Should You Buy a Used Electric Car? Recurrent Can Help

Recurrent is a company that provides data about used electric vehicles, like this plug-in hybrid Volvo XC60, with the goal of making consumers confident about purchasing them. (Volvo Car USA)

Driving electric means more than reducing your emissions and swapping gas stations for a charging cable. It also means rethinking some of the factors people will be interested in when you’re ready to upgrade to a new one and need to sell your used electric vehicle.

More and more automakers are announcing big plans for EVs in the coming years. General Motors and Volvo have both promised to go all-electric, for example, and even today more than 25% of Volvo’s sales are electrified models. That means it is increasingly important for EV owners and used EV buyers to understand how reliable a five-year-old model is going to be.

That’s where Recurrent comes in. Recurrent is a company that wants to increase electric vehicle adoption by providing battery reports for used EVs. Think of it as similar to Carfax, but instead of issuing accident reports, Recurrent focuses on the health of the battery and estimated life left.

A Cox Automotive study found that people who own or are shopping for an EV think their batteries last just seven years, which is less than many of them are warrantied for, much less last. An independent organization offering an impartial assessment of that battery can go a long way toward establishing a fair sales price when the time comes to sell your EV.

Alongside the used EV data it has been collecting, Recurrent decided to create a database of used EVs for sale across the U.S. This resulted in a few interesting findings, including the fact that there are more used EVs available in Texas than anywhere else in the country (excluding the EV hotspot of California).

For its March 2021 Used Electric Vehicle report, Recurrent found 5,955 used EVs in California and 1,979 in Texas. After that, the states with the largest number of used EVs for sale were Florida (1,223), Arizona (933) and Oregon (841). Two other surprises were Illinois and Georgia, which both cracked the top ten but are not traditionally thought of as places where a large number of EVs have been sold.

Recurrent’s data also shows that there is surprising growth in the used EV market, with almost 50% more of them available today than six months ago. Just as with internal combustion engine vehicles, the number of used EVs available lags new sales by around three or four years, Recurrent said.

The 2017 model year vehicles were the most common used EVs on the market six months ago, but they were overtaken by 2018 vehicles in Recurrent’s latest report. The most common used EVs for sale are Teslas, BMW's plug-in hybrids, and Nissan Leafs.