• 2013 Leaf to lose more value than 2012 model
  • KBB says 2013 Leaf will retain 35 percent in three years
  • Shoppers could lose more in depreciation than first thought

A new report from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) says the Nissan Leaf may depreciate more than first thought. The firm, a noted industry leader for used-car valuation, has dropped the 2013 Nissan Leaf's projected resale value several points compared to the 2012 model.

According to KBB, the 2013 Leaf will only retain 35 percent of its sticker price after three years. That's a big decline from the firm's assessment of the 2012 model. KBB predicted last year's Leaf would retain 40 percent of its value, which is a strong figure in used-car terms.

One reason KBB lowered its prediction is that the Leaf's based price was substantially dropped for the new model year. For 2013, Nissan added a base-level Leaf with a starting price below $30,000. A less-expensive model may cause resale values to drop because it likely means more used versions will be available.

KBB also says it's lowering the forecast because shoppers aren't embracing the Leaf's new technology.

"Demand for a new Leaf is driven by vehicle enthusiasts, early adopters, people who are concerned about the environment," said Eric Ibara, KBB's director of residual value consulting. "But when it comes to a 2-year-old used electric vehicle, practical considerations greatly outweigh the novelty of new technology."

Another factor in the Leaf's decreased resale value is the number of customers choosing to lease the vehicle. Since Nissan is offering highly enticing lease deals (some with payments of under $200 per month), many customers are opting to lease. The result is that the used-car market will see a glut of Leafs when leases expire in three years.

Residual value could affect today's shoppers in several ways. Most importantly, Leaf buyers will likely lose a larger amount of money than first thought, should they go to sell their Leaf in two or three years. But lower resale values also could drive up lease rates and even make some shoppers consider a used model when otherwise they only may have considered a new one.

Still, the Leaf is selling in large numbers. Sales are up more than three times over last year, likely due to the fully electric hatchback's lower base price and increased availability.

What it means to you: If you're looking at the 2013 Nissan Leaf, remember to factor depreciation into your financial calculations.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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