Don’t Buy a Used EV

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You ought to be careful when buying a used car – because you never know. Buying a used EV, on the other hand, is easy.

Because you always know.

A used car might have been in a flood. It might have a tired engine or a slipping transmission. A used EV will have a used battery. And that’s not something you want to buy when it comes to these devices – which I think is a good way to think of them because they are more analogous to a smartphone or laptop than a car.

Except in one very important way.

When your laptop or smartphone’s battery won’t hold a charge anymore, it might be worth buying a replacement. It isn’t with the devices styled EVs – because of the disproportionate cost of replacing the used battery relative to the value of the shell of the used device, itself.

As a case in point, consider the owner of a seven-year-old Tesla Model X whose device has lost about 32 percent of its original charge capacity, not only reducing how far he can drive the device before he must stop to add charge but also – by dint of the latter – decreases the intervals between these waits.

He waits sooner – and more often.

And that feedback loop will wax, as the battery loses more and more of its charge capacity.

That, by itself, would cause a reasonable person to shy away from buying a used device such as this. Or any other used device, as all of them have the same defect.

Actually, that’s not fair – because it’s not accurate. Batteries lose their capacity to accept/hold charge over time by design – as it is inherent in the chemistry and physics of batteries. The discharge-recharge cycling wears them out, so to speak. It is not a “defect” that can be remedied.

It just is what it is.

Of course, engines and transmissions and brakes also wear out over time – but there is a critical difference. It is often well worth spending what it costs to replace a slipping transmission or a tired-out engine because the cost is not disproportionate to the value of the vehicle, itself. And because once the transmission or engine is replaced, it’s a relatively safe bet that the vehicle will continue to provide reliable service for many years (possibly decades) to come – during which time it will not gradually (and inevitably) go less-and-less far and require more-and-more frequent rest stops, so to speak, at a “fast” charger.

The owner of the Tesla mentioned above mentions that his device – which he paid more than $100,000 for only seven years ago – is now worth “about $25,000.” There is a reason for such unusually rapid depreciation. It is precisely because the device is in need of a new battery – and the cost of that battery is (in this case) in the range of $13,000-plus. Not counting the cost of the installation.

Even if it is only $13,000 that sum amounts to about 50 percent of the value of the device, itself. Most insurance companies will “total” (rather than pay to repair) a vehicle when the cost to repair it exceeds that threshold.

And few, if any  people can afford to pay that kind of money out-of-pocket for a new battery for their tired device. It is one thing to finance a new device for six years at a reasonable rate of interest. It is quite another to put $13k on a credit card with 29 percent interest, compounding monthly. That will discharge your finances even faster than an EV’s battery pack – and good luck replenishing it.

Apologists for these devices say that battery packs can last much longer before they need to be replaced – and this is true. It is also disingenuous. In order to avoid the need to replace the battery pack sooner rather than later, the owner of the device must be careful to avoid regularly discharging the battery below about 50 percent of its capacity and avoid regularly “fast” charging it to recover partial (80 percent) capacity.

Consider what that means as a practical matter. In italics to emphasize how impractical these devices are in terms of regular use. As opposed to being occasional-use (and very expensive) toys.

A device with a putative 300 mile range on a fully charged battery ought not to be regularly driven much farther than about 150 miles – because any farther would deplete the battery below 50 percent of its fully charged capacity. And the owner of the device ought to avoid rest-stopping at high-voltage DC “fast” chargers to avoid the strain imparted on the battery. That means stopping somewhere he can wait for the 8-11 hours it takes to gently recharge one of these devices at home on 240V AC current, so-called Level II charging. This is much “healthier” for the battery, to use the word used by the sellers of these devices. You can read it for yourself in the owner’s manuals.

But what use is a device that can’t be used regularly without using it up – and quickly? There would be a chorus of outrage so loud it could be heard in the loneliest holler of rural West Virginia if any car or truck – i.e., any vehicle not a device – were sold that could not be used every day as much as you liked without quickly reducing its capacity to be used.

Maybe this is why the used EV market is flaccid. Maybe it is why rental car company Hertz is saying sayonara to its fleet of recently purchased devices, which will enter the used device market – where it is likely they’ll be hard-pressed to find buyers willing to buy into them.

Even at fire-sale prices.

Because you’d have to be a simpleton – or so rich you can afford to be one – to buy one.

. . .

