Is Anyone Buying Used Electric Cars?
When was the last time you heard anyone on TV, radio or in the press talking about used electric cars? We're constantly bombarded with news about new electric cars and how they are the future, but you'll have to look long and hard to find any data about fully-electric models in the used car market. Should the case for electric used cars be made stronger by the industry, or are there issues with used electric cars the industry doesn't want to talk about?
Used electric car sales
Quarter 2 of 2020 was a pretty terrible month for the sales of used EVs, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), but the market definitely bounced back in quarter three. In the second quarter of this year, SMMT data shows that demand for pre-owned battery electric vehicles (BEVs) fell by 29.7%, although that's still less of a drop than the used car market as a whole which took a knock of 48.9% during the same period.
However, during Q3 electric vehicle sales recovered to grow by 34.4% through July, August and September, and 4.4% in the year to date. After that very poor second-quarter result, electric used cars saw the biggest percentage growth in sales of any type of vehicle in the market. Despite that impressive percentage growth, used electric cars only represent a very small part of the used car business here in the UK.
If you do a used vehicle search on the internet and you choose electric as the only fuel option, you'll probably return a decent number of used electric vehicles for sale. On the other hand, you'll find 50 or 60 times as many cars for sale if you choose diesel or petrol instead, and that's not the only problem for used electric cars.
Lack of choice
If you decide you want a petrol or diesel used car you have dozens of brands and thousands of different models to choose from. Unfortunately, if you want an electric car and you can’t afford to buy brand new you'll probably be pretty downhearted at the incredible lack of choice you have available. If you want an affordable used electric car you'll pretty much be limited to a Nissan Leaf or a Renault Zoe unless you are happy to pay considerably more.
Of course, it's not entirely fair to criticise the electric car market for that as the Nissan Leaf is the only truly mass-market electric car that's been around for any real length of time, and the Renault Zoe is one of only a handful of electric cars that are properly affordable. Unfortunately, a lack of choice isn’t the only issue the market for used electric cars faces.
Sometimes, buying a used electric car isn’t as straightforward as buying a petrol, diesel or even a hybrid. A quick look through the classified ads online will reveal caveats you just don’t get with ˜regular˜ cars, which are battery leases. Because batteries don’t have an unlimited lifespan, some electric cars are sold with their batteries on a renewable lease. Without going in to the vagaries, this is a complication the average used car buyer can probably do without.
And even if the battery isn't leased, how many of you know what you’re letting yourself in for with a used electric car? Do you know how reliable and long-lasting the electric motors are? Do you have any idea how much it costs to maintain an aging electric car, how long the battery will live for and how much it might cost to replace it?
Even if you’re not particularly mechanically minded, you probably have a rough idea of how much a new clutch, an oil change or a full service will cost for the average used car. With used electric cars it's a bit more mysterious and the long-term reliability of the technology has yet to be determined. Also, you might not be able to just take your used electric car to your local garage to get it fixed if it goes wrong. If you have to rely on a specialist there's every chance the cost will be higher.
While the focus will inevitably continue to fall on brand new electric cars, for the time being, the used electric car market is something that definitely needs consideration. There are potential issues that need to be addressed, such as longevity, the convenience of maintenance and just how recyclable they may or may not be. You never know, they might not turn out to be quite as ˜green˜ as we're led to believe they are when everything is taken properly into consideration.