Are you considering a used electric vehicle? Here’s what you need to know before you buy

As gasoline and diesel prices reach the stratosphere, motorists are reassessing their relationship with fossil fuels and taking a closer look at electric vehicles.

But with few new EVs on dealer lots due to supply chain issues, more consumers might consider giving used tires a shot. Buying a used car is fraught with worry, but appraising a used electric vehicle comes with a whole new vocabulary, as well as questions and concerns.

So what should a potential buyer consider when it comes to EV technology, battery longevity, and hidden downsides?

The first question used electric vehicle buyers ask is about the remaining life of the powertrain battery, as it will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 or more to replace. Fortunately, EV battery warranties typically cover eight years of use or 160,000 kilometers and are transferable to the second owner. But there are limits.

“New automaker warranties on electric vehicle batteries allow for 30-40% degradation before approving a claim for replacement batteries,” said George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association consumer group. . “There are now extended warranties for electric vehicles, but they exclude battery degradation, which is considered wear and tear.”

Studies show that EV batteries degrade very slowly, even in the 2011 Nissan Leaf, one of the first EVs to sell in large numbers. According to a 2015 report from Warranty Direct, out of 35,000 Leafs sold in Europe, only three experienced battery failure, compared to a failure rate 25 times higher for gasoline-powered cars.

Still, the prospect of spending $15,000 to replace the battery would give any car buyer heartburn, which is why Iny recommends a pre-purchase inspection before buying a used electric vehicle.

“Specialty shops can perform a battery check using a scanner plugged into the OBD (on-board diagnostic port) or checked using the dash feature. Leaf shoppers can use the app Leaf Spy. Tesla doesn’t have an OBD port – you’ll need a wireless connection,” Iny said. “The Hyundai and Kia battery health monitor is optimistic; it will show no battery degradation after two or three years of service.

As more and more electric vehicles fill the streets of Canada, other battery options are available for motorists on a budget.

“There are alternatives – basically cells from an old battery are individually tested and dead ones replaced with used ones. There are stores that can individually replace dead nickel metal hydride cells, but even a battery complete is reasonable, around $2,000,” Iny said. “It’s cheaper than a gasoline engine.

Iny suggests consumers look beyond the issue of battery life, especially since most EVs in use will “probably run at 70% of their original capacity for a long time, like an old phone.” portable”. A US government lab concluded that EV batteries could last eight to 12 years in extreme climates like Canada’s before needing to be replaced or renewed.

Surprisingly, Iny said electric vehicles are not less troublesome than the best gas-powered models – despite the fact that EVs have fewer moving parts and no complex systems like pollution controls and 10-speed automatic transmissions.

Other Concerns

So what’s worth looking into under the hood of an electric vehicle? Apparently corrosion can be a problem.

“We are already seeing galvanic corrosion due to different metals in direct contact on some models,” Iny said. For example, galvanic corrosion in the BMW i3 is caused by the interaction of metal fasteners and an aluminum casing. In other models, critical battery pack connections may be susceptible to corrosion.

Cabin heaters are another weakness. There are two types: a resistance heater (like your toaster) or a heat pump. Iny said the latter is most effective until the temperature drops to -10C, when it struggles to keep the cabin warm enough for occupants. The Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model 3 (now resolved) and new Ford Mustang Mach-E have issues with their heat pumps, he said. Many electric vehicles can have both types depending on the model year and trim level.

On-board charger failures are not unusual in some brands, and they are expensive to repair or replace. On the other hand, electric motors are very reliable; after all, the basic design dates back nearly 200 years.

“The only brands the Automobile Protection Association has recorded electric motor failures are Hyundai and Kia, usually within the first 18 months and replaced under warranty,” Iny said, adding that the motors are notorious for faulty bearings in small number.

And remember that beyond their advanced propulsion systems, electric vehicles are still cars – they have suspension and steering components that can wear out. And like any used vehicle, inspect it for collision damage – use a magnetic or electronic paint meter to check for even paint thickness on all metal panels.

A more general concern is the support offered to owners of electric vehicle models that are no longer being manufactured, such as the Ford Focus Electric. Getting parts for any electric vehicle these days isn’t that easy, with the wait likely being longer than for conventional vehicles, Iny said.

Perhaps most disconcerting is the fact that electric vehicles – new or used – are in high demand and commanding premium prices.

“A late-model used Tesla Model 3 or Y will likely sell for more than it sold new,” Iny said. “All Teslas hold their value very well, and high-mileage examples aren’t heavily discounted like European and domestic luxury cars.”

On the other hand, shop the mainstream brands like Nissan and Chevrolet, and you might find an unexpected bargain.

“The Nissan Leaf is the most widely available used electric vehicle for the widest price range. The Chevrolet Spark EV is cheap and cheerful with limited range. Both are a good runabout for a household of two or three cars.

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