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44 COMMENTS

  1. In a moment of stupidity I had bought a used Prius. Nit quite a EV, but rather a bastard child of EV and traditional car. Soon after buying it, I discovered that the battery modules were tired and after removal from the car and analysis and testing, wife and I decided to buy replacement modules. I opted for aftermarket LIPO4 modules, as they longer life and are much safer.
    During the install, I discovered that the battery harness was shorting out and it fried the battery computer socket. Ordered new harnesses from Japan and used computer on eBay. Computer arrive today. Upon inspection, I discovered some of the contacts are corroded and one is blackened, which is an indication of a short.
    While doing more research on the shorts in the harness, I discovered that others had the same problem too.

    Long story short. It was a stupid idea to buy this car. I will never again purchase a hybrid or an EV.
    Frankly, I am looking at buying old school car that predates all the electronics.

    • Hi Aheinesanus,

      Many are learning the hard way – and coming around to the realization that old is better than new – if you do not want a disposable, unrepairable, overteched appliance, that is.

      • I have started acquiring, sometimes buying for 5-10 dollars, (usually free on the side of the road) old non running gas operated small engine machines. Mowers, Blowers, Tillers , Chainsaws etc. Typically simple to repair and then run like a charm. 90% of the time the carb is gummed up. My little cottage industry.

  2. When I was in France in ’22 I wanted to rent a car to see the Marne battlefield of WWI – I never learned to drive a manual transmission aside from moving a 1994 Miata out of a driveway – and definitely did not want to experience the learning curve in a foreign city – Hertz offered the lowest price to rent a Tesla Model S – Now I understand why. The car was over engineered to the point that it needed two people to turn the windshield wipers on. As I watched the range drop and not know where to find a charging station, I could not wait to bring it back. We made the trip, but just pulling the car out of the lot the first time I sideswiped a wall in the narrow parking lot driveway – I hated that car. Luckily I rented the car using an American Express Card and they fully covered the $1700 US damage – had it been in Italy or several other countries they would not have.

    Seeing Hertz dump their fleet of Teslas I now understand why it was the cheapest car to rent. I don’t ever want to drive an ev again. I’ll hold my 2010 Lexus GS350 with 76,000 miles on it until I can buy a ’63 Corvette!

  3. I’m into the third year on one iPhone battery because I rarely let it discharge to below 40% and I don’t charge it to over 80% capacity. A replacement battery costs around $100.

    Why would I buy a three year old EV with an upcoming battery replacement that will cost more than what the used EV costs? No thanks.

    These things are lemons. The only people who can afford them are the rich with another gasoline/diesel powered car.

  4. BWAH HAHAHAHA This whole eeevee thing is funny now. What a joke. Our electric future … imagine the police riding Eric Cartman’s police bigwheel… imagine the fire department driving a golf cart with a 100-foot garden hose on the back… etc. Too stupid. F Joke Be-dyin, our fake pirate president and all his criminal dirtbag pals. May they burn a looooong time and then after that go to a horrible jail for even longer. This is what we get with “leaders” making all the laws, agenda, and controlling the money. Give them absolute control and power, and wonder what could possibly go wrong.

    • Hi Harry!

      It’d be more funny were it not so tragic. The EV putsch has already destroyed the car business in my estimation. It has killed the Charger and Challenger; also the Camaro and probably the Mustang, too. It has killed the V6. It has ruined excellent cars such as the Camry and trucks like the Tundra. It will take years to recover from the damage already done.

  5. Notice that “No Haggle Price” in the main graphic? I know what that means because Audi Rockville has that same policy and had it when I bought the 2014 A8 from them back in 2019. What it really means is the “we refuse to negotiate price” and nothing more. Good luck with that policy selling used EVs! 🤣

    • Hi XM,

      A hilarious aspect of this is that the longer these dealers hold onto the EVs, the longer they must deal with keeping them charged up. Imagine the logistics…

  6. There is another issue with used EVs that’s common to other “devices” like it:

    Software.

    Used “devices” often end up trashed because either the software that they run on ceases to be supported by the maker, á la Windows, or because older devices can’t take all of the software updates that are fed to them because they don’t have the memory to run them or because they hog battery power.

    Many EVs will go to the junkyard should their makers stop “supporting” them, or the software updates drain their batteries even more.

  7. Love your columns, Eric! Been reading you for years, all the way back to your American Spectator days …

    In 2017 I bought a “gently used” very low milage 3-year-old Nissan Leaf for my daughter to drive while in college. The university was local – 7 miles from home – and her job was even closer. We installed a level II charger in our garage and never used a commercial fast charger. The range was a paltry 60 miles and the battery charged fully in a few hours each night with no issues.

