Used electric car: what to check before you buy

The electric car is attracting more and more motorists. According to AAA Data, sales rose 40% from January to April compared to the same period last year, surpassing the 56,000 units sold in France. However, the high purchase price of these cars remains a brake on many French people who prefer to resort to the second hand market. An option that is all the more interesting as the electric models are falling quite quickly. Indeed, the technologies they carry (battery, charger, etc.) are rapidly becoming obsolete.

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

It also has certain models whose sale price does not include … the battery. Renault (Zoe), Nissan (Leaf) or even Smart (Fortwo ED) have in the past offered deals that allow customers to reduce the purchase price of the car by renting the battery. In the resale, it is up to the new owner to pay the monthly payments, the amounts of which can still exceed a few hundred euros, depending on the package chosen at the time.

“Battery is the main checkpoint”

Then comes the visual check. Like any second-hand vehicle, the condition of the body and the wear and tear of the tires or brakes must be inspected, even if the latter are less stressful in an electric model thanks to regenerative braking. Finally, check the presence of the maintenance book and that the technical inspection is up to date, if the vehicle is more than four years old.

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There are also some specific checkpoints for electricity. Engine? It is a robust and reliable piece that rarely causes problems in most models available in the market. Charging cables? Check your presence and status. Feel free to try a load because it costs several hundred euros to replace. Pila? It is more complicated because it is not visible (it is hidden under the vehicle) and no suspicious noise can identify a problem during a driving test.

“However, this is the main, even essential, control point of an electric car,” says Guillaume Hébert, CEO of Moba. “A battery loses about 2.5% of its capacity a year. This is a phenomenon called aging and it causes a loss of power and a longer recharge.”

This French startup has developed a system to know the health of a battery. Using a mobile app and a diagnostic box that connects to the vehicle’s OBD socket, the company generates a certificate stating the battery status as a percentage. Knowing that a battery is considered degraded when the value is close to 60%, slightly below the 70% range covered by the manufacturers for a period of 8 years. “We even give a grid of autonomy for the customer to project on the use he can make of the vehicle,” says Guillaume Hébert.

Cost of the operation: 49 euros. A more attractive price than that offered by certain garages of car brands because the operation is carried out directly by customers. “We sent the case by mail with a return envelope. It allows us to reduce costs, ”says Moba’s CEO. Only problem, this certificate has no official value at the moment. “Today there is no standard, but it still allows us to show our credentials to buyers,” explains Guillaume Hébert.

Also, pay attention to the ideas you receive. The battery of a recent electric car is not necessarily in better condition than an earlier model. “The speed of degradation will depend mainly on how the car is used,” explains the head of Moba. Driving too much sports (strong acceleration), too frequent use of fast charging stations (Ionity type), extreme weather conditions are all points that will have an impact on battery wear.

A battery usually has an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years. 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. “As long as you know the state of the battery beforehand, of course, and therefore buy the car at the right price.” Replacing a battery is a heavy operation that can cost between 10,000 and 15,000 euros.

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