Used electric car: what to check before buying

The electric car attracts more and more drivers. According to AAA Data, sales increased by 40% from January to April compared to the same period last year, exceeding 56,000 units sold in France. However, the high purchase price of these cars remains a brake for many French people who prefer to turn to the second-hand market. A choice that is all the more interesting as the electric models fall off pretty quickly. In fact, the technologies they carry (battery, charger, etc.) are rapidly becoming obsolete.

Take the example of the Renault Zoé. Battery capacity has more than doubled between a 2016 and 2019 model. Ditto for the BMW i3, whose range and charging power have evolved a lot during its commercial career. A real headache for buyers, which should lead them to a careful verification of the features of the coveted model. And this, even though the seller is a professional (they are largely in the majority in the used market), some are stingy with information about electric cars.

Also beware of certain models whose retail price does not include … the battery. Renault (Zoé), Nissan (Leaf) or even Smart (Fortwo ED) have previously offered deals that allow customers to reduce the purchase price of the car by leasing the battery. In the case of resale, it is up to the new owner to pay the monthly payments, the amount of which may still exceed a few hundred euros, depending on the package chosen at that time.

“The battery is the most important control point”

Then comes the visual check. Like any used vehicle, the condition of the body and the wear of the tires or brakes must be checked, even if the latter is less stressed on an electric model thanks to regenerative braking. Finally, check the presence of the maintenance book and that the technical check is updated if the vehicle is more than four years old.

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There are also some electricity-specific checkpoints. engine? It is a robust and reliable part that rarely causes problems on most models available in the market. Charging cables? Check their presence and condition. Do not hesitate to test a load, because their replacement costs several hundred euros. Battery? It’s more complicated because you can not see it (it is hidden under the vehicle), and no suspicious noise makes it possible to identify a problem during a test drive.

“But this is the most important, even essential, checkpoint on an electric car,” confirms Guillaume Hébert, CEO of Moba. “A battery loses about 2.5% of its capacity per year. This is a phenomenon called aging, which results in a loss of power and a longer recharge.”

This French startup has developed a system to know the health status of a battery. Using a mobile application and a diagnostic box inserted into the vehicle’s OBD socket, the company generates a certificate indicating the percentage of the battery. Knowing that a battery is considered degraded when the value approaches 60%, slightly below the 70% autonomy that manufacturers cover over a period of 8 years. “We even provide a grid of autonomy so that the customer projects himself on the use he will be able to make of the vehicle,” Guillaume Hébert abounds.

Cost of the operation: 49 euros. A more attractive price than that offered by some car brand garages because the operation is carried out directly by the customers. “We send the case by post with a return envelope. This allows us to reduce costs, ”says the general manager of Moba. Only problem, this certificate has no official value at the moment. “There is no standard today, but it still allows us to show our credentials to buyers,” explains Guillaume Hébert.

Also pay attention to ideas received. The battery in a newer electric car is not necessarily in better condition than an older model. “The degradation rate will, above all, depend on how the car is used,” explains the head of Moba. For sporty driving (strong acceleration), for frequent use of fast charging stations (ionity type), extreme weather conditions are all points that will affect battery wear.

A battery usually has a lifespan of 8 to 10 years on average. But buying a model with reduced capacity is not necessarily a bad deal. “It may be the right plan for someone who needs a car to go to work every day,” says Guillaume Hébert. “Of course, provided you know the condition of the battery in advance and therefore buy the car at the right price”. Replacing the battery is a heavy operation that can cost between 10,000 and 15,000 euros.

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