5 Tips for Buying a Reliable Used Electric Car
Are you considering driving an EV? There are plenty of reasons to do it beyond just crazy gas prices. But, electric cars can be expensive when new, and EVs have infamously terrible depreciation rates. Buying a used electric vehicle can be a wise choice—but only if you find an EV that will last. We’ve reported before about choosing a reliable used car, but there are a few specifics to keep in mind when shopping for a reliable used electric car.
5. Shop for used EVs from mild climates
An old recommendation advised buying a used car from hot, dry climates. Some people believed the “desert car” escaped the factors that would cause rust, including road salt and sea air. This is still generally true for most gas-powered cars—though rust-proofing on modern vehicles can help protect exteriors. However, per Cars.com, buying tips for used electric cars recommend the exact opposite. (Though, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for EV brake rust.)
EV range can be affected by hotter temperatures (100+ degrees) over time. If you’re shopping for a used Tesla Model 3, Model S, or Model Y, steer clear of models driven and stored in sweltering climates. To get the most reliable used electric car, try to buy an EV that lived its life in more moderate temperatures.
4. Buy a used electric vehicle that was someone’s daily driver
This is another tip for buying a reliable used EV that’s wildly different from buying tips for gas-powered vehicles. While low mileage is still a good thing, EVs can lose battery power if not driven enough. Look for an electric vehicle used as a primary car or at least a frequent commuter car—it likely has a healthier battery.
A used Kira Niro driven a few miles every day will likely be a more reliable used electric car than a BMW i3 only driven once every few weeks.
3. Get an official inspection on any used electric vehicle
This likely won’t be a surprise—getting any used car inspected before you purchase it is a good idea. But, Cars.com argues it’s still important to schedule a professional inspection with a qualified mechanic before buying any pre-owned EV. A cheap, recent-model-year used Nissan Leaf could seem like an incredible bargain, but there could be issues hiding just below the surface.
2. Research used EV range estimates—and be prepared to see less
So many factors can influence EV range—including the music you listen to—that estimating the EV battery range you’ll get from a used electric car is not an exact science. The age of an electric vehicle’s battery also plays a part in the vehicle’s total range. While the Kia Soul EV offered between 240 and 280 miles of range when new, you’re likely to see a shorter range when buying a used 2020, 2018, or 2018 Soul EV.
EV range gets shorter over time for a few reasons, but age is the most important. An old battery won’t be able to hold a charge for quite as long as a new battery, particularly if the owner didn’t drive the electric car often, stored it in hot temperatures, or if the vehicle didn’t receive proper maintenance.
1. Be prepared to hunt for a used EV bargain
Finding a great selection of reliable used electric cars under $10,000 is the dream. I would love to tell you that it’s possible and easy—but I care too much about you to lie. The used car market is nuts right now, and used car prices are unstable. You may be able to find a great deal right out of the gate, but be prepared to go searching.
There’s a common belief that federal EV tax credits applied when an EV is purchased new will translate to lower used EV prices when the owners resell the vehicles. However, many buyers never receive the full credit for which an electric car is eligible, so don’t count on this.
Buying a used Chevy Bolt or Volt EV, electric vehicles that were generally cheap when sold new, is more likely to save you money. A used Nissan Leaf is usually a solid choice for buying an affordable electric car. But, if you set your sights on a more luxurious model like a used Tesla, used Audi e-tron, or used BMW i3, you may need to pay a little more to get a reliable used EV with all the bells and whistles.
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