Never mind all the new electric cars arriving this year, could 2020 be the year people start buying used ones? It’s an important question since whether people are prepared to buy used electric cars and for how much will help determine how successful the new models will or won’t be.
Simply put, it’s used EVs that will provide nervous buyers with their first, more affordable experience of an electric car that one day may give them the confidence to purchase a new one. It’s used EVs that will determine how much people pay each month for a new model on a PCP. And it’s used EVs that, if they sell easily and for a profit, will give dealers the confidence to market and support the new models.
Fortunately, it looks as though EVs may have turned a corner. Consumer interest is increasing as new models with longer ranges arrive, the charging infrastructure expands and city centres begin penalising fossil-fuel cars. Sales of new and used models are growing while, crucially, the residual values of used EVs are, for the most part, stabilising and even rising in one or two cases, albeit from a very low base.
Leading auction house Shoreham Vehicle Auctions believes the market has reached a “tipping point of acceptance”. It cites the example of a 2015-reg Nissan Leaf Acenta with 20,000 miles that in 2017 was valued at £8850. Last year, the same model with the same mileage but registered in 2017 was, it says, worth £11,000.
It’s not a universal trend, though. CAP, a valuation guide, says the EV sector is a two-speed market with cheaper used EVs such as the Peugeot iOn and Renault Zoe rising in value, while premium models such as the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-tron and Tesla Model X are still falling.
“There is a growing market for a used EV bought for use as a second car for city commutes and we expect to see demand increase as clean air zones are rolled out and new models are launched,” says Chris Plumb, senior valuations editor at Cap HPI. “On the other hand, the high price of new premium models is yet to translate into higher used prices.”
As more EVs come to market, so the traditional laws of supply and demand are asserting themselves. For example, high numbers of two-year-old Volkswagen e-Golfs and Nissan Leafs (especially 30kWh models) are depressing prices. However, Plumb says that’s okay.
“A sign that the EV market is maturing is that used EVs are performing under the same market pressures as their petrol and diesel counterparts,” he says.
So, if EVs really have turned a corner, perhaps now is the time to consider buying a used one.
How to buy a used EV
With no oil to dip, no coolant to check, no other examples to compare it with and most likely a salesman who is as clueless as you are, a used EV can be a terrifying prospect for the uninformed car buyer. So start with the basics.
Generally speaking, firstgeneration EVs have shorter ranges than the latest models. You can gauge a model’s range from its kWh rating, such as the Renault Zoe’s 22kWh. It’s a measure of the battery’s energy storage capacity expressed in kilowatt hours. The larger the number, the greater the car’s range but the longer the battery will take to fully recharge.