How to Buy a Used Hybrid or Electric Vehicle

Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming increasingly popular and with many vehicles now being sold as used, you need to understand the subtle difference between the two vehicle types and what to look out for when purchasing one.

They’re Not All the Same…

With hybrid cars you could be forgiven thinking that they’re all the same, but actually there are some major differences that separate the different classes of vehicle. The most popular types are: Regular Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid.

Regular Hybrid Vehicles

Regular hybrids are fitted with an electric engine; however, they also have an internal combustion engine and still require petrol to run properly. The electric engine is powered by internal batteries and operates as the cars main source of power at lower speeds. When the car drives faster the petrol engine kicks in to drive the vehicle and also charge the batteries. You can think of it as a complimentary or symbiotic system.

Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles

A plug-in hybrid is the stop gap between regular hybrids and full electric vehicles. They have an internal combustion engine and work similar to regular hybrids. But instead of the engine charging the batteries, this is done by a charge cable, similar to electric vehicles. Generally, a plug-in hybrid can drive further than a regular hybrid. This is because the internal combustion engine, when engaged, is just driving the vehicle, instead if trying to do two things at once. The cars use the battery power first and then switch to fuel.

Electric Vehicles

Full electric vehicles are exactly that, you need to charge them, but the bonus is that you no longer need to buy petrol. As the technology gets better, cars are driving longer distances on a single charge and charging stations are becoming common place around the country. It’s important to note that you may need to upgrade a socket in your home to accommodate the charge plug that comes with your car. Check on the specific model on charge times and what style of socket you need.

What You Should Know When Buying a Used Electric or Hybrid Vehicle

  • Age of the Vehicle – As electric and hybrids are still considered new technology, improvements are being constantly made and developed. It is possible that cars even only six months apart could have vast differences including the ever-important distance between charges, power and recharge rates. Make sure you check which exact model you are looking at and check this up on the manufactures website to get current information.
  • Battery Condition – Probably the most important consideration when buying a used hybrid or electric vehicle. The replacement batteries can be very expensive, and just like a laptop or phone battery they have a recharge limit and over time cannot hold as much charge as they once did. Most dealerships and resellers should have this information on hand as it is key to determining the true value of the used car.
  • Battery Size (Range in km’s) – The size of a cars battery ultimately determines the distance it is able to travel. Roughly estimate how many kilometres you drive in a day to work out your charging rate and look for a car that fits within those limits. You may be surprised at how little distance you actually do. Most cars travel about 20,000 km in a year, and that roughly works out to be 385 km in a week. If you can find a car that does about 400km in a single charge, then you’d only need to recharge once a week.
  • When to Charge – Charging your car at off-peak rates can go a long way in saving you money on your electricity bill. If you have solar available, it may be cheaper to invest in house storage batteries and recharge from those. Your electricity company will be more than happy to assist you in finding the prime time to recharge your vehicle.
  • Where to Charge (free or fee?) – If you’re going to be out on the road for a longer than usual trip, you should familiarise yourself with the charging stations in the area. While it’d be good if recharge stations were like petrol stations, but unfortunately were not quite there yet. Luckily you can search most online maps for ‘EV charging stations’ and it will show you the ones closest to you.
  • Warranty – Many electric and hybrid vehicles come with two warranties one for the car and another for the battery. You need to check if this is the case for the vehicles you are looking at as it could mean the different between buying a car this is still covered under warranty and one that is not. While a warranty won’t cover you for general use, it will cover faults in workmanship, and that could save you the cost of a replacement battery.

Whatever model you choose, owning an electric car is a great way to get ahead of the curve and start making positive changes to our environment. And as an added bonus, it’ll save you plenty of money in the long run, as hopefully your trips to the service station will soon be zero.

When looking at your new car don’t forget the other important steps to consider, as they are true for any car you buy regardless of what is under the hood.