Used electric cars – should you worry about the battery?

Used electric car battery concerns

Used electric cars offer an affordable entry point into the world of EVs, but scare stories about batteries going bad and costing thousands to replace put many people off going electric.

So, should you worry about the battery?

In short, no.

The truth is that you shouldn’t worry about the battery unless the vehicle has done excessive mileage (e.g., over 100,000 miles in three years) or is over five years old. In any case, you can check the battery condition before buying anyway.

Most people can expect the battery in a used electric car to outlast their ownership, even if the age of the vehicle hits the ten-year mark before resale.

Related reading: How electric motors work.

That isn’t to say that lithium-ion batteries in electric cars do not degrade – they do over time and with charge cycles, but not at the rate you might think.

While a used EV might not have 100% battery capacity, vehicles under five years old should have between 90% and 95% capacity left.

It’s important to know that an EV battery is not considered spent until it drops to 70% capacity or less, which can take fifteen years or more.

The more cycles a battery has completed, the more it degrades, reducing its lifespan, and it will also degrade just sitting there, albeit slowly.

However, cycles are not the only thing that matter – charge cycle input does too. For example, charging to 80% extends battery lifespan.

Depending on the vehicle’s age, you might expect to get several years of use out of its battery before it needs replacing.

All new electric cars now come with some sort of battery warranty, so even a second-hand vehicle can be covered in case something goes wrong with the battery.

If you are considering a used electric car, you should always check the battery’s health before purchase, and find out what kind of warranty it has left on it.

Future battery technology will also extend battery lifespans beyond the fifteen year mark, so the issue of lifespan will become lesser as time goes on.

What to check when buying a used electric car

  • Maintenance records: Check the maintenance records of the car to determine if there has been consistent and proper maintenance. This will give you an idea of the general condition of the car and whether or not it has had any major issues or breakdowns.
  • Battery and range: Make sure to check the capacity and condition of the battery. Also, ask the owner about the efficiency it returns in the real-world.
  • Warranty: Ask the seller if it still has a manufacturer’s warranty and if they can provide a copy of it. This can help you determine any repair costs that may arise.
  • Test drive: Test driving the car is important. Be sure to test the acceleration, handling, and braking. Test the car in different environments to ensure proper functioning.
  • Car history: Before committing to buying the car, check its history report. Have the seller provide you with the vehicle’s title, registration, and service records. Make sure the car does not have a history of being involved in an accident or having any major repairs.
Alfred drives a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus but has his eye on a fully-electric pick-up truck. He'd love an electric Ford Ranger, which should be a real thing in a few years!