Does Mileage Matter When Buying a Used EV?

Shopping for a used EV leads to lots of questions. Does the vehicle’s mileage matter as much on an EV as on a gas-powered vehicle? How long will the EV battery last? How much will a new EV battery cost? Is it worth it to buy a used EV? Let’s dig into answering some of these common questions about buying a used electric vehicle.

Before supply chain issues turned the car market upside down, there was a time you could buy a used electric vehicle like a Nissan Leaf or Fiat 500e for less than $10,000. Today used EV prices are up along with the rest of the market, but it’s still possible to find one for less than $15,000. Here’s what you need to know when shopping for a used EV.

Does EV Mileage Matter? 

A Lucid Air EV dashboard displaying mileage on the odometer.
The dashboard of an electric vehicle | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yes, mileage matters on a used car whether it’s an EV or not. A car’s mileage always factors into its health and remaining lifespan because of the number of wear and tear items. A car with higher miles can require more maintenance than a comparable car with lower miles. This is still true when it comes to EVs but in different ways.    

Gas-powered vehicles have more moving parts than EVs, most of which make up the engine and transmission. These parts need lubrication to work properly and gradually wear, requiring maintenance or replacement. An EV is much simpler in terms of moving parts – most have an electric motor coupled to a single-speed transmission. Fewer moving parts generally equals less maintenance.   

EVs and gas-powered vehicles do share similar components like brakes, tires, and suspension components. Those parts are affected by mileage and eventually wear out. On EVs, some of the parts may be more expensive to replace. Some EVs use special tires for improved efficiency or due to their heavier weight. Most electric models also use regenerative braking to help charge the battery. That’s why if you’re buying a used EV it’s important to get those components checked out as part of a pre-purchase inspection.    

What About The EV Battery? 

Tesla Model X Plaid luxury EV in mist
Tesla Model X Plaid luxury EV | Tesla

EV batteries are the x-factor when it comes to buying used. It’s possible that replacing one can cost as much as the price of the vehicle or more. Time is not your friend when it comes to EV batteries, which degrade as they age. As a general rule, you can expect to lose 2% to 3% of your EV’s battery capacity each year.   

The good news is auto manufacturers warranty EV batteries for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. Better still, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that today’s batteries can last 12 to 15 years in moderate climates or 8 to 12 years in climates with extreme heat or cold. That means if you drive between 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year, you can generally expect to get between 100,000 to 200,000 miles out of an EV battery.      

How Much Does It Cost To Replace An EV Battery?

The cost of an EV battery varies significantly based on the type of battery, the size or energy output measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and the vehicle manufacturer. 

J.D. Power estimates the cost of a replacement battery pack is between $5,000 to $15,000. Fortunately, prices are expected to drop as more EVs are produced, and manufacturers figure out how to make batteries cheaper. Additionally, companies are researching how to recycle and remanufacture EV batteries, which should bring the cost down even more.  

Is A Used EV Worth Buying?

Charging an EV.
Volkswagen ID.3 electric vehicle at a charging station | Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Buying a used EV depends on several factors, including the price of the EV, its age and condition, and the remaining warranty on the battery. Before taking the plunge, research the models you’re interested in and weigh the following pros and cons.   

Pros for buying a used EV: 

  1. Used EVs depreciate faster than gas-powered vehicles. This factor is partly because used EVs do not qualify for a tax credit, but it’s also due to the battery life. 
  2. EVs require less maintenance and cost less to own than gas-powered vehicles. They don’t require gasoline or oil changes and have fewer maintenance requirements.  
  3. Better performance. EVs offer better performance than gas-powered vehicles because of their immediate torque delivery. They are also quieter and smoother than gas vehicles. 

Cons for buying a used EV include:

  1. Battery life/battery cost. EV batteries should last 10 to 15 years but degrade over time. Battery life is also reduced in extreme climate areas. 
  2. Battery charging – newer EVs have denser, more powerful batteries that provide a range of 250 to 375 miles. The downside is charging can take days using a 120v power source or overnight with a dedicated 240v Level 2 charger. If you’re away from home, finding a charger is not as easy as finding a gas station. But that’s quickly changing. 
  3. Battery range – most people drive about 30 miles a day, which means they wouldn’t have to charge an EV more than about once a week. However, as EV Connect reports, range anxiety is a real thing. 

With all that said, if you’re someone who lives in a moderate climate, drives less than 50 miles a day, and has access to a Level 2 charger or DC fast charger network, a used EV could make lots of practical sense. But if you have range anxiety, drive a lot of miles, and/or don’t have access to home or public charging, it may be a good idea to wait. 

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