Ivan Jue's picture

HOV stickers - the key driver in resale values of used Chevy Volts?

It is an interesting phenomenon - the second generation Chevy Volt debuts this fall in CA, and cars.com recently noted that the final ~6000 of the 1st Generation Volts are still on dealer lots. What will these final Gen 1 cars sell for? Will resale values be decimated as this car is now being perceived as "outdated" with Gen 2 on the wings? The answer is really not simple, as there are multiple regional factors that will drive resale/new values of Gen 1 Volts.

I noticed that the new Gen 1 cars are now selling with huge incentives and attractive leases nationwide. Various promos are allowing for cars to be sold at even below invoice (excluding the $7500 Federal credit and state rebates). The Gen 1 has had a good track record for reliability, and has had only a few known issues (fractured bearing cages, failed charging cables (since recalled), cracked charging ports, and a few electrical glitches). Quite a few are now well over 100k miles, with Erick Belmer being the first over 200k miles.

So the Gen 1 Chevy Volts have held up well, but would they be made obsolete by Gen 2 Chevy Volts? Technically I would say yes and no. Yes, Gen 2 will have many new updates and functional changes and improvements (Apple CarPlay, 50 miles EPA range on EV, new smoother engine, 5th seat, etc). No--because Gen 1 can still function well as a useful and refined vehicle for many years to come. Current owners have not noticed battery degradation even at high miles, and even if the battery degraded, the car can still run as a conventional hybrid on gas.

That being said, how about used residual values for Gen 1 Chevrolet Volts?

The residuals have also varies depending on regional factors. I have heard about used Volts being in the ~$15-$20k range in many parts of the country. But here in Silicon Valley, the Volt has actually done very well in terms of keeping it's residual value. At the local Chevy dealership in San Jose, I have spotted '13 and '14 Chevy Volts ranging from $28,000 to $30,000. Why such a high figure compared to other regions?

I believe the big factor for the high residual value on these Volts in San Jose is due to the green HOV stickers. These green HOV stickers (which currently expire on 1/1/19) allow a solo driver to travel on carpool lanes in CA.

As of May 1, CA dealers are no longer allowed to pre-register stickers on incoming VINs of new vehicles, they are reliant on the remaining stickers alloyed in CA. As of June 1, ~67k stickers have been issued out of 70k. Unless Sacramento issues an amended bill to release an additional 15,000 stickers, there will no longer be any more green HOV stickers available for new Volts.

In addition to the limited green stickers left, other minor factors may be at play. The Volt's robust reputation, the ownership loyalty and drive experience, the ineligibility for some folks to take advantage of the $7500 Federal credit--all may somewhat help the residual values.

But I think the biggest factor is the availability of HOV stickers. While the stickers are coveted and greatly valued in the heavily-traveled corridors within Silicon Valley, having too many stickers would reduce the benefit of the HOV lane for everyone.

I suppose we will see what will happen in Sacramento in the upcoming months. Adding an additional 15k green stickers would benefit the automakers with PHEVs (especially the upcoming 2nd Generation Volt).

Otherwise, I'm sure the resale of '13-'15 Volts will continue to climb, as sellers/dealers can charge these cars for a premium for this perk.

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The information about ineligibility for some folks to take advantage of $7500 credit is false. There is no income limit for Federal credit, it is only true for CA credit of $1500. Please make the correction.