Skip to main content

For the 2016 model year, LEAF adds a number of significant enhancements – beginning with a new 30 kWh battery for LEAF SV and LEAF SL models that delivers an EPA-estimated driving range of 107 miles* on a fully charged battery. The range of a LEAF S model is 84 miles, giving buyers a choice in affordability and range.

Nissan

Electric vehicles made up fewer than 7,000 of Canada's 1.9 million annual new auto sales last year, but older EVs increasingly are finding their way into the used-car market.

Data supplied to Globe Drive by autotrader.ca shows searches on its car-sales website for battery-electric cars rose over the past six months from 0.05 per cent to 0.09 per cent of total searches. List views almost doubled to .23 per cent.

That's a drop in the bucket on a site that gets eight million visits a month, but its a definite upward trend. The Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S are the most commonly searched and listed.

Story continues below advertisement

But does shopping for a used EV differ from kicking the tires on, say, a second-hand Honda Civic? What do you need to check besides the usual things, body damage, key systems such as the engine and brakes, and ensuring that all the instruments and controls function?

There are a couple of factors, and both pros and cons to choosing used over new.

In Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia, a new hybrid or EV purchase is eligible for thousands of dollars in incentives and rebates, with the maximum paid for battery-electrics such as the Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Kia Soul or most Teslas. British Columbia's Scrap-It program tops up those spiffs if you're removing an internal combustion-powered vehicle off the road. Ontario and Quebec offer rebates for buying a residential quick-recharge unit.

None is available for second-hand EVs, perhaps out of concern for incentivizing the same vehicle twice. Even the charging-station rebate isn't available.

That has an impact on the used-EV market, says Brian Murphy, vice-president of editorial and research at Canadian Black Book, which tracks EVs and plug-in hybrids trends.

"They aren't holding their value, which is really what we expected," Murphy says. "To some degree, I'd say it's even going a little bit worse than what we expected."

The market appears to have deducted the provincial incentives from the depreciated value of the EV, he says. "If you get an $8,000 rebate that lowers the [new] price and then compare it to the used price, the used price is sort of net of the rebate already."

Story continues below advertisement

A new 2016 i-MiEV, for example, has a retail price of about $28,000 before rebates. Autotrader lists a low-mileage used 2016 in Quebec for $20,000, without rebates. Older models range from $15,000 to $16,000.

Some added depreciation is because of people who don't embrace the technology. Others are waiting for more advanced models such as the new Chevrolet Bolt, with a claimed range of 380 kilometres. Murphy calls it a game-changer.

"Especially as [a] used vehicle two or three years down the road, the Bolt is going to be more attractive to the marketplace than one of its competitors that may have half the range," he says.

But that depreciation can also make a used EV a bargain, assuming it's mechanically sound.

And the increasing number of publicly available charging stations is beginning to allay range anxiety, says Michael Bettencourt, managing editor at autotrader.ca, who recently traded a Leaf for a used Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid. It could make older, shorter-range EVs more attractive.

"All of a sudden, that same exact Leaf can become a lot more practical and a lot more useful to a lot of people," Bettencourt says.

Story continues below advertisement

Range in an EV is dependent on the battery's capacity, which raises the second big question mark when buying used: What shape is the power cell in?

A battery-EV is fairly uncomplicated, with fewer moving parts; simple electric motor, one-speed transmission and no engine-needing maintenance.

The battery lithium-ion battery pack, the single biggest component, is covered by extensive long-term warranties, usually eight years or 160,000 kilometres for replacement if charge capacity falls below 70 per cent.

The Leaf's battery's condition can be checked with a battery-capacity gauge on the right side of the instrument cluster. Its warranty kicks in if capacity falls below nine bars out of 12 on the gauge.

George Iny, of the Automobile Protection Association, says the Leaf stores its lifetime charging history, including quick charges that can damage the battery. A would-be buyer could ask for a readout.

If shopping used, check to see if the warranty is transferable. A replacement battery will cost upward of $5,000.

One way to hedge your bet is to buy through an auto maker's certified-preowned program, which generally offers a limited warranty. Nissan, Mitsubishi and BMW, for instance, include EV products in their programs.

Sign up for our newly-designed weekly newsletter

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter

The newest version of a Volkswagen bus was unveiled at the 2017 Detroit auto show, but is it a ploy to draw attention away from the diesel emissions scandal?
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • 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

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

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 feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter