Used EVs – has their time come?

Used EVs – has their time come?

25 September 2019 Concept Car

Electric vehicles are still a fairly new phenomenon. So it’s quite natural that used EVs were, until recently, hard to come by. The market was, in a way, still trying to establish itself, slowly feeling its way forward. Many drivers were hesitant about taking the plunge, probably rightly so. As a consequence, used EVs would often be a bargain – which in turn raised fears among early adaptors about depreciation.

Today, all of that has changed. EVs have been on the market for almost a decade now. So even if you were to buy one tomorrow, you’d no longer be considered a pioneer. There is a small, but functioning market for second hand electric cars, and it’s improving by the day.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of used EVs: What should you be concerned with, if you intend to buy one? What are some of the most widely used arguments against them, and should you care about them? Finally, we’ll also show you some of the currently most popular used EVs and give you a strategy how to select the one that’s right for you.

Table of Contents

For the moment, used EVs are on a high

One thing’s for sure: Used EVs are on the rise. The simplest reason for this is that the market for EVs as a whole is maturing. As reported by Motor 1, the Nissan Leaf is now the fastest selling car in the UK!

It’s not just the Leaf, though. Percentage-wise, electric cars are the fastest growing segment of the car market as a whole. Annual growth rates for new cars are currently at a breathtaking 50%. So something’s definitely stirring.

As electric vehicles sales are increasing, the used car market is sure to benefit. This development is only going to speed up as the government recently decided to extend tax breaks to electric cars used for company fleets. This will undoubtedly sway many managers to opt for EVs. The market for company cars is huge, and within the next three years, these new models will gradually find their way to dealers across the UK.

New EVs versus used EVs

If you’re interested in buying an EV, you will eventually need to pop the big question: New or used?

Up until recently, most buyers were afraid to opt for anything but a factory new electric car. Some still are. We’ll get into the reasons for this in a second. Their reticence initially translated into low to very low resale prices. Which often made perfectly fine used EVs an absolute bargain.

Recently, however, second hand market prices for used EVs have begun to pick up. They were up 14% over last year and experts expect them to keep growing.

The interesting thing: Even high-mileage models are holding their value. Ironically, this may initially mainly serve to fuel new car sales, as fears of overly high depreciation subside. In the long run, however, the second hand market is sure to profit as well.

Objections to electric cars

That said, there are still plenty of objections against making the switch. As we’ll quickly show you, many of these are simply unfounded. Quite to the contrary, there are. as a matter of fact, quite a few hands-on reasons in favour of electric vehicles.

This is good news, because the case for EVs hasn’t always been that strong. Driving.co.uk reports how Nissan tried to suggest that a study proved LEAF users were over the moon about how well it performed. Sadly, they only asked 76 users about their experiences, a very small demographic.

Today, we’re sure, these studies could actually provide meaningful results. The general feedback we’re seeing across the user base seems to be very positive indeed. And one of the reasons is that many of the typical reservations and objections simply are not holding up to scrutiny.

EV objection #1: Range

What’s the biggest fear of potential EV drivers? Range. What are the three biggest fear of potential used EV drivers? Range, range, range.

This is not a bad joke. Reports are finding, again and again, that UK drivers are still afraid they could get stranded in the middle of nowhere with their LEAF, Zoe or Tesla, far away from the next charging point.

Curiously, though, the number of charging points (which can be compared to pumps at a petrol station) has already overtaken the number of petrol stations for internal combustion engines. Granted, this is not the full story, as the number of charging stations (each of which can have several charging points) – which is somewhat more relevant – is still lagging far behind.

Still, there is now a tight web of charging points, allowing you to cover even long distances without problems.

With new policies in place designed to give each home access to a charger, fears of range should soon subside – both for owners of new and used models.

EV objection #2: Battery life

Is the battery range for used EVs going to be lower than that of new ones? Yes. Is it going to be significantly lower? Probably not.

Batteries are now one of the most cutting edge products on the technology market. Their power has increased multifold over the past decade, as they’re in high demand for items like smartphones, smart watches and vacuum cleaners, which are expected to yield very high power over longer stretches of time. They have also become a lot more durable. Few people still worry about battery life when buying a used smartphone.

Electric vehicles are obviously in a different category. But they’re getting there.

Sometimes, something as simple as a software upgrade can do the trick and improve a used car’s range. But even without such an upgrade, many reckon that a properly maintained battery pack could easily keep working for 150,000 miles – which is more than some older internal combustion engine vehicles will last.

What does properly maintained mean?

Interestingly, the real danger for EV batteries is not over-use, but under-use. Batteries are perfectly able to last for many, many years, as long as you properly discharge them and keep them running. What will, however, very quickly run them down are longer stretches of inactivity.

This became clear in the very first EV scandal in 2012. At the time, Tesla batteries where dying like flies. Tesla was refusing to cover for them under warranty, which left some users fearing they might have to bear the significant replacement costs.

