How to buy a used electric car

What should I look for when buying an electric car?

Although packed with technology, electric cars are fairly simple devices – there’s usually little more under the skin than a large battery powering a motor that drives a single speed automatic gearbox. Yet while that means there’s less to go wrong, that doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable checks you can make.

For instance, a full service history is vital, as it not only ensures the previous owner has cared for the car, it also means it should have been treated to the latest software updates and any recall work will have been done. 

All electric cars are heavy, so make sure you check the tyres and brakes for wear, as well as listening for any untoward noises from the suspension – early Renault Zoes are more prone to weaknesses here for instance. 

Double check the car’s battery size too. Usually, the higher the kWh rating the, the longer the range. Most early EVs have quite a small cell size, so make sure you know what you’re getting, especially if you plan regular long journeys. Also make sure the charging cables are present and correct, as these are expensive to replace and, of course, your new purchase is more or less useless without them.

Speaking of batteries, some EVs were initially available with a battery leasing scheme that allowed owners to buy the car outright but rent the batteries. Popular with Nissan and Renault in particular it was an offer that soon died out as it became clear cells were more resilient than first thought, plus it also made ownership more complicated. However, it’s important to check with some of these early cars what the status of the battery is, as you don’t want to be stung with unexpected monthly battery bills.

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