How To Buy a Used Electric Car

Used Electric Vehicles Will Soon Be on the Market

The 2011 Nissan Leaf is an electric vehicle that will soon hit the used csr market. Photo (c) Nissan

There's been a lot of interest in electric cars lately but the focus has been on new electric cars. Well, this is a page for used electric cars so now might be the time to consider buying one.

Why? They're dropping in value. In most states you're not going to get the tax credit associated with new electric vehicles, but it's probably going to be worth it and you can probably get your hands on a relatively new electric vehicle.

CNW Research of Bradenton, Ore., says typically 6 to 8% of new car buyers experience remorse about their purchase decision in the first month after buying a new car. That means within less than a year there are probably going to be used electric vehicles on the market.

Steps to take before buying a used electric car

  • Determine which is best for you: Let's look at the Chevrolet Volt vs. the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf is a pure electric car and has a range of about 100 miles (depending on conditions and driving habits.) The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle with a backup gas engine. The two combined will deliver about 300 miles. The Volt will work better as a primary vehicle while the Leaf works best as a second, commuter car.
  • Where Are You Driving It: This is not so much a question of distance but of location. Do you like to go hiking regularly? Well, if you run out of juice in the woods, you can't walk to an electrical outlet for a can of power. Also, relatives you visit are only going to have outlets that provide a trickle charge.
  • Call the New Car Dealer: Say, for example, you're looking to buy a used Nissan Leaf. See if you can get on a waiting list for a used one. Enterprising dealers should have them. The dealer may require a small deposit (say $100). It's your call if you think that's worthwhile.
  • Do your price research: Consult Edmunds.com and KBB.com and split the difference. Keep in mind that owners of new electric cars got huge tax credits from the government. Used car electric vehicles are not going to get government handouts.
  • Look at where you live: Don't be surprised but some people actually buy used cars and then don't have the proper place to park them every night (i.e. SUVs too wide for their garages). You will need a place to plug in your electric vehicle every evening. You might be out of luck if you live in an apartment building unless public charging stations are nearby.
  • Determine the Warranty: See what coverage is extended to your vehicle once it is bought used (or certified pre-owned). Batteries on hybrid vehicles, for example, have warranties of at least 8 years and 100,000 miles (whichever comes first).
  • Info about batteries in used electric vehicles: Heat is harder on the longevity of a battery than cold - something to consider when buying a used electric vehicle in Phoenix, Ariz., vs. Portland, Maine. The battery in the Chevrolet Volt has about a 10-year shelf life, but that doesn't mean it's going to fail on its 10th anniversary - it will lose capacity as it ages; and, both age and the number of cycles the battery are put through make a difference. Just because a used electric vehicle has low mileage doesn't mean the battery is going to last longer.
  • Rent One: Hertz is going to be renting electric vehicles. Check out the Hertz website for availability. It will give you a taste of what it's like to live with an electric vehicle for a weekend before you make the plunge and buy a used electric vehicle.
  • Get To Know an Existing Owner: This is common with owners of classic cars. They are always getting approached by people who want to buy their cars. Do you know somebody who owns an electric vehicle? Tell them you will buy the car at the Kelley Blue Book private sale value (assuming it passes inspection) minus 5 percent.

One last piece of advice: remember you still have to follow all the normal steps when it comes to buying a used electric car. Make sure you test drive it. Get it inspected. Obtain a vehicle history, too. Used electric cars are just like other used cars.