Electric cars are too expensive! Yes, the new ones are still quite expensive, although things are slowly changing.
But what about buying a used or second-hand electric vehicle? Is this a good idea? And what should you pay attention to?
Let’s start with the price, because let’s face it, that’s the main reason you consider buying a used electric vehicle, right?
But beware, just because you’re buying a used EV doesn’t mean it’s going to be cheap. The problem is that there is so much demand and so little supply for electric vehicles. 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.
So do your calculations. Get out a pen and paper or open a spreadsheet. Calculate how much you’ll save on fuel and maintenance compared to a combustion option. You could have a very pleasant surprise. And the little extra money you spend upfront could pay for itself very quickly.
Let’s talk reliability, and I have some very good news for you. You know all those stories you’ve heard about batteries being replaced for tens of thousands of dollars after a few years? Yeah, nonsense! If you want to learn more about this, check out our other EV battery videos.
The reliability and health of EV batteries are found to be excellent. Now some of the very early LEAF and Zoe’s are starting to struggle at this point, but these are models that have been out for 10 years now! We’ll cover battery health again in a minute. But suffice it to say that EV batteries are extremely reliable.
The reliability also extends to the rest of the car. You see, electric vehicles are so much simpler. There are far fewer moving parts and far fewer errors! No fan belts, timing belts, spark plugs…and so on. Thus, electric vehicles break down much less and require much less maintenance.
Back to the batteries for a moment. They degrade over time, there is no doubt! But the rate they make is quite low. You can expect modern EVs to retain over 90% battery health after 100,000 miles. In fact, the battery will most likely outlast the car itself.
But you want to be a little more careful when buying a used electric vehicle. For example, if you are looking at something that is 5 years old or older, chances are it has suffered significant degradation.
A 2016 Nissan LEAF with 100,000 miles on the odometer is likely to be down to something like 80%…obviously depending on how the car has been treated. So you really need to do your homework here if you’re buying a car that’s over 2 or 3 years old. Luckily, there are ways to learn about battery health. The Nissan LEAF has a handy dial on the dashboard that shows battery status in 12 bars.
For most cars, you can purchase a small kit that plugs into the car’s computer and will tell you the status of the battery. We won’t review them all here, so if you’re looking for a used electric vehicle, a quick Google search will show you the details you’ll need.
Another thing to watch out for is battery rental. It’s not common these days. But if you look at the likes of an older Renault Zoe, a lot of those cars were battery-leased. So you don’t want to pay $1,000 for a car and then find out you don’t fully own it!
The last point on the batteries is to adapt your autonomy to your needs. If you’re considering an older electric vehicle on a shoestring budget, you may have limited range on the car you buy. What type of kilometers do you cover in a typical day? Maybe a battered old Renault Zoe is enough to do your daily necessities. So just rent a car for that annual road trip with some of the money you’ve saved!
Before buying a used electric vehicle, make sure you know how you are going to charge it. Do you have a driveway? Are there many public chargers near you if you don’t have one? Is there a reliable charger at work?
But what’s also important is that you pay attention to how fast the car charges. For example, older Nissan LEAFs without upgrades could only charge at 3.5kW on AC, so that’s pretty slow. The Zoe could charge at 22 kW on AC. Also, some older EVs were not equipped with fast DC charging, which may well be a deal breaker for you.
It is also worth checking which charging cables are supplied with the car. Make sure there is at least one cable to connect to an AC pole such as the Mennekes Type 2. But you’ll also want to have a granny cable handy. They’re great for those times when there’s no dedicated charger…but you can find a standard household outlet for trickle charging.
A few options
The Nissan LEAF is definitely on our list of favorite used electric vehicles. It’s been around for over a decade and we love it! Hundreds of thousands of drivers have traveled millions and millions of miles!
Now the original LEAF is probably going to have really suffered from severe battery degradation… so for us there is a sweet spot there. The circa 2016 and 2017 models were the pre-refresh. Most of them have a 30 kWh battery, of which about 26.5 kWh were usable. But they will probably have experienced 10-20% degradation by this point. But you’re still looking at a car that will take you about 100 miles.
Look for models that ideally have the 6.6kW on-board charger and Cold Pack for preheating. The top-end level also has some really nice tech, including heated front and rear seats, 360-degree cameras, cruise control, keyless entry. And there’s decent space in the back and in the trunk!
Prices will vary so much around the world that we won’t go into details.
We’re big Renault Zoe fans here…hell, I’ve owned 2 myself! The first one I bought was a drum lease, and I ended up selling it for more than I bought it!
We think it’s a great electric vehicle, especially if you don’t have off-street parking. Why is that? Well, it’s a bit smaller than the LEAF so easier to park. But the main thing is that it has a 22 kW AC load. Depending on where you live, this could be a godsend! You can easily fill them from almost empty to full in the time it takes you to do the weekly shopping if the supermarket has a 22kW AC pole nearby!
The Zoe is tried and tested at this point. They are comfortable to ride. Although slow by today’s standards, they will surprise many fossil car drivers the first time!
Although we like the LEAF and Zoe, there are plenty of other great options. The Bolt is a great model in the US, the Hyundai Ioniq is incredibly efficient. The list is lengthened increasingly!
A few final tips
A few last tips before signing! Determine your deal breakers! Will you be able to recharge it easily? No? Then wait for it to be good. Will a 7 or 8 year old Nissan LEAF 24kWh make the trip to and from work in the winter? No? So take another car.
Plus, there’s a really passionate EV community. So contact the EV owner associations in your area, they will be happy to give you advice specific to your location, such as pricing and charging!
Now we have 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…etc. So check out some of these videos for more information.
We love to hear from people around the world. So let us know what you think in the comments.
Did you buy a used EV? If so, what did you choose…and why?
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