How To Get A Good Used Green Car

22/02/2017

How To Get A Good Used Green Car

With sales of new hybrid (petrol-electric) cars up by a quarter in the 12 months between January 2016 and the same month just gone, lots of motorists - and the companies and organisations who pay for their cars - are clearly seeing the benefits of switching to a low-emissions motoring future.

At the same time, some of the earlier models of the best-known petrol-hybrid, diesel-hybrid and even pure electric cars are starting to emerge onto the used car market, meaning that owning one of the greenest cars available is becoming within the reach of more drivers.

Green Is Go

Sales of hybrid cars which mix petrol and electric power climbed by a quarter during the 12 months included in the latest Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders figures.

That was largely because of owners taking advantage of the Government Plug-In Car Grant, which means someone buying a new model can qualify for a grant which will lop up to £4,500 off the cost of a new petrol-electric hybrid car. The main proviso is that the car must emit less than 75g/km of CO2, and be able to travel at least 10 miles using only its electric motor(s).

Cars for which owners can claim up to 35 per cent of the purchase price when new include:

  • Nissan Leaf
  • Renault ZOE
  • Kia Soul EV
  • Volkswagen e-Up and e-Golf, and
  • Hyundai Ioniq

A second tier of grant is offered which will cover up to a quarter of the cost of some other hybrid cars. This covers cars which emit no more than 50g/km of CO2 and should be able to travel between 10 and 69 miles in electric-only mode. Here, your options include:

  • Audi A3 e-tron
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
  • Toyota Prius Plug-In
  • Volkswagen Golf and Passat GTE, and
  • Volvo V60 D5 and D6 Twin Engine

So in this article, we’ll sum up the best attributes of some of these cars, and see what the motoring critics are saying about the advantages of buying one of these models used.

Nissan LEAF

Things have moved on a long way since Nissan first introduced its entry to the electric car market in 2010. There are a lot more charging points around - and websites such as Zap-Map have helped motorists get the most out of their choice to go with zero-emissions motoring.

There are even grants available to help electric/hybrid car owners meet the cost of installing a home car charger - and at the time of writing, it’s reckoned that the number of charging stations is expanding at the rate of 10 a day.

The original entry-level Nissan LEAF was designed as a standard family car which just happened to offer the benefit of emissions-free motoring. “Aside from the electric power, there really isn’t much to differentiate a LEAF from any other family car. It’s spacious, comfortable, practical and easy to drive,” notes Honest John. Legroom and headroom, both front and rear, are adequate for up to four adults, he says, summing up by saying: “Plug-in hybrids might provide better peace of mind on long trips, but the LEAF is perfectly capable of coping with fairly long commutes.”

Renault ZOE

This is probably the nearest rival to the LEAF in terms of a reasonably-priced car which can be run entirely on battery power. It even managed to snag a top-two place for owner satisfaction in the annual Auto Express Driver Power survey for 2016. That meant it finished just behind a miles-more-expensive Tesla, and ahead of cars such as a raft of Lexus, BMW and Jaguar models as the best cars to own.

It was the second best car out of all those nominated for ease of driving, while it also ranked in the top five for running costs, the in-car technology offered, and performance, and ride quality - no mean feat when those charts also include much more highly-specified, and more expensive, motors.

Commenting on the results, Auto Express noted: “Not surprisingly, owners tell us it majors on running costs, with the electric drivetrain ensuring they don’t have to splash out on fuel, while the car secures an even better second place for ease of driving. Performance is ranked fourth, and that’s most likely down to the sprightly acceleration delivered off the line by the 220Nm of torque. It doesn’t hit the top speeds to rival more powerful cars, but it shines in town.”

Volkswagen e-Up!

The Up! is one of the most popular cars in its class, thanks to its grown-up feeling handling and surprisingly generous interior space. But when you add in electric power, it brings a maximum range of 93 miles without any CO2 emissions.

It’s also been available in this form since 2013, so models are finding their way into the used car market. Despite the extra battery weight, the e-Up! is actually quicker than its petrol equivalent, and, according to What Car? “by any relevant standards the e-Up is fun and relaxing to drive”. In other words, most of the time, you don’t feel as though you’re paying any penalty for the obvious benefits of lower running costs. The car also has ‘Eco’ and ‘Eco+’ settings which reduce the power output of the engine to reduce strain on the battery.

When you brake too, that feeds power back into the electric motors, and at higher speeds, the e-Up! is also a good coaster when in default drive mode, which helps save even more power.

Now let’s move on to the best hybrid cars, where there’s a wider choice of models, yet you can still benefit from lower emissions and squeeze many more miles out of every litre of fuel.

Here, your choices include a handful of derivatives of more mainstream models, including:

Audi A3 e-tron

If you want a hybrid car which doesn’t shout about its energy-saving credentials, then this is one to look out for, as, according to Carwow: “It’s going to take more than a good, hard look to spot the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron from its regularly-fuelled brethren”.  

Impressive acceleration and a comfortable ride are two of the main qualities which stand out among reviewers. You’ll also get a claimed 166 miles to every gallon of unleaded, and according to TopGear.com, you don’t necessarily pay a major penalty in terms of the car’s road manners: “If you charge the batteries at a cruise, then save that juice for urban crawling, it’s a rewardingly intelligent way of getting around,” they found. ”You have to use brain power to decide on the correct mode for optimum fuel economy, but getting this right is all part of the satisfaction.”

