Beware of These Pitfalls When Buying a Used Electric Car

Do you want an electric vehicle (EV) but can’t afford a new one? If so, then buying a used model is the best way to go. However, shopping for a used EV comes with different guidelines than shopping for a gas-powered used car. Here are some pitfalls you can run into when shopping for a used electric car.

A used electric car may cost more than you might expect

A blue 2011 Nissan Leaf parked on the side of the road
2011 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

It’s no secret that used car prices across the board are higher than usual, but you may end up paying a lot for a used EV. What is “a lot?” Consider that first-generation Nissan Leafs could be found for less than $10,000 just a year and a half ago, but now, they cost closer to $15,000 nationwide.

Even older BMW i3s are selling for closer to $20,000 now, whereas you could easily find them for around $10,000 not too long ago. Case in point, finding a used EV might be easy, but finding what at a bargain basement price might be tough.

You won’t get all of the range that the EV was originally capable of

EV charging
Charging an EV | Getty

Electric vehicles run on batteries just like your cell phone and laptop. That means that over time, the battery degrades due to repeated charges and temperature fluctuations. Fortunately, a dealership’s service department can give you a report on the car’s battery health. But in some EVs, you’ll also be able to find the battery’s health on the instrument panel.

Kelley Blue Book says, “Don’t expect a 100 percent battery life report on a used electric car, but don’t be dismayed if the vehicle only offers three-quarters of its original range.” As such, if you’re looking at a first-generation Nissan Leaf, for example, its original 80-mile range is likely cut down by now. In that case, you may want to find a newer car.

The EV’s battery warranty may be expired

If you’re looking at an EV that’s 10 years old, it’s important to keep in mind that the hybrid battery warranty may be expired. Most battery warranties last for 8 years or 100,000 miles after the initial purchase. Also, in some brands, the warranty is not transferable. If you want to know whether or not the EV you’re interested in has a warranty left on it, then you can call the automaker’s customer service department with the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in hand to find out.

Buying a used electric vehicle

The configurable digital gauge cluster in a 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV Premier
A 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV Premier’s digital gauge cluster | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Although there are a few more things to pay attention to when shopping for a used electric car, it’s not too unlike shopping for a gas-powered one. Just make sure that the car is running in optimal shape, and don’t be afraid to bring it to a dealership for a pre-purchase inspection. You may have a better chance of finding a certified technician that’s equipped to handle the specific electric car you’re buying. On the other hand, some independent shops may not be equipped with the tools or knowledge to service certain electric vehicles.

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