What is it like to own a second hand EV?

It was August 2021 and we’d completely outgrown our faithful but cramped Suzuki Celerio. We desperately wanted to get an all electric vehicle (EV) as part of our journey to electrify everything, but all the cars we saw were completely out of our price range. Then we discovered GoodCar where you can buy second hand EVs.

Back then GoodCar were importing cars from Japan and you had to request a copy of the catalogue by email. These days they have a swanky website where you can browse all the cars available, including cars already in Australia.

After a long boat ride from Japan, our car arrived in May 2022. We took our last trip to the petrol station and ditched fossil fuel cars for good. We’ve been driving our second hand Nissan LEAF for almost 2 years now.

Buying online

We were initially a bit worried about buying a car online that we hadn’t seen before – particularly a second hand EV, which was a completely new type of car for us. Luckily the team at GoodCar were able to arrange a test drive of another Nissan LEAF in Sydney. The owner was so enthusiastic that we decided to take the plunge.

GoodCar also provided a warranty for the car and battery, and a 7 day returns policy. So if we didn’t like it we could just send it back.

Driving

The Nissan LEAF handles very well. It’s small and easy to park in the city. It feels a lot more solid than our Suzuki Celerio, and accelerates and brakes much faster.

We did find that driving an EV takes a bit of getting used to. The controls are very similar, but there are a few differences – like a power on button! However, the biggest difference isn’t the controls, it’s that the car makes almost no sound, so there isn’t as much auditory feedback.

Once you get used to it the driving is easy, and lovely and quiet (great for babies and toddlers napping in their car seats).

Controls of a second hand EV
The controls are quite similar to a petrol car, with a few differences (like a power on button)

Charging

We charge the car every few days. Most of the time we charge at home in our garage using a regular power point, but it’s also possible to get an EV charger installed at home, which we will get in the future to make it faster.

Sometimes we charge at public charging points, which takes 15 – 30 mins. There are two public chargers nearby on the street, and many more in shopping centres and other venues. Most public chargers have an app and you pay to charge. If you can’t charge it at home then it’s important to have a regular charging schedule that you stick to.

Charging a second hand EV in the garage with a regular power point
We charge overnight in our garage using a regular power point.

Saving money

We’ve saved a lot of money on petrol, so it was definitely a good financial investment. Because the initial cost of a second hand EV is lower than a new EV the financial benefit is higher. Once we get our home solar we’ll charge it during the day, which means we’ll be paying almost no running costs. You can estimate how much you will save using the GoodCar savings calculator.

We haven’t had any maintenance issues, so we’ve also saved on mechanic bills. EVs only have a small number of moving parts so they don’t usually need as much maintenance as petrol cars.

Driving range

A second hand EV won’t go as far on one charge as a new EV. If you’re buying through GoodCar they test the battery for all their cars and list the range on the car’s profile. We get 120-150km on one charge, which is exactly what GoodCar listed. Our range has hardly changed in 2 years of driving.

We mainly use our car for school drop offs, pick ups, and shopping on the weekends, so 120-150km is plenty for our city lifestyle. If we lived in a rural area or commuted longer distances we would have picked one of the second hand EVs with a long range, which also cost more.

When we go on holidays that require longer distances we plan out the charging points using an app like ChargeFox. If we’re staying at an Airbnb we ask the host if we can charge, and so far everyone has said yes (and then asked us what it’s like to have an EV). Many large hotels now have chargers, and there is even an app for finding them.

If you’re suffering from range anxiety a good thing to keep in mind is that you can actually charge from any regular power point (it’s slow, but it’s possible). So in an emergency if you get stuck you just need to find somewhere to plug in.

We’ve taken the second hand EV on all our holidays, but if you’re driving in a remote area and you’re worried about charging you can also hire a car with a longer range. Hiring a car occasionally is still a lot cheaper than buying a new EV for everyday use.

Kids

Our 7 year old daughter loves the second hand EV, both for the novelty and because it’s good for the planet. We also feel good doing our part for the environment and for her generation, which includes buying second hand when we can to reduce our impact.

We wondered if an imported car would work with child seats, but we didn’t need to worry. The Nissan LEAF came with better car seat attachments than our previous cars.

Car seat in a second hand EV
It had all the usual children’s car seat adaptors.

Because there is no engine EVs are also much more spacious than petrol cars. That means more room in the back for kids, and a huge boot that fits everything in easily.

Boot of a second hand EV
The boot is very spacious for a small car because EVs don’t have an engine.

Delightful quirks

Importing a car from Japan did lead to a few delightful quirks. Our car says hello in Japanese when we turn it on (there is probably a way to turn it off, but we like it). GoodCar convert all the other controls to English, including the navigation, so you don’t need to worry about learning to read Japanese.

A bonus feature was that it came with heated seats and a heated steering wheel – perfect for winters in Tokyo although not an essential feature for Sydney.

It also came with these amazing doily style heat rest covers which we decided to keep. We imagined its previous owner might have been a Japanese grandma (note: we don’t think this is a standard inclusion).

Head rest covers of a second hand EV
We liked the doily head rest covers, and decided to keep them (they could also be removed)

GoodCar put these stickers on the back of their cars to promote that it’s 100% electric. We left the stickers on because we want to encourage everyone to transition, and so far it’s been very successful. Any time we park at a public charging point people ask us about the car. If you prefer not to be asked about your car by random strangers they can also be taken off.

Second hand EV car stickers

Conclusion

Was a second hand EV a good investment? Absolutely. We paid only a fraction of the price of a new EV, and got a fantastic family car that costs us almost nothing to run (with a few fun quirks). From both a financial and environmental perspective second hand EVs makes a lot of sense.

Get special VIP pricing for your EV

As part of our partnership with GoodCar, households transitioning to clean energy with ZapCat can access special pricing on second hand EVs. Get access to deals that aren’t available on the GoodCar website, and find out how much you could save by switching to an EV.