It’s an oft-told story of plug-in cars suffering lower than hoped-for resale values, and that’s usually not so good for original buyers, but great for second buyers.

A case in point is General Motors’ 2014 Cadillac ELR that has been spotted as starting in the mid 20s for clean, average-mile examples of a car that just three years prior had come affixed with a sticker price starting in the mid 70s to low 80s.

Another is the car which essentially donated its powertrain to the ELR, the 2014 Chevy Volt, which once stickered in the mid 30s, lower 40s depending on trim, and now is trending at about half the price of the luxurious ELR.

2014 Volt. ELR pictured top. Buyers of these cars were eligible for $7,500 federal tax credits and potential state incentives which partially explains their depreciation as that’s factored when estimating resale values. It does not fully account for the larger than average depreciation however.

Plug-ins are the nearest thing to an automotive equivalent of consumer electronics in that the earlier models from 2011 on are expected to be superceded by models that will leapfrog with improved features. Details like EV range, cost, and other factors are expected to be much better with succeeding generations than would be expected of improvements for new models of more mature conventional technology cars.

Also true is there is a segment of the population (the majority) which is on the fence about plug-ins for other reasons, including how plug-in vehicles will hold up over a decade compared to a conventional car – one factor that determines resale value.

Source: Bozi [email protected] Twitter page. These are prices from one source. Your ability to find comparable deals in your region may vary.

Much could be said to qualify the present state of affairs, and people may bias the story negatively against GM and plug-in cars, or positively depending on which facts flavor their sensibility and analysis.

Source: Bozi Tatarevic‏@hoonable Twitter page. These are prices from one source. Your ability to find comparable deals in your region may vary.


On the positive side, the ELR, was nearly a show car based on the Cadillac Converj of 2009, and greenlighted by GM executives to max out upscale design in a compact coupe body with plug-in 1.4-liter hybrid-electric powertrain featuring 37 all-electric EPA-rated miles range.

The Volt has led the way since 2011, and in 2014 guise, it featured 38 miles EV range, being a bit lighter, but otherwise a stellar performer for those wishing to drive all-electric day to day, but with unlimited range from gas fill–ups – as was true also of the ELR.

Both cars offered more EV range than the midsized “blended” plug-in hybrids from Ford, Toyota, and now Hyundai, Kia, and, well, anyone. Only this month is the Honda Clarity PHEV with 47 EV miles clearly ahead of those pioneers and the second-generation 2017 Volt remains the leader with 53 miles.

Not helping either the Volt or ELR was their relatively high starting prices that assured their sales stayed just OK. The Volt actually has the most cumulative sales among plug-ins, more than 120,000 since its inception, but the ELR especially was never perceived as a good value and sold poorly, at times needing heavy dealer discounts to push them out the door.

Next to a Tesla Model S, it started a few thousand more, and readers and reviewers have said some none-too charitable things about that.

Few people have bashed the ELR for its looks however. A stunning car, it’s essentially best as a conveyance for two in the 2+2 tradition.

Both cars also have a relative decent track record for reliability, and GM has treated these as halo cars – expression of the global multinational corporation’s efforts to make its mark on the pending plug-in era now heating up with much thanks to its early efforts. That should mean GM took extra care in their build quality and engineering, and so far this story line appears to be holding up.

Of the two, the “extended range electric” Volt has led GM’s plug-in hybrid efforts, but the ELR came and went. Its modest acceleration performance was perceived too low for what it cost, and the sporty luxury image it conveyed. The year 2014 was its first, it skipped the 2015 model year and was updated with improved performance in 2016, then canceled in 2016.

If one were cynical, the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” could come to mind. GM also is in line to be one of the first, or the first plug-in maker to see its allotment of federal plug-in tax credits reach their 200,000 cap.

Of late, lawmakers have been drawing a bead on dismantling the tax credit early, today it was reported it is still intact, but it remains to be seen whether an extension is granted to the likes of GM, Tesla, and Nissan, which are in line to reach 200,000 first.

Assuming the tax credit is not extended, it’s been widely observed a de facto penalty on first movers like Tesla, Nissan, and GM would be imposed because they plowed a field for other automakers who held back to ride in and profit from.

As is true of these companies and others who got their feet wet early this decade with plug-ins, GM has been reported as selling its early tech at a loss. This is not verified, a closely guarded secret GM is not divulging, and others have speculated it was at least not as profitable to sell the ELR and Volt – or they also stood to shake up GM’s bread-and-butter vehicles that sell in multiples of their monthly volume.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Cadillac ELR Review – Video

None of this however greatly works against buyers of these pre-owned vehicles, and indeed, many of these cars were leased, so coming off of those contracts, there are clean and maintained examples out there looking for a new home.

Leasing has been the preferred way of acquiring plug-ins by savvy consumers who also were wanting to partake of the upside of driving plug-ins, without drawbacks of outright ownership.

For those looking for the plug-in experience for far-less than the adventurous first owners paid, this could be your chance to snap up a relative creampuff for a reasonable price.