Are Used EVs Worth It?

Why Buy A Used Electric Car?

Once a novelty for eco-conscious drivers, now thousands of US citizens are waking up to the benefits of electric cars.

As the latest technology is implemented, the likes of Nissan, BMW and even Tesla are manufacturing some truly beautiful “green” vehicles.

Where before, battery power meant multiple stops for recharging on longer journeys, the best EVs can now hit over three hundred miles in one go.

You might think that buying a brand new car would overall be the best investment, but we’re here to say otherwise.

Here are just a few of the reasons that buying pre-owned is in your interest, especially on a tight budget.
Are Used EVs Worth It?

Reason #1 - Incredibly Low Maintenance

Given their much simpler construction, there are way fewer bits and pieces that make up an EV in comparison to a gas-guzzler. 

When it comes to part failure, fewer parts exist in the first place to let you down or cause trouble leading to delay.

Used EVs in particular will have racked up less miles on average when you inherit them, as well as having been used less. 

Therefore, in comparison to a traditional vehicle, the suspension, brakes and tires will likely be in better condition.

Reason #2 - Save A Whole Lot Of Money

Whilst the driver who is selling their EV won’t benefit from their lower than average value on the second hand market… buyers certainly will! 

Even if you could find a second hand gas-powered car at this price, it would be in a much poorer condition!

Of course, the money you look to save is determined by the vehicle model and condition, but on average, you could save between 40% and 70% when opting to buy used over brand new.

Reason #3 - More Pleasant Driving Experience

Have you ever had a Lyft or an Uber that was electric? Without the rumbles and grumbles of a fuel-powered engine, driving an EV is like gliding along in a cloud.

That’s a slight exaggeration, but the lack of aggressive vibration or revs can make cruising along much less noise polluting. 

Plus, because there’s no combustion taking place - and no gas to burn - you don’t need to worry about fumes and smells. A win-win situation!

Reason #4 - (Help) Save The Planet

Cars are some of the biggest contributors to pollution, global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer, globally.

An EV is not free of sin, but they do not utilize combustion in their running process, contributing zero greenhouse gas emissions via the tailpipe.

Likewise, picking one up secondhand is even better for the Earth than buying it brand new. 

Initially, EVs are considered to have a bigger carbon footprint as a result of the intricate steps involved in their manufacture.

However, once run for 18 months, they “can offset the extra emissions and continue to outperform gasoline cars” until out of action.

Essentially, when you buy a used EV, it will probably have made up for the emissions produced during production, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Secondhand Shopping - What You Need To Look Out For

Vehicle Generation

As you can imagine, the newer an EV is, the better its performance will be. 

This is mainly because those earlier models go for shorter periods between charges, with first generation EVs only managing between 100 and 200 miles on average.

You’ll be able to calculate the range of the vehicle you’re looking at using its kWh rating, which indicates the battery’s capacity, measured in kilowatt hours.

Simply put - the bigger the kWh rating, the longer that vehicle will be able to run for before needing to recharge. Do note that charging periods are longer, too!

Professional Opinion/Road Test

If you’re not educated in the world of electric cars, we highly recommend getting an expert to take a look at the battery, any dashboard electronics and the charging port.

Taking the car for a spin before you hand over your hard earned cash is also very much recommended, as you’ll be able to ascertain if there are any issues firsthand.

Complete Service History (Documented)

This one is a biggie: only those EVs that have a full service history can be guaranteed to have had all of the necessary software updates.

Think about your phone - if you don’t update it regularly, it becomes laggy, difficult and slow. The same can be said for an EV running on the old OS!

Likewise, it could also be possible that the vehicle’s battery is still under warranty if this is the case. The user manual should indicate when this expires!

Why Are There So Many Used EVs Available?

It used to be that driving an EV was rare, and seeing one available for purchase second hand was even less likely. 

As electric cars become less of a phenomenon, early models are getting older and leases are also coming to an end.

Likewise, initial sales of vehicles like the Nissan Leaf came with lengthy warranties on the battery, some as long as a decade.

Customers were therefore more inclined to drive those cars for longer, being able to swap out any problem batteries for a replacement.

Where gas guzzling cars can surprise you with a fault or become less fuel efficient very quickly, an EV has a much longer lifespan right from the start.

Being powered by electricity, there are fewer faults that might also occur, meaning maintenance is easier and the car itself lasts for a few more years.

As a result, it can often feel like there are a whole lot of EVs on the market or at the used car lot, simply because you’re just starting to see them more often.

Multiple leases are finishing up around the same time, leading drivers to trade in for an upgrade and put their current cars up for sale.