What had happened?

Simply, some drivers had left their cars standing idle for too long. This seemed perfectly reasonable, since electric vehicles are only used as second cars in many households. The result of this can be bricking, however. Bricking means that the battery will no longer accept a charge and become unusable.

Tesla did decide eventually to replace those batteries and current battery technology makes it possible to replace single cells instead of having to discard the entire unit. And even if you should get stuck with a damaged battery, replacement costs have sunk drastically.

What about leasing a car battery?

Leasing a battery for an electric vehicle sounds like the perfect solution to the dilemma. Although the battery in the car will never belong to you, you can rely on the fact that it will always work. Should there be a malfunction, after all, you’ll simply get a new one. Most leasing contracts even gurantee that your battery will work at a minum capacity. Should it drop below that, say under 75%, you’ll get a new one under the warranty.

Unfortunately, things are not quite as perfect as they may sound. Driving.co.uk sums up the disadvantages of a leased battery thus:

“With leased batteries you’ll be tied into a contract (probably three years) and your annual mileage will be restricted. And you’ll need to factor in the monthly cost of battery leasing, which is likely to be £55-£75.”

Batteries will remain the key element of every electric vehicle, used or new. And they won’t be perfect for some time. But that’s not to say you can’t rely on them. It is safe to say, in fact, that you can rely on them just as much as you can rely on your smartphone battery.

At the current, impressive level of smartphone technology, that is saying quite a lot.

EV objection #3: Purchase price

When electric vehicles were introduced to the UK market, even some passionate, ecologically minded drivers had to think twice before committing to the purchase. Although small and unspectacular, EVs were essentially luxury cars. For most households, they were far outside their budget.

Ultimately, it was the government imposed tax break which made EVs affordable. As these deductions are gradually being phased out, are EVs once again becoming too expensive?

To the contrary.

Yes, you probably won’t be able to get spectacular deals as you would with an internal combustion engine. But the range of options has significantly increased over the last years.

According to an article on used electric vehicles by the BBC, you can get a second hand Renault Zoe for about £7,000. You may not always be able to get that price in practise, admittedly. Something around the £10,000 mark seems more realistic, to honest. But it does show the tremendous positive development the market for used EVs has taken recently.

Newspaper The Standard adds to this that even the ultra popular LEAF can be bought new for £29,000. And a three year old, as good as new model will go for £14,000. Even older ones can be had at around half that, although you may want to seriously consider whether they’re a good bargain.

Even current price levels may be an insurmountable obstacle for many. But at the speed that prices are currently coming down, that is sure to quickly change.

Enough objections! Let’s talk about the benefits

That’s right, while fears and problems have dominated the debate in the first few years, many users are now quickly discovering the numerous untold benefits of these cars.

To some degree, this is simply a question of improving technology. As electriccarhome claims, 2019 marks a pivotal year for EVs. New players are entering the market and according to the website, some of their models will turn out to be gamechangers.

The Kia e-Niro, for example, is touted to offer premium range at an affordable, entry-level price. The Hyundai Kona offers similar qualities.

At the same time, the general public perception has shifted more and more in favour of electronic cars. This is another reason why used EVs are turning into a great choice.

Writes electriccarhome:

“If a used electric car from a few years ago has all the features and range you need, you could be onto a winner. The best second hand electric cars are not necessarily the most recent models.”

EV benefit #1: Longevity

There was a time when electric cars were considered a risk. Rightly so. Although they were not as risky, perhaps, as the first Model Ts rolling off Ford’s pioneering assembly line. But a risk as in: uncharted territory, untested technology, potential malfunctions.

Today, not only have EVs become a lot more reliable than they used to be. They have also become more reliable than many traditional cars with internal combustion engines.

This is not a case of wishful thinking.

This is not a case of wishful thinking. - Concept Car Credit
In fact, the reasons for this can be found in the very concept of an EV. Whereas there are countless small parts working in an ICE, electrically powered engines reduce this amount to a mere handful. Others, such as the brakes, are controlled by far more refined systems, causing a lot less wear and tear. If you really think about it, what’s to break in an electric car?

According to driving.co.uk, “one Cornwall-based taxi firm runs a Leaf with 110,000 miles on the clock and it’s still working as it did the day it was delivered. A taxi firm in Blackpool runs a fleet of 21 Leafs (with more on the way) and has found them to be much more reliable than the ICE cars they run alongside.”

As a result, depreciation of used EVs is no longer as dramatic as it used to be. Not that it matters: If the development continues, in the future, we may well be driving our cars for our entire lives.

EV benefit #2: Running costs

Reduced running costs have been the main argument in favour of EVs from day one. It is easy to see why electric cars would be cheaper to run than their traditional counterparts.

At the current rate, electricity is a lot cheaper than petrol. It is more than likely that petrol, which is at a very low price level at the moment, will become even more expensive within the foreseeable future. If that happens, the benefits of EVs will be even more glaringly obvious.

