Our family just bought another EV—a gently used 2012 Chevy Volt—and we love it. That’s not to say that we love our 2015 LEAF any less, in the same way that you can love each of your children differently, without necessarily picking a favorite.
We have long been fans of used EVs. Because the non-EV world is overly scared of battery degradation, used EVs have historically depreciated faster than most other cars—and thus are a great deal for those of us in the know. (Although that has begun to change in the past year—used EV prices are creeping up.)
When buying a used gas car, there are many parts to worry about—timing belts, fuel pumps, fuel injectors, manifolds, transmissions, pistons, oil filters, air filters, crankshafts, camshafts, inlet valves, etc. All those moving parts wear out and pose a maintenance risk to the used car buyer. With a used EV, it’s all pretty much about the battery (and tires and brakes). If the battery is at or near its original capacity, you’ve essentially got a new car.
In the case of our Volt, we bought it with only 18,000 miles on the odometer from a driver who only used it to get around town. Hardly any of those miles were on gas, which means that the gas engine and drive train really are new. And the battery still shows a range of 34 miles, versus an official range of 35 miles when it left the factory. I won’t tell you what it cost me, but let’s just say it wasn’t much for a car in this mechanical condition and with minimal wear and tear on the body.
EV battery range can deteriorate over time, and it’s something to watch for, but it’s not nearly so common as you might think. My LEAF still shows the same range as when we got it 38 months ago. And, just yesterday, I was speaking with a friend who drives a 2012 Tesla Model S, who assured me that she could not see any noticeable difference in her range from the day she bought it.
Joel Levin is the executive director of Plug In America.