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The Charging Point

Your one-stop destination for electric and hybrid cars

People standing in a car show room looking at an electric car

The Complete Guide to Buying a Used Electric Car

You don’t have to be an electric car fanboy or girl to appreciate the many good reasons drivers might want to ditch their diesel or part with their petrol car and switch to an electric car.

They run as quiet as the wind. Fuel bills can be reduced by about two-thirds. The electric motor’s get-up-and-go makes them ideal about town and in traffic. And they don’t emit harmful particulates as they make their way through their surroundings.

That’s not all, though. Owners may never have to visit a petrol station again, instead charging at home or work - bringing the unforeseen bonus of avoiding the acres of shelving selling sweets and treats, and stale pastries and tasteless coffee.

And doing away with a fossil fuel-burning engine brings down servicing costs. Oh, and did we mention they’re relaxing to drive, and company car drivers can dramatically cut their benefit-in-kind tax?

It’s enough to have drivers browsing the classifieds and shortlisting their ideal selection of second hand electric cars. But before starting on any search, there is still the question of whether a plug-in car is fundamentally right for their needs.

Here’s what buyers should consider to ensure their electric dream doesn’t turn give them a nasty shock.

Is a used electric car right for you?

Is an electric car right for you? What is the driving range and will that comfortably cover most of your journeys, most of the time?

Most car manufacturers are upfront about the so-called real-world driving range of their electric cars, and owners share their experiences on social media. So it should be straightforward to build a picture of any used electric car’s suitability, bearing in mind that the range will fall in winter weather.

If you need a car that can cover hundreds of miles a day on Britain’s motorway network, or want to be able to tow heavily laden trailers at the weekend, then it’s likely that a diesel-powered car is going to better meet your needs.

What’s your budget and what type of electric car do you need?

Regardless of what sort of car it is you’re buying, set a budget according to your finances and stick to it. There’s no point stretching yourself to a stylish, £15,000 used BMW i3 if a £7,000 Renault Zoe is able to do everything you need and meet your budget.

Also be mindful that at present, the bodystyles of electric car aren’t as varied as petrol or diesel models. So if you’re one of those drivers who believes they couldn’t live without an SUV, you are likely to find precious few electrically powered SUVs on the used car market. Browse the different models in The Charging Point’s Car Selector.

Where can I buy used electric cars?

Any franchised or independent car dealer may sell and electric car, as can private individuals. So you shouldn’t have to turn to a specialist to find a model that’s right for you.

Will the battery be leased?

It’s common for owners to lease the battery that’s in their electric car. So check the arrangement with any EV you’re interested in, and factor this into your budgeting. It’s between around £50 to £100 a month. The advantage is that it gives greater peace of mind, especially once outside of the manufacturer’s warranty.

The alternative is that the battery was bought outright with the car, and will be yours should you buy the vehicle. However, once the warranty expires, you will have to bear any cost to repair or replace the battery, should it develop problems.

Where will you charge it?

Good news: buying an electric car means you need never again visit a petrol station. Bad news: where will you charge it? Do you have off-street parking at home, or access to a charge station at work? (And are you happy to have a wallbox unit installed to give a faster output?) If not, can you be sure that a local public charging point will be available – and, significantly, in working order - when the car’s battery is likely to need a top-up?

Does the car come with a warranty?

There are some appreciable financial savings to be had, but consider how long the warranty lasts for, especially cover for the battery and electric motor(s), and whether that gives you peace of mind during your time of ownership.

If it doesn’t, are you happy to buy a used electric car without a warranty? There’s less to go wrong with an EV (electric vehicle) but should part or all of the battery pack fail, or the performance degrade to the point where the range is as hopeless as a 1970s milk float, the bills can be eye-watering.

Car safety test with euro NCAP - a yellow truck crashing into a test car


Is it safe?

A quick search of the Euro NCAP website should show how safe any electric car is in the event of an accident, and also which systems are fitted to help it avoid a crash in the first place.

Time for a test drive: check the charging cables work?

Electric cars aren’t going to take you far if they don’t come with functioning charging cables. So during the test drive, check which types of cable are supplied with an electric car.

The most basic are known as a Type 1, 3kW AC cable, and have a three-pin plug that fits any domestic household socket. The other sort often supplied with electric cars is a Type 2, which can offer between 7 and 22kW AC charging capability. Put them to the test or, if uncertain, ask the salesperson or owner of the car to demonstrate them.

A page from a car service book

Credit: Alamy

Does the car have a full service history and MOT?

Like any car, electric models need servicing according to the manufacturer’s schedule and require an MOT once they’re more than three-years old. Check the car’s service book and ask to see any accompanying paperwork for the service history. The vendor should also be able to provide a valid MOT, although this can be checked online.

Think you’ve found the right second hand electric car for you? Check its history

Don’t be a dummy and buy a car with a past as chequered as the Kray Twins. Insurance write-offs, stolen vehicles or vehicles that still have finance outstanding against them are far more commonplace than you might imagine. So the most important check buyers should carry out regardless of the type of car is a vehicle history check. You can do this online for a few pounds, and it’ll reveal if the car has been recorded as a write-off, stolen or subject to outstanding finance.