Is buying a used electric or hybrid car a good idea?

Buying a used electric or hybrid car can help you save a lot in the long run. Just make sure you do your homework before taking the plunge

Thinking about buying a used electric or hybrid car but can’t afford a brand new one? The good news is that the used market for both is growing by the day, with thousands of cars to choose from.

Like any used purchase, there are certain pitfalls to avoid and steps to take to make sure you are buying the right car for your needs.

Do you need an electric car and does one suit your driving needs?

Think about the kind of daily driving you will require from a hybrid or electric car. If you’re going fully electric, what kind of mileage will you be doing and where will you charge the vehicle? These are some of the big questions to answer.

Early electric vehicles come with a smaller battery range than current models. A used electric vehicle is likely to have an even smaller range than when the vehicle was new, as batteries degrade over time. The first-generation Nissan Leaf, for example, has a realistic range of about 90 miles.

If the kind of driving you do is suitable for an electric vehicle, then there is the question of where and how to charge it. Do you have access to off-street parking, garage or driveway that will allow you to plug the vehicle in overnight?

Hybrids do not come with the same restrictions, but it’s still worth thinking if one suits you. If your commute involves many motorway miles, or you’re required to cover long distances for your work, a hybrid may not the best used purchase.

However, if you drive mostly in the city, a hybrid or electric car will be ideal.

What to look for in a used electric car or hybrid?

One of the big checks is the battery. Make sure to view it when fully charged and note the range the car’s range indicator is showing. This will give you a good idea of the condition it is in.

A higher mileage battery may not necessarily be worse than a lower mileage battery – how the car is driven and charged also makes an impact on the battery life. Ask questions about how the owner charges their car and the kind of driving they do.

If the owner lets the battery levels drop to zero before recharging, this is a bad sign as it can accelerate wear on the batteries.

Be sure to conduct the usual checks, too. Ensure the electronics onboard all work, check the condition of the tyres and whether the body work has any scratches. Service and MoT history (if applicable) should be inspected as well.

Also make sure to check whether the owner has the battery on a lease or if he or she bought the car outright with the battery included.

Battery lease explained

Some manufacturers give new car buyers the option to lease the battery in their car. This means the vehicle and battery are effectively leased separately with two different payments, often starting at £49 a month for the battery lease.

The benefit of a battery lease is that it protects the owner in case the battery has to be swapped or repaired if it goes below a certain level.