Like shopping for any used car, you’ll want to check an electric vehicle’s crash and repair history, along with the odometer. But the most important thing to know before buying an EV: the state of its battery.
Looking at zero-emission options,
Nissan Leaf ($13,541)
BMW i3 ($21,000)
Tesla Model S ($48,000)
Chevrolet Bolt EV ($22,500)
Tesla Model 3 ($42,000)
Fiat 500e ($9,200)
Volkswagen e-Golf ($15,000)
Tesla Model X ($71,000)
Chevrolet Spark EV ($10,100)
Kia Soul EV ($14,000)
This list also shows how young the used EV market is. The Leaf first came out in 2010 with under 75 miles of range. The BMW i3, the company’s first EV, came out in 2013. Tesla released its first car in 2008.
But it can feel like “you have to have a Ph.D. in statistics” to understand if you’re getting a good deal or buying a car about to plummet in range, Case said.
Here are some tips so you won’t regret buying a used electric vehicle.
1. Do a battery and range check
When buying a gas-powered used car, you probably first check the odometer. But when it comes to EVs, the battery is most important. And a battery’s health isn’t always reflected in the number of miles driven. An EV with high range could have been overcharged or kept in a cold climate. So even a car with a low odometer reading could have dismal range.
Recurrent, the battery analysis tool, helps uncover the mysteries hidden within the power train. The company provides free reports for the following cars as of mid October:
Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model Y
Tesla Model S
Tesla Model X
Head to the “
The website will ask you to use your phone to take photos of the dashboard while the car is in eco-mode with all the heaters and AC options off. You’ll send in photos of the battery percent listed, range estimate, and odometer reading from the dash. Then Recurrent puts together and sends you a report.
2. Consider where you’ll be driving
Weather and climate can affect your battery performance. If your car is going to be in a super cold or hot place, that’s going to shorten its battery life.
If you need a certain amount of range and you live in Minnesota, you need to make sure the EV’s range won’t drop too low when the mercury drops.
3. Think ahead
With Recurrent’s tool, you get a projection of how your battery will fare for the next three years. If it looks like the range will drop too low for your commute, it’s probably not a good fit.
If you’re considering an older EV for the immediate savings, think about what it’ll be like to constantly charge when the range plummets in the coming years.
If you’re inheriting an old battery, you’ll likely need a new one when the car hits the 10-year mark. It’ll cost at least $10,000 for the battery itself, but you’ll need to pay for service and labor. You can set up a battery replacement through the manufacturer (like Tesla or Nissan) or work with a repair shop that does battery swaps. Ideally, to make things easier, the service center would also be able to sell you a new battery.
4. Consider resale value
Recurrent compiles data from almost 6,000 EVs across the country, with information on how much most models usually sell for. Its guides could give you a good sense of how much that Chevy Bolt will be worth after a few years.
5. Shop at specialty dealers
Throughout the country (well, more so in EV-friendly states like California and New York) there are dealerships that specialize in EVs. You’ll get more information about battery stats, charging recommendations, and general EV expertise compared to traditional dealerships.
The most popular states this year (so far) for EV purchases are Texas, California, Illinois, Florida, and New York, according data from
Recurrent works with 25 EV dealers, such as
Veloz has a
6. Dig up everything
If you’re buying an EV through a friend or individual sale, try to get as much info about the car’s life as possible. Was it charged daily, putting a strain on the battery? Or was it only charged weekly?
Did it spend winters in upstate New York or summers in Phoenix, where the battery was exposed to extreme temperatures? Was it part of a recall, like the
You’ll want to know it all, so ask questions even if it seems mundane. It’ll help you paint a picture of the car’s battery health.
7. Compare to other EVs
Tesla’s used car site doesn’t provide a lot of details on the car you’re about to buy. You can see how many miles are on the odometer, if it had previous repairs, and what model year it is.
But for this
“Transparency reduces that uncertainty,” Case said.
So you’ll want to compare it to similar Teslas in similar conditions to get a sense of how its battery has aged.
8. Check the warranty
Most EVs offer a battery warranty that covers at minimum
In a year of regular EV use, you should only lose about 1 to 2 percent of the original charge levels.
9. Wait it out
Each year, more EVs are entering the market. Already there are
That’s partly why Recurrent’s Case said he created the free battery reports last year. “The new prices on some of these cars are crazy,” he said. “Now middle- and lower-income [drivers] can actually buy something and take advantage of the fuel cost and environmental benefits.”