Used Electric Car Buying Guide
2020 and 2021 have both been years dominated by new electric car releases, but we can’t ignore the opportunity presented by used electric cars. Prices are still among some of the highest for brand-new EVs, so a used model represents an opportunity to get a great price on these models.
Just like buying any used car, there are things you need to be aware of before going ahead with a purchasing a second-hand electric car. So, we’ve put together a guide explaining everything you need to be aware of when considering a used EV.
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Are there incentives to buy used electric cars?
While used electric car grants have never been eligible for the government’s plug-in car grant (£1,500 towards the purchase price of an EV priced less than £32,000, including delivery fees and VAT), there are still other incentives you can take advantage of.
Take the OLEV charger grant*, for example. If you have off-street parking and can install a home charging point, you can claim up to £350 towards the purchase and installation of a wallbox. That’s worth up to 75% of the total price, so it’s definitely worth considering if you need the convenience of charging overnight.
*The UK Government announced in September 2021 that the charger grant will come to an end after 31 March 2022
Is it cheaper to buy a used electric car?
One of the maintained complaints about electric cars is that they’re just too expensive, especially when compared with combustion engine models.
But a big part of this is to do with the fact that these models have been in circulation for decades, so supply and demand has always been healthy.
Because UK drivers love buying used cars, and there’s always been an abundance of them, it’s very easy to find a great deal. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for electric cars, not just yet, anyway. However, this is changing.
The used electric car market is growing substantially. Back in 2019, many fleets, including hire companies and people with company cars, bought EVs. This is mainly because the government offers generous tax breaks for these models, which are still available.
It’s general understanding that these companies sell their cars between two and three years later, meaning there’ll be an influx of used EVs hitting the market soon. As an example, a brand-new Renault Zoe has a retail price of £28,795, but you can get your hands on a used version, with 50,000 miles on the clock, for just over £8,000*.
For a relatively newer model, this is a very good deal, and indicates how, soon enough, most people will be able to afford an electric car.
*Price is a representative example of a used Renault Zoe deal on AutoTrader
Best used electric cars to buy
A pioneer in the modern electric car market – the first generation Nissan Leaf represents great value for money. Its performance won’t blow you away, but its practical hatch dimensions and 30kWh battery which is good for around 124 miles between charges is worth considering. Used prices can be as low as £4,000.
The trendsetting Renault Zoe has been updated more times than we care to remember, but even the first production ‘ZE’ model with its 22kWh battery could achieve a real range of around 100 miles. Not great by the modern EV’s standard, but with the average driver commuting less than this a week, it’s not a bad option. Used prices can be as low as £4,500.
While many experts criticize the decision from manufacturers to electrify combustion engine models, we actually think the Volkswagen e-Golf is a solid effort. It keeps the standard Golf’s excellent build quality and refinement, even if it’s not as engaging to drive as the normal model. Used prices start from around £11,000 because of its more premium badge and bigger battery which provides around 144 miles between charges.
Widely considered one of the best all-round electric cars on the market. The Kia E-Niro has a heck of a lot going for it considering its modest price tag, including an official range of up to 282 miles and loads of space for a family thanks to its large crossover body. Because of the Kia’s leading seven-year warranty, it’s likely that you’ll get a used model that is still within the seven years, which includes cover for the vehicle and its battery.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric can almost be considered as the natural progression from the Leaf, which pioneered modern EVs back in the 2010s. With a lot more in-car tech and a bigger range, the Ioniq EV is a great option as far as family cars go. Used prices for the electric Ioniq start from around £17,500.
Tesla Model 3
The world’s best-selling electric car, and for good reason. The Tesla Model 3 is a superb EV and doesn’t seem to have any flaws – a seamless design, strong performance and fantastic range mean it’s a great choice. While it’s considered a premium electric car, used prices are very good, starting from around £38,000.
One of the most futuristic electric cars in this entire list – the BMW i3 has stood the test of time despite being rolled out back in 2013. Its lightweight, carbonfibre structure and funky interior design isn’t all bark and no bite either. Powerful electric motors and sizeable battery options mean it performs well out on the road too. The good news is that because it’s been released for a while, you can pick one up from around the £10,000 mark that has circa 50k mileage on the clock.
Like the Model 3, the Jaguar I-Pace is an EV for the driver’s kind of motorist. It has plenty of power and a big 90kWh battery which is good for around 286 miles between charges. A great all-round family car too, but like its Tesla counterpart, you’re looking at around the £40,000 mark for a used model. However, if you’re after a proven premium EV, you can save around £20,000 by choosing a used model.
