Buying New vs Used Electric Cars – Everything You Need to Know

A person buying a used car.

Buying new vs. used is one of the biggest considerations you’ll make when shopping for your next car.  But what about the choice to buy used electric cars? Are there additional considerations to factor in? What about a used electric car vs. a used gas-powered vehicle? 

We’ll address these questions, plus some pros and cons of buying a used electric car.

Used Electric Car vs. Used Gas-Powered Vehicle

If you are shopping for a car and haven’t decided between electric vs. gas-powered, there are many great reasons to consider electric for your next vehicle.  First, owning an electric vehicle can save you time with fewer trips to the gas station and the repair shop

You can also save money by not paying for gas and with less frequent maintenance visits.  But you’ll first want to research charging costs in your area to determine how much you can save.  Also, consider various electric car charging methods and options by checking out our in-depth guide on all-electric car charging options.  If you are concerned about the environment, you may consider the benefits of electric car emissions vs. gas-powered vehicle emissions.

Used Electric Car vs. New Electric Car

If you have already decided that you want an electric car for your next vehicle but are now debating between new vs. used, we will go over some pros and cons of each and some additional considerations and tips for buying used electric cars.

Pros and Cons of Buying Used

Used Electric Cars – Pros

Save More by Buying Used Electric Cars

The primary reason to buy used generally comes down to cost savings. How much value you can get compared to what a new vehicle will cost?  Electric cars usually have higher depreciation rates than gas-powered cars, according to a recent report from iSeeCars.  This can provide a great value opportunity for certain used electric vehicles. According to their research, electric cars lose about 52% of their value after three years, compared to 39.1% for gas-powered sedans, 39.7% for gas-powered SUVs, and 34.3% for gas-powered trucks.  An exception is Tesla, which depreciates much less than all other electric vehicles.

Used Electric Vehicle Average Depreciation
Car(s)% 3-Year Depreciation
Electric Cars52%
Gas Powered Sedans39.1%
Gas Powered SUVs39.7%
Gas Powered Trucks34.3%
Tesla Model S36.3%
Tesla Model X33.9%
Tesla Model 310.2%
Source: iSeeCars

Electric vehicles depreciate faster than other vehicles because resale value factors in the $7,500 federal tax credit used to purchase the vehicle as new.  This may start to change as the tax credits begin to phase out. 

Also, the technology is still changing rapidly and can get quickly outdated.  Consumers also worry about the lack of charging infrastructure for used electric vehicles that aren’t Teslas. 

Battery degradation is also a large factor in depreciation, as many used vehicles may see their range drop to 50-70 miles per charge.  Teslas depreciate much less due to supply and demand, more frequent software updates, trusted battery life, and their established charging network. 

If you are in the market for an electric vehicle, you may find great value in buying used.  And, if you buy a used Tesla, at least you’ll know it should hold its value well compared to other vehicles. 

Buying Used Electric Cars is Better for the Environment

While electric vehicles have been shown to produce less CO2 emissions over their lifecycle vs gasoline cars, it is no secret that producing a new electric vehicle still requires about the same (or slightly more) carbon footprint as a new gas-powered vehicle.  Buying a used electric car can help limit emissions from new car production.

Easier to Evaluate Used Car Condition

The battery in an electric car is like the engine of a conventional vehicle.  The only moving part in an electric vehicle is the rotor, while the gas-powered car has a gas tank, gas pump, gas engine, alternator, transmission, carburetor, etc. 

Tesla’s electric motors, for example, have two moving parts and single-speed transmissions with no gears.  Teslas says its drivetrain has about 17 moving parts compared with about 200 in a conventional internal combustion drivetrain. The battery health is an important factor to assess when buying a used electric car, but besides the battery, there isn’t much left to consider other than typical brakes, tires, etc.

Used Electric Cars – Cons

Electric Vehicle Battery Degradation

As with most batteries, they degrade over time, and that is not any different from electric car batteries.  Remaining battery life is something to consider when buying a used electric car. It can generally be checked by running a diagnostic to see the distance the vehicle will get on a full charge.  Battery degradation varies drastically based on many situations, so it is best to check the battery life on the used vehicle before purchasing.

Technology Rapidly Changing

Electric car technology is rapidly advancing yearly, with improving batteries, infotainment, and other features, sensors, software updates, etc.  Electric cars are more susceptible to technology becoming outdated quickly, and many consumers want the latest and greatest.    

More Limited Choices

As most auto manufacturers begin ramping up production of new electric vehicles, consumers will have many more choices than they had five years ago.  But until some of these newer makes and models hit the market, used electric car choices remain limited.  Also, you’ll likely have to make a few sacrifices with customizations if you choose to buy used.

Not Eligible for Electric Vehicle Federal Tax Credits

Besides Tesla, most manufacturers built in the USA can qualify for the EV federal tax credit.  New and second-hand vehicles that meet the tax credit qualify for up to $7,500.   

Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for local government rebates and other tax incentives.  For example, New Jersey offers a point-of-sale incentive of up to $5,000 on electric vehicles with over 200 miles that cost under $45,000. There are many state and local incentives, so check your local regulations to see if you can save even more money.

Ready to Buy a Used Electric Car?

Here are nine tips to prepare you for your used electric car shopping journey.

  1. Decide where to charge it and how much range you will need.
  2. Understand that not all electric cars charge at the same rate and that various charging methods exist.
  3. Check the title from Carfax or AutoCheck for any accident or damage history.
  4. Run a battery check to get a detailed report on charging capacity battery health and use the estimated range as a bargaining chip.
  5. Ask if the battery has been replaced and if there is any remaining battery warranty.
  6. Ask about maintenance history.
  7. Research government and utility incentives
  8. Look for all charging accessories for the vehicle.  Most electric vehicles come with charging cables, so ensure those are included.
  9. Negotiate to include a charger.  If the previous owner is upgrading or won’t need their old charger, see if they would also be willing to include that for a discount.

Still not sure what electric car to buy?  We can show you how to narrow down your list and how to find the right electric vehicle for your lifestyle.

To top