Aaron Widmar
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Should You Buy A Used Electric Car?

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2018 Hyundai Ioniq plug-in electric car Chicago Auto Show (5)
2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Electric at the Chicago Auto Show

An electric vehicle is a great way to save money because of its limited maintenance needs and lack of gasoline (and, obviously, it’s good for the environment). But is it a wise idea to try saving even more money by purchasing a used electric car instead of a brand-new one? Do the risks of buying a pre-owned EV outweigh the benefits?

Best Investments: Which models are best to buy pre-owned?

The risks and benefits of purchasing a pre-owned electric vehicle

Tax incentives: Purchasing a brand-new electric vehicle comes with a generous federal tax incentive (up to $7,500 in credit!), but you’re not eligible for that bonus if you purchase a used electric car that someone else already owned and received the credit on.

Depreciation: EVs depreciate in value very rapidly, so you’ll pay much less to buy a pre-owned model that’s a couple years old. According to iSeeCars, a new electric vehicle loses around 56 percent of its initial value in the first three years, which is about 20 percent more than the market average for all cars. If you buy a brand-new EV, it will have drastically dropped in value once you intend to sell it.

Maintenance: The more miles are on a car’s odometer, the more maintenance it will require. A used EV’s parts — like brakes and tires — will have endured more wear and tear than a brand-new EV’s would have, so be prepared to pay for more upkeep costs on a pre-owned electric car.

Used Vehicle Research Tool: This comprehensive resource identifies the best brands and vehicles to buy pre-owned

Battery: The biggest maintenance cost on an electric vehicle is replacing the battery, which typically happens 8-10 years into its lifespan and costs a couple thousand dollars. The battery’s performance slowly declines the older it is as well, meaning even a functioning older battery might be a headache. Keep those possibilities in mind when you decide how old of an EV you intend to buy and how long you decide to keep it.

Warranty: Like any vehicle purchase, a new vehicle carries a longer remaining warranty period than a pre-owned EV would that’s already halfway through its warranty. If you want more comprehensive warranty coverage to last longer into your ownership, you’ll get more on a brand-new EV.

Features: Because a pre-owned EV will be a couple of years older than a brand-new one would be, the newer edition will have additional and better features than the older model will. If you want more bells and whistles, you’ll find the latest ones on a brand-new EV.

In the majority of cases, purchasing a brand-new electric car costs as much as buying the same EV pre-owned — especially if that tax credit covers how much more you’ll pay on the sticker price. But, on luxury or fully loaded EVs, buying used can drop the price low enough for you to afford a model that’s normally outside of your budget, and the savings could well exceed the tax credit you’re missing out on.