Collage/ photos by Carolyn Fortuna/ CleanTechnica

Insider Hints You Need to Know To Buy A Used EV

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I recently made the decision to trade in my part-time Honda Civic Si for a used EV. While the Si was in impeccable repair shape and had relatively few miles compared to its age (2013 with 55,000 miles), it was time to make the move to electric due to my age and health as well as environmental and resale value reasons.

After several months of indecision and sporadic internet browsing, I narrowed my field of interest to the Chevy Bolt. I found a local dealership near my summer vacation spot, and I was able to choose among a half dozen or so vehicles on the lot.

Although I’m a rabid self-advocate, and this would be the third EV I would either fully own or co-own, I didn’t realize how lack of dealership staff knowledge about EVs would’ve left me without getting full financial value and complement of accessories. It was my spouse, Steve Hanley, who made all the difference. A former used car manager, he offered me — and the dealership — advice and guidance in this buying process that was essential. I’m passing along some lessons I learned here during Steve’s primer so you, too, can go into a dealership with advanced knowledge needed for buying a used EV. 

What Made the Difference: Insider Hints

Get an independent appraisal: The first thing that was necessary to get the sale rolling was to get my own updated appraisal on the car I wanted to trade in. I had a general idea from a Carvana inquiry I made a couple of months ago, but that would not have been current enough to be credible. An Edmunds online appraisal gave a more accurate amount the morning of the test drive — you’ll need the trade-in’s VIN (vehicle identification number) to get the most valid reading. Having this data elevated my trade-in negotiating so that I walked away with $2000 more than their initial offer.

Bolt battery replacement: It would’ve been a deal breaker if the Bolt’s battery had not been replaced prior to this purchase. Our salesperson outlined in their introductory email that all Bolts on their lot had new batteries and that they couldn’t sell a car with a recall on it, anyway. The November 2020 recall was issued after a handful of seemingly unrelated car fires; the reason GM gave at the time was a coincidence of 2 battery faults. 

Charge the car prior to test drive: As we thought ahead to the test drive, it seemed a good idea to check to be sure that the sales team had charged the car prior to the onsite appointment. Sales personnel still aren’t yet in the habit of checking EV charge levels. While the Bolt has a real-time charge level of about 200 miles, what if you were so enamored with the vehicle and wanted to take it home today, only to find out it had a 20% charge? Your first independent driving destination might require you to stop to charge. Speaking of charging, check to make sure that the used EV that interests you comes with its own charging cable. One model on the lot did not have its own cable.

Deconstruct the dealer jargon: When I went on the test ride, the sales person asked if I wanted a regular drive or “one pedal.” When I asked which each meant, they gave a rather long-winded explanation of an EV’s capacity to regain charge when slowing or downhill. Once I understood the jargon, I assured the salesperson that I would always want regen and suggested that’s what it should be called. I already knew that regenerative braking takes kinetic energy and converts it into energy that can be put back into the battery.

Get the highest charging capacity possible: Actually, I didn’t end up with the Bolt that had originally captured my attention in online searching. Other Bolts had a Level 3 charging option, and that initial one did not. Level 3, or fast charging, can provide up to 100 miles of range in about 30 minutes, usually found at public stations along highway routes.

Update your insurance coverage: The morning of delivery meant I needed to contact my insurance company and get updated insurance for this new-to-me vehicle. The insurance agent emailed me the new card, which I needed to forward to the dealership for delivery purposes.

Understanding charging percentages: Having chosen an electric blue Bolt, Steve asked for advice how to set the charging to 80% — guidance that most EV owners follow to save on battery levels and that Chevy had outlined after the initial Bolt fires. The sales manager wasn’t entirely sure how to show us the setting to adjust the charge level. We ended up with the suggestion that the “home level” setting. It was intended for owners who live on a hill and could capture back energy going downhill on the first part of their commute. It seems kinda convoluted for such an important aspect of EV care, and I wonder if there’s not another setting… more internet searching needed!

Get a grasp on the federal used EV tax credit before your test drive: Locating ahead of time the exact language for what the federal used EV tax credit required seemed excessive to me at first — wouldn’t the dealer already have all that info on hand? Actually, no. Insider hints here were powerful.

The closing guy insisted that the buyer — not the dealer– filled out all federal used EV tax credit information and that I needed to have a confab with my accountant. He assured us that the dealer would never share their federal tax ID. So I showed from my phone the Used Clean Vehicle Credit which listed criteria such as Who Qualifies, Qualified Vehicles and Sales, and How to Claim the Used Clean Vehicle Credit.

In response, the closing guy left the office and returned with a printed Form 8936 for us; they thought we were all set. Eventually, after some persistence from us, someone in an upstairs back office came up with a form 2023 IRC Section 25E Previously Owned Clean Vehicle Tax Credit report. They had completed it with info like:

  • The dealer’s name and taxpayer ID number
  • Buyer’s name and taxpayer ID number
  • Sale date and sale price
  • Maximum credit
  • VIN
  • Battery capacity

Save that Section 25E paperwork, as the $4000 won’t be redeemed until you submit your 2023 tax returns by April 15, 2024.

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New battery warranty: After some prodding, the dealership was able to provide us with a statement of warranties on the Bolt, including a battery warranty that began in 2023 and runs for the next 8 years. So the 2017 Bolt with 26,000 miles and its replacement value with a brand new battery is as good as, if not actually better, than if it were new.

Steve’s insider hints made all the difference in this transaction — for sure! Thank you, hubby… 🙂


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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

Carolyn Fortuna has 1363 posts and counting. See all posts by Carolyn Fortuna