I rode on public electric and hybrid buses to work for years before COVID. That was an ecological commuter solution. But lately I’m not commuting and instead rely much more on my electric car to get around.
All-electric vehicles enjoyed less than 2 percent market share in the US in 2020. Yet I am a weird-enough consumer to have owned not one electric car but two: A Nissan Leaf from 2015 – a model that was already a few years old when I leased it and later bought it – and a Tesla 3 from 2020. And I think a new — or used — electric car may be in your future.
Who Cares About Electric Vehicles Anyway?
You may think electric vehicles are just for loony, Left Coast people. But there are reasons to believe that “all electric” is genuinely, finally, likely going to take much bigger market share in the US.
Here are the pain points on electric vehicles and why the pain is disappearing:
- Electric cars can be a little expensive. However, we’re going to talk about used deals. And charging at home might cost just five cents per mile. Plus, you’ll see why electric cars are very cheap to maintain.
- Many people do have their own garage and can buy a quality charger for less than $2K, but people who don’t have a garage, or who rent, may struggle to install useful 240-volt chargers in their homes. However: Commercial charging stations, with rapid “super charging,” are increasingly common at work or in an apartment building, and there you might get cheap or free electricity without having to install a charger.
- People living in less urban areas are going to have more “range anxiety” than urbanites since they may regularly drive further. This may be a deal-killer for used models. However: electric car and truck ranges are getting up well past 300 miles..
- People in the US like big, muscular vehicles, including those that work in snow. However: Electric vehicles are getting “ripped”. You could go for a Mustang Mach-3, which is a great muscle car. Or (budget permitting) consider a Tesla Y, which is a great SUV. And very soon you can drive a Ford F-150 Lightning (pictured above, photo from Ford) that doesn’t need a drop of gas. For the Brady bunch or a rock band: Do you need an electric VW bus (2022)? Meanwhile, many electric cars, can make conventional vehicles eat their dust, with an especially sporty drive at ordinary suburban speeds even in more modest electric cars like an “old-model” Nissan Leaf.
Used Electric: A Strong Offering in an Age of Tight Car Supply
On cost, electric cars do start more expensively than conventional ones; but weirdly that’s not true in the used market. There, the “old” electric “clunker” is probably pretty new, and not at all a clunker, and not expensive.
Why Used Electric Cars May be Young at Heart
Depending on how you count a “part” in a car, people estimate that electric cars have ten times fewer, or a hundred times fewer, moving parts than a gas-powered car. You don’t need to replace the gear box because of the single-shift technology: No gear box. Brake wear is significantly reduced due to regenerative braking. There are fewer fluids, such as engine oil, that need replacing.
You do need to replace the main batteries eventually. But they last much longer than a simple battery on a gas car for a host of reasons. My Nissan started with a range of only around 85 miles (early days of electric cars). After about 60,000 miles, it still went about the same (maybe 5 miles less?) without a charge. So it is just very likely that used cars on sites like www.edmunds.com are not actually old, especially if they have low odometer readings. The cars should last.
Newer is not Always Better
The newest cars might be more of an experiment than cars that have been on the market for years. And the newer cars may have additional, hidden costs compared to the old ones. Personally, I liked my key fob on my Nissan Leaf vs. the key card (like a credit card) on the Tesla. I also liked having more conventional sticks and buttons for windshield wipers, adjusting mirrors, and the radio. As with texting, it may not be safer to be clicking on the screen all the time for safety settings. Finally, with older cars you have a better chance of finding cheaper body work in the event of a fender bender.
So Why Aren’t Used Electric Cars More Valuable?
I think used electric cars saw significant depreciation due to the startling improvements in the newest batteries on newer models. Going from an 85-mile range on an older Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 to well over 200 mile ranges (sometimes above 300) for the newer Leaf, the Nissan Ariya, the Chevy Bolt, or (soon) the Hyundai Ioniq 5 SUV or the remade and very “groovy” VW bus is a big deal. So “early adopters” and people who need only one car to do it all are running to the next best thing. This provides opportunities for others who want something reliable to get to work, the grocery store, or the kids’ ball games and who may not need the range. Maybe a conventional vehicle also in the garage can have its spider webs dusted off for the occasional long trip or hauling job.
Some websites describe used electric cars as “barely used” and “incredibly cheap”. While that’s not quite true, they do seem inexpensive.
Second Hand for a Second Vehicle?
Second-hand cars (both electric and conventional) are holding their prices more than they did a year ago, with tight supply in the US for newer cars due to a shortage of computer chips and other parts. But electric second-hand vehicles may be an excellent deal for commuters, for a second car, and for people in urban areas.
We don’t sell electric cars (new or used) in our shop. But we have an opinion about them: For me, there’s no turning back!