Are Used Electric Cars Any Good? An Honest Buyer’s Guide

Are Used Electric Cars Any Good? An Honest Buyer’s Guide

Are used electric cars any good? Are you in for a financial crisis when you get a hand me down electric vehicle (EV)? What are things to look out for when buying one?

First off, used electric cars are a good purchase if you buy one from an owner who obviously knows how to take care of his vehicle. A better option is to go to a trusted dealer who specializes in used EVs.

used electric cars for sale agreement form

The bottom line: get a well maintained EV with no record of ever being in an accident or getting a ticket. The fresher, cleaner it is, the better. 

Price should only be a secondary consideration at this point.

How can you tell if that person maintained their vehicle well? Tangible proof of care and maintenance provided to an EV is evident in the owner’s logs with complete dates and details of things checked, repaired or replaced.

If you’re seriously thinking about buying a used EV, make it a point to get the owner’s logs. That’s a good way to avoid getting a lemon.

But then again, you can always file a lemon lawsuit against the seller if the worst comes to the worst. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. 

No one wants that.

Here’s an honest buyer’s guide.

Good Reasons Why You Should Buy Used Instead Of Brand New

A used EV is a solid choice for many reasons, but you really need to do your homework if you’re hoping to get a good one.

Brand new EVs are cheaper nowadays. That price depreciates when sold second-hand. This is because the original owner can take advantage of the U.S. federal tax credit. State and local credits apply where it is applicable.

We also have to take the general disinterest most people have when it comes to EVs. Although a practical and acceptable choice, EVs are still considered unpopular car choices. Most dealers also don’t know how to sell their EVs properly. The poor sales reports on these wonderful machines lead to dealers offering them up at discounted prices.

Rapid value depreciation is also one of the factors leading to EVs getting sold at very low prices.

handing over the keys to the new owner

Until the buying public sees EVs as the best car they can get today, the prices will stay at the minimum. Once everyone gets on board, we’ll see EV prices shoot up. This applies to both used and brand new electric vehicles.

Yeah, it pays to be an early bird.

Here are some really good reasons why you should get used electric cars instead of buying brand new EVs or readily acceptable internal combustion vehicles. We’ve also thrown in some considerations you should make before handing over your hard-earned cash to the seller.


The biggest reason why anyone would want to buy a used car (EV or internal combustion) is the price. There is no doubt that used cars are significantly priced lower than their brand new counterparts. This is because the original owner takes into account years of use and wear and tear.

That and they just want to get rid of their vehicle, so they can get your money into their pockets.

That’s a good thing. Desperation to sell can lead to massive discounts for you, the buyer. 


You should also consider the vehicle’s age to impact your buying decision. Used electric cars have been around for more than a decade now. The older they are, the more wear and tear present on the car. 

Pick an EV that’s only been around for three years or less for best results. 


Last but not least, take into consideration the condition of the vehicle. This is where a cursory look, a more thorough inspection, and a final in-depth check on the car’s present state is important.

Check with the local DMV for any outstanding tickets or issues with the vehicle before going through the condition inspection. This will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Do your research on the vehicle you are planning to buy and bring a checklist during the physical check. Ask for a test drive. Let the owner drive it to see his/her driving habits. This will give you a better idea of how the EV was handled during the time they owned it.

Get behind the wheel and have a feel of how the EV drives. Take note of any issues you encounter while driving the car.

Take note of anything you find that isn’t to your liking. Bring this up with the owner. Don’t hesitate to mention minor chipping, small damages to the body or frame, or even non-functioning lights. Every little detail should be noted and brought up. You can use this data to bring the price further down.

Last but not least: Stay away from sellers who seem to be in a hurry to dispose of their EV. The only reason why you should get it is if they slash the price off to at least 30 percent of its original cost brand new. 

And make sure it’s cleared by the DMV!

Benefits Of Buying And Owning A Used Electric Car

What are the benefits of purchasing used electric cars? We’ve already had an initial discussion of why it’s best for you to buy an electric car. Now let’s list down a few more benefits to help you with your buying decision.

