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Buying a used electric car

Carlton Boyce / 24 January 2017

Buying a second-hand electric car makes a lot of sense – but check the battery!

An electric car at a charging point

With higher-than-average bought-new depreciation – and much lower running costs – than conventional cars, a secondhand electric vehicle (EV) can make an awful lot of sense.

They have fewer moving parts to check, too. But the key thing is the battery.

EV batteries last for around a decade or 150,000 miles. But they have to be regularly charged and discharged – find out from a seller if this has happened.

Check the battery

Check the battery is still performing as it should. This means taking a much longer test drive than usual in order to drain the battery almost completely, after which you’ll need to hang around the vendor’s house or garage to check that it charges properly too.

However, it probably won’t fully recharge; while the battery should have a working lifespan of at least ten years or 150,000, most owners report losing about 10 percent of their car’s battery capacity after three years and around 30,000 miles. 

However, if a battery could do with replacing, the cost of new ones is falling all the time – and some manufacturers lease them.

Learn more about electric cars

Check with the manufacturer

You could also ask the vehicle manufacturer to check it for you. 

The problem is that while every car maker guarantees their batteries for at least five years (with the exception of Smart, which only offers three), most point out that a gradual reduction in battery capacity is unavoidable, even on batteries that you lease - and this might reduce the range of your EV to the point at which it no longer meets your needs as it gets a bit older.

Car buying: What is a PCP?

Don't forget your normal checks

Other than that, your checks should mirror those you would do for any other car. 

So you want to see a fully stamped-up service record, a V5 registration document with the current owner’s name and address on it, and an HPI check showing that it is clear of finance and has never been stolen or written off.

Top tips for buying a secondhand car

If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.