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Buying a used electric car: what to look out for

Electric vehicles are rising in popularity - learn our tips and tricks for buying a used electric car

A used electric car being charged at the roadside

Buying a second-hand electric car

Motor manufacturers have fully embraced electric vehicles (EVs), so there are plenty of used electric cars for eco-conscious buyers to snap up. But which one should you go for?

We highlight the important things to consider when on the hunt for a zero-emissions bargain.

Used electric car prices

New electric vehicles are more expensive than petrol or diesel cars, despite the government grants for EVs available.

However, if you wait a few years for a car’s natural depreciation – its loss of value – to kick in, you should find that a used EV can prove good value, especially compared to petrol or diesel cars.

Used electric cars can be picked up for lower prices on our site, which is an especially good deal for urban drivers who don’t need to drive long distances (these cheaper, older EVs won’t have massive mile ranges). 

However, there are also a number of the more expensive, more luxurious electric cars such as the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron available on the site, all of which have longer ranges of more than 250 miles.

All EVs have the advantage of low running costs, as there’s no need to visit filling stations and no car tax to pay.

You will have to pay for electricity to charge the car, either via a home charger or public chargers, but the former especially is a lot cheaper than petrol or diesel.

Battery life - what to consider when buying a used electric car

One concern with EVs is whether batteries will suffer from degradation as they get older, so they won’t be able to hold as much charge as they do when new.

Because we’re still in the relatively early days of electric car use, the first cars are only just passing the limit of the battery warranties – most car manufacturers are offering eight-year/100,000-mile cover – so it’s perhaps too early to be too definitive.

However, early reports on EV owner forums are encouraging. They vary from model to model, but used BMW model's 70% capacity predictions seem to hold true, while Tesla owners report just 5% of lost capacity.

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Battery rental

One thing to look out for is leased batteries. Some EV models – most notably the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe – have been sold without a battery, which had to be leased separately.

The idea behind this is that it reduced the price of the car, plus it protected owners against batteries losing capacity or failing a few years down the road. 

However, the rate of battery failure seems to be so small that the argument about battery replacement is unnecessary, while there’s an even bigger concern.

A used EV costs less to buy than new, but the cost of leasing a battery for a car that is three or four years old is the same as it is for a new car.

Buyers of used EVs must check whether the battery is leased or included in the cost of the car. 

Check which version you’re buying

EVs have evolved technologically over the years since they first went on sale. Battery capacities have improved, as have the power outputs of motors.

A used Renault Zoe, for example, could have a battery/motor combination that could give you range before recharging of anywhere between 60 and 180 miles, so it's important to do some research and confirm which version you’re buying.

Charging your used electric vehicle

Before buying a used EV, you need to think about charging. If you have a house with a drive or garage, the solution is simple: get a home charger.

There are numerous suppliers and even though you're buying a used EV, you're still eligible for government grants. 

If you don't have off-street parking, things are a little more complicated. You’ll be relying on public charge points, which charge more for electricity than your domestic supplier (who you’ll be buying electricity from if you have a home charger).

It's still cheaper than petrol or diesel, but it's between two and three times more expensive than domestic electricity prices. 

You’ll need to research where the nearest on-street EV charge points are. You will also have to monitor them for a few weeks/months before buying your car to see how often they're out of order, which is an unfortunate reality of EV ownership. 

Servicing and maintenance for used electric cars

Perhaps the best news about buying a used EV is the low cost of servicing and maintenance

EVs have very few components, so there’s a lot less to go wrong with them. Fewer elements need to be serviced too – there are no oil or oil filters to be replaced, for example. 

The only downside is that with many traditional garages not yet up to speed, there's a more restricted choice of mechanics who can service EVs, so may have to go to more expensive main dealers.

Learn more about electric cars: