Nearly 80% Of Electric Cars (Minus Tesla) Are Leased, Not Bought, In U.S.


It’s the lease you can do.

If you drive an electric vehicle, there’s a good chance you leased it. An 80 percent chance, to be exact-ish. Drive a plug-in hybrid? There’s a 50 percent chance you’ve gone the leasing route. So says  Bloomberg New Energy Finance, who admit the figure doesn’t include Tesla drivers (the California automaker hasn’t released lease-versus-buy figures). That’s substantially higher than the 30 percent lease rate of shoppers nationally.

2018 Nissan LEAF Lease

According to the publication, there are several reasons for this phenomena, including the assertion that the higher lease rate is, “fueled by the meager demand for battery-powered vehicles on the used market.” They say this is because, “…buyers of pre-owned cars can’t grab thousands of dollars in federal and state incentives.”

This strikes us as a slightly incorrect assumption. Buyers of new electric vehicle buyers in the U.S. have been able to take advantage of a $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as state and local rebates and incentives. When they sell their cars, they (and buyers) take that into account. So, when a vehicle that had a (hypothetical) $38,000 MRSP, but might have been purchased for only $28,000 after incentives comes on the market, the price tends to reflect the actual buying price rather than the original dealer sticker. Certainly, though, some plug-in vehicles suffer more depreciation than traditional gas-powered ones.

Perhaps closer to the mark is their other reason: EV buyers recognize battery and other electric vehicle technology is advancing quickly, and they don’t want to be wed long term to a particular product because they expect new vehicles will have dramatic improvements, usually increased range. This strikes us as very true, at least outside of the Tesla brand, where there certainly are improvements, but since most of its vehicle configurations offer more than 200 miles of range, and sometimes over 300, many other calculations come into play.

And speaking of Tesla, while the company doesn’t  publicize data about its leasing uptake, an informal poll we took on a Tesla owner Facebook page indicates it’s quite low. Out of 132 respondents, 114, or 86 percent, bought their vehicles rather than leased, underlining that within the electric vehicle segment, there can be a lot of variation.

Finally, one thing not mentioned in the Bloomberg report is the attractiveness of many EV leases in so-called CARB states. Some vehicles —often termed compliance cars because manufacturers make them to be in compliance with guidelines set out by the California Air Resources Board, and are typically only available in the California and a handful of other states — are subsidized by their makers because they reduce the need to buy credits. Perhaps this situation is best represented by the Fiat 500e, a fun little car to drive, which has seen lease offers as low as $69 a month for three years with no money down. Faced with that sort of deal, it’s little wonder the lease take is relatively high.

Source: Bloomberg

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52 Comments on "Nearly 80% Of Electric Cars (Minus Tesla) Are Leased, Not Bought, In U.S."

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Not surprised that only a small percentage of Teslas are leased. The lease terms through Tesla (US Bank) are terrible; the money factor is .00210, or over 5% APR. Compare that to Tesla’s subsidized finance rates of 1.49% for Model S and Model X.

Furthermore, while most lenders allow you reduce the drive off (often to $0 out of pocket) Tesla requires nearly $76XX at a minimum for the base the Model S…

Love your site by the way!

And I personally like that God loves Bacardi…Is that like Southern fried rock bands that display the Bible in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other? ?

A good website for EV specific leases is


I think the article nailed it, people don’t want to get stuck with an obsolete car after a few years. If you look at the cars all of the cars with sub 150 mile ranges are mostly leased. The Teslas hold their value very well and the Chevy Bolt has over two hundred miles on a charge and will probably hold its value better.

Yep, agreed.

The leasing in my mind creates a bit of a “double dip incentive.” Here’s why:

1. The initial leasor gets the federal rebate folded into a short term lease deal, which drops the lease price considerably, and is also the only effective way for someone who doesn’t make enough to take the $7500 tax credit to still actually get it!

2. Now after it gets returned… speaking at least for the Nissan Leafs in California, they have completely flooded the market. This creates the “second incentive:” super cheap used prices. Like ridiculously low.

I got my 2013 Leaf SV with 36k miles for $9700. Now you can get the same for a couple thousand LESS. That is, to be fair, a free car compared to gas for the next five years.

So now I drive a used Leaf which I will drive into the ground, and the wife drives a used Tesla MS. Both great deals for what they are.

