As electric vehicles become more popular, there are more and more used electric vehicles for sale. If you are in the market for an electric car, you are probably wondering how much mileage is important in a used electric vehicle.
As Tesla dominates the used EV market today, we see several additional used EVs available for buyers. And while buying a used electric car is an excellent idea, mileage still matters. However, it does not matter as much as in a traditional gas-powered vehicle.
As usual, you want to look for a car with fewer miles on the odometer, but the situation is very different with electric vehicles. That’s because there are far fewer moving parts, no expensive motors or gearboxes to worry about breaking down, and far less maintenance. So here’s what you need to know and why mileage isn’t that important when it comes to a used electric vehicle.
Fewer moving parts
The more someone drives a car, the more wear and tear they put on every aspect of the vehicle. Internal combustion engines (ICE) have far more moving parts, more fluids and lubricants, and more things that can go wrong. Buying a gas vehicle with 140,000 miles is a scary purchase that is not so worrying when it comes to an electric vehicle.
In fact, over 20 commonly serviced components on regular cars fail or need repair that EV owners needn’t worry about. This includes engine filters, oil changes, spark plugs, drive belts or chains, exhaust gas (EVAP) system hoses, O2 sensors, transmission fluid and flushes, failed catalytic converters, and so on.
And those are just the usual ones. If you look at the big picture, most gas vehicles have hundreds and hundreds of moving parts. A Consumer Reports study suggests that gas vehicles often require as much as $4,600 more in repairs and maintenance over the life of the vehicle than an electric vehicle. This number increases with age, while it mostly stays flat for electric cars.
One of the biggest unknowns when buying a used car is maintenance. How well did the previous owner take care of everything? Have they changed the oil every 3,000-5,000 miles, added all the necessary fluids and have the spark plugs ever been changed? These are all essential questions that can determine the life of a vehicle.
A high mileage gas powered vehicle is always a risky purchase as things wear out, deteriorate and fail over time. Especially when you consider how many moving parts and extreme temperatures the engine and transmission have to contend with.
Most of this goes out the window when looking for a used electric vehicle. You don’t have to worry about oil changes, spark plugs, a slipping gearbox, none of that. The only problem is the powertrain and the battery. A high mileage EV will not have many parts prone to failure.
EVs don’t have a failed engine, but they do have an engine, suspension components, brake pads and rotors, brake lines, tires, and other things that need regular maintenance. However, replacing common EV service parts is far cheaper than the cost of putting a new transmission in that old gasoline car for sale around the corner.
Most electric vehicle manufacturers recommend servicing every two, three or even six years instead of every 5,000 miles as with a regular vehicle.
Of course, electric vehicle repairs can be expensive and time-consuming, but that’s true of any car. Overall, you have fewer worries when it comes to previous maintenance, repairs or mileage of an electric vehicle.
EVs are relatively new, so we’re not exactly sure how well a 10-year-old EV will perform after 300,000 miles. A 1 million mile Tesla in Germany eventually had its battery replaced, but most electric vehicles haven’t clocked up that many miles yet.
Aside from the regular maintenance that every car requires, the biggest question mark when buying a used electric vehicle is the battery. According to experts, EV batteries typically last between 10 and 20 years. That’s significantly longer than most people own a vehicle and longer than the average gas guzzler.
So if you are looking for a used car, you should consider battery longevity as a battery degrades over time.
Tesla guarantees the battery in every vehicle for eight years or 100,000 miles, and some have 150,000 warranties. Even after charging 150,000 miles a day, Tesla promises the battery can still maintain at least 70% capacity. And in most cases, the battery stays far healthier than 70%. That’s a lot better than Chevrolet’s 3-year/36,000-mile new vehicle warranty.
In the US, almost every electric vehicle sold has at least an 8-year battery warranty, depending on the model and manufacturer. This means that the biggest problem with a used EV is the battery, which has a pretty good warranty and often lasts 10 to 20 years.
Expect less range
Most electric vehicles have large lithium-ion batteries that power the motors instead of gasoline, but as mentioned above, the battery will weaken over time. Just like your three-year-old iPhone probably won’t charge as long as it did the day you bought it, an old EV battery won’t last that far.
If a new electric vehicle can go 300 miles on a charge, one with an older battery and over 100,000 miles on the odometer won’t be able to go that far. Expect around 240 miles per charge due to battery degradation.
That’s why Tesla claims that after eight years, or 100,000 miles, the battery can still hold over 70% of its total capacity. And while that’s pretty good, it’s not great, but technology is getting better by the day. I would certainly not recommend anyone to buy an original high mileage first generation Tesla Model S, but to each their own.
So does mileage matter?
I know what you’re probably thinking. A new battery for an out-of-warranty electric vehicle is expensive, and most people would probably buy a new car. I would argue the same for petrol vehicles. When a 180,000 mile gas car has an engine or tranny failure, most owners will probably just get a new car. It goes both ways.
So does mileage matter when it comes to buying a new electric vehicle? Well, yes and no. I think it will always be important when buying a vehicle and trying to get the best bang for your buck. However, there is less to worry about with a high-mileage electric vehicle than with an older gas-powered vehicle.
In summary, as technology improves and evolves, replacing EV batteries could become easier and more affordable in the future. Electric vehicles are still in their infancy, so we’ll have to wait and see.
As things stand today, it’s hard to say what to do and it should depend on your needs and budget. EVs certainly require less maintenance, and you don’t have to worry about engine failures or losing $3,500 on a new transmission. So when you find a used electric vehicle you like, just buy it.
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