2016 Nissan Leaf electric vehicle
2016 Nissan Leaf

Electric cars have a reputation for being spendy, and it’s not undeserved. The technology is still pretty new, though as more vehicles are made, the economies of scale mean prices drop. It also helps that many new EVs are being developed on a platform that can be shared with other powertrains. The Honda Clarity and Hyundai Ioniq, for example come in three flavors each.

If brand-new EVs are expensive, then it stands to reason that used EVs are expensive too, right? Nope. But you’re not alone in thinking that they should be spendier. A survey from Autolist shows a lot of people think used EVs cost about $5,000 more than used gasoline-powered cars.

But Autolist’s data shows that a 2015 Nissan Leaf retails for an average of $12,780. That’s less than a 2015 Toyota Corolla or a 2015 Honda Civic. And 2015 Nissan Leafs (that’s an awkward plural) have an average of 10,000 fewer miles on the odometer.

Ol’ Reliable Can Be a Used EV

That leads us to the next mistaken perception people have about used EVs: they’re unreliable. I’ve run into this a lot myself; people often ask about battery technology, reliability, and replacement costs. It is very hard to convince them that the technology has come a long way in the past few years.

The Autolist survey showed that 41% of respondents said reliability was their number-one concern for a used EV. But when Autolist asked its users to rate the reliability of their vehicles, the 2015 Nissan Leaf was rated about the same as the 2015 Corolla and Civic—two of the bastions of reliability.

Interestingly, the next concern on the list was charging time, at 28%. That’s a savvy concern, really, since batteries do degrade over time (but not too much over two years).

Is “Used” Code for “Out of Date”?

Another 11% cited “upcoming tech advances” as their main concern, which again makes a lot of sense. For a century, once you bought a car, you could be pretty sure it would be a useful car for the next five years or more. Maybe a better stereo or new paint color would come out, but that was about it. Changes were incremental.

Not anymore. Changes are fast and big. Battery technology improvements can mean a hundred more miles of range between charges. Charging technology improvements can mean charging in half an hour instead of overnight. Technology updates can mean access to apps and in-home assistants and over-the-air updates. A used EV only a couple years old might not have the technologies you want. It’s up to you if you’re willing to put up with older tech while you try out EV ownership on the cheap.

Buying a used can be an easier way to add an electric car to your family’s little fleet. You won’t get any tax credits or anything on a used car, but you can save a whole lot of straight up cash by buying used. If you love it, you can spring for a brand-new model with all the latest charging and battery tech next time around.—KHG

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