Plug-in electric cars are often praised for their low cost of ownership. Electricity costs less than gasoline to run on, vehicle reliability is good, and competitive prices offer a compelling value. A bonus is these cars have a much smaller environmental footprint over their lives compared to gasoline powered options. As electric car adoption continues to grow we are seeing more used cars enter the market. These are often available at a fraction of the cost of a new vehicle and can further reduce transportation costs.
We first explored availability of used electric cars two years ago and the market has continued to expand since. The increased supply of used electric cars is primarily driven by people leasing electric cars to take advantage of federal tax credits, reduce the risk of depreciation, and allow them to keep up with new and updated models at relatively low cost.
Leasing remains popular for both types of electric cars, including plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) powered by batteries for 10-50 miles before seamlessly switching to running on gasoline for extended range as well as all-electric vehicles (AEVs) powered solely by batteries with ranges of 80 to 300-plus miles before recharging is needed.
Both varieties of EVs can be charged by plugging into a standard 120V home outlet overnight to get about five miles of range per hour of charging. Access to 240V power speeds things up to 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging depending on the vehicle and charging power. Some AEVs also include DC fast-charging capability which provides an 80% charge in less than an hour.
The table above summarizes used electric car pricing and availability based on a search of cars.com in late August 2019. There were about 990 used plug-in vehicles advertised within 250 miles of White River Junction, Vermont. The table excludes a few lower availability models, so the actual number is somewhat higher. In addition, some buyers have looked further afield and had cars shipped from larger markets in the south and west, so broadening your search area could be worthwhile.
Used Electric Car Pricing and Availability
Cars.com within 250 miles of White River Junction, VT as of August 2019
Monetary incentives for new electric car purchases, like the federal tax credit, generally do not apply to used vehicles. There may be exceptions to this, so check online for information on incentives available in your area. Non-monetary incentives, such as access to carpool lanes, may be available regardless of whether you purchase a new or used electric car.
Additional considerations for those looking into used EVs in the northeast include:
Electric cars have proven to be extremely reliable, but getting a car checked out by a qualified mechanic before buying can help avoid any costly surprises. Electric car batteries are one of the most expensive components to replace. Fortunately, the batteries are engineered for eight to 10-plus year lifespans, and the majority continue to work well. Smartphone apps and devices are available for a few models that can connect with the on-board diagnostic systems to provide a detailed report of battery health.
Many electric cars have increased range over time. For example, a 2013 Nissan LEAF has 75 miles of range, while a 2019 LEAF will have 150 or 226, depending on the model. FuelEconomy.gov is an excellent resource to check estimated vehicle range when the vehicle was new and compare to current estimates provided by a fully charged used EV to better understand the battery health.
As the above pricing table indicates, there is significant variation in prices depending on the model, range, condition, dealer and other factors. Shopping around and negotiating can help get the best deal.
Some EV models destined for the northeast are shipped from the manufacturers with “cold weather packages” that increase performance in colder temperatures with battery heating systems or more efficient cabin heating. It is worth checking on the availability of these options as used EVs coming from other parts of the country may not have these options.
DC fast charging is often optional. We highly recommend this for those considering AEVs, so check the vehicle specifications for this.
Want more information? There are many excellent online resources and forums with information on electric cars and used vehicle pricing. Visit www.DriveElectricVT.com or just search for used electric cars in your area to get started.
David Roberts is the Drive Electric Vermont coordinator. He has driven an all-electric car for the past six years and says if you must drive, drive electric.