For some potential buyers, the initial cost of a brand-new electric car can be a little off-putting. But with EVs surging in popularity, the creation of a second-hand market for electric vehicles could make entry into emission-free motoring easier for buyers looking for something more affordable.
But lower cost aside, there are definitely a few things to watch out for. As with any used car, a bit of research will be needed before you go rushing in.
From checking warranties to testing the battery, we’ll take a look at the things you need to consider when buying a second-hand electric car below…
One of the biggest things to consider when buying a used electric car is what you’ll be using it for. It’s a good idea to jot down the journeys you regularly make in the car you have right now. How often do you commute to work? Are trips around town a regular thing?
Likewise, make a note of the distances you routinely travel. If you’re used to racking up hundreds of miles as part of your job or visiting friends and family who live far away, then an electric vehicle might struggle with the range.
Just like you would with any other car, you should check the service history of the used EV you have your eye on. Although there are fewer moving parts compared to cars with standard petrol and diesel engines, you still need to be sure that the car has been well taken care of. If the previous owner has a history of regular servicing, it should flag up any issues that may cause problems later on.
You’ll feel some hefty buyer’s remorse if you fork out for an EV only to find there’s nowhere nearby that can service it. While some of the more popular brands and models shouldn’t be a cause for concern, rarer electric cars might require a specialist service centre – and those could be some distance away.
Be sure to research where your nearest specialist electric car mechanic is before you part with your cash.
There are a few things to weigh up here. First, you shouldn’t assume you can just charge your used EV at home. For one, shared access driveways and blocks of garages can make charging a headache, so make sure it’s possible to have a home charger installed in the first place. Likewise, if you live in a flat, then you’ll have to find somewhere else to keep things juiced up.
You’ll want to avoid being caught short running out of battery, home charger or not. This is where knowing the typical distances you cover will come in handy. Wherever you’re driving, take some time to research where the closest charge points are to you: Chargemap is your friend here.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see a used EV listing that mentions 100% battery life. Like anything else that needs a battery to run, an electric car’s battery begins to degrade over time – regardless of how much it’s been used. This can affect the range as a result.
Elsewhere, faster charging speeds can also cause a higher rate of degradation, as can high temperatures, overcharging and letting the battery run out completely. Unfortunately, you can’t tell any of these things just by looking at the car.
It’s worth enquiring with the seller whether they can charge their car to full battery and then have them check the estimated range on the dash. Comparing this with the owner’s manual will give you an idea of how much time is left on the battery before it needs replacing.
Additionally, many modern electric cars also display the battery’s health in the cockpit.
Most electric cars come with two warranties: one for the vehicle and one for the battery. Generally, battery warranties cover eight years or 100,000 miles after the initial purchase – whichever comes first. Keep in mind that not all warranties can be transferred to subsequent owners when it comes to second-hand EVs.
Try getting in touch with the manufacturer’s customer service department with the vehicle identification number (which the seller can provide for you). The manufacturer will then be able to tell you when the warranty is due to expire and whether it’s transferable.
Since a lot of electric vehicles use the friction generated by braking to generate charge, their brakes go through a fair bit of wear and tear. During your test drive, pay attention to how the car feels under braking; if it brakes evenly and in a straight line you should be fine. Additionally, if the car has different levels of regenerative braking, then make sure you can notice a difference between each level.
Over time, car owners are bound to lose a few things. But there’s a big difference between losing spare change down the seats and an EV that’s missing its charging cables. Before you drive away, make sure that all cables, leads and other assorted paraphernalia are present and correct – replacement leads can be very expensive.
When you’re inspecting the vehicle, bring along a friend or family member to help you double check that things like lights and indicators are working properly. The same goes for inside too. Whether it’s air con or the windows, you want to make sure every button and switch performs its purpose without issue.