A used 2019 Nissan Leaf SV on the lot in 2022 during the chip shortage which has depleted new car inventory.
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Affordable electric vehicles have been on sale in the United States for more than a decade, and data analytics firm Experian says about 2.2 million were on the road at the end of last year. Sales of electric vehicles also continue to grow. As late as 2021, total US battery electric vehicle sales were below 450,000, but Kelley Blue Book says sales topped 800,000 in 2022 and are expected to top 1 million this year. Although the market for used electric vehicles is still very small, the growth trajectory of electric vehicle sales means that buying a used electric vehicle will become more common and easier over time, and will encompass more choice of brands and models.
In many ways, buying a used electric vehicle is like looking for any other used car or truck. Does it fit your budget and lifestyle? Is it reliable and comfortable? But, beyond these criteria, there are some specific considerations EV buyers should take into account regarding charging options and range.
Here are some of the main EV-specific issues to consider.
Charging remains limited in many areas
There are currently about 145,000 service stations in the United States, but only 53,000 public charging stations. Although charging infrastructure is improving, it is still limited in many parts of the country, which could be a problem for someone looking to go electric. While this is an issue for any EV purchase, new or used, it’s fundamental to understand before getting into how it informs a used EV purchase decision.
Consumers need to figure out what kind of range they need and then research electric vehicles that meet it, said Tom McParland, a writer for Jalopnik who runs the Automatch Consulting vehicle buying service. They also need to consider the type of charging infrastructure available in their area and the feasibility of home charging, he said.
Chris Harto, senior energy policy analyst for Consumer Reports, noted that shoppers should set realistic expectations. “Ask yourself where and when you will recharge,” he said. “If your answer is that you don’t have a place to charge it at home or at work, you might want to consider a wider range of car types, including hybrids, which can offer fuel economy. exceptional fuel and low maintenance costs.”
Your driving and mileage habits matter
Some expensive EVs offer such impressive range that charging infrastructure may never be an issue, such as the Lucid Air (EPA range estimate: up to 516 miles) and the You’re here Model S (up to 405 miles). More affordable electric vehicles, however, tend to have shorter ranges.
Battery electric vehicles with a list price of less than $35,000, such as GMThe Chevy Bolt EV and Hyundai Kona Electric have an EPA range of nearly 260 miles, but they’re unlikely to go that far in real-world driving conditions. This is especially true in cold weather, which can interfere with electrochemical reactions inside batteries.
The range of electric vehicles will decrease
This is where general battery considerations for going electric become a more specific concern. The range of an EV is likely to degrade over time.
Batteries can lose 5% to 10% power for the first five years and continue to degrade thereafter due to a variety of factors including age, exposure to extreme temperatures, and use of fast charging. If the degradation is excessive, you may need to repair or replace the battery, which can be expensive.
Batteries are also one of the most expensive parts of an EV and can cost upwards of $10,000 to replace, but federal rules require them to be covered by a warranty for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. so buyers looking at a lightly used BEV probably still have some cover left. Additionally, even a well-used battery may still have enough capacity to meet your needs.
Accurate battery life is hard to measure
Determining the exact battery condition of a used BEV can be tricky – the US auto industry does not have a standard set of measurements to measure it. But there are still ways to get a general idea of a battery’s health.
Recurrenta Seattle startup that has partnered with automotive site Edmunds, is offering consumers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles a free prediction of remaining battery life based on stats collected on mileage, age, climate and other factors.
A long test drive can also give you an idea of a battery’s condition, as you can monitor how quickly it is discharging. This is especially true if it includes sustained cruising at highway speeds, which tends to drain the batteries much faster than stop-and-go driving.
As with all used car purchases, a professional inspection can be worth it. “I generally recommend that consumers visit the service departments of dealerships that sell [EVs]”, said Edmunds Consumer Advice Editor Ronald Montoya. “Compared to independent mechanics, you can be certain that dealership mechanics have been trained on [EVs] by the manufacturer,” he said.
Electric vehicles lose value faster, but maintenance is less
Electric vehicles generally depreciate faster than ICE vehicles, according to Kelley Blue Book. The automotive research firm says three-year-old electric vehicles hold 63% of their value, compared to 66% for internal combustion vehicles. The five-year depreciation is even more pronounced, with electric vehicles holding 37% of their initial value and ICE vehicles 46%.
This depreciation can make used EVs a bargain compared to buying new, but don’t be surprised if the price is still high – many EVs are expensive to start with.
The average used electric vehicle sold for $42,895 in March, noted Kelley Blue Book editor Brian Moody. That’s down 1.8% from February, but still significantly higher than the used-vehicle market as a whole, where prices averaged just over $27,000 in the first quarter.
However, the low maintenance and upkeep costs can help offset the higher purchase price. Consumer Reports found that electric vehicles cost about half as much to repair and maintain as gas-powered vehicles. “[EVs] have no fluids to change, and electric motors are less complicated than gasoline and diesel engines,” noted Benjamin Preston, automotive journalist for the organization. “Put simply, there are fewer things that can wear out.”
He pointed to a recent study showing that electric vehicles cost less to own over time than gasoline-powered vehicles. The study found that used electric vehicles can save even more than new vehicles. Indeed, depreciation significantly reduces the price of the EV, but used buyers still get the same fuel and maintenance savings.
Used Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Qualifications
In addition to these benefits, a used electric vehicle may qualify for state and federal incentives.
Used electric vehicles (as well as plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles) purchased for up to $25,000 from an authorized dealer can qualify for up to $4,000 in federal tax credits. Learn more about the IRS.
Many states also have their own tax credits. Find out what each state offers in the Kelley Blue Book.
Where are the offers of used electric vehicles
The more expensive models often offer the best value for money on the used car market.
“Luxury [EV] Space is where buyers will find the best value, especially in the sedan segment,” McParland said. “If you look at models like the Audi e-tron GT or the Volvo S90 T8 PHEV, you can really benefit from some depreciation. “
Luxury vehicles often depreciate faster than the mainstream market, he said, adding that changes to federal tax credits also impact the market for luxury electric vehicles. (Among other requirements, federal tax benefits for new plug-in hybrids, fuel cell and full battery electric vehicles only apply to SUVs under $80,000 and cars under $55,000. )
Another great option is Tesla’s Model 3, which offers plenty of room for a family of four and up to 358 miles of range. Used Tesla prices have been falling since 2022 and used Model 3s were selling for less than $43,000 in the first trimester.
For buyers on a budget, the best deals are models such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV, which offer a good mix of range and relative affordability, according to Montoya.
“The best values are electric cars that are either old and out of warranty and those that were cheap — relatively — when new,” Moody’s said.