I don’t know that the Volt has depreciated all that much since I got mine in 2013. I paid around $25k net for a base Volt and 4.5 years later it is worth between $12.5k and $13.5k. That is holding its value pretty well. I see some people calculating depreciation on electric cars without taking the tax credit into account but that is kind of silly.
Obviously, the Leaf took a bigger hit, but I think it may be on lower end of the depreciation spectrum.

Bolt’s lack of quick charge capabilities (unless you call 80% in 90 minutes or so quick) is bound to affect residual value at some point as well as the fact that it’s a $40K compact hatchback in a market that will soon have more glamorous alternatives for that sort of cash.

It’s true. You could probably get one for a song, and 20k when they come off lease.

BYD Song costs probably the same or more than the Bolt.

Agree’d but a mainstream buyer might not pay attention to DC fast charge on the Bolt and lease one not knowing. I also doubt the value will plummet like it will with the sub 150 miles cars.

The fact someone thinks 20K for a CPO Bolt would be a “Song” enforces that the Bolt will hold value.

True, and 20 alternatives to the Bolt will be made by GM.

I think it is mostly the lease deals, they are so good that you will never do as well buying. Many have $200 a month deals with very little down, making a 36 month lease less than $10k. You will surely lose more like $20k in depreciation in that time if you bought outright.

No. This is a cheap shot at EV’s. 1) They’re leased in that you can get the full federal tax credit off the lease, with no federal paperwork. BMW Finance does the paperwork. 2) The safety systems are rapidly improving: Collision Prevention. 3) The Cars will be self driving in 3 years, which is also a safety and convenience feature, because city driving isn’t fun. 4) Leasing makes an expensive car more affordable: Lease for 3 years, then buy the car at a much reduced price at the end of the lease. But, today’s BMW i3 with 120 miles of real world range, with the REX option, would be good for it’s total lifetime, because that’s what most people need. If it weren’t for the rapid advances in safety systems, more would be bought. A) The BMW i3 in the used car market moves off the lot quicker than ICE vehicles. 2) The used car market sees the federal tax credit already taken off the list price of the car. PASSTHRU. The reduced list price shows the Federal credit is being passed thru to the next buyer. So, 2 people enjoy the federal credit. The first and second buyer. And… Read more »

I work on driver assistant Software for cars. There is no way that a car will drive you trough town autonomously in 3 years through a city.
Maybe busses on bus only lanes. That’s my highest bet. First of all, city driving is the hardest part. Secondly there are nearly no laws yet that allow this. And third it is still quite expensive. But the price will go down by a factor of 5-10. Probably in less than 10 years. That’s the easiest thing on the whole bundle.

First highway, then rural roads, third city driving. There are just so much situations to be handled in city that don’t occur on other lanes that often. Bicycles, pedestrians, children, motorcycles, accidents of others -> lane marking must be violated sometimes turning on the middle of the road as solution, traffic light recognition, trains crossing without traffic lights, police officer that dominate traffic signs, …

If self-driving tech is still so far away from being actually usable, then how is it that Waymo is getting ready to deploy a fleet of self-driving taxis in a suburb of Phoenix, and has already given demonstration rides to reporters? (see link below)

Mr. M, perhaps the self-driving car project you are involved with is still several years away from true autonomy. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is that far away from the goal.

With all the changes it’s a nice way to not worry about problems and always get the latest lower priced higher range faster charging EV.
I lease so I can try and compare many types. Ive leased LEAK 211,2013, 2013 FORD FOCUS EV, SOUL EV and SPARK EV. I’ve found only liquid cooling has batteries that seem to last forever.

I Leased a Focus Electric, and Now a Soul EV. For me, it’s the evolution of the TECH that matters. The FED and State credits may not be fully exploited and certainly a delayed use there of if you buy at the beginning of the tax year. so Leasing was my way to go. Once we see a consistent 250-300 mile range at an affordable price, then you will likely see buyer share growing and leasing decreasing. I leased both cars for significantly less than the drop in depreciation. Call it a subsidy by the manufacturer and the fed/state, but the math simply doesn’t add up to own.

Duh. It’s not surprising that people didn’t want to buy something that wasn’t going to be worth much in a few years. I literally feel sorry for the people who bought a Leaf. They could have leased it and then bought it outright when the lease is up for less than they paid for it up front.

As range increases like many I expect EVs to hold their value better but is it any surprise the value is so low when manufacturers keep coming out with cars capable of 25-50% more range a year for roughly the same cost.

It’s certainly true that in the “early adopter” period of a tech revolution, technology advances rapidly with each new generation, and early adopters are stuck with expensive machines that quickly become obsolete. For example, I remember paying $1200 for a 1980 top-loading VHS VCR with a hard-wired “remote” control!

