For many people, buying a used car is not only the best financial choice, but often the only affordable option. Not everybody has the monetary capability to spend many tens of thousands of dollars on a new vehicle. For these people, and for anybody else looking to make a financially smart vehicle choice, buying a used electric car is a solid option.
The total cost of ownership for electric vehicles is significantly less than their gas burning counterparts and the decreased maintenance costs also translate to decreased maintenance headaches to worry about. Buying a used EV is an excellent way to access the benefits of owning an electric vehicle without the often-larger price tag of buying new.
However, before driving your new-to-you EV home it is important to do your homework. There are a few important considerations to take into account:
Has the vehicle been repaired or been in an accident?
Like any other used car, the vehicle history is important to take into account. If the car has damage in its past, the alignment could be irreparably out of spec or, worse, the car's overall safety could be compromised.
Where has the vehicle spent the majority of its life? Where has the vehicle spent the majority of its life?
If the car has been kept in extreme climates, you may have brittle rubber or plastic, rust, or even wearing paint to worry about.
How was the car usually charged?
Buying from a dealership would make this question nearly impossible to answer, but if you purchase directly from a private party, they should be able to tell you how often they charged the car on a fast charger or if they only charged at home. (Most will have been charged only at home.)
Has the main battery been tested to determine its state of health?
Arguably the most important component of an electric car is the large battery that stores the electric energy to propel the car. All EV batteries will degrade over time and lose some of their original capacity. Factors such as the age of the battery, charging habits, and external temperature can all cause the battery to degrade more quickly, so it is important to get the battery tested to give you a reliable idea of how healthy it is. We do not recommend buying a used EV with a battery that has less than 70% of its original capacity, as it has reached the end of its useful life in the car, without strongly considering how you will use the vehicle.
Is the car still covered by the original manufacturers warranty?
Warranty coverage will vary from car to car, but most manufacturers will have offered an 8-yr, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery and major drive-train components. Other warranties could potentially save you a lot of money should something fail. EVs have a lot fewer parts to break, but they are not invincible.
If the EV does need to be repaired, where do I take it?
As with any car, you can always take it back to the dealership. But many people either don't want to pay the usually more expensive labor rate, or they just want an alternative. While basic maintenance can be handled by most repair shops, working on an electric vehicle's battery, or drive components requires very specialized training. We only recommend having hybrid and electric vehicle-qualified technicians work on the car. Because of this, it's important to be able to identify where these shops are located BEFORE you buy an EV and find yourself in a situation without a convenient solution.
Do all the features of the car work?
This may seem obvious, but many people buy cars without trying out all of the features. If you're buying in the summer, make sure you still test things like heated seats, steering wheels, or side mirrors to ensure that when the weather does get colder you aren't finding out something is broken when you need these features the most. Similarly, if you're buying in the winter, test the A/C for the same reason. Check the operation of all the electronics, windows, and seat motors as well. Nothing is worse than discovering something not working after you bough the car and it's too late to get it fixed for free.
Is the car a full battery electric vehicle (BEV) or does is it a hybrid or have a range extender?
Many cars that are technically electric vehicles also come equipped with a gasoline engine that requires maintenance as well. Take the BMW i3 (above) as an example. The i3 is offered as a full BEV or with an onboard gasoline range extender (REX). If you have a model with the REX you will need to take into account the maintenance needs of these systems in order to insure proper operation of the vehicle. However, because the gasoline engine is not running all the time, they will require less maintenance than a full gas powered vehicle.
So there you have it, our recommendations of things to keep in mind before you buy a used EV. Feel like we missed anything? Feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be delighted to hear from you.