Why You Should Consider Buying A Used Electric Car
Sep 18, 2017  Jim Gorzelany

Not only are preowned electric vehicles like the above 2015 Nissan Leaf dirt
cheap to purchase, they'll save owners a pile of money in lower operating
costs, even at today's affordable gas prices

With some of the latest all-electric cars, most notably the Chevrolet Bolt
and Tesla Model 3, able to run for well over 200 miles on a charge, and the
redesigned 2018 Nissan Leaf now rated at 150 miles, EVs are fast becoming
practical for a growing number of motorists.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean we should relegate the previous generation
of battery-powered rides having an operating range of fewer than 100 miles
on a charge to the scrap heap. In fact, one could make the case that these
earlier EVs make great second or third cars in a family’s fleet, if anything
because of their sheer frugality, even with gas at a national average of
$2.62 a gallon.

For starters, with the exception of the costly Tesla Model S sedan and Model
X SUV, used electric vehicles are dirt cheap. Resale values are way below
the norm because of a combination of factors, including limited demand and
the $7,500 federal tax credit (along with further financial incentives in a
few states) given to new EV buyers. For example, according to, a used 2015 Nissan Leaf driven 30,000 miles that originally
sold for $29,000 commands an average retail price of $10,250, while a
same-vintage Toyota Corolla having a base price of $17,000 is going for an
estimated $12,375. Want an EV at a rock-bottom price? If you can find one
and live with what amounts to a glorified golf cart, a 2012 Mitsubishi
i-MiEV retails for a mere $4,750.

Also, because of their inherent limitations with regard to range, used
electric cars tend to be driven fewer miles than the norm, which means
they’ve typically endured less wear and tear. Some used-vehicle shoppers
might be concerned about having to replace an EV’s costly battery pack, but
they’ll likely last well past the 100,000-mile mark with only minimal range
degradation, and most automakers cover their EVs’ battery packs under
warranty for at least eight years.

Electric cars are also cheaper to run than conventionally powered models,
even at today’s gasoline prices. Again, comparing a pre-owned Nissan Leaf
and Toyota Corolla from the 2015 model year, the Environmental Protection
Agency says the former, which is rated at the electric equivalent of 114 mpg
in combined city/highway driving (and with an average 84-mile range on a
charge), will cost an owner $600 a year to run at 15,000 miles driven, while
the latter, rated at 30 mpg, will set an owner back $1,350 in fuel costs.
That’s a potential $750 in annual savings, which translates into an extra
$3,750 left to accumulate in the Leaf owner’s bank account over five years.
Recommended by Forbes

And that’s not counting an electric car’s inherently lower maintenance
costs. Because they utilize an electric motor and a simple single-speed
transmission, EVs eschew over two-dozen mechanical components that would
normally require regular service. Driving an electric car means being able
to avoid oil changes, cooling system flushes, transmission servicing and
replacing the air filter, spark plugs, and drive belts. Regular service
visits are typically limited to rotating the tires and checking brake pads
and other components.

Another benefit is that an owner can take pride in driving a “greener” car.
Unlike gas and diesel-powered vehicles, EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions.
That means they won’t spew smog-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases,
including carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, (CO), oxides of nitrogen
(NOx), particulate matter (PM), formaldehyde (HCHO), non-methane organic
gases (NMOG) and non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC) into the atmosphere.

One caveat is that an EVs actual overall effect on the environment depends
on the local sources of electricity. According to a report issued by the
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), they tend to fare best in parts of
California, New York, and the Pacific Northwest, where renewable energy
resources are prevalent, and less so in central U.S. states like Colorado,
Kansas and Missouri because of their greater dependence on fossil fuels to
produce electricity. Still, the UCS determined that EVs are generally
responsible for less pollution than conventional vehicles in every region of
the U.S.

But the biggest limitation to owning an electric car is its range. True, you
might not want to take an EV that can run for an average 75-100 miles on a
charge out on a cross-country trek, but most used models can operate
sufficiently to cover the average commute, which the U.S. Department of
Transportation says is 15 miles each way. Plus, they’re ideal for
around-town use and for getting to and from a commuter rail station if you
take the train into the city for work. And if you’re parent to a teen
driver, letting him or her take the EV means you can rest assured they won’t
be venturing very far from home.

And while the number of public charging stations is increasing – according
to the Department of Energy there are now more than 16,000 public
electric-vehicle charging stations in the U.S. having over 44,000 outlets –
most EV charging is done at home. That tends to leave out urban apartment
dwellers and other motorists who do not have regular access to a charging
source. At that, homeowners will probably want to spend a few hundred
dollars to have an electrician install a dedicated 240-volt line in their
garages to take advantage of quicker charging times. It takes around 21
hours to replenish a 2015 Nissan Leaf’s battery pack at 110 volts, but this
task can be accomplished in about four hours when tethered to a 240-volt

One hurdle to buying a used electric car that may be insurmountable
depending on where you live is a lack of supply. Having accounted for only a
slim percentage of new-vehicle sales over the last few years, they’re not
particularly plentiful in the resale market. And at that, only a handful of
battery-powered models were sold in all 50 states when new; some new EVs are
offered exclusively in California (and perhaps one or more other states) to
fulfill state regulations regarding zero-emissions vehicles. That’s why the
Golden State boasts the most EVs in the nation, and by a wide margin. Other
states in which EV penetration tends to be higher than the norm include
Georgia, Washington, New York, and Florida.

For example, while we found 127 used Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) listed for sale
on within 50 miles of the Staples Center in Los Angeles,
there were just 72 listed in the Atlanta area, only 17 posted in or near
Dallas, and zero within 100 miles of Butte, Montana.

It seems, as with real estate, buying a used electric car is all about
location, location, location.

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