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Volts are starting to pop up on the used market around me, and I think I would be willing to make my first purchase a lightly used Volt. But, I have no idea what I should look for in a used Volt, or what would make it a good deal over buying a new one.

I see a few advantages in buying used. Namely the $7500 tax credit is baked in to most used prices. There'd be no need to worry about my tax liability being high enough. Nor would I have to wait until April 2015 to get that credit.

Most used volts around me are low mileage. I see a 2012 Volt with 9k miles listed for $24k, or a 2013 Volt with 8k miles for $26k. I am not sure how much I could negotiate those prices down from there, but I think I can bag a good deal on one.

I can only imagine these are demo cars or leases that were given up early. In which case, I wonder what could be wrong with them.

  • Are there many independent autoshops that work on the Volt and can give me an unbiased review of the car's state?
  • Is there anything I can look for with my untrained eyes? Perhaps some diagnostic screen on the dash that tells me the battery condition and the recent mileage by past drivers?
  • Is used a good way to go? Or am I missing some advantage on buying new?
 

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[*]Is there anything I can look for with my untrained eyes? Perhaps some diagnostic screen on the dash that tells me the battery condition and the recent mileage by past drivers?
If it is still under warranty, I wouldn't worry too much about the battery. In fact, I think the battery is warranted much longer than the rest of the car, and so far there haven't been any failures reported of the battery pack in a Volt (that I know of). So I really just wouldn't worry about that.

I'm pretty sure just about any used Volt would be good unless it has been wrecked, flooded, or otherwise damaged. In which case you look for all the same things you look for in any used car. You can start with carfax. Then check under the seats and under the dash for rust, which might indicate flooding. Then check all the VIN numbers match on all of the doors, hood, etc. You can tell if it has been repainted but it takes a trained eye and more than I can explain here.
 

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You'll be hard pressed to find a private mechanic with a lot of experience since most Volts are still under warranty. You need to watch for unreported damage in addition to the carfax report. As an example, I had a 94 Geo Prism that had 6 different trips to the body shop prior to finally being totalled in the 7th collision (none were my fault btw...). When I traded it, the carfax report was perfectly clean. If you are looking at cars with less than 10K miles, the chances of significant problems is fairly slim. Do the normal inspection stuff, look at the lifetime MPG for a clue on how much gasoline vs electric driving the vehicle has done. You might get lucky and find that one of the trip odometers hasn't been reset since new so you can find out how many gallons of fuel it has burned. You can also get a clue via the oil life percentage. Good luck in your search.
 

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I see a 2012 Volt with 9k miles listed for $24k, or a 2013 Volt with 8k miles for $26k. I am not sure how much I could negotiate those prices down from there, but I think I can bag a good deal on one.
One of the advantages of buying new is price! Starting price of $35K, fed. tax credit of $7500 and many states offer other credits and rebates as well (you don't mention your state). That brings the "new" price down to $27.5K before you have started negotiating with any dealerships. Of course, you did mention that you may not be eligible or don't want to wait for the tax credit next year. But new car purchases have some very favorable financing offers that make them cost less overall (if you are financing). Not sure if 0% offers are still out there on the Volt or what's current, but extremely low financing rates may make your TCO much lower. If you are paying cash outright for the car, I would suspect the fed. tax credit wouldn't be a problem for you, so I'm going to assume you are financing a good portion of the purchase.

I bought my Volt at the end of '12, knowing that I was going to owe quite a bit on my taxes that year. I turned owing $9000 into owing $1500 with the credit, so that worked out well for me.

Another option is to lease. Most leases let the leasing company take the tax credit, so the payments are ~$7500 lower than what they 'should be' for this price range of car. That way you don't have to worry about eligibility for the tax credit. You still get to negotiate the purchase price on a lease, but there are restrictions (milage, etc). I'm not sure what kind of offers people who are buying out the end of their lease are getting. But at that point (3 years from now), you might be intrigued enough by Voltec 2.0 that you wanted to trade in anyway, and you have a guaranteed buyer.
 
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