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Thinking of buying a second-hand electric car what do I need to know ?

(10 Posts)
Mantegnaria Wed 01-Nov-17 12:32:56

This will be a second car for local journeys as we live in a small village. About 4 miles to station for commute, 3 miles to Sainsbury's, 5 miles to town centre for other shops, 2 miles to GP surgery and occasional trips to nearby towns 17 miles and 26 miles. All distances one way so double for the round trip.

Looking at second-hand but recent Nissan Leafs and Renault Zoes as they are very cheap compared to new at between £4K and £8K for models from 2014 / 2015 / 2016.

What are the snags ?

What are the charging costs really like (quoted figures between 2p and 4p per mile) ?

Do you run out and get stranded ?

Do they break down ?

How much is maintenance ?

How much is insurance ?

Sorry a bit geeky but all comments gratefully received 🤓

CakeFreeWonderland Wed 01-Nov-17 20:21:58


mumofkyle Tue 14-Nov-17 18:43:48

Bump from me too.

I’ve just had my current car MOT’d and I haven’t even done 2,000 miles since last years confused so am looking at the option of an electric car too. The government did offer a grant to have the charging port installed but is this just for new cars?

I’d be grateful for any advice!

CakeFreeWonderland Wed 15-Nov-17 12:36:05

Try this place

I am told it’s the most active site in the UK on electric vehicles. Lots of help on general issues and different makes.

TalbotAMan Wed 15-Nov-17 22:32:29

Second hand 'pure' electric cars in that price bracket means Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe. Teslas are available but are much more. There are a few oddball cars around (such as the Mitsubishi iMEV and its Citroen and Peugeot clones) and some that sold in very low numbers (Renault Fluence and previous e-Golf), but I would tend to avoid them because of the difficulties in any low volume car in getting parts.

Be careful with Zoes. Initially, Renault sold the car but only leased its battery. That didn't make too much difference new, when a lot of people bought them on PCP, but secondhand the lease is quite a big monthly payment. Later cars had the option of buying the car outright. Battery leasing came with a promise that that battery would be replaced as and when it's capacity dropped below a certain level, but the impression I get is that batteries are lasting better than expected and so very few are being replaced under guarantee. There were some Nissan Leafs sold on this basis too -- they are called 'Flex' -- and dealers don't always make that clear in their adverts.

The Nissan Leaf had a significant mechanical/electrical upgrade in 2013 when they moved production from Japan to Sunderland and generally the Sunderland-built cars are considered better; the main difference is that the Japanese cars had a light interior but nearly all the UK cars have a black one (a very few had the light one as an option). Also avoid the lowest trim, called Visia or Visia+, because the general view on those is that the cost cutting went too far -- for example, in the 2013 upgrade they put a much more efficient heater in the other trims, but left the Visia with the original one.

All electric cars are automatics (strictly, because the electric motor is more flexible than a conventional one, they only need a single gear so there's nothing to change -- even reverse is by running the motor backwards).

The main snag is range. Newer cars are getting better. Leafs and Zoes should comfortably manage what you describe, but long journeys require careful planning and relatively frequent recharging.

The other snag is the effective battery life. The problem here is that the cars aren't old enough for anyone to really know how long a battery really lasts. There are some horror stories from the US, but temperatures can get much hotter and colder there than here, and batteries don't like extreme hot and cold. In the UK batteries seem to last reasonably well.

Real charging costs depend on where you charge. The standard unit of electricity is the kiloWatt hour (kWh), which is what your electricity meter measures in. The equivalent to mpg is mpkWh. A Zoe or Leaf will probably achieve between 3 and 5 mpKWh, depending on how it is driven and the weather -- performance is worse in rain and cold (which is also true for conventional cars but gets hidden because their fuel reserves in terms of miles are so much greater). At home I am currently paying 12p per kWh. In contrast, DW's 1.6 diesel estate does 45mpg, which is 10 miles per litre, and diesel round here is around 120p per litre, so I am getting 4 miles for the price of 1.

If you charge away from home, then prices are more variable. Greater Manchester, where I go quite regularly, has lots of free public charging -- totally free (though you pay £20 a year for the access card -- there is a free phone app but that's too flaky to rely on). At the other end of the scale, Ecotricity at a motorway service station will charge a £3 access fee and then 17p per kWh, which can work out being more expensive than diesel would be.

Do you run out and get stranded? Not yet. The cars are very good at monitoring how much charge they have, and there are several apps that will find the nearest charge point. The longest trip I have done in the Leaf, which was in summer and driving carefully, was about 84 miles return. If you do, then the AA or RAC should recover you to a charge point.

