back to articles | August 31, 2023 | Greg Thibodeau

Categories: Tips & Insights For Car Buying Vehicle & Buying Research

Things to Consider Before Buying a Used Electric Car


When it comes to talking about electric vehicles, one can borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, "Rumors of [its] death are greatly exaggerated."

We've come a long way since the precarious dawn of the electric car depicted in the popular 2006 documentary playing on DIRECTV STREAM - Who Killed the Electric Car. Just a dozen years after the making of that cinematic cautionary tale, electric cars are widespread and commonplace. You can even buy one used. But, should you? And, if you do buy an electric car used, how do you know which one to buy?

When deciding whether or not to buy a used EV, there are two categories of considerations to keep in mind: points about used EV car ownership in general and points about which specific used EV you choose.

Things to Consider About EV Car Ownership

Before even shopping around for used EVs, it's important to be aware of certain things about EV ownership and, more particularly, used EV ownership no matter which one you end up buying.

1. Batteries have a limited lifespan

EV batteries don't last forever. According to fleet management and telematics company Geotab, EV batteries degrade by nearly two-and-a-half percent year over year.

While this amounts to an approximate 15- to 20-year lifespan vs. a three- to four-year lifespan for gas vehicle batteries, the cost to replace them is significantly higher (approximately $10,000 at today's prices.)

This is important to consider when comparing the overall cost-efficiency of electric- vs. gas-powered vehicles.

2. Charger access varies by location

Electric vehicles have not uniformly saturated the market like gas-powered vehicles. Different areas have a greater proportion of EVs than combustion-engine vehicles, while other areas simply have a smaller number of drivers than other areas.

The natural consequence of this is that EV charging stations are not uniformly available; some areas have more, some have less, others have none at all.

Therefore, when considering owning any EV, used or new, you need to know where you'll be able to charge it and whether the availability of charging stations near you is practical for your obligations and lifestyle.

3. Maintenance may involve car tech assistance and new parts

Basic maintenance requirements for an EV are much different than those for a gas-powered vehicle. While an EV has fewer moving parts than a combustion-engine vehicle and doesn't require transmission fluid and oil changes, filter replacements and such, the maintenance it does require can't be performed, or at least not practically, at home or your local mechanic's garage but at the dealership itself.

So, even though EV maintenance is required much less frequently, it is generally disproportionately more expensive.

4. Tax credits are not available for all EVs

The IRS offers tax credits for new EV purchases, but what about used ones? In fact, there are some IRS tax credits for used EVs, but be sure you know what the qualifications, limitations and requirements are before assuming you'll receive one for the car you buy.

To be eligible for a tax credit on a used EV you purchase, you must meet these requirements:

  • The EV must have cost you under $25,000.
  • The EV must be two years old at minimum.
  • The EV must have at least a seven-kilowatt-hour battery capacity.
  • You have not claimed a used vehicle tax credit for any sort of vehicle, electric or otherwise, within the three years previous.
  • You didn't purchase the EV from a private seller but from a dealer.
  • You don't currently have the vehicle available for resale.

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Used EV

Once you've decided that buying a used EV is right for you, the next thing to determine is which used EV to buy. This requires researching used EVs, and when you do, here are some of the key points to consider.

1. Maintenance history

Pretty much all used vehicles have undergone some measure of maintenance, and it's important, before buying a specific used vehicle, that you know the history of that vehicle's maintenance.

Besides wanting to know whether a used vehicle has been properly maintained, you also want to know if it's ever needed any serious repairs. With a used electric vehicle, this includes being aware of any relevant recalls or software upgrades.

2. Battery health and charging rate

The rate of degradation of EV batteries makes it essential that you know what the battery charge remaining is on any used EV you're considering buying.

You may also want to know the charging rate of the particular battery an EV contains. Charging EV batteries takes time, and that time will be different for different EVs. You just want to be sure to factor that time consideration into the relative practicality of any EV for your unique scheduling constraints.

3. Battery warranty

There's a federally-mandated, minimum warranty on EV batteries of 100,000 miles or eight years. In some states, like California, those minimums are even higher.

Before buying a used EV, you need to know how long that warranty remains active and whether or not the vehicle manufacturer will honor it if the vehicle is sold to a new buyer. Alternatively, some manufacturers will offer used EVs with what's known as a Certified Pre-owned (CPO) Warranty.

4. Desired range

With EVs, range refers to how far you can drive on a single charge. When considering an EV for yourself, you need to consider your own driving demands and desires.

Will you be using it only to commute to work and back, or maybe for general errands as well? Or will you be using it for weekend getaways and road trips too? The greater the range you require of your EV, the more you can expect to pay for it, used or new.

5. Accessories included

When you buy a new EV, you get all the accessories you need with your purchase, even if you have to pay a bit extra for some of them. When you buy a used EV, however, the seller may or may not include those accessories with the purchase or even have certain essential ones available.

Some of these accessories, like charging cables, will be necessary to operate the EV, while others, like a home charging pod, may be necessary to make EV ownership practical and sustainable for you personally.


Ultimately, buying a used EV can be much more affordable in the short- and long-term than buying a new EV, and it can be much more practical than owning a gas-powered vehicle used or new. All you need is to know what to look for.