4 Things You Should Look Out For When Considering a 2nd Hand EV

4 Things You Should Look Out For When Considering a 2nd Hand EV

The cheapest electric vehicle in 2023 is about $6,000 cheaper than its predecessor in 2022, and with the price slowly coming down as more models are developed, it’s expected that, eventually, EVs will be on price (and range) parity with petrol vehicles. However, that’s not the case just yet and as with petrol cars, a secondhand EV could be something you’re thinking about in an attempt to save on costs. It’s a brilliant idea, in theory, but it’s a tough sell to say the secondhand EV market is in the same situation as the secondhand petrol vehicle market.

So, is it worth getting a secondhand EV?

Should you buy a secondhand EV?

Broadly speaking, the economics of buying a secondhand electric car don’t really stack up at the moment. If you’re looking to save money, and really want an electric car, there are plenty of models between the $7,500 and $30,000 price points that may satisfy you. However, a lot of the cheaper secondhand EV models simply don’t have much-projected mileage. Not enough for a mid-to-long drive.

Secondhand EV price and range

Right now, if we were to go onto Carsales.com.au and look for electric vehicles, you’d be shown thousands of models (5,340 at the time of writing), some of which are quite old. From my search now, the cheapest model appears to be a 2012 Nissan Leaf, with a whopping great range of about 175km and $9,500 price tag. The early Leaf was an interesting car ahead of its time, but that range certainly leaves something to be desired.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV and different Nissan Leaf models are frequent among the lower-priced secondhand EVs on the site, but once you reach the $28,000 point, some new cars start to trickle in – in particular, the 2021 MG ZS EV, with a WLTP range of 263km, and Hyundai Ioniq 2019 models, with a WLTP range of 311km on cheaper variants. (WLTP stands for Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure which is used to highlight the range of an electric vehicle).

Once we reach the $39,000 price point, however, it starts to become a question of just buying a new model instead. At the time of writing, the cheapest new electric vehicle in Australia is the BYD Dolphin, at $38,890 with 340km WLTP range, while the MG4 Excite 51 is priced at $39,990 with a WLTP range of 350km.

From this price on, you’d see a lot of secondhand electric cars released much closer to the current year, such as Teslas, the 2022 MG ZS EV, and Hyundai Konas – and if you want to save some money, and you’re shopping in this price range, and you don’t particularly care about having the latest and greatest model, then this is where things may make sense to you.

The cheapest Tesla I spotted on Carsales when writing this article was $37,500; a 2019 Standard Range Plus model with 470km WLTP range, with several other units between that price and the $50,000 mark. Considering that the Model 3 starts at $61,900 before on-road costs brand new, you’re getting quite a big price drop here for what is really only a four-year-old car (though the Model 3 has had subtle revisions since 2020).

This is an outlier and isn’t the case for all cars, mind you. For other electric cars, such as Polestars and Cupras, you’re likely to find secondhand models only several thousand dollars under the original sale price – or even above it, like we saw last year. Keep in mind that some manufacturers have supply constraints, that push the delivery of cars out several months, which may bump up prices on the secondhand market.

You should also consider ongoing costs not related to registration, such as connectivity subscriptions. For use of inbuilt OS networking features, newer cars typically require a subscription (MG, for example, charges $50 per year after the first year for phone connectivity features, and Tesla charges $10 per month for its ‘Premium’ subscription with a free trial depending on the purchase date, while the ‘Standard’ navigation connectivity option is free for the first eight years). With Teslas, connectivity subscriptions can be passed on to the second-hand driver, but for other carmakers, it depends on the model, and it’s definitely something to discuss with the seller.

Bottom line; for most newer models, you’re likely to only save between $1,000 to $5,000, though there are exceptions, such as the earlier mentioned Tesla. Between $7,500 and $30,000, you could get an older EV, but you likely wouldn’t appreciate the projected battery range of these cars.

Battery health and servicing a secondhand EV

Most, if not all, electric vehicle manufacturers offer a battery warranty up to a certain kilometre threshold. Tesla, for example, offers a repair or replacement warranty for battery and drive unit faults, for up to 8 years or 192,000 km, depending on the model. If you’re considering a secondhand vehicle purchase, you should ask the seller about the purchase date and the warranty information, and look into what the manufacturer offers if there’s ever an issue.

Additionally, know that battery degradation may become noticeable as the car gets older. All cars suffer from range and performance drop-off as time goes on, but with electric vehicles, it comes back to the battery’s condition in particular – this is why proper battery care is so important. On average, it’s projected that EV batteries degrade at 2.3 per cent of maximum capacity per year, according to EV Connect.

Additionally, if you’re concerned about needing to pay for a battery replacement, this is where things become not-so-economical again. According to Carsales, the price of a replacement battery job could set you back between $12,000 and $20,000.

And to be honest, while EV adoption is certainly on the rise, we haven’t reached a point in Australia where owners en masse are looking for replacement batteries.

At least servicing an EV appears to be cheaper than a petrol vehicle, with fewer moving parts and fewer complexities in the car.

Secondhand EV vs a new EV

Electric vehicles are in an awkward state right now where the technology is improving quickly, costs are coming down, and adoption is steadily on the rise, but these three factors make the secondhand market quite unappealing.

It is, of course, the most environmentally-friendly option to buy secondhand, however, battery range is often quite an important factor for drivers, and it shouldn’t be disregarded just to save money.

As more EVs become available in Australia, and uptake climbs, it’s a no brainer the secondhand market will grow, too.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

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