Servicing is different. Most of the servicing on a conventional car -- oil, air and oil filters, exhausts, spark plugs -- isn't needed on an electric car. There are some people out there who think you don't service an electric car once its out of guarantee because there's no point. Even brake wear is minimal because most braking is electromechanical. They do of course have other things that need monitoring and changing -- you still have tyres and brake fluid and wiper blades for example. Equally, there's a lot less to break, but you still have suspension and body and quite a lot of electronics. My last breakdown in a conventional car was when one of the front springs broke, which could just as well happen to an electric car.

Electric cars have tended to be placed in higher insurance groups than equivalent conventional cars to date, but otherwise it's very difficult to say what the insurance costs are. I am an 'experienced driver' with 9 years no claims living in NW England and I have just renewed on my Leaf for 15,000 miles a year at £270.

The best way to decide is to get behind the wheel and test drive one. When you do, you'll find that nothing this side of a Rolls is as smooth and as quiet.

1StayHomeDad Tue 21-Nov-17 18:39:56

Problem is the the battery - bought a second hand prius needed to replace the battery very quickly. Need to check the number of charges and hours carefully.

Mycarsmellsoflavender Sat 25-Nov-17 20:01:02

Talbots man has said most of it already. I bought a used 2015 Leaf a couple of weeks ago and am enjoying using it. Very similar situation to yourself, OP in that it's a second car and we live in a rural area about 4 miles from any civilisation including school so it gets lots of short runs of under 10 miles. It's more than adequate for how I intend to use it, even if the battery deteriorates as it will do over the years, providing that my needs don't change. Currently I get about 86 miles off a 100% charge.

I also looked at the Zoe as the only other EV within my price range but wanted to own, not lease the battery, and Zoe's with owned batteries (known as ZOEi) are like hens' teeth! So I bought a Leaf. And very nice it is too...

Do you have an old car to trade in? Currently Nissan dealers are doing a trade in scheme where the knock £2k off the deposit if you scrap an older car (pre 2009 I think). If you haven't got an old car to scrap / trade in, you might be better off either buying privately or waiting until the scheme ends in a month or so as I have a hunch that the dealers are inflating the price of used Leafs due to the scrappage scheme.

Things to look out for ( on a Leaf, can't comment on other models)

Is that battery owned or leased? Most on sale are owned but there are a few on lease known as flex. If it's unusually cheap, it's probably flex.
How many bars total capacity does the battery have? At full capacity, it has 12 bars. Gradually over time, the battery will lose maximum capacity. I think the first bar tends to disappear after about 3 or 4 years, and the second about 18 months later. There's not much data around as the leaf has only been around since 2011 but there seems to be some indication that age of the battery is more of a factor than the mileage done so higher mileage isn't necessarily bad. Apparently there's a 2011 Leaf taxi in Cornwall which has done 170000 miles and has the same battery state of health as other cars of its age with far lower mileage, and it's still going strong!
From 2013 onwards, trim models in ascending order are : visia, visia+, acenta and Tekna.

All EVs are automatic. Leafs from 2013 onwards have the parking brake near your left foot where the clutch would normally be. Takes a bit of getting used to but after a day or two it's fine. Many people, myself included, have done an impromptu emergency stop while forgetting that they weren't driving a manual! Once you're used to the automatic transition, it is so easy to drive.

You can get data from your car sent to your phone or tablet. I don't think you have this option on Visia models. This week, I have averaged 3.8 miles per kW/h. I pay just under 10p per kWh so it works out at about 2.6 p per mile. Equivalent in cost to getting over 200mpg in a conventional car. Can't get anywhere near that in our diesel! It really is very very economical to run. It should improve further in spring/ summer as the battery works better in warmer weather.

I charge whenever the sun is shining as I have solar PV. I seem to get about 15 miles range per hour of charging, so mostly I just charge for a couple of hours per day. It's supposedly better for the battery not to constantly charge to 100%, so I generally only charge when it goes below 50% unless I've got a longer trip planned and need the range.

SpeakEV is excellent - it's where I've got most of my info. Come and join us!

JaffaCakes4TeaNow Tue 26-Dec-17 17:40:32


PaddyF0dder Thu 12-Apr-18 15:32:22

I’ve got a second hand leaf.

Lovely car. Just be aware of your range, if you think you’re going to exceed it, plan your journey to go via a fast charger.

You’d need to be a bit of a numpty to run out of charge.

PaddyF0dder Thu 12-Apr-18 15:34:48

Sorry, answering more questions...

Had it for a year. So far no maintenance needed. They don’t have the usual things that break - no exhaust, no gear box, no oil. Etc etc. They’re a simpler machine and are known to be more reliable and cheaper to run.

Insurance is a bit higher than a fossil car. But it balances out with cheaper running costs, no tax etc.

Go for it. Electric cars are great.

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