Given that older EVs travel shorter distances before requiring a charge, buyers might be more inclined to look for a newer vehicle if possible.

Therefore, those early electric vehicles might stay in the lot a little longer, waiting for someone who can’t afford to be as picky to come along. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are EVs actually better for the environment?

Yes - with a couple of caveats. 

When it comes to reducing air pollution, electric cars are fantastic - without the need for a tailpipe, no greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are produced.

Running solely on electricity alone, fuel is not burnt when powering the car - it is this combustion process that is responsible for creating nasty pollutants.

In this respect, EVs are the best choice for the Earth by far, and it is here where their benefits are most visible.

As we’ve touched on above, some would argue that the production of electric cars has a greater impact on the environment than that of a traditional gas vehicle.

This is because during the manufacture of lithium batteries - the primary source of an EV’s power - there are more emissions of those aforementioned toxic gases.

However, with improvements to technology comes more environmentally friendly production processes, which aren’t as negative on the planet. 

Similarly, when it comes to powering your EV, you might be worried about the environmental impacts of producing the energy to charge it at home.

Are electric cars cheaper to insure?

Unfortunately, no - quite the opposite. Electric cars will often cost you more than a conventional car would to insure.

It’s important to bear in mind that there is nothing specific about an EV that makes them more costly to deem roadworthy.

As with any insurance, the most important deciding factors in your monthly costs will be your license record, history of driving and predicted mileage based on location. 

However, because the lithium ion batteries can be costly to repair if damaged, unless your vehicle’s manufacturer offers a warranty, this can really boost the cost of insurance.

Likewise, there are fewer mechanics trained in the art of EV vehicle maintenance, and this lack of availability also increases the price providers will charge you.

On the bright side, research from insurance company LV released in early 2021 to indicate that in a few instances, it was becoming less expensive to insure an EV.

Plus, as you won’t be paying for gas or diesel, you’ll save money on fuel costs in the long run that more than outweigh the negative of more expensive insurance.

Why is a Nissan Leaf so cheap to buy used?

Firstly, they’re incredibly cheap to buy generally. With a price tag brand new of just $10,000 for their most economic models, in the world of cars, this is mighty affordable.

Even the newest, most expensive model is $21,000 as it currently stands, which for a brand new vehicle is not to be sniffed at.

Furthermore, the lucky buyers who bought the initial Nissan Leaf models could take advantage of several financial incentives that they offered.

From ridiculously cheap leases to actual cashback at certain dealerships, as well as a federal tax credit of $7,500, you could pick up a new Nissan AND get some free money.

As a result, when those buyers finally put their Leaf up for sale, their asking price appears shockingly low. 

Not needing to make a massive profit because of those initial financial boosts, many sellers are willing to part with their car for much cheaper than buyers might expect.

How much will your electricity bill go up with an electric car?

That entirely depends on which car you go for, and how efficient it is!

As you’ll more often than not be charging your car at home, rather than utilizing public charge points all of the time, you may worry your bills are going to skyrocket.

There are two main charging methods - Level One and Level Two. The majority of models utilize a 110-volt charging unit you can plug straight into a regular outlet.

This is Level One Charging, and it takes around eight and twenty four hours to charge completely. Accessing a 240-volt charging outlet can upgrade you to Level Two.

With a Level Two charging unit, you can replenish a completely dead battery in just four hours - perfect for emergencies!

It could run you from a few hundred to a thousand dollars to install a Level Two system, but the time saved in charging is well worth it.

Depending on which of these methods you use, the cost of charging will be different. 

It’s possible to estimate using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website’s fueleconomy.gov energy consumption calculator.

How often do you need to replace an electric car battery?

Between ten and twenty years! Of course, how long the average lithium ion battery lasts depends on several factors, including make, model and amount of usage.

The way an EV battery works is to “discharge” as you drive and then “charge” again once connected to an outlet. Continuously doing this can impact the overall capacity.

As a result of regular use, an EV’s battery will gradually last less and less time between each charge.

Again, an easy comparison is your phone. Over time, it begins to struggle to last you a full day on a single charge. Why? Because the battery has been used!

The majority of manufacturers offer between five and eight years of warranty on their battery. This doesn’t mean it will only last that long, though.

According to current research, an electric vehicle’s battery could last for up to two decades before it finally bites the dust.

Making a specific prediction is difficult, because every car and driver are different. 

Those who hardly ever drive will find their battery lasts a whole lot longer than somebody who charges their car every single week.

As long as you properly care for your EV, use an official charger and regularly fully charge and discharge it, there’s no reason it won’t be reliable for years to come.

Michael Schuck
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