Before any car purchase, most consumers ask themselves a preliminary question: New or used?
Buying a new car can come with perks, particularly when shopping for an electric vehicle. A new car purchase is the only way to claim the EV tax credit.
That said, there are also plenty of benefits for buying a used or pre-owned car, electric or otherwise. Cars lose a significant portion of their value once they're driven off the dealership's lot for the first time, which makes used cars quite a bit less expensive than new ones.
Of course, there are many ways buying a used EV differs from other types of pre-owned car purchases.
The battery matters more with EVs
Battery health is important for any used car purchase. When looking at used EVs, though, the battery is critical.
Batteries in internal combustion engine, or ICE, vehicles typically last three years, according to Cars.com. Conversely, EV batteries typically come with eight-year warranties, and some models are designed to last even longer.
Even though EV batteries are built for the long haul, and your used EV likely isn't more than a decade old, it's still pertinent to check that the battery is in good condition.
There are fewer things that may need maintenance
When looking at a used ICE car, there's a long checklist of items you should inspect: the fuel pumps, timing belt, oil and air filters, transmission and many more items must be in working order for a driver to trust the vehicle.
None of these items are included in an EV's design, which means there are fewer maintenance issues that may come along with a used EV purchase. Instead of all these fuel-related parts, you'll only have to pay attention to one thing: the battery.
When shopping for a used electric car, you may consider a variety of all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric options. With the latter, there will, of course, be some gasoline components that you must take into consideration in addition to the battery health.
PHEV mileage may only tell a fraction of the story
The mileage on a vehicle is often one of the first statistics used car shoppers look at. In most cars, this is a straight-forward number, but there is one caveat when looking at certain types of EVs.
PHEVs can switch between electric mode and gasoline mode, which means only a portion of the car's mileage may have been completed using fuel. If a used EV has 80,000 miles on it, that doesn't mean there are 80,000 miles driven using the gasoline engine.
EVs depreciate faster than ICE vehicles
One of the biggest perks of buying a used vehicle is the marked down price. This is due to depreciation; new cars lose 20 percent or more of their value after the first year on the road. After that, they lose about 10 percent every four years, according to CARFAX. Depreciation makes a used car purchase significantly more affordable than a new car purchase.
Not all cars depreciate at the same rate. Some cars hold their value for much longer, which means sellers can earn back more of the money they spent on the vehicle when someone else buys it. EVs, however, depreciate quickly. Edmunds explained that a three-year-old Fiat 500e may be sold for 73 percent of its original price.
There are a number of potential reasons for the severe drop in value. One could be due to the rapid pace of technological advancement in EVs; when you're buying one just a few years old, it could be very different than the newest model. This isn't always the case with ICE cars.
This is unfortunate for the seller, who may feel like he or she lost money by investing in the car. But, it's good for the buyer, who may be getting a reliable car for a small fraction of the cost. For people who are wary about buying a used EV because they wouldn't be able to claim the tax credit, the reduced price could outweigh this downside.
The battery has its own warranty
New cars, electric and gasoline alike, typically have three-year warranties, or plans that last 36,000 miles (whichever comes first). Buyers can choose to buy an extended warranty, which can add protection to a vehicle for a number of years after the warranty ends. These can be offered through the manufacturer or a third-party source like a used car dealership, Edmunds explained.
Used car buyers often find out how much of the warranty is left on a vehicle before they purchase the car. EVs have similar warranties, and it's smart to inquire about these plans. However, EVs will also have a federally required warranty specifically for the battery. These last for eight years or 80,000 miles, which means these warranties may still be active well after the vehicle warranty has expired.
EVs sold in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont must follow California's zero-emission vehicle regulations, which includes an even longer warranty: a minimum of 10 years or 150,000 miles, according to Edmunds.
You'll need additional infrastructure at home
There are numerous differences when shopping for an EV compared to a fuel powered vehicle, but the distinctions continue after the purchase. When you buy an EV, used or new, you may also need to invest in charging infrastructure for your home. This isn't as complicated as it sounds. In fact, when you work with Webasto, buying and installing your charger is fast and simple. Learn more about choosing the right charger for your home by contacting Webasto.