Used ev buying tips

So you want to buy a second-hand EV? Check out our 7 must-see tips

Posted by David: Feb 21, 2023 7 min read

There’s a lot to consider when thinking of buying a used electric car, but don’t worry - we’re here to help!

So you’ve heard all about the benefits of driving an electric vehicle (EV) and decided to get yourself one second-hand. Great! What now?

Buying a used electric car can be a cost-effective and quicker way to make the switch. However, there’s a lot of misinformation around the used EV market, so we’re here to dispel some myths and offer some practical advice.

1. Let’s talk about the battery

The biggest worry people have about owning an EV is the battery, and this is even more pronounced when considering a second-hand car.

You’ve probably heard that EV batteries only last a few years as they degrade very quickly, but don’t be put off - this is a myth!

Think about it this way: a lot of manufacturers now offer a battery warranty, typically around 100,000 miles, or 8 years for 70% capacity. If batteries couldn’t last this long, it’d cost them a fortune! Also, the battery’s warranty will often be longer than the car’s.

Plus, research on Tesla owners showed just a 10% average degradation after 160,000+ miles. This was back in 2018, and battery technology has improved by leaps and bounds since then

The key takeaway from this is that yes, you should inquire about the car’s battery and check its fully charged range (which you can easily check!). However, don’t go in thinking you’ll have to replace the battery within a couple of years of owning it, because you almost certainly won’t have to.

That said, one thing you may need to look out for if you’re looking at an older EV model is whether you’ll incur a monthly charge to lease the battery. Some manufacturers, notably Nissan and Renault, included a battery lease separate from the car so it could be replaced, which could change how much the car costs.

Electric car with home charger in background

2. Is an EV right for you?

Something we think every prospective electric car owner should ask themselves before committing is: does an EV fit with their driving lifestyle?

This has two parts to it:

A. Can you keep it topped up easily?

If you’re able to install an EV charger at your home, that’s great. But even if you don’t have a driveway, you can still learn how to charge your electric car without a drive and go electric.

For example, you might be able to charge at work if they have workplace chargers installed. Otherwise, you can rely on public networks like ours, which has grown significantly since the early days of EV adoption.

However, if you know you’re going to struggle to access charging - whether at home, work, or out-and-about - you might need to reconsider your options.

B. What kind of driving do you do?

Electric cars are great for driving around city centres or for short trips. The stop-start nature of driving, especially in traffic, limits charge depletion, and some models even include regen features to slightly replenish the battery when you break.

But if you do a lot of motorway driving, you’ll need to be conscious of a few things. For starters, the advertised range of an EV is based on ideal environmental/driving factors. Driving at faster speeds continuously will drain the charge a lot quicker compared to stopping and starting in traffic.

That said, it’s not impossible. Modern electric cars, even used ones, tend to have decent ranges which should get you far even on the motorways. And you can use rapid chargers on public networks for a quick top-up whilst you’re en route. Just be sure to plan your stops in advance!

If you’re not 100% sure if an EV is right for you, you could consider leasing one for a time. There are plenty of leasing companies to choose from, or you could trial a particular model if it’s available via car sharing companies like ZipCar.

Electric vehicle charging cable

3. Does the car come with the correct charging cable?

One of the so-called hidden costs of EV ownership is the charging cable which can be expensive.

They’re not 100% essential, as you can get a home charger with a tethered cable attached, and some public charging stations also have tethered cables. But it’s always worth having one in the car so you can use any chargers that just have a socket.

When buying a used EV, it’s important to check whether the cable is included, and also that it’s the best EV charging cable for the car.

Also, if you’re planning on using public rapid charging stations, check that the car you’re buying can accept a rapid charge as some older models don’t have this functionality.

Whilst you’re at it, you should also inspect the car’s charging socket for signs of damage. The last thing you want to do is buy an electric car with a broken charging socket. If possible, ask the owner or dealership to plug the car in to charge to prove it works.

4. How much the car’s charging history really matters

A lot of emphasis is placed on the car’s history of charging when buying a used EV.

This stems from the myth that rapid charging degrades the battery faster, and that frequently charging at faster charging rates will make the battery need replacing sooner.

Ultimately, whilst you should consider how the car has been charged, it’s not something that needs looking into too much.

The fact is, most people charge their EVs overnight at home on slower 7kW chargers, and only use rapid charging stations in emergencies or long distance journeys.

It’s highly unlikely the previous owner uses rapid charging frequently enough to cause significant degradation to the battery. If they have, it’ll be apparent when you check the car’s charge/range value.

And frankly, if they have, that’s a problem with their charging habits and not the battery itself.

Electric car plugged into a rapid public charging station

5. Ask the EV community about any model-specific issues

It’s no secret that certain models of cars, or even manufacturers, have their own quirks and known issues.

Electric cars are no different, and the only way to get a sense for these is to check with the wider EV community. Online forums and social media will be your best bets to see whether the used car you’re looking at has any specific trouble spots to look out for.

For general EV forums we recommend: - SpeakEV - InsideEVs Forum

And for brand or model-specific forums: - Nissan LEAF Owners Group (Facebook) - Renault Zoe Owners Club UK - BMW i3 Owners Forum - Tesla Owners Group UK (Facebook)

6. Don’t forget the tyres and other bits!

EVs may be built differently, but they’re fundamentally still a car. So even though you don’t have to worry about things like exhausts, spark plugs, or oil levels, some things are the same as petrol/diesel cars.

For example, when looking at a used EV, be sure to ask about the condition of the tyres, brakes, suspension, windscreen wipers, indicators etc. Also confirm the onboard infotainment works (if it has any), and check the dashboard is free of warning lights.

Basically, treat it like you would when buying a second-hand petrol/diesel car.

Close up of an electric car wheel with a home charger in the background

7. What about an EV’s resale value?

For some people, a car’s residual value is important. It’s no secret that petrol/diesel cars lose value over time due to age and use. Even brand new cars lose value instantly the moment they’re driven off the forecourt.

But what about EVs? It depends.

They’re still susceptible to the same factors that cause depreciation, such as high mileage, its service history, the battery condition, and simply its age.

However, because EVs are in such high demand, you may find its value actually increases if and when you come to sell it. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and certainly not for every model of EV. But it isn’t unheard of, either.

Also rather uniquely, EV resale prices may be influenced by government grants that may make EV ownership cheaper. This could either be directly by making the car’s purchase cheaper, or indirectly via reductions to the cost of a home charger.

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