Low Cost Of Purchase Over A New Electric Vehicle Or Equivalent Gas-Powered Car

Car prices immediately dive down after they leave the showroom by at least 10 to 20 percent. Used for a year, these prices are cut even further down. Even better, the price difference between Gas-powered cars and EVs are massive.

save now button

This is due to EVs still not being the top choice for car buyers. Although there has been a significant rise in EV popularity, it is still not enough to warrant die-hard gear heads from switching over.

The only reason why you shouldn’t buy a used EV is if your credit is good and you don’t have the cash to make an outright purchase. Buying a used EV might be more inexpensive in the long run but choose a brand new EV if you can make small incremental monthly payments if you have that option.

Low Costs Of Maintenance And Service In The Future.

EVs may seem like a complicated mess inside that can be intimidating for new car buyers but they are pretty simple and straight-forward in their manner of operation and maintenance. 

The most important thing you’ll have to worry about is making sure you have batteries in good condition and tires designed to take the abuse of daily road use.

EV cabins are equipped with the same seats as conventional cars so any wear and tear found inside should be easy to replace. If the damage is big enough, you can always call the manufacturer for a replacement part. There are also after-market dealers providing anything you can think of for your EV.

For those buying used electric cars, make sure you buy one from a reputable dealer or someone who has kept their owner’s logs as proof of the preventive maintenance and repairs done on their EV. A well-cared-for EV has little to no problems saving you from headaches down the road.

Charging At Home And/Or At Public Charging Stations Is Cheaper

Fossil fuel is out. Electricity is in.

Your EV runs on electricity. You can plug this into a specified charging point and power your batteries up at a lower cost than pumping fuel at a gas station.

There are more charging stations popping up in cities that have embraced the EV car culture so finding one should be as easy as locating a conventional gas station. In fact, Tesla is now in direct competition with fueling stations in the US alone. 

As a better alternative, think of every home along your path as a potential place to refuel your EV. So, you basically have a gas station every step of the way. With that in mind, you’ll never be afraid of running out of juice and not having a place to recharge.

Don’t be fooled, though. We still use fossil fuels to this day for powering up our homes and charging stations, but our lessened dependence on gas or petrol definitely has an effect on our planet’s diminishing resources. Multiplied a thousand times over, this can have a significant impact on our carbon footprint.

For best results, use solar panels to augment your home’s power supply or choose charging stations that also have these equipped.

You Don’t Have To Look For A Gas Station

Your home is your charging station. So, whenever you’re low on “fuel” just plug in and wait for the batteries to fill up enough to let you reach your destination without any problems.

Nissan Leaf Charging

Ran out of fuel while en route to the office? Is there another house nearby? Will they let you plug in if you pay them? Gas station problems solved! Put your EV in neutral and push your car over to your neighbors and charge.

Don’t make this a habit, though. Draining your batteries completely can have a serious effect on your fuel cell’s ability to store and expend electricity stored in it.

You’re Doing The Planet A Big Favor

Are you concerned about our planet’s welfare? You are? 

Then you should go out and buy yourself an EV. It doesn’t matter if it’s brand new or used, an EV is an EV.

EVs have no emissions. There’s no harmful smoke introduced to the environment like that of internal combustion engines. Electricity can be had for very minimal costs to power your EV up. This essentially cuts your carbon footprint immensely.

In this time and age, caring for our environment should be the highest priority. We only have one world to live in, and we’re seriously depleting our natural resources with our constant demand for fossil fuels.

Alternative energy sources are abundant. We have solar energy, wind energy, thermal energy, and tidal energy sources. Technology has even reached a point where kinetic energy can be transformed into a viable source of electricity.

There are no more excuses to continue causing the planet damage. We need to cut our carbon footprint down to zero (or as near as possible to zero) today to save our planet for our future generations.

Do yourself a favor. Do your Planet a favor. Get an EV.

What To Look For In A Used EV?

What do you need to look for in a used EV? This is an honest buyer’s guide. Some of the things listed below will hit close to home. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment.

Save Your Money. Do Your Research

Every purchase you make should start out with a little research in mind. An EV costs a lot of money. You have to make sure the vehicle you buy fits your budget and lifestyle. 

Will you be using it for long-distance driving, or are you just planning to use it within the city? Is there a charging station near you? How many people are expected to ride the car regularly? Is it large enough to accommodate everyone? What about the boot? Is there enough space for cargo? Is it within your budget?

These are things you have to ask yourself before going ahead and purchasing used electric cars.

Just because it feels like a solid deal doesn’t always mean you got the better end of the transaction.

There are many ways to conduct research on any of the used electric cars in the market.

You can read articles online, locate a user’s manual, and scan the pages, talk to owners of the same type of EV, go to conventions, and/or visit the local dealer. Any piece of information is vital in making an educated purchase.

Save money. Do your research.

Order To Go, Not For Show

Most first-time car buyers make the mistake of buying a car just because it looks good. Looks can only go so far. Beauty is only skin deep.

What matters is what lies underneath.

Do you have a good looking car that’s just going to end up as a very expensive paperweight?

EVs in the past didn’t have a great range. Nor did they offer the reliability we now enjoy as a standard feature on our EVs today. They were, more or less, novelty items during that period in time.

That novelty has worn off, and now people see the potential EVs pose and their functionality.

If you’re buying one, get the one that offers the most range so you can enjoy it more and use it for longer periods between charging stations or times.

Energy Efficient Or Battery Vampire?

How fast do those batteries last after a full charge? 

The best time to check this is when you’re behind the wheel of an EV you intend to buy. Make sure you ask the owner to give it a full charge before you get there. 


Keep an eye on the battery meter once you start the vehicle and take it out on the road. Take note of how quickly the batteries are depleted. This could be a sign of worn batteries. This is an easy fix. Just replace the battery.

Other than that, you might have a wiring issue on hand. You will need to have the wiring harness replaced to take full advantage of the batteries stored within the car. Check the logs and find out if the batteries have been replaced since the time the first owner bought it. Check to see if there are any wiring repairs done also.

If none are present, buy the car at a lesser price. You can mention this to the seller, so he’ll give you an additional price cut.

As soon as you have the EV in your hands, replace the batteries, or have the wires fixed.

Don’t Get Tired Now, Check The Tires

Check the tires. Are they new? Are they still in a usable state? Tires aren’t cheap. Ask the seller for an additional price cut if his car has worn tires.

You can do the nickel test to check the grooves.

While you’re at it, check the windshield wipers. That’s another point you can deduct if the car has worn wipers.

Buy From A Dealer Instead Of A First Time Owner

Private owners often appraise their vehicles based on their emotional attachment to their EV. Stay away from those people. You’ll end up haggling endlessly with no guarantee on the soundness of the vehicle.

If you can, go to a local dealer who specializes in selling EVs. You’re more likely to get a good car 

Think of it as a nice trade-off between getting a cheaper EV from a first-time owner with no warranty and getting it for a higher price from a dealer but with peace of mind included.

Honest Buyer’s Checklist

Ok, we’ve already discussed many things about used electric cars. Now here’s the honest buyer’s guide checklist.

Are The Batteries Good?

Your EV runs on the electricity stored in your batteries. Bad batteries lead to EVs stalling. Batteries cost money to replace. Since you’re buying an EV and batteries are essential to the car’s operation, ask the owner/dealer to supply you with a serviceable one.

Better yet, have it tested to see how far along in its half-life it already is. Ask the seller to supply you with a good battery before sealing the deal.

Do You Feel Safe Inside The Car?

EVs have a high safety rating. But how do you really feel about the car once you’re sat inside? Check to make sure all seatbelts are still installed and the airbags have never been deployed. 

What About The A/C And The Heater?

One of the things used car buyers often fail to check is the A/C and heater system. Sure, it might seem a bit like a given that these systems work, but it still won’t hurt to check. No one likes driving a car that is either too hot or too cold when the weather calls for some intervention.

Never Get Tired Of Checking The Tires, Tires, Tires, Tires And Tires

That’s five times. You need to check all five tires. 

