If you’re considering buying a used electric car, there are several important factors to consider before making your decision. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with the essential information you need to know, empowering you to make an informed purchase and ensuring you get the best possible value for your money.
Understanding Electric Car Batteries
One of the key aspects of an electric car is its battery. Unlike traditional vehicles that rely on petrol or diesel, EVs are powered by rechargeable batteries. Before purchasing a used electric car, it’s crucial to understand the battery’s capacity, age, and overall health. The battery’s capacity determines the driving range, so you’ll want to ensure it meets your daily commuting needs. Additionally, consider the battery’s warranty, as it can provide you with peace of mind and protection against potential issues.
Focus on Reduced Range, Not Battery Failure
Batteries in electric cars resemble those found in hybrid vehicles rather than typical mobile phones. They experience a gradual decline in capacity over time, but the likelihood of complete failure requiring replacement is exceedingly rare. This fact should alleviate one of the main concerns associated with purchasing a used electric vehicle (EV). However, it is essential to consider your daily range requirements and align them not with the brand-new EPA-estimated range of the car, but with the range that can be expected from a vehicle of its current age. Moreover, if you plan on keeping the vehicle for an extended period, it is prudent to account for additional range loss.
Each makes and model ages differently, and battery health is influenced by factors such as charging habits, driving patterns, and climate conditions. Based on currently available data, it appears that most EVs lose approximately 10% to 20% of their battery capacity over a span of ten years. Recently this calculation appears to be aggressive and may actually be less than this, but with the plethora of new, cheap EVs hitting the market, their battery performance reduction cannot yet be determined.
Caution of the Desert Vehicle
The desert or dry/hot inland environment meant that the vehicle was not subjected to excessive rain, road salt, or sea air, making it less prone to rust. Additionally, low mileage is a desirable attribute for a used car, as it translates to a higher value. However, While EVs inevitably experience a loss in range as they age, data also reveals that hot climates accelerate this degradation. This is more a point for US vehicles than Australia, as our population does not extend much into these arid environments, but the principle applies.
Lower km on the odometer remains a positive attribute, all else being equal, partly because it suggests that both the original battery capacity and warranty still have ample life remaining.
An EV that is regularly used tends to fare better in terms of battery health, compared to one that is driven or charged infrequently. The latter scenario can result in battery damage, especially if the battery is allowed to discharge excessively or for prolonged periods, or if it remains unused while fully charged indefinitely. Note also that much earlier EVs do not take kindly to regular/daily charging after every trip. Plugging in constantly can see the maximum range reduce by 20% or more after only 1-2 years. This has been overcome with some later vehicles having better charging limit management but is still a point to consider for ‘used’ earlier model EVs.
Check The Vehicle Maintenance and Service History
Just like any other vehicle, used electric cars require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. When considering a used EV, request the service history from the seller to gain insight into the vehicle’s maintenance record. Look for any past issues related to the battery, charging system, or other critical components. It’s also wise to have the car inspected by a qualified mechanic who has experience working with electric vehicles. This step will help identify any potential red flags and give you peace of mind.
Inspections Are Highly Recommended
Even though electric vehicles (EVs) have fewer moving parts, require less maintenance, and revolve around a single significant and costly component that often raises concerns – the battery pack – it is important to have a prospective purchase thoroughly inspected by a qualified mechanic. While this inspection may cost around $350, it can ultimately save you a substantial amount in the long term by eliminating potential lemons. Additionally, it provides valuable insight into the remaining lifespan of crucial components such as brakes and suspension, even if they currently meet the required standards.
Any skilled mechanic should be capable of identifying any outstanding recalls on the vehicle, including those related to the battery. Ideally, it is advisable to seek the services of a mechanic who is specifically trained to work on Electrical Vehicles.
If a seller claims that a battery replacement has been conducted, it is essential to request supporting documentation and, whenever feasible, verify this claim through an inspection.