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Video | Here's Why the BMW i8 Is Depreciating Rapidly

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author photo by Tyler Hoover February 2018

For my latest trip to traffic-crippled Los Angeles, I found myself behind the wheel of a 2015 BMW i8 rental. There are several available on Turo at a very reasonable price -- and in choosing one, I got to spend the weekend driving around Hollywood looking like Tom Cruise. Gawkers were stopping to see who was stepping out from under the i8's butterfly doors -- and I'm sure they were disappointed when a skinny buffoon awkwardly shuffled out of it. Usually cars with this much presence, style and hype tend to hold their value pretty well. But the BMW i8 is depreciating just as rapidly as just about every other BMW and European luxury car -- and once you look underneath its spectacularly styled surface, it's easy to see why.

I rented this BMW i8 expecting to hate it. Automotive journalists were fond of mocking this car for it's lackluster performance and goofy tech cheats designed to make this car seem more sporty and futuristic. Personally, I thought the acceleration was exciting enough, and I enjoyed the Star Trek-style simulated noises. I also didn't mind BMW piping the exhaust noises through the speakers to up the excitement level. I was having fun, and I actually appreciated the practical aspects of the i8. For someone with kids, the back seat alone would make me consider buying the i8 just to be able to share the experience with the heirs to my hooptie fleet. Unlike previous generations, most of the technology aids weren't clunky and mostly useless. Clearly, all the experimentation BMW owners had to suffer through over the past decade was finally beginning to pay off.

The biggest struggle of the i8 has always been figuring out what category it fits in. With prices up to $150,000 new, the i8 is certainly in the exotic territory of pricing levels, but its Mini Cooper-based hybrid drivetrain meant it could never compete with the performance of an Audi R8. The i8 is also too weird and uncomfortable to compete in the luxury touring segment with the Porsche 911 -- and even in the techy-green segment, it loses handily to the more practical and cheaper Tesla Model S. BMW's own internal competition, with their cheaper and more impressive M-performance cars, meant even BMW loyalists weren't interested in the weird i8.

Obviously, very few people were ever going to buy the i8 outright -- but like most electric and hybrid cars, leasing was the far more popular option. I assume BMW expected a much higher residual value on the i8, but the recent flood of 3-year-old lease returns has left the market saturated with cars. Currently, there are 118 used BMW i8 models for sale on Autotrader, and 14 of those are priced under $80,000. A few of those cheapest i8 models are even BMW Certified Pre-Owned units with an extended warranty.

Half off the price of a new i8 might seem like an excellent buy, but if prices continues to follow the depreciation curve of the 7 Series, the i8 will be around $50,000 in two years -- and it will still qualify for BMW's certified warranty. Either way, these lower prices certainly make the i8 a very attractive prospect. With its carbon fiber chassis, butterfly doors and supercar looks, nobody would ever guess you paid less for the i8 than a fully loaded Mercedes E-class.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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Video | Here's Why the BMW i8 Is Depreciating Rapidly - Autotrader