Toyota Prius Plug-In

Probably the standard by which all other hybrid and/or electric cars are judged, a used Toyota Prius - the third generation of the car - “was not only the best Prius yet - it was also the best hybrid car on the market in 2009”.

The best recommendation of a used Prius, though, has to be that it’s generally just like any other car to drive. “The fact this car is so normal is its key strength. It means you don't have to make compromises to own one,” remarked Honest John. Capable of powering the car all by itself at up to 30mph, the electric motor will give way to the small petrol engine at higher speeds, but even then, it will cruise quite happily at motorway speeds, he added.

The all-electric Prius model is a little newer, having been introduced in 2012. The stronger battery fitted can push it up to speeds of 100kph (62mph), while it can be charged from a standard home supply in as little as two hours.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Japanese manufacturer has found a real niche with this model, a full-blown MPV with all the benefits - a high driving position, plenty of interior space, and all the versatility of cars of this size - but also the promise of an MPG figure in the hundreds if you manage to drive with some restraint. Conveniences such as one-touch operated folding back seats also add to the practicality of this popular SUV, with the added security of four-wheel drive also pushing it to the top of many buyers’ lists.

If you use it as an all-weather, all-terrain vehicle, you shouldn’t expect the electric motors to see too much use, but they come into their own around town, and when the good old British weather decides to play ball and render the heating and air-con almost redundant. A long-term Daily Telegraph test drive noted that the car was pretty practical in day-to-day use, but needed a high-powered charging point to make the most of its electric propulsion.

A Taxing Question

Well, not really - because this is one of the big benefits which drivers of many low-emission cars, including lots of hybrids and electric-powered models, enjoy.

The VW e-Up! and e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq, Renault Zoe, Nissan LEAF, and many (but not all) models of the Toyota Prius qualify for free vehicle excise duty - or road tax if you prefer.

But you should also remember that there are selected models of many other mainstream cars whose emissions bring them into the zero road tax bracket, and these include some variants of the following:

  • Toyota Yaris
  • Peugeot 208
  • Renault Clio
  • Skoda Citigo
  • Fiat 500,
  • Citroen C1 and
  • Ford Fiesta

When you’re shopping for one of these, be sure to ask whether the model you’re looking at qualifies for this benefit. Otherwise, you can find a full list of current VED-exempt cars here.

What Do I Need To Look Out For?

Generally, according to Carbuyer.co.uk, the biggest benefits of buying a used hybrid car or a used electric car will be felt by anyone who commutes into a big town or city. “If your daily car journey involves frequently sitting in stop-start traffic, a hybrid car can be a very sensible choice, as you’ll spend more time travelling at the kind of speeds where the electric motor does all the work,” it says.

You also need to bear in mind that any quoted travel ranges for electric cars will be quite a bit lower in winter, because of the need for the generator to also power the heating and air-con systems.

The expense of the technology included in the first generation of electric and hybrid cars meant they were relatively expensive to buy second-hand.

But the biggest possible pitfall is that you could find that a car which is being advertised as a hybrid isn’t at all. For that reason, you need to see the car ‘in the flesh’, to check out its badging and look at the instrument panel (which is often quite different from a standard car) to satisfy yourself that it’s the model the ad claims it to be.

When you start the car up, check that the instrument panel indicates where the power is coming from. Also, on a test drive, you should watch out for the power from the brakes being fed back into the engine (a property known as regenerative braking) - again this should be obvious from the instrument panel.

Buying a used hybrid car is no different from purchasing any other type of car in terms of the checks you should carry out, and most of the warning signs which show up disproportionate levels of use (and abuse). You can even find some specialist warranty providers who will offer a policy designed specifically for used hybrid cars or used electric cars, so that all the extra technology is covered, and common faults can be fixed without the need for any hefty expense.

A big tip is to be sure to check all the paperwork that you get with the car. First-time owners of electric and hybrid cars will have wanted to ensure that they get a good trade-in price for the vehicle, so servicing and all repairs will probably have been carried out by a franchised dealer.

Increasing numbers of used cars are also now covered by an original manufacturer’s warranty, so a used Kia Optima PHEV, for example, is still likely to have some of this warranty left, which can be transferred to you as the new owner.

But generally, you should just go about buying a used hybrid or electric car in the same way as a standard petrol or electric model, using the same care and caution as you always would. Longer-lasting components will certainly see battery and electric cars become increasingly desirable as used buys in years to come, so we expect lots of them to be replaced by their original owners as regularly as they would do with any other type of car.

Should I Worry About Battery Life?

Generally speaking, no - simply because many manufacturers, including Toyota, actually offer a longer warranty on the battery (eight years) than on a used Prius itself (five years).

But as with any battery, they will lose efficiency over time, and Kia’s battery warranty only promises to restore up to 70 per cent of its original power for the full seven years of the rest of the car’s warranty. Even so, that will still ensure that a hybrid or all-electric version of a used Kia will continue to provide reliable day-to-day use.

 

You’ll always find a carefully-picked choice of quality used cars from all the top manufacturers at Philip Paul’s showroom in Oswestry. We’ll also try to answer all your questions, so that you find a deal that you’re comfortable with, and will be confident to recommend us to your friends.