Electric cars are getting more and more visibility as automakers come out with sexier versions and more versatile choices than those offered just a few short years ago. But the prices for the brand-new models, even with federal and state tax credits, can still be quite steep. If you want an electric vehicle, it may make more sense to consider buying a used one.
Questions naturally arise, as they will in the purchase of any used vehicle. While you may be familiar enough with what to ask about a gasoline or diesel vehicle, when it comes to an electric, a few other points should be addressed. Here, then, are five tips for buying a used electric vehicle that go above and beyond what it looks like and who makes it.
What’s the range?
Essentially, what’s kept all-electric vehicles from becoming more popular, outside of price, which is always going to be a consideration, is how far they can go on a single charge. Especially if you regularly travel long distances or the electric charging stations are few and far between in your normal route, the first thing you want to know is what you can expect to achieve range-wise before you run out of juice.
The 2013 Electric delivers about 76 miles per charge, according to Ford. The 2013 Nissan Leaf has an EPA-estimated range of 75 miles. The 2013 , on the other hand, has a reported range of 160 miles with a 40 kWh battery pack, 208 miles on a single charge (with a 60 kWh battery pack) and 300 miles on an 85 kWh battery pack.
How long does it take for a full recharge?
Weighing and balancing a 76-miles per charge versus a 110-miles per charge vehicle is one thing, but how long the electric vehicle you’re looking at takes to fully recharge is another. With a 240-volt home charger, the 2013 Ford Focus Electric, says the automaker, can be recharged in four hours.
The Tesla Model S comes with a single charger with connectors for 110- and 240-volt outlets. It gets five miles of range for each hour it charges when plugged into a standard 110-volt household outlet. An available high-power wall connector reduces home charge time with a 240-volt power source, offering 62 miles of range per hour of charge time. On a road trip, stopping at a Tesla supercharger station can result in half the battery charged in 30 minutes.
With the 2013 model year, the Nissan Leaf has a 6.6-kW onboard charger that can replenish the battery in about four hours using a 220-volt electricity source. This is half the time it took the Leaf to recharge in its first two model years.
What’s the warranty on battery pack?
An electric car won’t run without power from the battery pack. And battery packs are expensive if they need to be replaced. You need to know what the warranty is on the battery pack from the manufacturer. Nissan’s Leaf comes with an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on its lithium-ion battery pack and a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty on powertrain and electric vehicle system. Tesla’s Model S carries an 8-year unlimited warranty. The Ford Focus Electric has an 8-year warranty on its lithium-ion battery as well.
When looking at used electric cars, another consideration is how you’ll use the vehicle. How many passengers do you anticipate you’ll carry? How much in the way of storage space do you need? The latter is important because electric cars typically sacrifice some cargo capacity to house the needed battery packs.
The 2013 Ford Focus Electric and 2013 Tesla Model S seat five, while the 2013(extended range electric) and 2013 Nissan Leaf seats only four.
Cargo capacity in the Tesla Model S is 26.3 cubic feet behind the front seats, expanding to 58.1 cubic feet with rear seats folded. There’s 24 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats of the 2013 Nissan Leaf, and 30 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
How does it drive?
Getting behind the wheel of an electric car is just like getting into any other car in the sense that the interior looks quite similar. There may be a few different gauges and such, but otherwise, things are in the same spots you’re used to in a gasoline-powered or diesel-powered vehicle.
Where things get a little bit different is in the driving experience. First, electric vehicles are super-quiet, so much so that automakers have had to add sound to them so that pedestrians are aware of the presence of an electric vehicle.
Second, and perhaps even more important in a used electric car purchase, is how the vehicle drives. Is it an instantaneous acceleration, as in the Tesla Model S, which goes from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds? Does it handle comparably to a non-electric vehicle, if a bit dulled in comparison, as in the Ford Focus Electric?
Bottom line: Do your homework and ask the right questions. Shop around for the model you want and negotiate the best price on the used electric car you’ve got your eye on.