Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

For anyone who has ever looked at a shiny new electric vehicle only to feel shock and despair upon seeing the price, used EVs are an intriguing and more affordable option. They are also a bit of a mystery.

Like any car shopper, would-be buyers of used EVs have questions. The difference is that, until recently, it was hard to find meaningful answers to questions about old EVs because there simply weren’t that many out there.

In the market for a car? Read GlobeDrive's guides for your next vehicle purchase

But now that cars like the Tesla Model S and the original Nissan Leaf have been on the road for roughly a decade, we’re beginning to better understand how battery-powered cars age.

Story continues below advertisement

So is it a good idea to buy a used EV? The short answer is yes, especially if you’re on a budget and are eager to jump onto the battery-powered bandwagon. Shopping for one is a lot like shopping for any used vehicle, but there are a few EV-specific issues to keep in mind.

Battery longevity

Just like the battery in your smartphone, the battery in an electric vehicle will degrade over time. That degradation will reduce an EV’s total driving range.

Geotab Inc., a Canadian company that uses GPS and other data to help monitor vehicle fleets, analyzed detailed data from 6,300 EVs in real-world use and found battery degradation was modest, with an average capacity loss of 2.3 per cent a year. An EV that had 240 kilometres of range when new, for instance, would lose roughly 27 kilometres of range after five years, the report explained.

The exact amount of range loss varies by make, model and how the car was used. Studies by Geotab and others have found that frequent use of DC fast chargers and driving in hot climates can (slightly) increase battery degradation.

A Seattle-based startup firm called Recurrent Motors Inc. plans to offer battery-health reports for used EVs – similar to a CarFax vehicle history report – but, for now, doing that research is up to buyers. Some cars will display their remaining battery capacity – which tells you roughly how much range has been lost – and you can ask sellers for details on how the car was used.

As battery technology improves and capacity increases, degradation becomes less of an issue. New EVs are able to cover much longer ranges – 400 kilometres or more on a single charge – so normal battery degradation shouldn’t be a deal-breaker on used models.

Degradation is a more serious issue for the oldest EVs – such as the first-generation Nissan Leaf – because they didn’t have much range to begin with. As a result, those EVs can now be bought used for under $10,000. They may have less than 100 kilometres of range but could be a great option if you’re looking for an affordable second car for short trips.

Story continues below advertisement


How much range a used EV has is a key factor in determining its value. Compared to the mountain of depreciation data the industry has on gas-powered cars, there’s still relatively little on EVs. To further complicate things, data on old EVs isn’t necessarily helpful for predicting the deprecation of new models, since driving range and battery technology have improved quickly and continue to do so. As a result, you’ll see some conflicting information out there.

An oft-cited report from iSeeCars, a U.S.-based aggregator of used-car listings, found that EVs depreciate faster on average than conventional cars. Only Teslas bucked that trend. Where a BMW i3 will typically plummet in value by 60 per cent after three years, the Tesla Model 3 lost only 10 per cent of its value, the report found.

Research by Carwow, a large online used-car marketplace in the U.K., found the opposite. Its data showed the average used EV depreciated more slowly than conventional cars.

Chris Harto, a senior transportation policy analyst at Consumer Reports, said that if you take into account U.S. federal purchase incentives, all EVs with a range over 200 miles (320 kilometres) are expected to hold their value similar to gas-powered vehicles over the next five years. His findings are based on new data from analytics company ALG and were published in a Consumer Reports study last year.

Maintenance and battery replacement

One big reason to buy a used EV is that they’re cheaper to maintain. Harto’s Consumer Reports study also found that EV drivers were spending 50-per-cent less on repairs and maintenance over the lifetime of their vehicles. That’s largely because there are fewer moving and wearable parts in electric cars, he said. The savings add up to thousands of dollars over a vehicle’s lifetime, in addition to what you’ll save by not having to buy gas again.

If you’re worried about the possibility of a dead EV battery and the eye-watering cost of replacing it, Harto said dead batteries appear to be rare. They’re also potentially covered under warranty. “We’re still limited on data, but what we’re seeing so far is that it’s not a major issue on most EVs,” Harto said. You’re probably going to get 250,000 to 350,000 kilometres out of a vehicle before the battery might fail, he estimated. (That’s roughly the same sort of lifespan you can expect from a conventional car before its motor or transmission might fail.)

Story continues below advertisement

Even back in 2014, research by the U.S. government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded EV batteries could last 12 to 15 years in moderate climates or eight to 12 years in extreme climates.

“As far as I am aware, most EVs offer an eight-year warranty on the battery in Canada,” wrote Cara Clairman, founder and CEO of Plug’n Drive, a not-for-profit devoted to the promotion of electric vehicles.

Tesla warranties the batteries in its Model S and X for eight years or 240,000 kilometres, with a minimum 70-per-cent retention of battery capacity over that period. Most other EV batteries are covered up to at least 160,000 kilometres, but be sure to check the details with the automaker before making a purchase, if only for peace of mind.


The Canadian federal government’s iZEV incentive program takes up to $5,000 off the price of new zero-emissions vehicles, but it doesn’t apply to used EVs. However, there are other incentives and rebates for used EVs, depending on where you live.

In Ontario and British Columbia, rebates for used EVs are available through Plug’n Drive and Scrap-It, respectively. Both are independent, non-for-profit organizations backed by the automotive industry, power utilities and others.

The provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia offer government rebates of up to $4,000 and $2,000, respectively, on used EVs.

Story continues below advertisement

New or used

Scouring the classifieds for a used EV, you’ll quickly notice there isn’t much choice out there. Between 2011 and 2019, only 81,000 new fully electric vehicles were registered in this country, according to Statistics Canada. Over the same period, around 16 million new gasoline-fuelled vehicles hit the road. A recent search on turns up just 2,100 used EVs for sale across the country. For reference, there are 6,000 used Honda Civics alone on offer.

Since it’s still a relatively new technology, EVs are evolving more rapidly than their gas-powered counterparts. “We’re just now starting to get what I would consider mainstream consumer EVs … so it’s probably two or three years before there are a lot of really good options for consumers on the used market,” Chris Harto said.

Buying a used EV means you won’t get the longest range or fastest charging speeds, but depending on your needs and budget, it might well be a tradeoff worth making.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies