It’s clear that electric cars are one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and create a greener future. But new electric vehicles are expensive, often costing more than their petrol or diesel equivalent. It’s currently more expensive to manufacture electric cars, and that added cost is passed onto the consumer. This is gradually changing, as the industry grows and becomes more established. More affordable EV models are now available, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe. However, the cost of purchasing a brand new electric vehicle is still more than many can afford.

One solution lies in the second hand market. As with conventional vehicles, buying a second hand electric car can save you huge amounts of money. We’re here to share our tips on navigating the used EV market, and help you find a real bargain.

How much can I save by going second hand?

Second hand EVs are rapidly becoming more readily available – and they are surprisingly affordable, as shown in the table below.

Model Current second hand price (average)
Citroen C-Zero £4,000
Renault Zoe £6,000
Nissan Leaf £8,000
Vauxhall Ampera £9,000
BMW i3 £20,000
BMW i8 £65,000

Studies have shown that, in many cases, a second hand electric car can work out cheaper to own than a conventional car, due to the overall running costs. Depending on usage, electric cars can cost significantly less money to run than petrol and diesel cars, especially if you charge your vehicle at home. On top of that, the tax and maintenance costs are also much lower. In summary, over a few years of usage, you could easily earn back the initial cost of the car in savings.

What about battery performance?

When electric vehicles first hit the market, there was a lot of scepticism about how long the lithium ion batteries would last. Older technology with lithium ion batteries – such as digital cameras – would notoriously loose battery health over a few years of charging, and there were fears that EVs would suffer a similar issue. However, the technology of lithium ion batteries has been greatly improved since these early days, and battery degradation is not causing the problems people predicted. In fact, evidence shows that the latest generation of EVs rarely need to have their batteries replaced even after years of use. For example, Nissan Leaf Taxis with over 150,000 miles on their clocks still operate with 98% battery efficiency.

If you’re still concerned about this, it’s worth noting that many EV manufacturers issue 8-year warranties on their batteries, which is transferrable to new owners if the car is sold on. If you’re thinking of buying a used electric car, check out the warranties that come with it.

Renault offers a battery lease policy. Although this is an added monthly cost, it gives you complete peace of mind. They promise to replace or repair your battery if it falls below 75% efficiency, and they have various payment plans you can choose from.

What type of EV should I buy?

BEVs (Battery Electrics Vehicles) are pure electric, and the future of electric driving. They will give you a much better range than other types of EV. The second hand market for these cars is relatively new and small, but continues to grow with each year that electric cars become more popular. If your EV will be your primary car, a BEV is probably the best choice.

The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) gives you many of the environmental benefits of an electric vehicle with a back-up petrol engine you can use for longer journeys. The PHEV typically has less range than the full battery option, and if you end up using the petrol engine you won’t get all the cost-saving efficiencies of having an electric car. However, these cars have been around for a while now, so there are more used models available.

What should I look for in a used EV?

Many of the rules that apply to buying conventional second hand cars also apply to EVs. For example, the lower the mileage the better. You can find a real bargain if you target former test fleet vehicles, which come off service with as little as 20,000 miles on their clocks. You’ll also want to find a car with a fully stamped-up service history, sound electrics and no major faults. Ask questions about its service and accident history, suspension and overall performance. Insurance data shows that electric vehicles tend to be driven more carefully than conventional vehicles, so you are less likely to run into issues with wear and tear. In general, an electric vehicle will typically have covered fewer miles and been driven more gently than its petrol or diesel counterpart.

If you can, it’s worth asking the previous owner about their charging habits, as this can affect battery performance. Look for a car that has received plenty of long, slow, overnight charges at home over one that has received two rapid charges per day for a year. Rapid charging – although a useful stop-gap if you need to top up on the go – can degrade the battery if used excessively.

Also check your prospective vehicle’s charging capabilities. The current industry standard is the seven-pin charging lead, but older models only come with two or five-pin leads and sockets. If you’re planning to get a home charging point installed, make sure you buy a vehicle that’s compatible with it.

We recommend only buying from a trusted EV specialist dealer. They will have diagnostic tools and tests to check the general health of your second hand car.

How do I prepare for the switch to electric?

We highly recommend getting a home charging unit installed so that you can charge your vehicle overnight at home. You need to have off-street parking to get a unit installed, and you must be a home-owner or have permission from your landlord.

The government is really keen to encourage people to make the switch to electric, and they’re offering a grant that can save you up to £500 when you install a home charging point. You need to provide proof of ownership of your EV to be eligible for this grant, so you can’t apply until after you’ve bought your second hand car. However, this is something that’s well worth keeping in mind.

Charging at home is the most reliable and affordable way to charge your electric vehicle, but there are other ways. Many workplaces now have EV charging points, and the public network of charging points is growing every year.

Where can I buy a second hand electric car?

This is a relatively new market, but it’s rapidly growing. There are some websites that specialise solely in selling used EVs, so check these out:

  • Next Green Car
  • Eco Cars
  • Eco Cars 4 Sale

You can also find good EV deals in the usual places, such as AutoTrader and Motors.co.uk.

You can find a wealth of information in online forums and groups, where EV drivers share their knowledge and experience. If you have a question about buying second hand, these communities will be eager to provide you with the answers:

Prices can vary a great deal, so don’t be put off if you initially find cars out of your price range. It’s worth hunting around and comparing the market because there are plenty of bargains out there. When you’re ready to make an offer, challenge the price on the tag – this is a buyer’s market, and most sellers will be happy to make you a deal.

More questions?

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