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A second-hand e-car? What you should know

Electric cars are in – but they come at a cost. As more and more e-cars appear on the second-hand market, prices are becoming increasingly reasonable. That sounds enticing. And raises questions at the same time. What do you have to look out for when buying a used electric car? Here are some important tips.

1 September 2021, text: Torsten Schallmaier, photo: Getty Images

Wallbox chargers for electric vehicles
More and more used electric vehicles are to be found on the second-hand market. When is it worth buying a used e-car?

What exactly do you want to achieve?

Before you silently race around Switzerland producing zero emissions, you should ask yourself the following questions: What is the distance I need to cover? If, say, you commute 50 kilometres to work each day, an electric car of the first battery generation can manage that – even during the cold time of the year. But if you have to drive more than 100 kilometres, things could become difficult for e-cars with an older battery. Then it makes more sense to opt for a bigger and newer battery.

Where can you charge a battery and how fast?

Is the car primarily to be charged at a wall box at home, at your employer’s or at a public charging station? The question is important because electric cars employ different charging technologies. That’s what makes them so varied in terms of flexibility of use. For instance, an e-car capable of fast charging (direct current) is ready in a relatively short time to cover a longer stretch.

But if all that is available is a normal alternating current charging station, it will take a few hours or even the entire night before the e-car’s battery has enough power again for a sizeable distance. In such a case, it would make more sense to charge the vehicle at home. It is essential that you find out beforehand about the charging infrastructure in place and take note of the charging technology.

Check the battery out thoroughly

You will have guessed as much: The battery is the most expensive component of an electric car. The more charge cycles it has gone through, the more serious the ageing. Batteries can last 500 to 1000 charge cycles without a problem. And the bigger the battery, the smaller the risk that it will soon reach the end of its life. Be sure to ask about the battery’s state of health, or SOH for short.

You should also insist on seeing the test logs and the service booklet. Garages subject the battery to a thorough inspection whenever they do maintenance and service work. The utmost caution is advised if the salesperson is unable to show a log. Another tip: When buying a battery, check whether it is still under guarantee, and if so, for how much longer. What are the terms of guarantee and can you live with having to waive guarantee claims?

Exercise caution when it comes to distance

Don’t be taken in by the manufacturer’s distance specifications. The distance capacity decreases as the battery ages. What’s more, battery performance depends on a number of factors such as driving behaviour, outside temperature or the use of heating or air-conditioning. In winter, for example, a distance capacity of 200 kilometres can quickly turn into just 100 kilometres. Ask the salesperson for figures based on their experience.

Special case: brakes

An electric car has much fewer expendable parts than a conventional car with an internal combustion engine. It would be a pointless exercise to look for spark plugs, cambelts or an exhaust pipe in an e-vehicle. But pay attention to the brakes. E-car brakes are sometimes more susceptible to rust than is the case with normal vehicles. Why? A lot of e-car drivers tend to accelerate and brake with the gas pedal, neglecting to use the actual brakes. This allows energy to flow back into the battery, a phenomenon referred to in technical jargon as “recuperation”. As a general rule, you should check the overall condition of the used e-car and take it for a test drive where possible. And if necessary, have the car assessed by a specialist before making a purchase.

The right car insurance

The second-hand market for e-cars is getting more and more interesting, and the selection of models larger and larger. A purchase may well prove worthwhile. Once you’ve found the right electric car, don’t forget the right car insurance. With Helvetia your e-car gets optimum coverage and you profit from numerous benefits. For instance, you will receive a ProClima Bonus for environmentally friendly cars.

Out and about electrically with Helvetia and MOVE: profit double.

MOVE offers one of the largest public charging networks for electric cars. If you conclude a new insurance contract for your plug-in hybrid or your electric car by 31 December 2021, Helvetia will cover the cost of your first MOVE annual subscription worth CHF 59 and throw in starting credit of CHF 20. This means you can charge your e-car in Switzerland and abroad at attractive rates.