Don't get all in a Twizy over whether you should pick up a used EV.
by James Ruppert
29 January 2019
I am sure you know by now that on this page I have something of a problem with electric cars. I believe that they exist, that they can be useful, but mostly that they seem like very bad value for money.
Even when they are a little bit used and depreciation has worked its magic, I only see end-of-life downsides. As for Bangernomic Battery Cars, we’ve dismissed a Reva G-Wiz before now. I’m still open to buying, though, and when Autocar reader Alex asked me a question, he actually seemed like someone who could make a pretty decent case for turning electric.
Here we go: “I am looking to get a used electric car… I have looked at the Volkswagen e-Up, Renault Zoe and Renault Twizy. Do you think an e-Up would be a good purchase for a 13-mile commute? I currently have a petrol Up.”
Those couple of sentences tell us an awful lot. The great news is that there will be no such thing as range anxiety, even in the deep mid-winter. With all the air-con, in-car entertainment and lighting facilities switched on, just about anything on half a charge should manage a 26-mile round trip. Even a Twizy. The thing is, an Up is already very parsimonious when it comes to fuel. And an e-Up will just be quieter. That’s why I asked Alex why he needed to switch to electric. He didn’t reply. Still, what does one cost?
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Well, there are not many around and the cheapest one I could find was a 53,000-mile 2015 version for £10,995. I’m impressed that someone has piled on the miles in such a relatively short time. But if I had a petrol Up, I would keep it. When considering a short-commute option, I’d rather buy a 1.0 BlueMotion Tech High Up than pay £11k. I say that because I came across a 2012 example with 37,000 miles at £5495. The biggest upside is that it will do 67mpg officially and at least 60mpg in the real world. Our BlueTech VW Golf manages that on a commute.
Back to the electric thing. The best reason for buying the Renault models is that they offer good value. A Twizy is just a quick golf cart, but not as practical. For a Zoe, buy yourself a 2013 Dynamique with 40,000 miles for £5995. It’s cooler than a Leaf and cheaper, as you pay similar money for a 2012 car with over 100,000 miles.
Obviously, I’m not convinced that electric cars fit every buying scenario, but spending not much more than £5k on a small hatch – be it fossil-fuel engined or something you charge up – might just work.
What we almost bought this week
Mitsubishi Galant 2.0 GLS
Unless they’ve been thoroughly refurbished, most 33-year-old cars are showing their age. Not this 55,000-mile Galant, though, which has only ever known a heated garage. Shame it’s not the Turbo version but, at £3995, it makes a tempting oddball: smooth, reliable and looking a bit like a poor man’s Audi 100.
Tales from Ruppert’s garage
Porsche Cayenne, mileage – 100,800: We were powering aboard the Flying Pig recently when, inevitably, we had to stop for more fuel. On the way back from the kiosk in the dark, I could see that something was missing. It turned out to be the offside fog-light glass. The bulb was still intact and it worked. Half the glass had gone, presumably on the M25, M11 or, most likely, somewhere stony. To avoid the bulb getting busted, I used some leftover Yuletide clear packaging as protection. Initial replacements seem to be fairly pricey from the official channels – around £100 at the moment. There are alternatives…
Honda CR-V: Our old mate, car dealer Bradley Mitchell, is always picking up interesting stuff: “Had to send you this CR-V. Bought it a few days ago, a dreadful noise coming from underneath, for peanuts. Turned out to be the tyre. Chucked a part-worn on for £25 and it drives brilliantly. I smoked it around for two days just to be sure it was okay and, I have to say, I’m a fan! It’s deceptively rapid, lovely and smooth, and you’d never guess it’s done 157k. It’s incredibly roomy and the packaging inside is genius. What a great winter smoker for £1800!”
Question: After a lifetime of new cars, I’m considering buying used. Is manufacturer approved the gold standard? Ken Chalk, London
Answer: It should be but we have enough experience of them to know that all that glitters is not gold. For example, a few months after buying it, an acquaintance realised his approved used 65-reg Volkswagen Scirocco had been painted, a fact the dealer should have declared (the car was its former demonstrator, so the salesman would have known). It was missing its parcel shelf, too, which reminds us to check that removable parts such as the shelf, cupholders and storage covers are present, since scavenging parts for used stock can tempt some. John Evans
Question: Does the old mantra about paying less for a soft-top in winter still hold true? D Clarke, Kent
Answer: Despite huge improvements in their weather-sealing and insulation, soft-tops still suffer seasonal price variations as consumer demand ebbs and flows. After all, a convertible is an emotional purchase, triggered by thoughts of sunshine, not snow. However, if you’re thinking of buying, do so now before prices turn. Generally speaking, from the end of January prices for the best soft-tops start to firm as dealers move to restock in time for spring. John Evans
Want to get involved? Send your used car tales to firstname.lastname@example.org and readers’ questions to email@example.com
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Join the debate
29 January 2019
Can’t believe for a second hand article recommending the ZOE at £5,995 there was no mention of the battery Lease? Does the Zoe Lease run out after 5 years or something?