Top tips for buying a used electric vehicle.

20240613 BLG-Top tips for buying a second-hand EV

What do I need to know about buying a second-hand EV?

Buying an electric vehicle (EV) opens up a world of eco-conscious driving and lower running costs. With more and more second-hand EVs on sale, prices have been falling recently, and you may be able to find a real bargain - if you know what to look for.

So let us take you through the ins and outs of buying a used EV, from where to find the perfect model to inspecting battery health and understanding home charging tech. Whether you're a seasoned electric car enthusiast or a curious first-time buyer, this guide to buying a second-hand EV will help you make an informed decision and find the ideal electric vehicle for your lifestyle and budget.

How to research used EVs.

With recent advances in EV technology, we have seen drivers upgrading their older electric vehicles for newer models. This has led to more EVs in the second hand market - and the chance to snap up a good deal. But where should you start?

When you begin to explore the world of used electric vehicles, a little research can go a long way.

You should start by understanding the different types of EVs (pure electric and plug-in hybrids) and consider which best suits your lifestyle and driving habits.

Pure electric vehicles (EVs) are powered solely by electricity stored in a battery. No internal combustion engine. They have several advantages over a car with an engine, including:

  • Zero tailpipe emissions, reducing air pollution.

  • Quieter and smoother driving experience.

  • Lower running costs compared to petrol and diesel.

  • Access to low emission zones and currently congestion charge exemptions.

Some people prefer a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) as they feel comfortable knowing that they have the backup of a petrol engine should their battery run out during a trip. However, EV battery technology is constantly improving. As we will discuss, you can check the condition of an EV's battery before you buy it so you'll know exactly how to spot a good one.

With prices of used EVs ranging between anything from £10,000 for a small EV like a Renault Zoe or a Nissan Leaf, up to £45K plus for a Tesla, you should determine your budget before you start looking. Do you plan on paying for the car upfront, or will you use financing? When buying second-hand you may choose to buy directly from the owner, in which case you would need to apply for a standard bank loan if you want to finance your purchase. To save time in your search, you should have a rough idea of how you want to pay for your EV and seek professional financial advice if you have questions about your options.

And thanks to the wide range of used electric cars, you should be able to find a type that fits your budget and needs.

Research the EV model and brand.

The next question to answer is, what kind of motorist are you? Do you need a car for long journeys, or is it more of a runaround to nip to the shops and school runs? Do you plan to get a home charger, or are you happy visiting your nearest public charging station (and waiting while the car charges)?

Car review websites can give you an idea of what a particular EV is like, and user forums will provide you with real-world feedback from owners and enthusiasts (and detractors).

And remember to look at the manufacturers' official websites for detailed specifications.

Of course, there are factors you should consider when buying any car. Is it a family car or just for one or two people? Do you need that big boot for the dog or the golf clubs? Is it for the work run or just for the weekends?

Do you want particular EV features like fast charging or more general features like connectivity with your smartphone?

These may seem like a lot of questions to consider before you've even seen a particular car, but they will help you focus on what you really want from your EV and find the right match.

Where to find used electric cars.

Once you have an idea of the kind of car you want, it's now time to see what's out there. But where should you start to look?

The good news is the used electric vehicle market in the UK is booming, with more options than ever.

When you're thinking about buying a second-hand EV, you’ve got two main options: buying from a dealership or a private seller. Each has its own pros and cons.

A car dealership can give you peace of mind. They usually offer warranties, so if something goes wrong with your EV shortly after you buy it, you will be covered. They also have to follow consumer protection laws, which means they need to be upfront about the car's condition. Plus, dealerships often have financing options, making it easier to spread out the cost.

You could start by exploring the more well-known online marketplaces. These sites have a wide selection of makes and models across the country. Plus, platforms like these offer easy filtering to narrow down your search based on your budget, range, and desired features. And many major dealerships now have a solid electric vehicle inventory. Contact those nearest to you for starters and see what they have on offer. 

On the flip side, buying from a private seller might save you some cash. Private sellers don't have the same overhead costs as dealerships, so their prices can be lower. But, there’s a catch – once you drive away, any problems that come up are yours to deal with. There’s also less legal protection, so if the car does turn out to have issues, you don’t have much recourse. In this case, it’s really important to do a thorough check and maybe even get a professional to look over the car before you buy.

It is also worth searching for "used electric vehicle dealerships near me" and see what it returns. Try a few searches similar to this and see what comes up. You'll soon have an idea of what is available in your area and will be ready to take a look.

How to know the used battery is good.

It helps if you look for certain things when buying any used car — wear and tear, body damage, etc. But of course, some things are particular to an EV that you should focus on. Compared to petrol and diesel vehicles EVs have fewer moving parts, and so fewer things that could need servicing or replacing.

For EVs though the most important part of the vehicle is the battery.

After all, the battery is the heart of your EV. And when you consider that replacing one can cost over £8000, you'll want to make sure it’ll serve you well.

