Electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged from the fringes to become part of a more mainstream conversation. Those seeking a budget-friendly option in this growing segment may want to consider a used model.
Some EVs, like the Nissan Leaf, have a history of experiencing steeper-than-normal depreciation. If you’re in the market for a used EV, heavy depreciation can translate into incredibly affordable prices.
Before you begin the hunt for a pre-owned EV, it’s important to realize there are some key differences between electrified vehicles and gas-only cars. These differences will impact your decision-making process as you shop for a used car with an electric powertrain.
What are the key points to keep in mind when buying a used EV? Let’s take a look.
Older Models Cost Less, But They Usually Have Less Driving Range
Used EVs are like all other used cars in that age is directly related to vehicle price. This means that if you want to find the most affordable models, you’ll need to look at older choices.
However, there’s a drawback to picking an older model: Older EVs tend to have less driving range than their newer counterparts. This reflects the profound impact new technology has had on this vehicle segment.
Models made by Tesla are exceptions to this rule. Tesla EVs have far outpaced other models when it comes to driving range, and this has been true since the introduction of the brand’s successful Model S.
The EV segment is still a relatively recent addition to automotive world, but there are quite a few models that have been on the market for four years or more. Introduced for the 2011 model year, the Nissan Leaf is one of the best-selling EVs in the United States, and older models are available for less than $6,000. Other popular choices that have been on the market for at least four years include the Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV, Volkswagen e-Golf, BMW i3, Fiat 500e and the aforementioned Tesla Model S.
Some of the newer choices include the Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Ioniq Electric. Both these models were introduced in the 2017 model year.
The difference in driving range between older and newer used EVs can be dramatic. For example, the 2011 Nissan Leaf has an EPA-estimated driving range of 73 miles, a figure that’s typical for EVs produced in that era. One newer model, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq, significantly improves on that performance, offering 124 miles of driving range. And the 2017 Chevy Bolt can travel for up to 238 miles between charges.
Diminished Battery Health Can Lower Real-World Driving Range
Relative to gas-only powertrains, electric powertrains are simple and streamlined. There are myriad parts involved in operating a combustion engine. The fact that combustion engines are absent in EVs means there are less components to check out when evaluating used models.
With EVs, it all comes down to battery health. If the battery is in good shape, the EV will function much like a new car. However, if the battery is degraded, this will impact a key aspect of the EV’s performance: driving range.
Battery degradation can be impacted by factors such as vehicle mileage and the climate in which the EV has been driven. Some owners of older Nissan Leaf EVs have reported battery capacity loss of 15% or more. A 2011 Leaf with a 15% degradation in its battery capacity will see its driving range drop from 73 to 62 miles.
Battery health can be measured by a service technician using on-board diagnostics. A reputable dealer will be able to perform this evaluation if it’s requested by a prospective buyer.
The Bottom Line
You can get a great deal on an EV that’s more than four years old, but know that these models tend to have less driving range than newer models.
And it’s important to consider battery health. If an older model suffers from battery degradation, this will cause it to deliver less driving range than advertised. A reputable dealer should be able to evaluate the health of a used EV’s battery.