Considering buying a used EV? Here are five things to know.

Electric vehicles have a wide range of environmental and consumer cost benefits. We’ve compiled some tips on how to navigate the market for used EVs and ultimately make a decision that fits your needs while also curbing pollution.

Electric vehicles charging
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Mackenzie Brown
Mackenzie Brown

Former Global Warming Solutions, Associate, Environment America

Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

You’ve considered the various benefits of switching to an electric vehicle (EV) and you’re ready to think about actually purchasing one. Now what?

With more EVs out on the road than ever before, plus new incentives like tax credits for going electric, in just a few short years the dream of sailing past gas stations in a hybrid or all-electric car has become attainable for millions of Americans.

And the transition comes not a moment too soon for our environment. Transportation is our country’s No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions, and accelerating the movement toward an EV future will be crucial to preserving a healthy climate for future generations.

Still, EVs are expensive — so you may have set your sights on buying used rather than new. To help prospective buyers navigate the various options for used EVs, and learn how to get the most out of going electric, Environment America hosted a webinar entitled “Taking Charge: A guide to used electric vehicles.”

Here are our top five takeaways:

1) Hybrid vs. Plug-in Hybrid vs. Battery Electric

Gabe Shenhar with Consumer Reports kicked off the webinar with an overview of the three main types of EVs:

  • Hybrids, or HEVs, have an electric motor augmenting a gas engine and can drive entirely on electric power at low speeds. They don’t require plug-in charging but do require gas fill-ups, and their high fuel economy results in lower tailpipe emissions.
  • Plug-in Hybrids, or PHEVs, have larger batteries than regular hybrids, can run for longer on just electric power, require charging in order to fully benefit from its higher capacity for electric power, can be driven in High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes, and qualify for local and federal tax incentives.
  • Battery Electric Vehicles, or BEVs, have no internal combustion engine and operate entirely on electric power. They emit zero tailpipe pollution, have a typical range of around 250-300 miles, and may take several hours to fully charge.

2) The ins and outs of EV charging and range

It’s important to know the different types of charging infrastructure out there and which might be the most accessible to you:

  • Level 1: A regular household 120-volt outlet works for hybrids and plug-in hybrids and can be used for overnight charging.
  • Level 2: A residential 240-volt charging port is the most common way EV owners charge, and you can also find level 2 charging at public locations such as hotels, train stations, supermarkets and parking garages.
  • Level 3: 480-volt DC fast charging stations can give your EV 150 miles of range on one half-hour charge. Tesla’s level 3 charging infrastructure is the most convenient — but for non-Tesla owners, stations are few and far between.

3) Cost: Up-front and lifetime

EVs typically have a higher purchase cost than their gas-powered counterparts. But in general, that expense is more than offset by the savings accrued over the lifetime of an EV in reduced fuel and maintenance costs.

In fact, a Consumer Reports analysis calculated the total annual operating cost for the gas-powered Hyundai Kona to be around $1,500 — compared to just $550 for the Hyundai Kona Electric.

A few more useful notes about the cost and longevity of used EVs specifically:

  • Used EVs can be a great bargain — for example, a 2019 Nissan Leaf costs around $23,000.
  • The battery capacity of an EV does wane over time — 10-20% over 10 years.
  • Most EV warranties cover you for up to 100,000 miles and are transferable.

And a slide from the webinar on what EV purchases qualify for the Used Clean Vehicle Tax Credit (which Environment America helped pass last fall as part of the federal Inflation Reduction Act):

4) EVs and the environment

Ellie Peichel of Plug In America spoke to the role EVs play in helping America (and the world) meet our climate goals and combat global warming. Her main takeaways:

  • Continuing to develop the used EV market will be critical for making it more accessible for more people to go electric.
  • There are multiple options for repurposing an EV battery once it reaches the end of its life. In particular, all of the individual elements of an EV battery can be recycled for the manufacturing of new batteries.

5) Resources for maintenance, car history and more

Closing out the event was Craig Van Batenburg of the Automotive Career Development Center. Craig detailed how technological advancements have resulted in EV batteries with far fewer parts (and therefore fewer potential breakages) than internal combustion engines, as well as the near-tripling of the range for a typical EV since 2012.

Buying a used EV can allow you to get the benefits of these technologies at a more affordable price point — but it’s important to investigate a car’s history before buying (paying special attention to the wear on the battery pack), and to locate and visit your local EV technician before you buy. You can look for resources in your area by visiting hybridshoplocator.com, and you can get a free battery health report on recurrent.com.

Still have questions? Find out more by checking out the video recording of the webinar.

Want to get more involved in the effort to transition our country to all-electric transportation? Visit our electric vehicles topic page below.

Topics
Authors

Mackenzie Brown

Former Global Warming Solutions, Associate, Environment America

Johanna Neumann

Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America

Johanna directs strategy and staff for Environment America's energy campaigns at the local, state and national level. In her prior positions, she led the campaign to ban smoking in all Maryland workplaces, helped stop the construction of a new nuclear reactor on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and helped build the support necessary to pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which set a goal of reducing the state’s per capita electricity use by 15 percent. She also currently serves on the board of Community Action Works. Johanna lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family, where she enjoys growing dahlias, biking and the occasional game of goaltimate. 

Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

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