EV batteries are designed to last a long time. But the thing is, like all rechargeable batteries, they will gradually lose their capacity to hold a charge.

So, you need to know that the EV battery is healthy enough to do the job you want it to do without too many stops to recharge it. This is known as the battery's State of Health (SoH). It's a percentage showing the battery's current capacity compared to its original state (you may be familiar with this on your smartphone).

And what you are looking for is a SoH of 80% of its original storage capacity (measured in kWh) or above.

Of course, you can simply ask the seller. Any reputable seller with nothing to hide will show you evidence of the battery's health.

And that is quite easy to do on many EVs as they have onboard diagnostics to show the SoH - usually as part of the infotainment system.

If that information isn't readily available, you can always have the car inspected by a qualified technician. They can use specialist tools to assess battery status accurately.

You can also compare the estimated range displayed on the dashboard to the manufacturer's original specifications for that model when the car is fully charged. If there is a significant difference, it could indicate an unhealthy battery.

If you can, ask to plug in the car to charge. Does everything run smoothly? Do any warning lights come up?

A private seller may be able to show you the charging history if they used their home charger along with an app. Is everything smooth and regular, or are there irregularities in the charging history? Fast and frequent charging can deteriorate the battery.

And, of course, you will want to take it for a test drive. Again, look for warning lights or sluggish performance.

The most crucial question to ask yourself is arguably not a technical one. Instead, what is more important, is whether the EV will meet your needs. Perhaps the car looks good on paper, and the numbers are all correct. Still, if you do not feel comfortable with it then take your time and even walk away (even if it is only to reconsider your position).

Is the mileage on the clock still important for an EV?

Yes, mileage is important for an EV, but in a different way than for petrol or diesel cars. Again, this mainly relates to battery health. But it is also useful to know how many miles the suspension, brakes etc have done and have they been regularly checked and serviced?

Most EV manufacturers offer long battery warranties, typically 8 years or 100,000 miles. A higher mileage car might be closer to the end of its warranty period, so it's important to factor this into your decision.

What's more, higher mileage generally means the battery has undergone more charge cycles, potentially leading to some battery capacity loss.

The best test is to take the car out for a test drive and see if it gives you the kind of drive you expect- without flashing warning lights and so on.

One final point about mileage. It is one of many factors to consider - and maybe not even the most important one. As with any second-hand car, you should check and evaluate the service history. 

Regular maintenance and software updates are crucial for EV longevity. A full service history can reassure you about the car's condition. Feel free to negotiate on the price, especially if you notice any issues. This is where the research you did earlier will help, as it will give you an idea of what the car is worth.

All this should lead to you getting the EV you want at a price you are happy to pay.

Consider the battery warranty and support.

By now, you've done your homework and are happy with the checks on the car you are thinking of buying. Still, it is always good to know if the EV has any warranties should anything go wrong once you're the owner.

We've already mentioned the all-important battery warranty manufacturers provide for their EVs. But it is also worth checking whether the car is still within its original warranty period or has an extended warranty.

Obviously, you can simply ask the seller for those details. Still, if they can't provide them or they are not sure, you should get in touch with the manufacturer and check to see if the car you are looking at is still covered.

And for extra peace of mind, you can always ask if the dealer you are buying from offers any warranty, or even take out one with a third party. Companies like the RAC offer warranties that will cover parts other than the batteries, such as the drive train.

Whatever warranty you get, it's great to have that reassurance — especially if this is your first EV.

Consider your home charging options.

Buying an EV is only the first part of the journey. You also have to think about charging it.

It's a significant advantage if you can charge your EV at home. Do you have a dedicated parking space or garage where you can install a home charger?

If you do, that's great. A home charger offers convenience, faster charging speeds, and potential savings compared to public charging.

But if installing a home charger isn't feasible, check your local area for public charge points using resources like ZapMap and anywhere else you visit frequently - like your workplace. Also Many local councils are also now starting to install on-street charging points, and there are even peer-to-peer charging schemes where you can rent a private charger. 

Remember to factor the cost of charging into your overall EV budget. Electricity prices can vary, so looking at an energy tariff specifically designed for EV owners is a good idea. Our Next Drive tariff offers cheaper overnight charging rates between midnight and 7am.⁴ With the help of our app, you can schedule your charging to get the best value for your EV.

You should also look into smart chargers and apps that allow you to schedule charging during off-peak hours for lower electricity costs. Why not start by visiting us online and getting a quote for a home EV charger in under 5 minutes—and take advantage of any deals we have?

Having an EV charger installed?

This video explains how easy it is to have an EV charger installed at your home.

Get the most from your used EV.

Armed with this knowledge, we hope you're now well-equipped to buy your used electric vehicle. Buying a second-hand EV doesn't have to be daunting. If you understand the different types, research various models, understand battery health, and think carefully about how you will charge your electric vehicle, you can confidently choose a car that fits perfectly with your lifestyle and budget. 

So, get ready to hit the road with your EV and enjoy the smooth, quiet, and eco-conscious drive that awaits you.

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Published 02/07/2024