    My daughter loved the car – she thought it was cute and she didn’t have to deal with gas station visits – and I didn’t mind the limited range because all of her driving was in town and there wasn’t any possibility of her taking “surprise” trips to other destinations.

    We’ve had it for almost 7 years and notice very little decrease in the admittedly limited range. I know it’s not worth much by now, but it’s been a fine appliance and served its purpose. In our situation we had very specific needs and it filled them perfectly.

    Oh, after she graduated my daughter bought a Mini Cooper and loves it. Now I drive the Leaf around town when I can to avoid putting the unneeded miles on my 2018 Mustang GT or my wife’s SUV …

    Keep up the great work!

    • We […] never used a commercial fast charger.

      Of course you didn’t. Commercial fast chargers don’t exist, so there’s no way you could have used one.

    • And that’s the real world use case for EVs. But you also have two other vehicles that fill the need for other uses. Problem is, the product is being sold as a jack of all trades replacement for ICEs. It’d be like trying to run CAD software on an iPad. Yes, technically it’s possible, but why would anyone do so when there’s far more capable devices available that happen to be far less expensive?

      • And that’s the real world use case for EVs.

        For use cases where people manage to get by with EVs and their outrageous limitations, they could have managed just as well, or arguably a lot better, with an ICE-powered car, hence it hardly ever makes sense to choose an EV over an ICE-powered car – unless, of course, the motivation is virtue signalling, which is the real world use case for EVs.

  8. I have a hunch Hertz was seeing large electricity bills that were contributing to the losses, charging cars that don’t rent is going to be an extra expense.

    These things sit here until the cows come home, nobody wants to even rent them. Said every Hertz rental outlet. Ain’t working out, gotta do something. The no-brainer finally set in.

    So dump them someplace, buyers are out there, a big enough pool of greater fools, that is.

    They just might drink the electric kool-aid.

    You will be better off with a Prairie Schooner. No need for fuels, no insurance, no payments, you own it, its yours.

    You’ll be able to live in it down by the river so your faithful dedicated horses that happily move along can drink. Hunt down a hare, some game birds, find wild strawberries along the river banks.

    It’ll be The Life of Riley!

    Nomads and more, a Gypsy lifestyle can be fun!

    Better than being neighbors with Klaus the Mouse. You’ll move somewhere else in a helluva hurry.

    My niece has a Ford Expedition, purchased new a year and a half ago. Turbo locked, won’t start, in the Ford Vehicle Hospital.

    What can you buy for under one million dollars that actually runs for 200,000 miles anymore?

    • Guessing they were having to go out and tow back plenty of these devices when renters couldn’t figure out how to or even find places to charge them. Just think about it a minute, go to a city you haven’t been before, rent an electric car and now have to figure out how and where to recharge….

      • Hi Rich,

        Yup. I expect there was also a lot of righteous bitching from customers who got mulcted for returning an EV not “fully charged.” Because they didn’t have time to wait for one. EVs are as suitable for the task as a pair of right shoes for running 10 miles.

  9. A used EV with a half worn out lithium fire bomb battery….and maybe defective computer chips?

    Motor Mouth: It might be time for ‘zero trust’ in our computer chips

    Mark Tehranipoor, chair of the ECE department at the University of Florida, identifies five categories of counterfeit chips —

    recycled, cloned, re-marked, over-produced, and forged. According to Semiconductor Engineering, recycling parts accounts for 80 per cent of all counterfeit chips.

    What about all the new cars with all the computerized driver’s aids? …ADAS….

    ADAS barely works at all as it is…..if it is filled with defective chips it could make it more defective….expect lots of crashes….

    https://driving.ca/column/motor-mouth/zero-trust-fake-computer-chips-microchips

    • counterfeit chips……..pretty much all of counterfeits that Motor Mouth dug up (in surprisingly rudimentary Googling) were of Chinese origin.

      Who benefits the most from the EV vehicle conversion? china does.

      All the most important components in the new EV’s are all made in china.

      Every EV is a chinese EV, 80% of all the key parts and the battery come from china, same as solar panels or wind turbines …low quality, they all catch fire.

      Then you are dependent on china for replacement parts, etc., in effect they take over the whole vehicle supply chain. Vehicle production then centralized in China.

