Used Electric Cars: Should You Buy One?
Electric cars are too expensive! Yeah, the new ones are still pretty pricey, although things are changing slowly.
But what about buying a used or second-hand EV? Is it a good idea? And what should you watch out for?
Let’s kick things off with price because let’s face it, that’s the main reason you’re thinking about buying a used EV, isn’t it?
But beware, just because you’re buying a used EV, doesn’t mean it’s going to be cheap. The issue is that there is so much demand and so little supply of EVs. There are so many stories of people buying a Tesla Model 3, driving it for a few months, and selling it for MORE than the person bought it for.
So do your sums. Get out a pen and paper or open up a spreadsheet. Work out how much you’ll save on fuel and maintenance compared to a combustion option. You might get a very pleasant surprise. And the extra bit of money you spend upfront might pay for itself very quickly.
Let’s talk reliability, and I have some really good news here for you. You know all those stories you’ve heard of batteries being replaced for tens of thousands of dollars after a couple of years? Yeah, nonsense! If you want to know more about that then check out our other videos on EV batteries.
The reliability and health of EV batteries are proving to be excellent. Now some of the really early LEAFs and Zoe are starting to struggle at this stage, but they are models that have been out for 10 years now! We’ll touch on battery health again in a minute. But suffice to say that EV batteries are extremely reliable.
Reliability also extends to the rest of the car. You see, EVs are so much more simple. There are far less moving parts, and far less to go wrong! No fan belts, timing belts, spark plugs…and so on. So EVs break down much less and require much less maintenance.
Back to batteries again for a moment. They degrade over time, there’s no doubt about that! But the rate that they do is pretty small. You can expect modern EVs to hold over 90% of their battery health after 100,000 miles. In fact, the battery will most likely outlast the life of the car itself.
But you want to be a bit more careful when buying a used EV. For example, if you’re looking at something that is 5 or more years old, then it is likely to have suffered significant degradation.
A 2016 Nissan LEAF with 100,000 miles on the clock is likely to be down to something like 80%…obviously depending on how the car has been treated. So you really have to do your homework here if you’re buying a car that’s more than 2 or 3 years old. Thankfully there are ways to find out about battery health. The Nissan LEAF has a handy dial on the dash that shows the battery health in 12 bars.
For most cars, you can buy a small piece of kit that plugs into the car’s computer and will tell you the battery health. We won’t go through them all here so if you’re looking at a used EV, then a little google search will show you the specifics you’ll need.
Another thing to look out for is battery leasing. It’s not common these days. But if you’re looking at the likes of an older Renault Zoe, many of those cars were battery leased. So you don’t want to pay 1,000s for a car, and then find out you don’t own all of it!
The last point on batteries is to match up your range with your needs. If you’re looking at an older EV on a small budget, then you may well get limited range on the car you buy. What sort of miles do you do on a typical day? Maybe a beat-up old Renault Zoe is enough to do your daily needs. Then just rent a car for that yearly road trip with some of the money you’ve saved!
Before you buy a used EV, make sure you know how you’ll charge it. Do you have a driveway? Are there lots of public chargers close to you if you don’t? Is there a reliable charger at work?
But what’s also important is that you watch out for how fast the car charges. For example, older Nissan LEAFs without upgrades could only charge at 3 and a half kW on AC, so that’s pretty slow. The Zoe might charge at 22kW on AC. Also, some older EVs didn’t actually come with fast DC charging, and that may well be a deal-breaker for you.
It’s also worth checking what charging cables come with the car. Make sure that there is at least a cable to hook you up to an AC post such as the Mennekes Type 2. But you’ll also want to have a granny cable handy. They’re great for times when there’s no dedicated charger…but you can find a standard domestic socket to trickle charge.
The Nissan LEAF is definitely making our list of favorite used EVs. It’s been around for more than a decade and we love it! Hundreds of thousands of drivers have put up millions and millions of miles!
Now, the original LEAF is probably going to have really suffered some serious battery degradation…so for us, there’s a sweet spot in there. Models from around 2016 and 2017 were the pre-refresh. Most of them have a 30kWh battery, about 26.5kWh of which was usable. But they’ll probably have suffered 10%-20% degradation at this stage. But you’re still looking at a car that will get you about 100 miles.
Look out for models that ideally have the 6.6kW onboard charger and the Cold Pack for preheating. The top-spec level also has some really nice tech, including heated seats front and rear, 360-degree cameras, cruise control, keyless entry. And there’s decent space in the back and boot!
Prices are going to vary so much all over the world so we won’t go into details.
We’re big fans of the Renault Zoe here…heck, I’ve owned 2 of them myself! The first one I bought was a battery lease, and I ended up selling it on for more than I bought it!
We think it’s a great EV, especially if you don’t have off-street parking. Why is that? Well, it’s a bit smaller than the LEAF so easier for parking. But the main thing is that it has 22kW AC charging. Depending on where you live, these might be a godsend! You can easily fill them up from near empty to full in the time it takes you to do the weekly shop if the supermarket has a 22kW AC post nearby!
The Zoe is tried and tested at this stage. They’re comfortable to drive. Although slow by today’s standards, they’ll give plenty of fossil car drivers a surprise the first time around!
Although we love the LEAF and Zoe, there are plenty of other really good options. The Bolt is a great one in the US, the Hyundai Ioniq is incredibly efficient. The list goes on and on!
Some last bits of advice
Some last bits of advice before we sign off! Figure out your deal breakers! Will you be able to charge it easily? No? Then wait until it’s right. Will a 7- or 8-year-old Nissan LEAF 24kWh make the return trip to work in winter? No? Then get a different car.
Also, there’s a really passionate EV community out there. So reach out to your local EV owner’s associations, they’ll be only too delighted to help give you advice that will be specific to where you live such as pricing and charging!
Now we’ve made tons of videos on all aspects of the EV world covering different types of charging, different cars, what is a kWh, what is DC…, and so on. So go check out some of those videos for more information.
We love hearing from people all over the world. So let us know what you think in the comments.
Have you bought a used EV? If so, what did you go for…and why?
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