How cheaply can I buy a used electric car?

You’ll need at least £5,000 to buy a used electric car, but think twice before reaching for your wallet. Because while some cars grow old gracefully, an ageing electric car could be an unwise investment.

The fact is, electric vehicles are developing at such a rate, even a car registered a decade ago might be completely outmoded and less financially savvy than it first appears. To highlight this point, let’s consider the cheapest used electric cars you can buy.

Once upon a time, you were limited to just a handful of electric cars, three of which were little more than re-badged versions of the same vehicle. We’re talking about the Peugeot Ion, Citroen C-Zero and Mitsubishi i-Miev.

Ludicrously expensive when new, these cars were actually pretty decent to drive, offered seating for four, and were well suited to city life. However, 80 miles of electric range is woefully inadequate in 2020, when 200 miles is fast becoming the norm. 

Citroen C-Zero used electric car

The other problem is the cost of a new battery pack, with Honest John quoting a figure of €22,610 (£19,900) plus tax. Given that these cars were sold between 2011 and 2017, and batteries typically last around 10 years, that’s a potentially scary headache.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that batteries suffer from reduced range over time, so you might struggle to achieve the distances quoted when the cars were new. This will be a problem affecting the earliest Nissan Leafs, although it is possible to replace faulty battery cells.

In fact, the Nissan Leaf would be our recommended choice if you’re buying a used electric car on a budget. It blazed a trail for the industry, so there’s a wide selection of cars to choose from. At the time of writing there are around 1,100 for sale on Auto Trader, with prices ranging from £5,000 to £40,000.

A range of 124 miles is a bit below par in the context of modern electric cars – the new Leaf delivers up to 239 miles – but if you’re using the car for station runs and trips to the local shops, it should be fine.

Nissan Leaf used electric car

The Leaf came with a five-year/60,000-mile battery warranty, so take this into account when buying a used example. A new battery will cost around £5,000, but you’ll get some money back in exchange for the old one.

Are electric car prices going up?

Interestingly, used electric car prices are actually on the rise. Research by Cargurus shows that as people become more familiar with electric cars, the demand is growing, which has a knock-on effect on prices.

Since January 2017, the price of a 2015 Renault Zoe has gained 14 percent, rising from £6,425 to £7,612. Today, Zoe prices start from £6,000, but there’s a catch. Most models were sold without the cost of the batteries included – owners leased them from Renault. This will set you back at least £70 per month on top of the price of the car.

Realistically, armed with a budget of £10,000, your choice is limited to the Leaf, Zoe, Ion, C-Zero and i-Miev. We could include the tiny Renault Twizy, but strictly speaking it’s not a car and its appeal is limited.

Renault Zoe used electric car

Spending £12,000 opens the market to the Volkswagen e-Up and the earliest examples of the Kia Soul EV, while £13,000 should secure an early BMW i3. 

In truth, you’ll need to spend at least £20,000 for the pick of the electric car crop. At this point, the likes of the Volkswagen e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq Electric and the new, much-improved Nissan Leaf become realistic prospects.

However, we’d recommend leasing rather than buying. You could find the monthly cost works out cheaper than the finance on a used car and you won’t be left behind by rapid advances in electric car technology.

At the end of your two- or three-year leasing contract, simply return the car and lease a new one. It will almost certainly have a longer range, take less time to charge and will come with the latest safety and connectivity tech.

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