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How to Buy a Used Electric Vehicle

EV shopping tips to help you avoid being saddled with a lemon

Hands are shown on the steering wheel of a Tesla electric vehicle

If you’ve long wanted to buy a new electric vehicle (EV) but were turned off by their sometimes-high sticker prices, take heart. Ontario has a vibrant market for second-hand EVs.

With a little online searching, you can find everything from the Nissan Leaf, the humble paterfamilias of the electric vehicle, to the Tesla Model S, the world’s quickest production car.

But before you jump into the world of battery power, experts recommend doing these three things.

1. Gauge Your Needs

A woman looks at her laptop, while sitting on the floor in her living room

There's a huge variation in how far electric cars can travel on a charge. Some will get you from Toronto to Montreal without breaking a sweat. Others will struggle to cover a quarter of that distance. So, it’s important to pick an electric car that will meet your driving needs, says Ryan Peterson, the manager of automotive services with CAA South Central Ontario. “Capacity, capacity, capacity,” he says. “If you're going to buy an electric car, the number one thing you need to think about is battery capacity.

2. Beware of battery degradation

A dashboard displaying battery life is shown

We'll spare you the chemistry lesson, but over time the batteries in many older electric cars degrade, biting into their range. That can make a car with an already small battery almost unusable. Luckily, it’s easy to tell how much a power pack has deteriorated, says Clara Clairman, the head of Plug ‘N Drive, an electric vehicle advocacy group. Just charge the car to full, look on the instrument panel to see the range remaining, then compare that to the range the vehicle had when it was new.

3. Take stock of your charging infrastructure

A woman is shown at an electric vehicle charging station

If you buy an electric car, you’re going to need a place to charge it. If you live in a house, you can plug your vehicle into any three-pronged wall outlet, but charging could take days. So, you’ll probably need to install a 240-volt charger. If you live in an apartment, make sure there’s a charger in your garage, Peterson says. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to use commercial quick charging stations, which will be both inconvenient and expensive, he says.

Want to learn more about battery-powered vehicles?

Visit CAA’s electric vehicle portal. And if you want a more detailed primer on buying used, attend a seminar hosted by Plug ‘N Drive. That could make you eligible for up to $2,000 in rebates on the purchase of a second-hand electric car.

Plus, you can always get in touch with the CAA Auto Advice team for car shopping questions.

Keep reading

Check out the fall 2020 issue of CAA Magazine to find out which electric vehicles have the best range for the price.

Image credits: Courtesy of Santeri Viinamäki, iStock.com/PeopleImages, iStock.com/leongoedhart, iStock.com/ViktorCap