So from that viewpoint, yes, buyers are smart to lease rather than buy an EV… unless it’s a Tesla, as their cars have already been proven to not become obsolete after just a few years.

We’re going to see this trend continue until we get solid state battery.

Innovation is not suddenly going to stop with solid state batteries. It’s still early in the EV tech revolution, and there will be many advancements in many areas of vehicle design, not just the battery pack.

As long as the tech is advancing rapidly, would be PEV buyers would be smart to lease instead of buy the car… arguably with the exception of Tesla cars.

While the reasons mentioned in the article are certainly valid, it ignores the fact that the buyer, in essence, gets the tax credit immediately by leasing. The tax credit generally is applied as a capitalized cost reduction in a lease, basically a down payment. As opposed to buying the car, where the buyer would have to wait to see their tax bill reduced in April of the year following the purchase of the car. The buyer would then get a larger tax refund or owe less at that time, more likely the former.

Unless the buyer made a larger down payment to take into account the tax credit, he or she would have to live with higher payments for the life of the loan. Given the way most people by cars in the US, that is a difficult pill to swallow. Many people don’t really have the ability to put down $7500 on a car and wait several months to get it back.

“fueled by the meager demand for battery-powered vehicles on the used market”

That’s odd, I seem to remember an article stating that used EV’s are the fastest selling used car segment.

Yeah, Bloomberg has a noticeable anti-EV bias. It’s not all that pronounced; it’s not as firmly anti-EV as, say, the Wall Street Journal. But the bias should be obvious to anyone reading just a few EV-related articles there.

High lease takes are driven by ZEV compliance.

Manufacturers offer some ridiculously good deals on their PEV leases, and the lessees are happy to take the deal and dump the car at the end.

M3 - reserved -- Niro/Leaf 2.0/Outlander - TBD

Both our Fiat 500e and Spark EV are coming due this year. Dirt cheap and literally paid for itself on gas/energy savings. Allowed us to save W+T on our ICE vehicles.

Now Model 3 to add to teenager driver and another EV lease for local/weekend hauler.

You’re going to let a teenager drive a Model 3? I’d seriously reconsider that. A Leaf or e-Golf is more in line with what a teenager should drive.

A car that goes 0 to 60 in 5 seconds shouldn’t be anywhere near an inexperienced and not fully mentally mature teenager.

Not just teenagers. Most adults don’t have the maturity required either. I seriously fear that as EVs become more common and mass produced, that the 0-60 race that Elon has started is going to make for some seriously dangerous daily commutes! Just like the internet, the insulation of the automobile allows the inner ass hole to thrive and flourish.

If the lucky kid gets above average grades, and keeps the Model 3 juice usage close to 250 Wh/mile, I would gladly wash and wax it, as long as the kid has their date safe back home by 10pm, and the car charging in my driveway, not much longer than 30 minutes later. Any scratches or dings repairs, or insurance increases, come out of the college car fund.

Not sure if someone already mentioned this but many of the buyers don’t pay enough in taxes to take advantage of the $7,500 tax credit. So yet another reason why leasing is so common.

Absolutely true, and it gets even more interesting in 2018. For a family with 2 kids and standard deduction, you don’t hit a 7.5k tax liability until your AGI is >118k. That’s about the 90th percentile for income in the US! Consult your tax professional for actual numbers/advice.

With three kids and maxing out retirement accounts, I pay hardly any federal taxes at all. All those leases make for nice cheap used cars – which are easier on insurance too.

That is incorrect. Married filing jointly only needs to have an agi of $56,200 to have a tax liabilty of $7500. I just checked the 2017 tax tables on the irs website. And my wife and I are really close to that and i’ve been able to claim the full $7500 EV credit twice ao far.

He said with 2 kids. Wasn’t $2k credit per kid making it $4k that gets substracted from the $7500 you see in the table.

correct, had to lease ! 2017 kia soul ev $ 188 month, Less then my gas bill for my ice car. includes down payment. 15,000 miles per year. buy back $ 8,950 at end of 36 months ! full warranty included ! dont need the range,SAFETY, CRASH TEST IS AWESOME ON THE SOUL EV ! # 1

Tesla needs to find a banking partner for Model 3 leases ASAP. The current $800 finance payment will shock many people.

They haven’t yet fulfilled purchase demand, so why do leasing?

I see you’re still in denial about the Model 3.

