Not just Tesla: Here's what to know about buying a used electric vehicle

Brett Molina

With gas prices still hovering at higher-than-normal levels, more drivers are considering a switch to electric vehicles.

As of July 21, the average price of regular gas is $4.44, according to the American Automobile Association. While prices are down more than 50 cents from a month ago, they're still well above the $3.17 average from the same time last year.

Drivers' newfound interest in electric cars isn't just focused on the latest models. Interest in used EVs has surged, too, said a report from research firm Recurrent.

Last year, half of electric vehicle shoppers said they would consider buying used, said surveys from Recurrent. This year, 80% of EV shoppers said they would consider purchasing used EVs.

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Interest in used electric vehicles has surged, according to a report from research firm Recurrent.

Higher gas prices, supply shortages for new cars and several new model releases have contributed to the surge of interest in used EVs, said Andrew Garberson, head of marketing at Recurrent.

"Once a secondary market is established, it does not normally disappear," said Garberson in a statement.

What are the top-selling electric cars?

Tesla remains the dominant electric vehicle maker on the market, as of the second quarter of 2022, according to Kelley Blue Book. Tesla commands a 66% share of the EV market, down 9% from the previous quarter as more automakers enter the space.

Sales of electrified vehicles – which include EVs, hybrids, and fuel-cell-powered vehicles – jumped 13% to 442,788 in the second quarter, said KBB.

The top 10 selling EVs during the second quarter of 2022:

  • 1. Tesla Model Y: 59,822
  • 2. Tesla Model 3: 54,620
  • 3. Ford Mustang Mach-E: 10,941
  • 4. Tesla Model S: 9,103
  • 5. Hyundai Ionic 5: 7,448
  • 6. Kia EV6: 7,287
  • 7. Chevy Bolt EV/EUV: 6,945
  • 8. Tesla Model X: 6,502
  • 9. Audi e-tron: 4,777
  • 10. Rivian R1T: 4,426 

Tips for buying a used electric car

Some of the rules for buying a used electric car are no different than when choosing a used vehicle running on gas.

"The same as with gasoline, or fuel cell or hybrids or any kind of car, really, diesel, whatever it is. The newer (the) used car, the better off you're gonna be," said Brian Moody, executive editor with Kelley Blue Book.

Then there are specific factors if you want to go electric, whether you're buying a new or used model. Do you have a space to charge your car? Does the car offer the range you need for your everyday life? 

Joseph Yoon, Edmunds' consumer insights analyst, said one of the biggest challenges in buying a used EV is finding one in the first place. Because EVs are a new category, there aren't as many available as more popular and longstanding gas-powered vehicles.

"With such limited options, you may not find the car that's going to fit your needs as a driver, whether that's size, whether that's range or a combination of factors," said Yoon. 

How long do electric cars last?

The batteries on EVs, just like in any other device, will degrade over time. How much it degrades depends on different factors including its age.

On average, the range an EV battery can handle will degrade by about 2.3% every year, according to GeoTab, an analytics firm that studied the battery health of 6,300 electric vehicles.

For example, if you buy a new EV with 200 miles of range, you will lose roughly 5 miles of range after one year.  

Yoon said that type of dip in range is typically not that big a deal, but it all depends on the drivers' needs.

"If that final 10% is going to make the difference between you making it home versus not, then you should look at a car with better range," said Yoon.

How do you charge an electric vehicle at home?

Moody also advises buyers to ask how the used EV was charged. Some manufacturers like Kia note frequent use of fast charging systems can degrade batteries over time, he said.

"If I was buying a used car, I'd want to know was this ever used at a fast charger or was this always just plugged in your home overnight, and it charged more slowly," said Moody. 

Some brands like Ford also offer nationwide networks of charging stations, so you can plan a cross-country trip or a shorter jaunt entirely around where you can juice up quickly nearby.

Consumers who want a taste of the electric experience don't have to buy a vehicle that's fully electric. There are also plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs, a type of vehicle that can run on an electric motor for short distances, then automatically shift to an internal combustion engine that runs on gas.

Like hybrids and standard EVs, PHEVs can recharge batteries through regenerative braking or other charging equipment.

"You'd get an idea about how an electric car is gonna work for you," said Moody on choosing a plug-in hybrid. "If it doesn't work, then it doesn't matter, you still have this (hybrid). If it does work, great, and the next time you buy one, you just buy a fully electric car and never even worry about it again."  

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.