Buying a used electric vehicle? Read this first


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Used electric vehicles (EVs) are more popular than ever – according to research from COX Automotive, used electric vehicle sales increased by 32% during the first three months of 2023. If you’re in the market for a used EV, you’re (clearly) not alone – we’re here to help you make the best decision with this handy guide.

Battery health is a critical factor when buying a used electric car since it affects the vehicle’s range and overall performance. If you’re looking at a used electric vehicle, consider requesting a battery health report to understand how the battery’s doing. 

EV batteries degrade over time, so you shouldn’t necessarily be looking for a perfect score, but try and find something with high battery capacity. For example, Nissan expects the battery of a Nissan Leaf to degrade about 20% over five years, effectively dropping the car’s EPA-estimated range from 72 to 57.6 miles. The better the battery, the better the car’s performance. You should also research the manufacturer’s warranty policies on battery replacement or repairs. Many automakers offer warranties that cover battery replacement for a certain number of miles and/or years.

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Covering the Basics: History, Mileage & Condition

When evaluating a used electric vehicle, check the:

  1. Vehicle history: Check the vehicle’s CarFax®, which includes any accidents, repairs, and maintenance records. This information can give you a better understanding of the car’s condition. 
  2. Mileage: Although electric vehicles generally have fewer moving parts than gas-powered cars, mileage still matters. An EV with 100,000 miles might have more battery degradation than a less-used vehicle, negatively affecting its range and performance.
  3. Interior and exterior condition: Check for any signs of damage or wear and tear, both inside and outside the vehicle. Make a note to check the undercarriage for rust and corrosion, which can be particularly expensive to replace. A used EV with a well-maintained interior and no signs of exterior damage is more likely to provide a trouble-free ownership experience.

Learn more about Carvana’s best cars of 2022.

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Installing an EV Charger: A Quick Aside

Many EV owners will want to install an EV charger at home for easy accessibility. If you’re one of them, you should know that EV charging is typically split out into levels: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging (typically split into DC Fast Charging and Supercharging). 

All EVs in North America use the same connectors for Level 1 and Level 2 charging. Level 1 charging uses a standard 120-volt outlet, whereas Level 2 charging equipment needs to be installed separately. However, Level 2 can charge a used electric vehicle about ten times faster than Level 1. As a result, many EV owners choose to have a Level 2 Charger installed at their residence. 

Level 3 charging either uses a DC Fast Charger or a Tesla Supercharger. They’re price-prohibitive for most consumers, but can charge up 3-20 miles in a minute, whereas Level 2 charging can only deliver 12-80 miles per hour. That’s a significant difference!

For most people, a Level 2 Charger works perfectly well. If you can plan out charging ahead of time, even a Level 1 Charge can work. If you do decide to spring for a Level 3 Charger, keep in mind that you’ll still want to use Level 1 and Level 2 Chargers from time to time – using only Level 3 Charging can expedite EV battery degradation

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Finding a Used Electric Vehicle that Suits Your Lifestyle

Ensuring your used EV matches your lifestyle is just as important as getting a good deal. Here are a couple of things to look into:

  1. Vehicle Range: Determine whether the car’s range meets your daily driving needs. The average American drives between 30-40 miles a day, which plenty of reliable commuter EVs – like the Nissan Leaf – can handle easily. However, if you like taking road trips or dread the thought of charging your EV frequently, you may want to grab something like a Hyundai Ioniq 6, which can travel over 300 miles on a single charge.
  2. Charging infrastructure: Research the availability of charging stations in your area, as well as any associated expenses. For example, if you live in a city with a well-developed charging network, a used EV with a less extensive range may suit your needs just fine. On the other hand, if you live in an area with limited charging station availability, you might want to opt for something with more range, or even to install an EV charger in your home.
  3. Incentives: Look into any available government incentives or rebates for buying a used electric car, like EV tax credits that can help owners save thousands on their taxes. These incentives can help offset the purchase price and make owning an EV more affordable.

Learn more about Carvana’s best-selling cars of 2022.

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Charge Up Your Knowledge: Crowd-Sourcing Opinions

When evaluating a used electric car, it’s essential to educate yourself about the specific make and model you’re considering. Research its features, performance, reliability, and customer reviews to make an informed decision. Additionally, be aware of any common issues or recalls associated with the particular year and model you’re looking at. 

Here are some other great resources:

  • Kelley Blue Book (KBB). KBB is a great place to check car values and reviews. 
  • Edmunds. Similar to KBB, Edmunds has a comprehensive suite of reviews for almost any car. 
  • Donut Media. One of the most popular car channels out there, Donut Media covers everything from reviews to specific car components.
  • Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports asks consumers for a $39/year membership fee, but in exchange, members get great user-focused reviews for almost anything anyone could think of buying. 

It’s also worth browsing websites like Reddit for customer reviews, or looking at reviews on a car-selling site. Between published media resources and first-hand owner accounts, you can get a great idea of whether a certain used electric vehicle will support your lifestyle.

Learn about 2024’s EV tax credits.

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Inspector Gadget: Remember to Have Your Used EV Inspected!

No matter where you buy your used electric vehicle or how confident you are in the manufacturer, having a trained professional you trust carry out an inspection post-purchase is a good idea. A trained mechanic can identify potential issues that most consumers would overlook.

Learn how to calculate your car’s real value.

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Recap: Your Used Electric Vehicle Evaluation Checklist

Let’s recap by giving you a quick checklist to follow when evaluating a used EV. Remember to research:

  1. Battery health: The higher the vehicle’s battery capacity, the better.
  2. Vehicle history: Request a thorough vehicle history report, like the vehicle’s CarFax®, to assess the car’s condition.
  3. Mileage: Be cautious of high-mileage EVs, as battery degradation may be more significant.
  4. Range: Make sure the car’s range aligns with your daily driving needs.
  5. Charging infrastructure: Research the availability and costs of charging stations in your area.
  6. Incentives: Look for government incentives or rebates to help offset the purchase price.
  7. Inspection: Have the car professionally inspected to uncover any hidden issues.

Armed with the knowledge and insights we’ve provided, you’ll be ready to confidently navigate the used electric car market and make an informed decision for your next purchase. Happy driving!

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