      The chinese are taking over the electric car market, they are starting to export their EV’s worldwide…BYD is number 1 in sales now….just beating Tesla….

  10. I got suckered and bought an electric lawnmower about 5 years ago. Wanted to try something new and was tired of dealing with gas powered units who’s carburetors would quit working when the ethanol laced gas sat there for too long.

    The lawnmower cost me $399.00 as I didn’t want a self propelled unit.

    Now, the battery costs, guess what? $399.00.

    Being that I would mow the lawn about 5 times a year in Oklahoma, the battery and mower still performs like new, but under heavy usage, it is more economical to buy a new mower or go back to gas. Of course, gas powered units are now becoming increasingly harder to find.

    https://www.acehardware.com/departments/tools/power-tool-accessories/cordless-tool-battery-packs/7832983?x429=true&x429=true&gclid=a6470c2e79e61dce3fa1698f04f2aaf0&gclsrc=3p.ds&gclid=a6470c2e79e61dce3fa1698f04f2aaf0&gclsrc=3p.ds&msclkid=a6470c2e79e61dce3fa1698f04f2aaf0&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PLAs_FF4-Power_Tools_Power-Tool-Accessories_Other_EGO&utm_term=4581527532201524&utm_content=Tools_Power-Tool-Accessories_All_EGO

    • Hopefully, you can buy ethanol-free gas near where you live. Thankfully, in WV where I live, there are plenty of stations nearby offering ethanol-free gas. I have two push mowers, one of which is 25 years old, running well, thanks in part to me always filling them up with ethanol-free gas

      • Unfortunately the only ethanol free gas around here is a gallon can bought at the hardware store – for $25.00!!! I guess we can thank all the politicians up there in Iowa right now kissing all the corn farmers asses for votes while promising never to repeal the ethanol “mandate”. Have to buy it anyway because it’s easier than having to rebuild the carburetor in my snowblower.

  11. Shouldn’t that Tesla still be under WARRANTY? According to Tesla’s website (link below), the battery warranty is for 8 years/150K miles, whichever comes first with a minimum battery retention of 70%. This guy’s Tesla is 7 years old, and it’s lost 32% of its battery capacity; that qualifies for the Tesla warranty! Mathematically, this works out to 1.00-0.32=0.68; 0.68*100=68%. The last time I checked, 68%<70%. Why doesn't this Model S owner go after Tesla, and force them to honor their obligation?

    The Tesla warranty info is here: https://www.tesla.com/support/vehicle-warranty

  12. The Climate Crisis demands immediate action. There’s no time to ask questions, no time to wait for lab tech to make it into mass production. Have to take action NOW!

    And when the predictions don’t pan out? Well, thank goodness (not God) that the little action taken happened, imagine just how much worse it could have been if we had waited!

    There was a fantastic film from 1983 titled “War Games.” It was one of those films that had a little budget, limited release but later got traction on the home video market. The concept was that a simulator was plugged directly into the nuclear silos, removing the human from the loop. Of course we all know what happened, and even today the plot holds up. People were motivated to take action after a crisis, and Dr. McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) saw an opportunity to raise his stature. The whole first act is all about “never let a crisis go to waste.”

    The climate changers are like that. They look at a simulator and let it make the decision for them. If only the pesky humans were taken out of the decision loop. It’s not their fault because “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”* OK fine, except there are glaring issues with the gloom and doom message that even a superficial web search uncovers. But as we move further down this path there’s a call to ignore your lying eyes and forget about the multitude of other factors. So buy an electric car now or infinite peril awaits.

    *Upton Sinclair

  13. None of this should be a surprise.

    I priced out a second battery for my ‘lectric lawnmower. What I found was a) lower voltage and b) priced to the point where it wasn’t worth it. A quick search on eBay found scads of the mower model sans battery. When the battery degrades to uselessness or dies, it ain’t worth replacing.

    Ditto battery powered drills, saws, etc. After my latest & final cordless drill died, I unearthed my dad’s late 70’s or early 80’s corded Black & Decker. Runs like a champ. Made with steel, not plastic. Built in the U. S. of A. Sigh.

    EeeeVeees are just a larger example of the phenomenon. They are cheaply made but oh-so-expensive appliances, as EP says.

  14. Eric, how many electric cars or cars in general has the pumpkin kept off the roads at this point by existing for decades? I’m pretty sure any vehicle near or over 40 has a good stack going now.

    As a side note, they want to put AI into cars in VW. How long before it becomes Hal9000?

