Buying a Used Electric Vehicle
In America, the used vehicle market is about three times the size of the new vehicle market. And with a number of electric vehicles having been on sale for years – and more entries with every day – there’s now a good selection of used EVs out there.
While buying a used electric vehicle isn’t that different from buying a used gasoline vehicle, there are some EV nuances you should be aware of, so that you have the best experience possible. EVs require slightly different thinking than gasoline or diesel-fueled vehicles – but they can also be fantastic value, and if bought right, will serve you well for years to come.
Like any purchase, a little research ahead of time can help you make an intelligent choice. Here is a look at eight things you should consider when buying a used electric vehicle.
1. Ask About Maintenance History
While it is true that electric vehicles need far less maintenance than a gasoline vehicle, they are still vehicles with wheels, tires, brakes, and other items that wear out and require repair or replacement. So we still suggest asking the previous owner or the dealer about any maintenance or service history that may be available. Most importantly, make sure any software upgrades or recalls have been attended to, so the used EV you are purchasing is as up to date as possible.
2. Get a Detailed Report on Battery Health
Battery failure can be rare, but it does happen – and when it happens, it can be expensive. You want to know that the used EV you are considering has a healthy battery – or a fresh one. If you have access to a dealer or manufacturer-certified technician, they should be able to plug in the proper diagnostic equipment and provide a battery health report. The car itself may also be able to provide you with estimated range on a full battery and battery health reports in one of its menus.
If the battery has been replaced, and the seller can provide you with documentation confirming the work has been done, that’s a coup! Someone before you went through the trouble and the expense of having a major job performed – and left you with a better battery.
If the dealer or seller doesn’t have a record of battery replacement or service, CarFax or AutoCheck may have documented the service. Asking for one of these reports is good practice as they contain other valuable information that will help you determine the true value of the car you are purchasing.
3. Find Out How Much Battery Warranty is Left
Yup, we’re still talking about batteries. But there’s good news here. Almost all automakers’ battery warranties are way better than the warranties on the cars they live in – most span at least 8 years and 100,000 miles, with some even more. Which means that while the used electric car you are purchasing may not be under warranty, its battery – the most expensive component – might be.
Still, you have to read the fine print. Make sure the battery warranty is transferable to subsequent owners. Also, make sure you investigate the warranties for the specific model year of vehicle you are interested in, as some have changed over time. The best way to confirm the warranty is to contact the automaker’s customer service department with the vehicle identification number (VIN) – a 17-digit number in several places on the car, and any dealer or previous owner will be able to provide it to you. The customer service department can tell you when the warranty expires and whether it is transferable.
4. Determine How Much Range You Really Need
Electric cars are evolving very quickly, with the latest models offering more range and efficiency than vehicles from just a year before. So, if you’re considering an electric vehicle that is a few years old, make sure you clearly understand your driving habits – and just how much range you need.
This cuts both ways. Purchasing an almost-new electric car might net you almost 400 miles of range – but you’ll pay a big premium for that extra range, and next year’s model will have more. If you plan on using your electric vehicle primarily for commuting, and you have access to a level 2 charger at home or at work, you may find that an electric vehicle with just over 100 miles may offer you more than enough. That also opens up a huge range of possibilities of vehicles and price points to consider.
While more range is always better, remember that for longer drives, you can still rent a car – and still save money in the long run.
5. Consider Your Access to Chargers
When you’re buying your first electric car, make sure you give charging some thought. An EV takes time to “fill up,” and unlike gas stations, charging isn’t available on every corner. If you have a garage or a driveway, installing a home charger will make your life with an EV so much more pleasurable – you can drive all day, get home at night, and plug in your car like you plug in your phone. And the next morning, you drive off with a full “tank!”
While level 1 chargers (running off 120 volt electricity) are sufficient for plug-in hybrids that use battery power as well as gasoline, you are definitely going to want a level 2 charger (220-volt, typically using a dryer plug) at home if you purchase a full electric vehicle. If you can’t charge at home, make sure you have access to level 3 rapid charging along your regular drive routes.
Want to learn more about electric vehicle charging? Visit our EV charging learning track for a full walkthrough.
6. Not All Electric Vehicles Charge at the Same Rate
Depending on their age and electric architecture, electric vehicles can charge at very different rates. Early EVs could only charge at 6 or 7 kW on a level 2 home charger, while newer, and more expensive, models can charge at twice that speed or more. Level 3 fast charging capability has evolved quickly as well, with some early models being able to charge at 50 kW on a level 3 charger, while the latest high-end EVs can charge at 350 kW – if you can find a charger powerful enough. If you plan on regularly accessing public charging with brief visits to level 2 or level 3 chargers, faster charging capability will really save a lot of time. On the other hand, if you’re plugging in overnight every night, charging speed may not be a factor for you.
7. Check For All Charging Accessories
Once you’ve picked the EV you want to buy, make sure the seller, be it private or a dealer, includes the charging cord and all associated hardware that came with the vehicle originally. Charging cables, home charging pods, and such, can be very expensive items – running from hundreds and sometimes into thousands of dollars. If you are not getting the original charging equipment, the seller should be discounting the vehicle accordingly.
If you’re purchasing the vehicle privately, it may be worth asking the seller if they will include their level 2 home charger – a new one will typically cost somewhere between $500 and $1,000 new – and they’re easy to install if you have a 240-volt power outlet. You can also research home chargers here on GreenCars.
8. Research Incentives
Most electric car rebates are focused on new EVs – but there is a new Federal incentive for used EVs – and you may also be eligible for a regional incentive, or favorable rates on electricity during off-peak hours. Our GreenCars EV incentive tool lets you choose your EV (including model year) and location and will provide you with an easy listing of what is available.