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Blog Post 8 June 2022

Should you buy a used electric car?

Concern about contributing to climate change and harming local air quality is making more and more drivers switch to electric, with electric car markets – new and old – booming as a result.

While new electric cars are often more expensive to buy than their petrol or diesel equivalents, getting a used electric vehicle (EV) can help reduce this price difference. It will also give you the same advantages of lower refuelling, tax and maintenance costs that new EVs have over petrol and diesel cars.

If you’re interested in going electric but have concerns about doing so in a second-hand car, let us put your mind at ease by busting several myths about used EVs.

Older batteries are degraded and will need replaced

If you’re thinking about buying a used electric car, one of the first questions you may want answered is: will I need to replace the battery?

Typically, an EV’s achievable range drops about 2% every year. The exact amount will depend on the driving and charging habits of its owner.

To check how far a vehicle you are considering purchasing can go, ask to see its range when it’s at full charge. By comparing this to the specification for the vehicle’s range when new*, you will see how much its battery capacity has reduced. Don’t compare it to a newer model, as these tend to have much larger batteries and so can drive further.

Once you know how far you can drive it per charge, you can judge whether the car will suit your driving needs over the time you plan to own it.

*Though beware, older, overly generous vehicle test cycles mean the originally stated range may be exaggerated, often by more than 30%.

The driving range of older electric vehicles is too low

It’s true that both improvements in the efficiency of EV batteries and reducing costs mean newer, bigger-battery EVs can go much further than older models. However, the average daily mileage in the UK sits at around 20 miles, which is well within the capacity of even the very oldest EVs.

Older EV models with lower battery capacities will still be suitable for many drivers who mostly use their cars for shorter trips. If you very rarely make journeys further than 60 miles and have convenient access to a charger – either at home or via nearby public infrastructure – an older EV could suit you. Most EV drivers only need to charge their vehicles two or three times a week.

There’s a lack of charging infrastructure

The level of charging infrastructure across the UK is increasing rapidly, with typically hundreds of new chargers added to the public network each month. In April, there were over 1,000 new chargepoints installed. In fact, there are now more charging sites in the UK than petrol stations. You can use ZapMap to find the nearest chargepoint to you.

And in Scotland, where there is government support to buy used EVs, there are more chargepoints per person than the rest of the UK.

The battery won’t cope with longer journeys

If you’re making a long journey in your electric car, you will need to consider your charging needs. The newest EV models can go over 200 miles on a single charge, and some have batteries enabling them to go over 300 or even 400 miles without stopping. However, if you have a used EV, its range will likely be lower than this, so you’ll need to carefully plan stops along your journey.

Getting to know the available public charging infrastructure along longer routes you make frequent journeys on (as well as where you work and live) will make the transition to electric easier.

You can also improve the range of the vehicle by driving efficiently and avoiding using the car’s air conditioning or heating if you don’t need them. Longer trips are completely feasible in an older EV, though the need to charge more often will add to the total journey time.

Ready to make the switch?

With fewer mechanical components than a petrol or diesel car, it should be easier for you to assess the quality of an EV when buying second-hand. They are a great option for a used vehicle, as they are expected to last longer and have lower maintenance costs than petrol or diesel vehicles.

Most manufacturers offer an 8-year or 10-year guarantee on electric cars (or 100,000 – 150,000 miles), which will cover repair or replacement of the battery if its performance falls below a certain level. We now have enough real-world performance data for electric cars to show that they can cover up to 100,000 miles before battery health starts to be affected, and even then, most drivers don’t notice the difference.

If you’d like to find out more about buying a second-hand EV, visit our advice page.

Last updated: 6 June 2022