Tesla absolutely does not need to arrange for in-house lease terms for the Model 3, and won’t for at least 1.5 – 2 years. Not while demand is so very much higher than supply.

People who want to lease a Model 3 can arrange third party financing thru their bank or credit union. They don’t need to go thru Tesla for a lease.

It was economic fir me. I drive 18K a year in my car. Leasing would be prohibitively expensive at that distance.

So I just purchased instead and will keep it until it dies. Still a lot of uses as most days, I’m not close to the 90 mile limit or so in my almost 3 year old Leaf.

Thank You Nissan.

I have a slightly different view…

Number one reason for divorce? Money…We always hear “follow the money”…Once these 500e $69/mo or the Bolt EV’s $138/mo deal goes viral, people just buy them…The Chevy dealers who did offer the $138/mo sold out (which ultimately requires go way under invoice), yet the dealer about 3 miles from my house still has 20 on its lot…

Furthermore, there’s a lot of misunderstanding with the $7500 federal tax credit, because we call it that…Should be called the “$7500 federal income tax deduction”…If you ask the average Joe “if you buy an EV, how do you receive the $7500 federal tax credit?” You’ll discover way less than half truly understand how it’s applied; majority believe $7500 is simply added to their federal refund…So I do not believe people are even weighing the lease the purchase options, if offered a cheap lease, they just sign it without a second thought…

“Should be called the “$7500 federal income tax deduction””

Er, no. That makes it sound like a deduction.

Should be called “$7500 Federal income tax reduction.”

It’s not rocket science. Checked the resale value for 1st gen LEAFs or Volts? My friend bought a Ford Focus Electric for pennies on the dollar. Sure, there’s anxiety about first gen batteries and power electronics durability, but there’s plenty of data online on this. The Volt was greatly overbuilt, so ELRs and 1st gen Volts will go far over 500,000 miles withiut much battery degradation at all. LEAF is another story with it’s air cooled pack. Yet both can be had for a steal on the used market. One reason for such depreciation is that under government mandate, EVs and PHEVs were built more as appliances and not exciting new tech machines that are superior to the ICEs they replace. Tesla, on the other hand, made the electric car quick, fast, sexy and exciting – cutting edge tech. Teslas hold their value while all other EVs don’t. Advantage: Used car market. Buy a LEAF or a Volt for a song right now, why pay $40-50,000 for a new car when a 2 or 3 year old one is such a bargain? Bolt EV and i3 are good examples. Why would anyone BUY one when their value will plummet like… Read more »

Didn’t knew the Song is available in the US already. How much does a BYD Song cost as PHEV and BEV version?

-“A Bolt or LEAF for me would definately be a lease. The 2019 65kwh, liquid-cooled, LG-batteried LEAF may be a buy.”-

Well, since I’m one of the idiot 20% that actually bought my Bolt, I have to ask your superior wisdom as to why you would consider buying and not leasing a 65kwh liquid cooled Leaf in the future vs. buying a 60kwh Bolt today. Right now. Today.

I always love the hypocrisy of people here (not saying you) that stamp their feet and demand the abolition of all ICE cars and EV mandates ASAP, but continue to drive their gas cars, diesels and hybrids until they finally are offered one day, the privilege of ordering a Model 3 instead of driving the EV good life TODAY!

The Chevy Bolt is real, available and it does what they say it does right now. No need to wait for the eventual Leaf either.

Missing the word “New” in the tittle … sales of “Used EVs” only lagging 2-3 years behind “New EV” sales and lease numbers on “used EVs” is much lower.

Just saying … 🙂

Hey guys. Didn’t read all the comments but the graphic does not match 80% at any point that I can see since at least mid 2016. The incorrect way is to just take the average of those numbers. That is less than 80% too. The correct way of course is using the volume sold at each brand into the % calculation. Which also won’t yield 80% since only the i3 lands above 80%

Does the graph regarding ‘All vehicles’ mean all cars in the US or all PEV cars??? Because of the title I would assume it means all PEV combined but the article says otherwise.

My 2017 Volt netted just under $20k after incentives. I looked at one of the sites posted above, and for a 36 month lease with the number of miles I drive, it would have been over $12k total payments. Based on current used Volt prices, I doubt I would be able to buy my Volt for $8k after three years, but who knows.

If leasing EV’s wasn’t available would people still buy them!
It seems EV’s are only Good if you lease them but Bad if you buy them.
It’s not a very good advertisement for them saying they’re the future.