Used electric car: what to check before buying

The electric car is attracting more and more drivers. 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 turn to the second-hand market. A choice that is all the more interesting as electric models fall rapidly. In fact, the technologies they carry (battery, charger, etc.) quickly become obsolete.

Take the example of the Renault Zoé. Battery capacity more than doubled between a 2016 and 2019 model. Ditto for the BMW i3, whose range and charging power have evolved a lot during its commercial career. A real headache for buyers who must take them to a careful check of the features of the coveted model. And that, even if the seller is a professional (they are largely in the second-hand market), some being stingy with information about electric vehicles.

Also beware of some models whose sales price does not include… the battery. Renault (Zoé), Nissan (Leaf) or even Smart (Fortwo ED) have offered deals in the past allowing customers to lower the car purchase price by leasing the battery. On resale, it is up to the new owner to pay the monthly fees, whose values ​​can still exceed a few hundred euros, depending on the package chosen at the time.

“The battery is the main control point”

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

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There are also some electricity-specific checkpoints. Motor ? It is a robust and reliable part that rarely causes problems in most models available on the market. Charging cables? Check your presence and condition. Do not hesitate to test a load as its replacement costs several hundred euros. Drums? It’s more complicated because you can’t see it (it’s hidden under the vehicle) and no suspicious noises let you identify a problem during a test drive.

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

This French startup has developed a system to know the health status of a battery. Through a mobile app and a diagnostic box that connects to the vehicle’s OBD socket, the company generates a certificate indicating the battery’s health in percentage. Knowing that a battery is considered degraded when the value approaches 60%, a little below the 70% autonomy covered by manufacturers in a period of 8 years. “We even provide a grid of autonomy so that the customer can project himself in the use he can make of the vehicle”, abounds Guillaume Hébert.

Operation cost: 49 euros. A more attractive price than that offered by some car repair shops because the operation is carried out directly by the customers. “We mailed the case with a return envelope. This allows us to reduce costs”, says the general manager of Moba. Only problem, this certificate has no official value for now. “Today there is no standard, but it still allows us to show our credentials to buyers”, explains Guillaume Hébert.

Also, pay attention to incoming ideas. The battery of a recent electric car is not necessarily in better condition than an older model. “The speed of degradation will mainly depend on how the car is used”, explains the head of Moba. Very sporty driving (hard acceleration), very frequent use of fast charging stations (Ionity type), extreme weather conditions are all points that will impact battery wear.

A battery typically has a lifespan of 8 to 10 years on average. But buying a model with reduced capacity is not necessarily a bad deal. “It could be the right plan for anyone who needs a car to go to work every day,” says Guillaume Hébert. “As long as you know the state of the battery beforehand and therefore buy the car at the right price.” Changing a battery is a heavy operation that can cost between 10,000 and 15,000 euros.

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