premium above the MSRP to get a Volt, as some early customers, including Consumer Reports, did.
In our own analysis, we have seen many Chevrolets lose about half of their purchase price after three years of ownership. Assuming that the Volt depreciates the same, $17,000 sounds like a reasonable estimate. However, we have also noted that fuel-efficient hybrids and diesel models often depreciate far less than most vehicles. And the Volt’s heavy dependence on emerging battery technology is another wildcard. GM has announced that the next-generation Volt’s battery will have twice the capacity and cost less, making the first generation cars obsolete when the new ones come out in 2015-- like yesterday’s cell phone. Considering that, at this point we believe it’s still unclear how the Volt will fare. Additionally, if gas prices continue to rise or if the tax credits expire, it could quickly increase demand for used Chevrolet Volts.