What mileage is good for buying a used electric car?
Battery degredation is a big concern for people considering a used EV. Naturally, over time, an electric car will lose its ability to hold its original rate of charge. Regular charging and discharging causes the cells to break down, but even after several years you should still get a good amount of range from your electric car.
It’s hard to say exactly what mileage is good to look at a used EV. Just like if you were to look at a petrol or diesel used car, there are checks you can do to determine whether the previous owner has looked after the car.
What to look for when buying a used electric car
Before you go to view a used electric car, there are a few things you’ll want to note down to check before going ahead with the purchase.
1. Service history
Any used electric car can only be judged based on how its previous owners treated it. So, like you would when going to see a used petrol or diesel model, ask to see the service history for the EV you’re considering.
Even though electric cars are known for being cheaper to maintain, they still have wear and tear parts that need repairing or even replacing over time. For example, the tyres, brake pads and brake fluid will need checking regularly.
Having the full service history of your prospective used electric car will mean you have a clear picture of any work that’s been carried out on it. This way you can decide whether it’s worth purchasing or not.
2. Consider where you’ll get the car serviced
When electric cars were first gaining traction in the UK during the mid-2010s, there was concern around the lack of mechanics qualified to work on them. However, as the uptake has increased, more garages have become adept at working on EVs.
According to the latest figures from the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), full electric models make up 8.1% of the market share of registrations year-to-date. With this increase in EV drivers has come greater availability of car repair shops that have mechanics capable of repairing electric cars.
You can easily find electric car garages near you online, which we recommend you do in order to know where to go if your EV needs urgent repairs, or even for its yearly service.
If you’re looking at a used Tesla, for example, the chances are that you’ll want to take your model to a Tesla specialist. However, the majority of these are in locations dotted about the UK, including Manchester and Peterborough. While the manufacturer has plans to increase its number of dedicated mechanics, you’ll probably need to plan how you’re going to take it for a service.
3. Check whether the battery is leased
When EVs first began to take off, in order to make them look cheaper, manufacturers sold the vehicle separately then offered the battery as a lease.
When you go to buy a used car, make sure that it’s labelled ‘battery-owned’, or at least find this out from the seller. Otherwise, the price of the car won’t include the battery and you’ll need to pay a monthly fee to lease the battery.
Renault is at the forefront of the EV battery leasing push, and the price per month to lease either a Zoe or Twizy is based on your annual mileage. For example, if you were to put down that you drive 6,000 miles per year, you’d have to pay £69 per month to lease a Zoe battery (Z.E. 40 model), or £59 for the Twizy.
4. Test everything to make sure it’s working
Brakes and the electrical systems in an electric car are crucial for testing when you go for a test drive of a used model.
Most electric cars have what’s called regenerative braking, where you can take your foot off both pedals and the electric motors will gradually slow the vehicle down. For this reason brakes on EVs tend to last longer, but it’s still worth checking how they perform with a few firm presses of the brake pedal to test it while you’re taking it for a test drive.
You should also check that all the buttons inside do what they’re supposed to when you press them.
Most importantly, you should test charging any used electric car at either a public charging point (or ask the seller to demonstrate if they have their own charger) so that you have proof that it actually charges.
New vs used electric cars – which is best?
It’s no secret that brand-new electric cars are expensive to buy outright. Nevertheless, the increase in availability of finance options such as electric car leasing has meant that owning the latest, new EV can cost less than £200 per month.
There are even PCP deals available for new electric cars if you want the option of owning it at the end. But you should bear in mind that the monthly rentals tend to be cheaper for leasing because the rentals go towards the depreciation of the vehicle over your contract term. On the other hand, PCP agreements work more like a loan, where you borrow the full amount of the vehicle and repay the amount plus interest.
Used electric cars are best considered if you struggle to get approved for car finance because of poor credit history. Most lenders and finance providers will require you to have a good to excellent credit score in order to approve your application. Some finance may be available if you have bad credit, however you’ll typically be required to put down a larger deposit and/or pay more per month because of increased interest due to cover the risk of offering someone with bad credit finance.
Before you buy your electric car, read our all-in-one EV guide!
Whether you’re buying or leasing your electric car, it’s important to know what to expect when living with an EV.
Check out our complete PDF guide to electric cars to get clued up on EVs and be armed with all the information you need for a smooth sailing purchase.
Fed up with searching for the best deal? Moneyshake finds you the best electric car lease deals, simplifying your search for the perfect EV.