How to buy a second-hand hybrid or electric car: our top tips 

How to buy a second-hand hybrid or electric car: our top tips 

Hybrid and electric vehicles have been present on our roads for around 20 years now, so the second-hand market around these cars has naturally grown considerably in that time. When electrified vehicles were first introduced, drivers were naturally concerned about this new technology – whether these cars would prove as reliable or as enjoyable to drive as petrol and diesel cars. But now, with the technology firmly established across a range of proven models, these concerns have been shown to be false. Drivers all over the world are now starting to consider electrified cars as a greener choice.

Are you contemplating a hybrid or electric, but not yet convinced enough to spend on a brand-new model? A second-hand car is a great way to explore this type of vehicle and test it against your lifestyle before committing to the cost of a new one. Our top tips on purchasing used electrified cars will guide you on what to look out for; there are several things to bear in mind with any used car purchase, alongside some particular considerations for hybrids and electrics.

Choose a car that matches your lifestyle

Different cars will suit different lifestyles and driving needs. Getting to know which one would best match yours will help you to narrow down your search so you spend your time only looking at cars that are a good fit.

Standard hybrid cars are ideal if much of your driving is in built-up areas with slow traffic, but you also make occasional longer journeys on faster roads (e.g. at weekends). Plug-in hybrids have an all-electric range of up to 35 miles (the Ford Kuga) so are a great option for day-to-day driving in more rural areas with less traffic, while all-electric cars are emissions-free at any speed and can drive for hundreds of miles on a single charge. Learn more about each type here.

Distance capacities for new all-electric cars are constantly increasing, which means that older models won’t have quite the same range – but they should still be comfortably capable of over 200 miles from a full battery. And with more than 18,000 charging points across the UK it’s easier than ever to recharge mid-journey.

Take a good look, in person

Identify electric and hybrid cars near you, so you can review them in person and take a test drive. Authorised dealerships like TrustFord are a reliable option as you can be sure we’ll have all the appropriate paperwork and up-to-date servicing for any car on our books. And the best second-hand hybrid car bargains can often be found in ex-demonstrator and showroom cars as they’ll have been kept in good condition to look presentable and drive well, while being regularly serviced by their dealership.

General considerations

Many of the considerations that apply to buying any second-hand car apply to used hybrids and electric vehicles. Age, mileage, general condition and its service history are all important; expect to see all the relevant paperwork just like you would with any used car. When you can look at a prospective purchase in person, pay attention to:

  • Wear and tear on the tyres and brake pads
  • How well the gearbox and braking system is functioning
  • Any damage to the body and interior
  • The internal operating systems – make sure the car has received all its software updates, and look for warning signs on the dashboard that indicate issues, like electricity not flowing properly between the battery and engine or from the wheels to the battery

Replacing these components will be at your own cost once you’ve bought the car, unless they’re covered by a warranty. Hybrids and electrics tend to wear quite well – certainly at no faster a rate than any other car – so substantial deterioration could be a sign that the car has been handled roughly in the past.

Battery capacities for hybrids and electrics are expressed in kilowatts per hour (kWh). The bigger the battery, the longer its zero-emissions range, but it will also take longer to recharge. Make sure you understand a used car’s range capacity so you know how far you’ll be able to drive on electricity alone, and check that charging leads and other relevant accessories are provided in the sale.

Don’t be afraid to probe and ask questions. Any car purchase is still a significant amount of money and it’s crucial to be certain in your decision.

Getting the best used hybrid car

Some cars appear in both hybrid and non-hybrid models and can look quite similar from the outside. If you don’t have much experience with hybrid cars, check the documentation carefully to make sure the car you’re looking really is a hybrid.

Hybrids are popular as company cars and taxis, but some private sellers may not declare this. Be especially attentive for wear and tear and check that the asking price is reflective of this, including any cosmetic improvements a new owner might want to spend money on. If the owner has renewed the warranty on a car, check to see whether the hybrid system is covered – if it’s not, this makes a good negotiation point.

Getting the best used electric car

The most important component of an all-electric car is its battery pack. Battery capacities do decline slightly over the years so expect the seller to provide a clear status update on this, including whether the battery pack is still in warranty – some manufacturers provide separate warranties for a battery pack that extend further than the main warranty. Current owners can also purchase new warranties; if they’ve done so, look at whether the battery pack is included.

It’s also possible to purchase electric cars with leased batteries, which any new owner would need to continue paying for. This is an extra running cost, so it’s important to be really clear on this point.

Consider the purchase price and future costs 

Used hybrid and electric models may still be slightly more costly than a diesel or petrol car of similar age, wear and mileage. But as with comparisons between new models of electrified cars and those with traditional engines, there are cost savings to be found in fuel consumption and general running, with the added benefit of lower CO2 emissions on the road. Finance options are available on TrustFord used cars as well as brand-new models to offer an accessible monthly payment option.

You can expect other maintenance costs to generally be either similar or lower than for petrol and diesel cars. Some of the same parts wear out at similar rates (e.g. the gearbox) but it depends on your driving style – and with fewer parts in both hybrid and electric cars, there’s less to replace.

Battery replacement has historically been one of the highest costs associated with hybrid and electric cars. However, their batteries are designed to last and the growing popularity of electrified cars has resulted in their parts being more widely available. This means the price tag of replacement battery packs has decreased over time – and may have gone down even further by the time you actually need one. A replacement battery pack can be up to £6,000*, but replacing individual cells rather than the whole battery is also possible and can bring this cost right down.

As with any deal, you should always be wary of unusually low prices – there’s normally a reason for this! Buying from a reputable dealership like TrustFord gives you peace of mind and a great range of vehicles, offering good value from a name you can trust.

Search online for a TrustFord used car near you, or browse our new hybrid and electric cars.