Wait, what? Five? Five tires? Doesn’t a car only have four?

Well, not if you count the spare tire in the boot.

Check the condition of all tires, make sure they are still in good condition because replacing worn tires cost money. 

Is The Interior In Good Condition?

Sometimes the condition of the interior tells you a lot as to how the car was treated by the previous owner. Look out for signs of water damage. These are tell-tale signs that the car has undergone a massive overhaul due to it getting flooded.

Definitely stay away from a car whose interior looks like an ashtray. That stink will stay inside forever!

There are many used cars that look so nice outside because they’ve been treated to a wax and detailing job before being shown to the prospective buyer. The sad thing is too many of these cars are rotten inside.

Basically, what we’re getting at is this: does the overall condition of the interior match the mileage on the odometer?

Are The Windows Working?

Roll the windows up and down. Are they working? Are they operating smoothly? Do they seal the car up nice and tight? These are little things most buyers ignore. And often regret later on.

Can you see clearly through the windows? Are there any scratches, stains or other foreign artifacts obscuring your view outside?

Check the de-foggers if they also work. A misted up rear window is a road hazard.

Gauge The Gauges. Are They Showing The Right Data?

All the gauges on the dash should be working. You need all of them to tell you if there’s anything wrong with the car while you drive. This is extremely important for used electric cars because what’s shown on the meter can be the difference between driving with a smile home and getting stuck in the middle of the road.

Let It Entertain You

Check the entertainment system. Is everything to your liking? What about the speakers? Is it too soft? Too loud? No rattles? Rock on!

Most importantly, is it upgradeable?

Give Me A Brake… System That Works

EVs have regenerative brake systems that send power back to the batteries when you decelerate. Used electric vehicles have regenerative brake systems too. You need to make sure these work. 

Step on the brakes before driving off. Do they feel responsive enough? Is the pressure reassuring or is it too spongy? Move the car a bit and step on the brakes with varying degrees of foot pressure. Does the car stop immediately?

Try trail braking. Does the EV respond properly?

Speed up and step on the brake with an imaginary limit to how far the car moves before it stops.

Are there any squeaks or undesirable sounds coming from the brake system? Is the brake fluid reservoir in good condition? Are there any leaks present?

All of these things are necessary to ensure that you have a braking system that works.

Most importantly, you have to be able to stop on a dime if you brake hard enough.

Steering In The Right Direction

Have a feel of the car’s steering. Does it point you in the right direction every time?

When you let go of the steering wheel at moderate speeds, does the car still go in the right direction or do you veer off the path?

Set the steering at the neutral position and get out of the car to see if the wheels are also pointed in the right direction. Steer the wheel in extreme positions to see how far the wheels deviate.

Try turning in tight circles. Make sure you’re doing this inside an empty lot with enough space.

Your steering system should evoke a sense of security anywhere you point it.

Are There Any Scary Sounds Coming From Your Suspension?

While driving your “new” used electric vehicle, make sure you listen to any weird sounds coming from the suspension. Even the hint of metal hitting metal should be a point of concern. Ask the previous owner when the bushings were last replaced or if the suspension needs any massive repairs done.

Is The Car You’re About To Buy A Felon Or A Convict?

You might have to check with the DMV for this. Run the plates, Vehicle Number and Chassis Number to see if there are any outstanding tickets or arrests connected to the EV. Has it figured in any reported accidents or damage? 

If there are any, walk away.

Better yet run. Fast.

It’s not worth the trouble no matter how cheap they’re selling the EV for.

Is It Well-Maintained?

We can’t stress this enough. Has the EV undergone preventive maintenance as scheduled? Check the owner’s logs. The maintenance records should show that this was done in a timely and professional manner.

Clean Titles Matter

Last but not least, does it have a clean title? Do the supporting documents clearly indicate the name of the person selling it to you? If not, does he/she have proper authorization to sell the vehicle to you? 

Are they in possession of the Original Receipt and Certificate of Registration? Run this through the DMV before handing over the cash. Better yet, call a lawyer to draw up the deed of sale to ensure that the EV is transferred over in a clean manner. 

Other Things You Should Check:

Is The Battery In Good Condition?

All used electric cars have batteries. At the very least, there are two batteries. One to run the motor and the other to run the internal electronics. Ask the owner/dealer to have these fully charged before you check the vehicle out. 

Take note of the batteries’ physical condition, age, and ability to store and expend energy.

Check to see if the batteries still have warranties attached or if they are still within their prescribed half-life. Replace old batteries only when the owner says they cannot do it. Expect to pay a small sum for these batteries. 

Is The EV Still Under Warranty?

You’re lucky if the used EV you’re about to buy is still in warranty. That means you’ll still be able to take advantage of the agreement between the original owner and the car manufacturer.

Does The Regenerative Braking System Work?

This is another thing that most used electric cars need but due to excessive wear and tear eventually lose. Make sure you check these work. Take the car for a spin and take note of the amount of energy it sends back to your battery cells.

And most importantly, make sure they work. You should be able to stop when you want to.

Are The Charging Cords Intact And In Good Condition?

Make sure the charging cords are included in the purchase and they are in good condition. Although there are replacement charging cords already available in the market, always demand for the original cords to be supplied along with the used EV.

Take those along with you even if they are in bad condition.

Ask for a discount if the charging cords aren’t in good condition.

Buy factory spec charging cords as soon as you can.

This checklist is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things you should put into consideration before buying any used electric cars within your budget.

Pros And Cons To Buying A Used EV

Now let’s take a look at the pros and cons of getting a used EV over buying a brand new one. Let’s start with the Pros or advantages.


They’re A Bargain!

For the used-car shopper, the diminished resale value of used electric cars is a definite advantage. EVs decrease in value rapidly due to lack of market interest, misinformation, or new car buyer acquisition hesitance.

You can snap up a deal for up to 70% less than buying a new one off the showroom.

This is, of course, a big disadvantage for those who brought their EV brand new. The only incentive for buying a new EV is experiencing the technology first before anyone else does.

Smooth… Driving Experience

EVs don’t have internal combustion engines. They run on electric motors. That means you’ll get a car that is not only quieter on average but also affords you a really smooth drive without the vibrations associated with internal combustion engines.

If you add the weight of the batteries, you have a more solidly planted car on the road. Throw it around corners at high speed if you feel like pretending you’re an F1 racer on the road. Just don’t race on busy city streets ok?

Planet Earth Will Love You More

Do you love your planet? Get an EV. Somehow, all those tree huggers got one thing right: everything we do contributes to our planet’s destruction. Getting an EV will help you lessen that carbon footprint.

Getting a used electric car will help you do that even more because you’re not adding to the production costs of coming up with a new vehicle. Instead, you’re repurposing an EV to suit your needs and keep it away from the scrap yard. 

The best thing about EVs is that they have zero tailpipe emissions that contribute to global warming. To further reduce your energy consumption, use solar panels for charging your batteries.


There’s always a duality in life. What’s positive in one aspect has a corresponding effect on the other. The same goes for inanimate objects like EVs. 

Here are some of the cons/disadvantages you’ll encounter when buying used electric cars. 

Battery Performance Might Not Be Up To Par

Batteries don’t last forever. Even the Energizer bunny needs to take a break every now and then. 

Your EV comes with at least two rechargeable batteries. To some, that may seem like they’re set for life. Sadly, rechargeable batteries don’t last forever. You can keep topping them off every day and you’ll have the juice you need to run.

Over time, you’ll notice your batteries sopping up less and less power. Maybe you’ve reached your maximum number of cycles for the batteries, and it’s time for a replacement.

This is usually what happens when you buy a used electric car if it doesn’t come with brand new batteries, expect to replace them soon.

To extend your batteries’ life, try not to charge to the maximum and drain your batteries and try to minimize driving in high temperatures.

You should also make sure you check the battery cooling system. Most used electric cars have air-cooled systems. Try getting one that has liquid cooling or at least the ability to upgrade to that type of system. That should help you with batter fade issues. For best results, get the ones by Nissan, they’ve somehow addressed that issue by changing their battery’s basic chemistry.

Do They Charge Here?

This is something you’ll probably be asking often each time you’re out on the road and running low on battery power.

If you’re in one of the few areas where electric vehicle charging stations are in limited numbers, using your EV might be a problem.

Tesla Charging Stations
Tesla Charging Stations

Some homes aren’t even equipped to handle charging an EV. You might even need to call an electrician to upgrade your wiring if your house’s electricity plugs aren’t rated at 240 volts. This could cost you anywhere between $200 to $2000 for labor and materials.

You might be able to save on the purchase, but all of that money squirreled away might just end up for home electricity modifications.

You Might Get An Outdated Futuristic Car Of Yesterday’s Tomorrow

That’s just how technology works. The latest can only be that for a limited period of time.

Buying a second-hand EV means you’re getting an outdated machine. There are newer EVs already out. If you get one that’s even just half a decade old, you’ll have an EV that is almost prehistoric in technological terms and standards.

Vastly Diminished Resale Value

An electric vehicle’s depreciation starts as soon as it is bought from the showroom and used. This depreciation continues throughout the lifetime of the vehicle.

If you’re planning to buy and sell used electric cars, chances are, your profit margins are going to be pretty lean. Selling it to direct buyers is a better option for those who are planning to build a career in buying and selling EVs.

You’ll also have a better chance of recouping half of your initial purchase price if you sell a brand new EV instead of a second hand one.

It’s better to buy a used EV for your own use instead of getting it for profit.

To Sum It All Up

Buying and owning an EV make for a different kind of car experience. EVs have some strong pros and a few cons that you should consider carefully before you buy. 

Here’s are some very good things though:

EVs require very little maintenance and repair if you take good care of them. You’ll never have to spend another penny on fuel. Rising gas prices won’t affect you as much. 

And you have a perfectly good vehicle that’s ready to go the distance provided you have enough juice in the batteries.

In conclusion, there is still a lot of value in a car that has very low resale value.

We suggest that, first and foremost, you contact the dealership to make sure the car is fully charged. Nine out of 10 times that will not be the case. It’s hard to check out an EV’s performance, battery health, range, etc. if the battery is at zero. Call the dealer ahead of time and demand that the car is fully charged. 

In Conclusion

Buying used electric cars is a common thing nowadays, especially since EVs have long surpassed the novelty phase and have become reliable cars for daily use.

A lot of manufacturers offer EVs at a lower price than most of the cars they produce. This makes EVs very affordable and attractive to young prospective buyers looking to get a serviceable car for their needs.

At most, these cars are looked at as temporary rides until they can afford a more expensive or luxurious car.

This is a good thing for those in the market for used electric cars. The depreciated value of these vehicles makes it even more affordable and thus a more practical choice.

If you’re looking to buy one, make sure you take a really close look at the vehicle. Do your research and once you’re there in front of the vehicle, perform a thorough inspection to reduce the risk of getting used electric cars that you won’t be happy owning.

Use the checklist above, but understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Each EV is unique, and you need to find an efficient way to uncover the many different layers surrounding the prospective vehicle you have in mind best suited for your budget.

Related Questions:

What Are The Chances Of Getting A Lemon EV?

It’s 50/50. The chances of getting a lemon for your hard earned cash whether it’s an EV or not is still half and half. Higher if you bought your EV outright without any inspection. Save yourself the trouble and do your research. Check the owner’s logs and find out more before handing the money over.

Will Kicking The Tires Damage The Motor?

No. One of the common things used car buyers do (that really doesn’t prove anything about the vehicle’s condition) is kick the tires. Your EV won’t suffer any damage even though the motors are directly connected to the wheels. They’re designed to withstand a lot of abuse and strong impacts.

Which One Should I Get? The Tesla Model S, Chevy Bolt Or Nissan Leaf?

Get the Nissan Leaf. The Nissan Leaf is the most popular EV today based on sales reports. Because it’s widely available, replacement parts are easy to find. Of the three, The Tesla Model S has the highest resale value thanks to its looks while the Chevy Bolt, the lowest.

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