Spring 2023 CarMax Electric Vehicle Consumer Report

Father and son smiling sitting in back of electric vehicle as it charges

Consumer interest in used electric vehicles continues to rise. Here’s what CarMax data reveals.

CarMax Data Highlights:

  • Search volume for terms containing “electric” on doubled from February 2022 to February 2023.

  • In February 2023, the top five most popular electric vehicles at CarMax were the Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model Y, Nissan Leaf, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

  • From September 1, 2022 to February 28, 2023, SUVs were the most common vehicle type traded in for electric vehicles, while Toyota was the most traded in brand for EVs.

  • From September 1, 2022 to February 28, 2023, when shopping for the Tesla Model 3, the most common trade-in was a Honda Civic and the second most common was a Toyota Tacoma.

As electric vehicles (EVs) become more mainstream and the variety of make and model options at varying price points on the used car market increases, is shopping behavior changing?

According to a study by the Pew Research Center in May 2022, about four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they would be very or somewhat likely to seriously consider purchasing an electric vehicle the next time they’re looking for a new car or truck. This is a 2% increase since the same study was conducted in April 2021.

In Going Electric: The Growing EV Market and CarMax (May 2022), we took a first look at the data surrounding consumer interest in used EVs at CarMax. Since then, a variety of factors have contributed to changes in the American economy – the continuing war in Ukraine, fluctuating gas prices, and threats of increased climate change, to name a few.

Almost a year later, we’re looking into the data again to see just how used car shoppers have reacted since then. Read on to learn more – we’ll cover everything from used EV consumer interest, popular used EVs & average prices at CarMax, common trade-ins for EVs, and EV nationwide popularity.   

Consumer Interest in Used EVs

To understand used car shopper interest in used EVs over time, we looked at search volume for the term “electric” on starting in January 2021. Our analysts first noticed a large spike in February to March 2022. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this was around the same time average gas prices increased in the U.S., from $3.54 per gallon on February 7, 2022 to $4.20 per gallon on March 7, 2022—with the war in Ukraine affecting this price spike.

Fast forward to February 2023, and search volume for terms containing “electric” on have doubled since this time last year. The highest peak since January 2021 is now October 2022, showing 5.6% of searches on containing the term “electric.” This presents a strong signal that consumer interest in used EVs has continued to grow.

Line chart displaying the percentage of searches for "Electric" on from January 2021 to February 2023

Used EVs at CarMax

With search volume in EVs increasing on, which used EVs are customers actually buying the most? According to CarMax sales data from February 2023, the top five most popular EVs at CarMax are the Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model Y, Nissan Leaf, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and the Chevrolet Bolt EV. In contrast to the last reporting, the BMW i3 and the Tesla Model X, which were in the third and fifth spots, have now moved out of the top five but remain in the top ten. Average prices for the top ten most popular EVs range from $22,000 to $72,000.

Infographic displaying the most popular EVs & average prices at CarMax

Trade-Ins and EVs at CarMax

Next, we looked for trends in the vehicle types and specific brands used car shoppers are trading in when they make the switch to an all-electric vehicle at CarMax.

Compared to the previously published CarMax data, SUVs still hold the number one spot for top traded-in vehicle type at 40%. Sedans and coupes (29%) and luxury vehicles (17%) also remain in second and third place. It’s important to note that the luxury vehicles category includes both sedans and SUVs.

Pie chart displaying common trade-Ins for EVs by brand and vehicle type

When looking specifically at the car brands customers are trading in, there was a small shift in trends compared to our previous report. Toyota is still at the top with the same percentage, 12%. Ford also remains in the number two spot but is now tied with BMW (previously tied for fourth with Chevrolet), both at 8%. Honda is at 7% and has moved from third to fourth place since the last reporting.

Drilling down deeper into the specific makes and models used car shoppers are trading in for an EV also uncovers buying trends. For the Tesla Model 3, our most popular EV at CarMax from September 2022 – February 2023, the most common trade-in was a Honda Civic and the second most common was a Toyota Tacoma. For shoppers buying a Nissan Leaf (third most popular EV at CarMax from this data reporting), the most common trade-in was a Toyota Prius. Customers who made the switch to a Chevy Bolt EV most commonly traded in its hybrid cousin, the Chevy Volt. Meanwhile, Tesla shoppers upgrading to the Model S or Model Y most commonly traded in their Tesla Model 3.

Used EV Nationwide Popularity

Around the nation at our 240+ stores, the top states for used EV sales at CarMax were in the western United States. California, the largest automotive market in the U.S., is in the lead, followed by Washington, Nevada, Oregon, and Arizona. Since our last reporting, Washington moved to second place, Nevada replaced Utah for third, and Arizona and Oregon switched rankings for fourth and fifth. California, Oregon, and Washington were also the top three states for plug-in hybrid sales at CarMax from March 2022 to August 2022. Many of these states offer tax credits and incentives for purchasing certain alternative energy vehicles and/or installing home charging stations.

Top States for EV sales at CarMax: California followed by Washington, Nevada, Oregon and Arizona

Notably, effective January 1, 2023, the Inflation Reduction Act created a new, one-time federal income tax credit of up to $4,000 for certain purchasers of used electric vehicles. To be eligible for the credit, both the purchaser and the vehicle must meet certain qualifications – for instance, the vehicle sale price must not exceed $25,000.

On the other end of the spectrum, the states with the least used EV sales at CarMax from September 2022 through February 2023 were Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Shopping for Used EVs at CarMax

With the growing popularity of electric vehicles, CarMax has EV options for a variety of budgets and lifestyles. For more on electric vehicles, visit our electric vehicles research page to search by make or model, find FAQs, read feature articles, and more. 

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