Car Buying

Problems to Look For When Buying a Used Electric Car

The electric car market is one of the fastest-growing markets in the automotive industry, but buying one still isn’t something that everyone is comfortable with. That’s what makes it so important to know what the most common problems are to look for, even more so when you’re buying a used second-hand electric car. They are still highly intricate machines after all, and there is always room for errors in a used vehicle.

In reality, electric cars do suffer from a lot of the same problems that petrol or diesel cars do, too. They serve the same purpose with the same functions, the only real difference is their mechanics and what’s under the bonnet, or what’s not, in this case. That is exactly the reason why we’re here with our industry expertise and vehicle inspection knowledge, using our experience checking on these machines before they’re sold and making these problems better known about. Used electric car buying guide.

Brakes

The first problem to look for when buying a used electric car is worn brake pads. Brakes aren’t a cheap thing to replace on any vehicle, but with electric cars, there’s slightly more to it than it might seem. The biggest reason for that is the regenerative braking that comes with an EV. This is because when the car is not speeding up, electric cars are generally designed to convert energy back into something of use by turning the motors in the opposite direction. This is a set level by the manufacturer, so every car is different, but it’s a feature on practically every electric vehicle. Check how to check brakes.

When the car is not accelerating, it uses regenerative braking to help the battery perform better when in use. For many drivers, that vastly reduces the use of standard braking. As a result, if you’re looking at an EV, private or dealership, it could be a sign that the car has been through some hard driving. To put it into context, brakes on electric cars typically last up to 7 years at an average 10k miles per year. It’s a useful indicator to account for.

Wear and Tear

Now, although brakes can be abused, they’re also something used in everyday driving. They are subject to typical wear and tear just like every other moving or friction bearing part of a car. In much the same way as this, it’s still just as important as ever to check for the rest of the signs of wear and tear. When we say wear and tear, we mean the usuals, like:

  • Tyre condition
  • Paintwork
  • Scratches
  • Dents
  • Interior condition

Each of these has its own story to tell, but still, make sure to remember that a car is a car. There’s only so much that you can do to protect it. With that being said, remember what it can still tell you about how it has been looked after. That’s especially important when thinking about batteries, which we’ll come onto soon. In much the same way, be aware of how they reflect on both the value of the vehicle now, and when it comes time for you to sell it in the future.

Suspension

Suspension is usually something that falls into wear and tear. Potholes in the road, speed bumps, too much weight in the vehicle… The possible causes of suspension wear and tear are almost unavoidable. The difference with electric cars however is that there is another culprit at work, and that’s the battery system in place.

On average, an electric model of a vehicle will weigh more than the fossil fuels alternatives. That means the suspension of the vehicle is under more pressure when on the road. That of course has a toll on its longevity, and as a result, it’s important to check the suspension when you’re buying a used electric car, or have an experienced professional do it for you to get under the surface.

Software

A completely unique problem to look out for when you’re buying a second hand electric car is the software history that the car has behind it. Electric cars are subject to updates just like most other intricate technologies are. Manufacturers are finding new ways to optimise systems all the time, and that needs to be applied to old and new cars alike. 

A great way to actually be able to check this is through the vehicle’s service history. That’s because in most cases, these software updates, especially the more impactful ones, need to be installed by a specialist. That usually comes from the servicer of the vehicle, and with electric cars being difficult for many general mechanics to work from, that often comes from dealer services. There are still minor updates that can be done at home for some models, however, so it’s worth doing some research into how to check the specific EV you’re buying.

Recalls

Although the software is great in EVs, since it’s what makes the whole vehicle operational and can be updated to make sure that your car is always in prime condition, it does still pose some issues in some very rare cases. With electric cars being so new to the market, it only stands to reason that there are still some teething issues with all of this new technology taking place. As a result, over the years, there have actually been some recalls for a small number of electric vehicles, and for numerous different reasons.

Because of this, it means that one of the single most important problems that you need to look for when buying a used electric car is the recall history. Search for it wherever you can, and even more so if you’re buying the car privately, since there are no warranties involved, and even fewer consumer rights. If there has been a recall, there’s likely a solid reason for it, and you could be opening yourself up to a number of different problems.

What about Battery Longevity?

One of the most common talked about problems when buying a used electric car is always going to be the health of the battery, simply because of the entire principle behind battery degradation. They aren’t like typical engines after all. They lose their integrity as time goes on. On average, that’s by around 2% of their original range year on year. Although time is one of the biggest factors, it’s also impacted by overcharging or undercharging the vehicle (since the optimum is between 40% and 80% charge). That isn’t to say that they’re bad investments in the slightest. All it does mean is that when it comes to buying one, you know what to look for to make sure there are no problems.

The easiest way to go about making sure you’re making a solid decision regarding the battery specifically is first to check the vehicle’s indication lights. If there is a problem with the battery or the condition isn’t up to scratch, it will likely be showing somewhere on the vehicle’s dashboard. If it isn’t, there are still some extra precautions that you can take to make sure you’re being sensible.

Checking the warranty on the vehicle’s battery is often another good place to look. Many EV manufacturers are providing 5, if not 8 year warranties for their batteries to ensure that they can be trusted for a reasonable amount of time. Make sure to calculate how much you will have left. 

Should You Buy a Used Electric Car?

So, with all of this said and done, should you still even be thinking about buying a used electric car? Absolutely! Electric cars and the technology behind them is getting better every single day. They have a range of different benefits, and they will be the only new vehicles on the market in the UK after 2030 if the government’s plan comes to fruition. That’s one of the main reasons there are so many great software updates making things better than ever, and why some of the cheaper EVs on the market are actually increasing in value over time too.

There are of course some possible issues like we have looked at, but in reality, that’s the same with every car. Even in a worst-case scenario, new batteries are still a possibility too, and they cost dramatically less than a new engine would do in most cases. No car is guaranteed to be a good buy, and that’s why vehicle inspection services like CarExamer exist in the first place. Batteries are just another area of importance to know about, and it’s something that is easily done with the right know-how.