So, you need to buy a car. Now. With thousands of electric vehicles (EVs) coming off leases, used EVs are more available than ever before. These previously leased EVs are usually clean and well maintained with low miles.

Used EVs can also be surprisingly affordable: some are under $10,000! For income-eligible Californians, the new Clean Vehicle Assistance Program offers grants for eligible used vehicles, including hybrids and “plug-in hybrids”:

  • $1,500 for a hybrid
  • $4,500 for a “plug-in hybrid”
  • $5,000 for a battery EV (“all electric”)

For example, a family of three with an income of less than $83,000 currently qualifies for a grant if the vehicle you want to purchase is no more than eight years old and has less than 75,000 miles. Income-eligible Californians can also receive from the program an additional $2,000 to offset charging costs!

Cool EV stuff

To learn about all the incentives available for electric vehicles and more, visit our Ways to Save page.

Learn more about purchasing a used EV from this recent article featuring a silver 2016 Chevy Spark.

Download the Cool Davis Used Electric Vehicle Planning Guide (3 pages)

Ready to buy a new or newer EV with enough range to meet all your needs? Consider donating your old dinosaur juice mobile to Cool Davis. We need your support to keep our informative programs running!

For more information about driving electric, visit our Drive Electric web page.

Getting started

With an all-electric vehicle, you don’t fuel up at the gas station. Instead, you pull into a public or private charging station or set up charging at home, potentially saving you over 50 percent in fueling costs! Hybrid vehicles run on either gas or electricity. Electric motors typically have a longer life than gas engines. With 90 percent fewer moving parts, all electric cars have much lower maintenance costs, too!

Remember that older EVs have a more limited range than current models. Estimate the range you need by doubling your daily commute miles, adding a few more, and then consider battery degradation over time. Used EVs are likely better for in-town errands and short commutes than for longer commutes.

Browse the web sites of Clean Vehicle Assistance Program approved dealerships and compare net costs to leasing or buying newer vehicles. If you qualify for a grant, look for vehicles no more than eight years old and with less than 75,000 miles.

These popular models are commonly available used:

  • Plug-in hybrid: Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi, Ford C-Max Energi, BMW i3 REX, Prius Prime
  • All-electric: Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Tesla, Volkswagen eGolf, Ford Focus Electric, Nissan LEAF

If you don’t qualify for a grant, visit for a huge list of used electric vehicles for sale, look for used EVs at car auctions and online shopping sites, and check out Plug In America’s PlugStar shopping assistant (select Shopping Assistant or Get Started from their home page).

Battery health and capacity

Used EVs can be purchased from franchise dealerships, used car dealers, or private sellers. Some used car dealers specialize in the sale of used EVs, while others may offer little assistance with their unique features.

Ask about the current capacity compared to the original total capacity ahead of time. The true health of the battery may not be properly disclosed. (This won’t likely be posted in advertisements or necessarily reflected in the price. Dealers may not know.) A used EV with a healthy battery is almost like a new car, but even an EV with a somewhat degraded battery could be an excellent deal.

Check for battery warranties from the manufacturer or certified used vehicle program. Some EVs at franchise dealerships may be certified pre-owned (CPO) and come with an extended factory warranty. Other used car dealers may offer lower sticker prices, but there won’t be a CPO warranty. Examine the warranty provisions carefully to see if you are also protected against any deterioration in battery range.

With a private seller, there may be a lower price, but the car is sold “as is” and the seller cannot ensure that the battery is in good condition. Ask private party sellers how they used the car. Did they travel at high speeds frequently? Drain the battery low and often? Ask for records of actual range.

A used 2011-2016 Nissan LEAF that has lost 15 to 25 percent of its battery capacity (up to 3 bars) could still travel 50 to 70 miles on a single charge. If this is sufficient for you, it could be the cheapest possible vehicle to meet your needs. LEAF battery capacity is now guaranteed to remain above 8 bars for the soonest of 5 years / 60,000 miles. Otherwise, Nissan claims they will replace it with a brand new 24kW battery at no charge. Ask at your local dealership then call Nissan Consumer Affairs at 1-877-664-2738 with any questions. Older LEAFs (before 2013) won’t have this information in the owner’s warranty manual.

Purchasing and installing a new battery is possible but can be rather expensive. In addition to the cost of the battery itself, several hours of labor and a battery retrofit kit may be needed. Some manufacturers have battery refurbishment programs and are providing discounts to recover the old batteries. Call the manufacturer for details.


When arranging to buy, if a report on battery capacity has not already been provided, be sure to request one or arrange for a reputable used car dealer or an experienced independent EV mechanic to perform an on-board diagnostics check to measure the battery health and issue a report. (There are also third-party software and apps that perform this function.)

Call ahead and request that the car be nearly fully charged when you arrive so you can test charging. Perform a test charge when you get there to make sure charging works. Make sure portable trickle charge cables (110-volt) are included and test the connection. If you need a “Quick Charge” connector, confirm the vehicle has one.

The reported range on the dashboard may not reflect the actual range, especially for freeway trips. If a private seller has no range records available, consider asking to borrow the car with collateral for one charge and discharge cycle. For dealers, ask about a temporary borrowing program. If none of these options are available, do a long test drive and note the difference between reported range and actual. Note that it is common for freeway range to be 20 percent less than city driving


  • For plug-in hybrids, check both the gas miles and the electric-only miles to determine wear. Plug-in hybrids have both electric and combustion motors. However, they experience less wear and tear because the miles driven on the electric motor reduce wear on the gas-fueled components.
  • New EVs still come with a federal tax credit, a state rebate, and a PG&E rebate, lowering the effective purchase price, which can have a secondary effect on used EV prices. Rebates are also available for UC affiliates. To learn about all the incentives available for electric vehicles and more, visit our Ways to Save page.
  • Visit for the best deals on new car leases
  • US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) provides information, data, and tools to help fleets and other transportation decision makers find ways to reach their energy and economic goals through the use of alternative and renewable fuels, advanced vehicles, and other fuel-saving measures.


Passerby checks out Chris Granger’s Fiat 500e at an Aug 4 2017 EVs event in Davis at the Varsity Theater. Courtesy photo.