Dink Davis, owner of the specialty EV dealership iDrive, explains:

Buying an EV might be somewhat uncomfortable because the standard things to look at are not the same as with the ICE cars and trucks.  Engine and Transmission issues are things of the past in these EV's.  So let's focus on what we can see... the tech options and display screens.  Look at the screens and make sure that there are no deterioration issues and the functionality is still intact…The obvious after that is brakes and tires and door handles and windows along with AC functionality.  Those things you can check quite easily and [it will] show that you have some knowledge.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • Both EVs and ICE cars should be inspected pre-purchase to ensure they are safe and roadworthy. This includes checking brake safety, suspension, tire tread, making sure the lights work, and that there are no warning lights on the dash or instrument cluster. 
  • In terms of brake pads, you can expect these to last longer on most EVs, thanks to regenerative braking, but the tires may wear out faster than in a gas car. Read more about why EV tires may be worth it.  
  • Check air filters and fluid levels, too. While these are easy maintenance items, it’s worth knowing what you’ll have to do to get the car in the best condition possible. 
  • Maintenance records should be inspected for both types of vehicles. Look for records that indicate when the tires were rotated, brake pads replaced, and 12V battery replaced. This is a good time to cross check maintenance records with an accident history report, too. 
  • Consider checking how much time and mileage is remaining on the manufacturer warranty, both for bumper to bumper and powertrain warranties. For an EV, you will want to look into the battery warranty and ensure that it is transferable to a second (or third) owner.
When it comes to the battery warranty, you “need to know what you have left in case the factory time limit or mileage limit is expired" since it's “too large of an expense to leave unchecked. “ -Dink Davis, iDrive

What's different

  • Since EVs don't have an engine or transmission, there are some components that don't need to be inspected or maintained in the same way as an ICE car. For example, there is no oil to change, no spark plugs to replace, and no timing belt/maintenance.
  • EVs have some unique components that you may want to check on, such as the on-board charger. You may want to try charging the car at a level 2 charger to see the rate at which it charges. Ideally, this will be close to the original charger speed installed on the car.   
  • The big difference between an ICE and an EV is also the hardest to inspect: the battery pack. The battery pack is the most valuable component of an EV, so consider a Recurrent Report before purchase in order to ensure the battery has the current and future range you expect.
  • If you're looking to sell, you may be able to get a premium price for a well cared-for battery. Recurrent can connect you to EV specialist dealer who value good batteries - for free.

The market for EVs is still relatively new, and many buyers and sellers may not be as familiar with the technology as they are with ICE cars. As a result, there may be additional questions or concerns that need to be addressed during the inspection process, such as how the previous owner charged the vehicle or the climate conditions in which the vehicle was stored. 

Mechanic inspecting under the hood of a car

However, when it comes to what dealerships look for, Dink, with his 27 years in the automotive industry, gives us the intel:

"When we inspect an EV coming in on trade we check the function of all the features to make sure everything works like it's supposed to. We do a brake and tire check along with any body or bumper damage along with making sure the windows have no cracks in them. The windshields in the Tesla cars are not cheap so take a good look before you assume they are fine.  We also check the notifications within the service menu to see if the car has been setting off any errors that we should know about.  All these things are considered in our trade value, so keep your car clean and ready to trade before you go into the store."

While there are some differences between the inspection process for EVs and ICE cars, the goal is ultimately the same: to ensure that the vehicle is safe and roadworthy for the buyer or seller. As EVs become more common, it is likely that the inspection process will become more streamlined and standardized, making it easier for buyers and sellers to navigate.