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Are second-hand electric cars worth buying?

Many people have switched to electric cars, whether it's the urgency of the climate crisis or rising fuel costs. While you can find other sustainable modes of transport, car ownership is crucial for many people. The popularity of electric vehicles is also heightened due to the introduction of low emission zones and plans by local governments to ban new diesel and petrol-powered cars. While electric cars offer numerous benefits, from environmental sustainability to reduced maintenance costs, they are also outright expensive. However, you can invest in a second-hand electric car and enjoy the same benefits at a reduced cost. So, are second-hand electric cars worth buying? Let’s explore the benefits and downsides of buying second-hand electric cars.

What are the benefits of buying a second-hand electric car?

Costs less than new electric cars

While electric vehicles are becoming more affordable as they join the mainstream, they are still costly. For instance, the most pocket-friendly electric car still costs over £15,000. Hence, a second-hand EV is a viable alternative if you don’t want to stretch your budget. Buying a second-hand electric vehicle saves you some cash, and you won’t have to be locked into monthly car payments if you can avoid financing.


With the rising demand for new electric vehicles, most car manufacturers have more orders than they can supply. Hence, electric car prices are constantly rising instead of dropping. The technological advancements in EVs also make them expensive. Second-hand electric cars are usually more affordable as new technologies are introduced. The diminished resale value is the main disadvantage of buying a new electric car, but it could benefit a second-hand buyer. You can bargain the price and get a good deal that suits your budget. For instance, most EV models cost 43% to 72% less than new ones. That means you can buy a good quality car for less than £10,000.

Second-hand EVs are usually in better condition


The major risk of buying a used internal combustion engine car is the miles on the odometer and its impact on the mechanical engine. Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts than conventional cars, so there's no need to worry about engine wear and tear. Besides, second-hand electric cars have fewer miles on the odometer than petrol-powered vehicles of the same age. Having fewer moving parts also reduces the maintenance costs of used cars. When you buy second-hand conventional cars, there is always a risk of breakdowns that require major servicing, especially in the third year. However, second-hand electric cars don’t have high maintenance costs; you only need to replace the brake fluid and cabin filter and do a tire rotation.


Since electric vehicles have only recently been introduced, second-hand cars are relatively new compared to cars that have been around for decades. Most EV car owners resell them to get the latest models with better features. Hence, you can find a relatively new electric car with less than 10,000 miles on the clock.


Smooth driving experience

If you are buying an electric car for the first time, you can invest in second-hand EVs before going for the latest models. The best part is that you will enjoy all the benefits of electric cars. Unlike internal combustion engine vehicles that are noisy and coarse, electric cars provide a smooth ride. The vibrations are diminished, and you can enjoy quiet rides. The added weight and lowered centre of gravity in electric cars make them feel more planted and comfortable on the road. The exceptional performance of electric vehicles isn’t diminished as the car becomes older.


Environmental benefits

Unlike vehicles with internal combustion engines, electric cars do not produce exhaust fumes and pollutants that contribute to the climate crisis. Whether you use a second-hand or new electric car, the environmental benefits are great. If your local power plant uses renewable energy to generate electricity for electric vehicles, your car will have zero pollution. Buying a used electric car provides more eco-friendly benefits than a conventional car. Second-hand electric cars also benefit from government grants and EV tax exemptions. For instance, you can benefit from the home-charge scheme by the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), which gives you a £350 grant for installing a charging point at home. You will also be exempted from the Congestion Charge that applies to traditional petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.


The cons of buying a second-hand electric car

Possibility of diminished battery performance

Any battery-powered device will show diminished performance over time. The same can happen to electric cars since batteries power them. As the EV battery ages, you will notice reduced performance and range. Driving in high temperatures, draining the battery to a low voltage and charging to maximum capacity takes a toll on the battery’s life. While the performance drop takes time for electric cars, it is noticeable when you buy used EVs. Besides, most second-hand electric cars have been around for a few years and may not have the latest liquid-cooling system to preserve battery life. For instance, early Nissan Leaf electric cars from 2011 to 2012 had air-cooled batteries, and battery fade was a major problem in these models.


The charging factor

Are you ready for the switch to electric cars? If the plugging rate in your home is below 240 volts and you have old wiring, you need to prepare to own an electric vehicle. Unlike new electric cars with the maximum battery range for the model, second-hand EVs cover fewer miles on a full charge. Hence, you need access to a charging point to optimise its use. If you can plug in your electric car at home, you can minimise using public charging. When your home isn’t ready for owning an EV, the installation and wiring costs eat away the potential savings of owning a second-hand car. If you plan to use public chargers, ensure you know the costs and weigh your options. Some charging stations charge by the hour, which is expensive in the long run.

Battery life uncertainties

Modern electric cars are relatively new, and you cannot judge the battery life of a used EV. When you are the second buyer, you won’t know the charging history and the weather conditions the car was exposed to. Hence, you cannot estimate the damage done to the battery and the years you can use without replacement. Fortunately, many car manufacturers offer an extended battery warranty to cover the replacement cost should it fail.


Outdated technology

The rapid technological advancement of electric cars makes many features outdated within a short period. If you buy a second-hand electric vehicle, you have to put up with outdated technology since new models are released regularly. While conventional cars also face the same challenge of outdated technology, the impact is magnified for electric cars. New models have better battery performance and range, and you have to put up with a reduced range. For example, the 2018 Nissan Leaf has a 151-mile range, while the 2015 model offers 87 miles.


Diminished resale value

If you buy a second-hand electric car for temporary use, you will have a diminished resale value. The vehicle depreciates after a few years. If you use it for a year, the vehicle's value will diminish. However, you won’t suffer the same loss that the original car owner’s experienced since the depreciation curve tapers. If you plan on trading it for a new vehicle, you won’t receive a lot of cash.


Factors to consider when buying a second-hand EV?

Determine the battery condition

Looking only at the sleek design and beautiful interior can make an electric vehicle a bad investment. Check the battery if you want to know whether a second-hand electric car is worth buying. Your biggest investment will go to the battery if you need to replace it. How do you know if the battery can hold its charge? You can get a mechanic to test the battery or check the vehicle service to determine the battery's health. If it is in poor condition, you can ask for a replacement before buying the car.


Car range

The car range will help you determine if the car is suitable for you. If the car is short-range, consider using it for errands and short in-town trips. However, if you do lots of long-distance travel, you need a long-range second-hand car. Early EV models had a short battery range, and since you are buying a used car with diminished battery life, the range is reduced.


Battery warranty

Most electric vehicles come with two warranties. When buying a second-hand electric car, the vehicle warranty may have lapsed, but the battery warranty usually lasts up to 8 years in some models. You should check if the warranty is still valid and ensure it is transferrable upon purchase.


Conclusion

Electric vehicles are gaining popularity as people aim to reduce carbon footprints. Second-hand electric vehicles can be your ticket to eco-friendly transport. You can get a used EV with impressive battery life and good range, even on a limited budget.

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