    “Car’s on fire, unlock the door Siri!” “I cant let you do that”

  15. I paid under $6,000 for a used MX5 with 43,000 miles in very good condition … before the prices on used cars skyrocketed thanks to thieving government.
    That vehicle is fun to drive and still (33,000 miles later) gives the same performance as it did when I bought it. Yes, I had to make some repairs in the 9 1/2 years I have owned it, but the cost of insurance has been a bigger expense than the cost of the car and repairs.
    A used Tesla? It’s a fool’s tool; it’s a tool that doesn’t do the job, costs a lot more than it should to own, and is a bomb that could destroy my home and kill people I care about. Insurance cost probably will be triple that of an internal combustion car.
    Hertz should pay people to take them.

  16. ‘A used EV will have a used battery.’ — eric

    Big Gov ignited EeeVee Fever with its grandiose Ten Year Plan — the window used in the Inflation Reduction Act for its battery plant and EeeVee subsidies.

    Foreseeably, Big Gov will have to clean up the vast mess it created with its ill-considered lurch into top-down automotive design. Cash for EeeVee Clunkers, for instance.

    EeeVees can be buried in toxic waste dumps. They shouldn’t go into regular landfills since the batteries could leach chemicals into aquifers.

    Frickin’ EeeVees — maybe the worst idea in human history, brought to us by the 535 intellectual dwarves of Clowngress. Senator Joe Manchin deserves special mention as an Enemy of the People. Now that the People are onto his sleazy act, Manchin is fleeing like a hound dawg who got his ass peppered with birdshot. Y’all come back now, ya hear?’

    • “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

      The “Country Bear Jamboree” is going “woke” this year, most notably removing Tex Ritter’s performance.

  17. People will bite on the $20k used Teslas. The vehicle is a status symbol around here.

    Where does the money come from? The same place that allows households with $75k annual inome to buy $60k trucks.

    Is Hertz arranging financing?

    @Eric – I’m still puzzling over the logo on the hat in the Tesla owner’s YouTube videos. Is that LDS gang sign of some sort?

    • You’re right Roscoe, they will.
      Our little car group has one guy that got real close to buying one. He’s a very practical guy but just loved the tech. So he balked and got a grand cherokee, but now all of us are pushing him to get one of these to ‘try’ for fractional pricing, relative.

    • High maintenance costs and horrible residual values….Hertz sells off their fairly new cars and gets more, or at least a price equal to their calculated residual value….these EV’s depreciate so fast they are losing lots of money on them compared to an ice vehicle….

      Pre 2020….ice cars would depreciate about 10% off of the wholesale price the first day….then depreciate another 15% a year after that….EV’s are way worse…..

  18. A new EV is disastrous enough. A used, or wrecked one, is suicide. The liability alone could bankrupt even someone who could afford a new one. When it becomes clear just what scrapping an EV entails, we will see the repercussions of this idiocy in better detail.

  19. If I could get a used EV for less than $1000 I’d think about it – maybe. Kinda like when I bought used cars in the 80’s for a grand or less – you knew what you were getting because it was cheap.

    • Hi Pug. I was also thinking along those lines. Hertz headquarters is in my general vicinity, so there’s a shitload of those Teslas that they are trying to unload around here. Now, I don’t think you can buy anything roadworthy for a thousand bucks today, so adjusting for inflation, I might go 4 or 5 thousand. But, it would be strictly a toy. A little joyride to breakfast on Sunday morning, or a quick trip to Publix. Certainly wouldn’t work as my main transportation, but as a lifelong car guy, I’m always up for a new toy if the price is right.

      • Hi Floriduh,

        I didn’t get into it much in the article, but – a used EV’s used battery will almost certainly be more likely to spontaneously catch fire than a new one. I’d not want one of these things in my garage or even near it.

        • Good point, Eric. Besides, I’ve come home with so many toys over the years that I think at this point, the wife would cut off my balls. No Tesla for me!

          • You have to be sneakier, Flo. The wife doesnt really grok the size of my toy collection. She does call me mr Monopoly man because of all the buildings I’ve bought up and store stuff in though…

            • Hey Ernie. I always laugh at those young couples who swear they’ll never have secrets from each other. I have plenty, and I’m sure the wife does too. Nothing real serious, just how much I paid for a car or a big tv, the fact that I did nothing but drink beer with my buddies the whole week that she was visiting her sister, or some of the misadventures I had with the kids when they were young. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt me!

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