PH Service History: Down the plug hole

I notice BMW has finally got around to launching its i8 Roadster over in LA this week. I have to admit, I've a bit of a soft spot for the i8. Yes, I know - it's not a proper supercar, despite being junior supercar cash. And yes, I'm also aware its dead steering and less-than-stellar performance mean even as a sports car it struggles to match the best.

But look at the thing. Rarely, if ever, have I been able to allow an i8 to pass by without pausing to admire the low snout, the gloriously eccentric flying buttresses or the judicious use of colour. To drive, it's as other-worldly as it looks, too; the three-pot hum augmented by the subtle whirr of the electric motors, whose shove ensures strong and seamless acceleration while you marvel at the lavish, wrap-around dashboard.

So as glamorous as the new i8 Roadster might be, I'm more excited by the prospect of one of the early cars, which have now dropped in price to less than £60,000. Take this example, the cheapest in the classifieds at the time of writing; as an approved used car, it has a guaranteed full service history, and while the mileage is a smidge above average, it's still done less than 30k - barely run in, in other words. Yours for £58,000 - which means, compared with cars that started out at roughly the same sort of price, it's depreciating less quickly than the BMW M6 (but more so than the Audi R8).

Depreciation's a funny thing with electric cars. While at the bottom end of the market the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe have dropped like stones, the more desirable Teslas have done the very opposite - in stark contrast to predictions from the industry's valuation experts, I might add. Blame lack of supply combined with high desirability: compare the £45,990 price tag of this early Model S 85, endowed as it is with a low 20,000 miles and a full history, with a BMW 730d (£22,117), Audi A8 3.0 TDI (£23,990), or even a Mercedes S-Class Hybrid (£39,994) of a similar age and mileage.

Of course, stories abound of issues with Tesla build quality, and perhaps these will take their toll on values; either way, I'd have to question whether the Tesla's really worth the extra cash as a used buy. OK, so you do get the rapid standing-start performance everyone talks about - but only if you're doing stratospheric mileage are you ever going to recoup the additional £20,000 or so in savings on fuel.

The other point to come from all of this is that the dinosaur-powered barges are looking more and more like stunning bargains. Why pay £22k for a year-old 3 Series when you can have a 7 Series that's barely run in for the same money? (That is, mind you, a column for another day, and a topic I'll be sure to revisit before too long.)

But what if you want to spend that £22,000 on a bit of electrified performance motoring? Well in that case, I reckon a used Golf GTE is looking like a sound bet. At a shade under £20k, a two-year-old example like this will cost you more than the equivalent GTD, or even the GTI, but the flipside is that GTE prices show that the market does value plug-ins like these; prices aren't crashing and burning once they hit a year or two old. Chances are that trend will remain the same and you'll see back more of that initial investment when you come to sell on. Let's not forget, too, that you can plug your GTE in at home and enjoy bimbling around town for very little money at all on the electric range (31 miles officially, but reckon on closer to 20 in the real world).

There we have it, then: you don't have to buy new to jump on the plug-in bandwagon, meaning electrified cars will soon be within reach of us all. Now all I have to do is put aside a chunk of my heady motoring journalist's salary, and I'll be able to buy one of those i8s in... hmm. About 187 years, I reckon.


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (43) Join the discussion on the forum

  • HardMiles 03 Dec 2017

    Agreed that the i8 is about the only one I'd have. Although for that money I'd be looking at a classic racecar instead, more fun and likely to make you money. Or a road going Ferrari / Alfa Montreal.

  • Mr E 03 Dec 2017

    I have just bought a used electric for the commute.
    2 years old. 20,000 miles. 12 bars on the battery. With a charge point installed in my house and a couple of free services chucked in.
    Just over 8k.

    Or on the very un-PH “rent it for three years and give it back” schem, £137 a month.

    The snotter it replaces was £90 a month in fuel and tax.

  • peter450 03 Dec 2017

    Tesla do seem to be hold there own value wise compared to petrol powered rivals. I think their are a few things supporting them, first demand, second it's still cutting edge the only proper full electric vehicle you can buy, it's the first proper useable electric car (so one for the history books) and third it's a nice looking car and I was very impressed with the base model I had a drive in a couple of years back, prices on new ones are higher now too.

    The I8 I'm not so sure, it's a hybrid, stop gap tech and it's being sold pretty much on its tech which compared to the Tesla was outdated at launch.I feel the reason it's dropped so much is because a traditional supercar appeals more for those wanting a sports car and those wanting the future today their is no real alternative to a Tesla.

    BMW should have been more ambitious and gone for the first all electric supercar here, theirs nothing really bold or groundbreaking about it and I suspect it will not become as desired as the Z8 which had, beauty and a very nice sounding motor (always strong attributes for a future classic) to fall back on as it aged.

  • culminator 03 Dec 2017

    Just done the very same and bought an I8. I love it, a truly useable high performance car that does everything. Even sold my Caterham to get it...

  • GranCab 03 Dec 2017

    A friend of mine has a BMW i3 bought new as a company car 3 and a bit years ago @ £36K ... he was recently offered £9K (with 26,0000 miles on the clock) for it as a trade-in against a new i3......

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