Add to that the lower VED costs for electric vehicles, as well as nice perks like free / reduced parking in some parts of London.

You will need to do the maths, as the exact numbers may be different in each case. But there is every chance that buying a good used EV is going to save you quite a bit of money each month.

EV benefit #3: Warranties

Extended warranties are one of the most coveted extras in the industry. Some are even prepared to pay well above the market price just to get an in-demand certified pre-owned version of a car, for the sole reason that it offers a three year warranty.

Many electric vehicles also come with longer than usual warranty periods. This is a tremendous advantage, as it increases your peace of mind that the car won’t suddenly break down and leave you with high costs. Usually, these warranties can be transferred to a new owner, which is excellent news if you’re thinking about buying a used EV.

Here, as an example, are the three warranties which apply to a 2018 Nissan Leaf:

  • A 3-year car warranty (or, a maximum of 60,000 miles),
  • a 5-year electric motor and powertrain warranty (again, with a maximum of 60,000 miles),
  • an 8-year battery warranty (or 100,000 miles).

With warranties like these, the risk of stepping into an electric car should hardly register as such any more.

Used EVs: Your best choice

Let’s now take a look at the most interesting electric cars currently available in the UK. We mentioned the e-Niro and the Kona. Both of these look set to make a major impact, but we don’t as yet have a lot of actual practical feedback on them. Which is why we’ve pulled together this list of excellent, affordable choices from leading publications Car Magazine and What Car? (the fact that these cars need to be affordable is also the reason why you won’t find any Teslas here)

Nissan Leaf: Premium SUV Feeling

Nissan Leaf: Not much to say here, as most has already been addressed. The LEAF is the number one e-car for a reason, as it offers a premium SUV feeling inside the body of an innovative EV.

As more and more cars enter the market and the difference between EVs and traditional ICEs disappear, Nissan may have to do something about that unconventional look, however.

Volkswagen e-Golf: Subtle gamechanger

If the LEAF looked like no other Nissan (or any other car, for that matter), it is hard even for an expert to spot the difference between a regular Golf and its electric sibling.

The e-Golf may well be one of the more subtle gamechangers, as it requires no changes in your mindset to enjoy. Just hop in and enjoy the same benefits that already made the original Golf one of the most popular cars of all time.

Renault Zoe: True alternative

The Zoe is a true alternative. Renault has really decided to go its own way for its first EV.

We already mentioned the leasable battery, which can be a pro or a con, depending on your perspective. It’s a great drive, although it is not as compatible with new fast chargers as one would like. If you can find a Zoe with an inbuilt battery (no leasing deal), you are looking at a great car.

Citroën C-Zero: The cheapest option

Cute, tiny, flexible. These are the terms that best describe one of the most interesting used EVs out there. Already new C-Zeros are comparatively affordable.

Used, they tend to be the cheapest option available right now. If you’re looking for an electric city car, possibly as a second car, look no further.

Volkswagen e-Up: Plenty of space

This is a great, albeit more expensive alternative to the C-Zero: The e-Up’s battery is sensibly placed underneath the seats, so it doesn’t take away any interior space. This turns the e-Up into the equivalent of the Tardis: Tiny on the outside, huge on the inside.

Because the battery is so small, however, range is limited. As a city car, though, this is an incredible proposition, according to What Car: “If you need an automatic car, the smooth electric motor and instant torque make the e-Up a swift urban runabout. Second, the additional weight of the batteries helps to settle the ride over the standard car.”

A quick strategy guide to buying a used EV

If you’re looking to buy a used EV, any of the abovementioned cars makes for a pretty great choice. Still, a few checks, just for safety, are in order.

Here’s an overview of the three simple steps, suggested by the Standard, you should take to insure you’re buying the electric car that’s best for you:

1. Check the battery is included: As mentioned, some cars come with a leased battery, which may be okay with a new car, but dramatically reduces the charm of a second hand model.
2. Choose electric over hybrid: Hybrids were a great way to bridge the divide between an ICE and an EV. Today, the seem slightly anachronistic. Sure, if you have enough cash lying around, they are quite possibly still the best of both worlds. But electric vehicles are now almost as good. And only EVs are still eligible for those attractive tax breaks.
3. Think about your journeys: Even if range is no longer the major issue it used to be, you will have to re-plan your entire journey with an electric car. ICEs still offer the longest range, so you will need to take a charging break more often and build your route with them in mind. It doesn’t have to be an issue per se. But it’s something you need to take into consideration.

Used cars at CCC

Used cars at CCC - Concept Car Credit
And there you have it, our overview of everything you need to know about used EVs. Whatever car you’re looking for, meanwhile, we should have what you need. Just take a look in our digital showroom, or visit our Manchester store to find the car of your dreams even if you’re suffering from bad credit.

25 September 2019 Concept Car