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Second hand electric cars: are they worth buying?

If you’re considering buying an electric car, but are put off by the price, then you might be considering a used model. 

As more and more new electric vehicles hit the roads – there were 420,000 of them at the end of February, according to comparison website Next Green Car[1] - the secondhand market has also grown. 

This trend indicates it will be easier for drivers to drive home in a greener mode of transport, benefit from lower prices (although nothing is cheap in the current car sales market) as well as a growing second hand range to choose from. And just like new electric cars, used models are cheaper to run than conventional petrol or diesel cars[2].

With this all in mind, a used electric car could be well worth considering. But it’s slightly different to buying a second-hand diesel or petrol model. Here are some factors to bear in mind.

You won’t benefit from subsidies, but there are other savings

There’s currently no subsidy available to help you buy a used electric car. The government’s plug-in car grant - which it recently cut to £1,500 - only applies to new EVs. Also, whether you’re buying new or used, you won’t be able to benefit from government support to buy a home charger, as the previous grant scheme ended at the end of March 2022.

However, you’ll still benefit from other financial savings by buying a used electric car:

  • If you own a new or second-hand pure electric vehicle, you won’t have to pay any road tax.
  • Electric vehicles are cheaper to run and maintain than petrol and diesel cars. They have fewer moving parts, so you can avoid some of the bills associated with buying ageing petrol or diesel cars.
  • Fuel savings can be significant. Recent rises in petrol and diesel prices mean that fuel savings for switching to electric have hit a record high of £779 a year on average for petrol drivers or £738 for diesel drivers, according to research published in March[3].

The technology is constantly evolving

It’s great that the technology used in electric cars is improving all of the time. Each year, new models are produced that are capable of going further before they need recharging, making them an  increasingly appealing alternative.

The problem with this rapidly evolving technology, particularly the range and battery capacity, is that used cars can seem outdated and lose value as a result.

Battery capacity fades

Over the years, electric car batteries lose their capacity to charge to the max. For example, this reviewer – in an otherwise positive take on a used Nissan Leaf – tells how the vehicle’s range before charging has slipped from 80 miles to around 60 miles.

So, essentially, buying an older used electric cars could mean you’ll need to charge it more. 

You should be able to tell by the car’s charge display what the fully charged range is. 

You’ll need to check for charging cables

If you’re new to electric vehicles, then don’t forget to check which charging cables come with your used vehicle.

You’re likely to need a cable with a three-pin plug and one called a Type 2 connector, which is compatible with public charging points[4].

Also, check the car’s charging socket is in good condition and isn’t damaged.

Some models have leased batteries

Find out if your used electric car has a leased battery, as this could add to your costs: some of the first electric cars, like the popular Renault Zoe, were sold without a battery, which was leased separately at an additional cost. 

However, according to Energy Saving Trust, leasing a battery may mean you get full breakdown cover as standard and the vehicle should also be cheaper to buy[5].

It’s worth finding out what owners say

Although electric cars are becoming increasingly common, the size of the used market still pales in comparison to those for petrol or diesel models. 

So, you might need to do a little more homework to find out about each model. Go online and try and seek out owners of the electric car model you’re considering and find out what the common issues might be. Like with any used car models, they may highlight some recurring problems that you will need to watch out for. 

Do some of the same checks you would on any secondhand car

Like buying a second hand diesel or petrol car, there are some familiar checks worth doing to help ensure you don’t waste your money on an unreliable vehicle that will just drain your pocket.

So, for example, check the condition of the tyres, bodywork and brakes. Also, be sure to check over the paperwork thoroughly and confirm whether the car has been regularly serviced.

And, of course, take it for a test drive, especially if you haven’t driven an electric car before and are on the fence. You’ll find the driving experience is very different to a petrol or diesel car and you may not like the difference.

Like with any used vehicle, if you have any doubts, or the price appears too good to be true, then walk away and look elsewhere.

Check how much warranty is left

Some battery packs on new cars, including the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3, have a warranty of eight years. That means you might still be covered when buying second hand.

Options for second hand electric car buyers

So with all of the above in mind, the ultimate question is which used electric car should you choose? Here is a just a small selection for you to consider, though the range of options available is ever-growing*. 

BMW i3

A small electric car, which drivers often praise for its funky looks, Auto Express says used versions of the BMW i3 can be found from around £14,000[6].

It recommends that used buyers ensure software updates, that improve how the car charges and runs, have all been done prior to purchase.

Nissan Leaf 

One of the best known electric cars, which has been around since 2011, a used Nissan Leaf is a good starting option for second hand buyers, with prices ranging from £9,000.

Auto Express says that some early cars are now suffering from a reduced range, but that doesn’t mean the entire battery pack has to be replaced – you can just swap out the faulty cells, which is a relatively inexpensive process. 

Volkswagen e-Up

The first version of this electric city car hit showrooms back in 2013[7]. It then underwent some big changes in 2020, with a new battery almost double the size of its predecessor, to take its claimed range up to 159 miles.

The Electrifying website says that the vehicle is fun to drive and has just enough range to take you on longer journeys when needed.

What Car reports that a 2021 model with 2,000 miles on the clock can be found for £19,950[8].

These are just a handful of examples in a growing market.


*Rias cannot guarantee it will provide a car insurance quote for all models specified in this article