Top Tips for Buying a Used Chevrolet Volt

It’s been years since the original Chevrolet Volt hit the market, providing shoppers with exceptional fuel efficiency enabled by its award-winning VOLTEC propulsion system.

The Chevrolet Volt has sold thousands of copies since its launch for model-year 2011. Today, you’ll find many of these on offer in the used marketplace.

Whether you’re looking at a used Chevrolet Volt as a nearly fuel-free primary car or a thrifty second family runabout, you’ll find a wide range of feature content, a versatile interior with room for four, and the possibility of virtually fuel-free driving — depending on your locale, driving habits, and the availability of nearby recharging infrastructure

Below, we’ve compiled a list of advisable pre-purchase checks and inspections for first-generation used Chevrolet Volt shoppers. Consider the following before you buy to help ensure you wind up with a top-notch unit that’s not concealing any potentially pricey problems. Take this list with you as you as a reference when visiting potential second-hand Volt candidates.

A Pre-Purchase Inspection is Mandatory

We’ll put the most important point first: used Volt shoppers should consider a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) at a Chevrolet dealer to be absolutely mandatory as a final step before agreeing to purchase. This inspection should take about an hour, likely cost about $100, and may require you to book an appointment with the dealer service department a few days in advance.

Whether buying privately or from a car lot, see if the seller will let you bring the vehicle to the nearest dealer yourself, meet you there, or drop it off and pick it up for you. Many used car dealers can arrange staff to drop off and pick up a vehicle for a PPI upon request. The best practice is typically to ask the dealer performing the PPI for some appointment options, and then ask the seller which works best for them.

Remember that a PPI by a trained technician is your single best defense against buying a used Volt that’s waiting to turn your wallet inside out.

Inspect All Charging Provisions

The charging cord and associated provisions should be inspected fully before you buy. As the Volt you’re considering could be up to 8 years old, these parts could be showing signs of wear. Cracked or damaged plugs and worn or frayed charge cords can be a safety hazard, and these parts can be pricey to replace. Scrutinize all charging provisions and call any excessive wear into your pricing negotiations. 

Inspect the Charge Door

As the Volt ages, some owners report trouble with the charge door, which opens to reveal the electrical charging port. Shoppers are advised to confirm that the release button opens the charge door several times on their test drive. Triple-checking to see if a “CHARGE DOOR OPEN” message is present in the cluster, even if the door is closed, is also a great idea. Either of these conditions can indicate the need for some servicing or lubrication of the charge door mechanism or the need for revised or replacement parts.

Software Updates

A variety of software updates may be available to address or prevent issues with numerous vehicle systems on the Volt you’re considering. Running the most current system software can prevent headaches, improve fuel economy, improve drivetrain refinement, or even prevent your Bluetooth connection from going wonky.

A software update may also be required in the rare occurrence that the Volt’s central command system seems frozen or non-responsive. Talk to your nearest Chevrolet dealer to see if any software updates may be applicable to the Volt you’re considering. They should be able to look up any outstanding software updates quickly if you provide the vehicle’s VIN number. You’ll want to have these applied as soon as possible to prevent potential headaches.

Beware a Whining Sound

Some owners have described a high-pitched noise, similar to a band saw, that could signal an issue with a bearing in the Volt’s driveline, which can be pricey to address.

Listen closely for this sound by turning off the stereo and climate control fan for some portion of your test drive. The sound will likely come from the area near your feet. Operate the Volt at light, moderate and heavy throttle, and while decelerating in both DRIVE and LOW gear ranges. If you detect the whining sound (which is typically loud enough to be intrusive) make arrangements for further investigation by a technician.

Check the Air Conditioner

Several factors may cause the Volt’s air conditioner to perform poorly, or fail outright. These include a low battery charge, use of more economical drive modes, or refrigerant leaks within the system.

Note that failure of past owners to replace the cabin air regularly may dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the air conditioner, or cause outright system failure. Don’t underestimate how few owners actually service their cabin air filters, to the negative effect of climate control system performance.

If poor air conditioner performance is noted, start by assessing the condition of the cabin air filter. If it’s clogged badly, this is the likely culprit. If not, professional attention is required.

Watch your Cranium

Open the Volt’s hatch fully and apply a slight downwards tug with your hand. If the hatch isn’t keen to stay open on its own, or slams shut with minimal force applied, you’ll want to look into a safety recall issued by GM. This recall upgraded the rear hatch struts to a stronger design which could prevent you from taking sheetmetal to the cranium. Recall work is carried out at no charge by dealerships, though you’ll likely need to book an appointment ahead of time.

Battery Concerns

All batteries have a lifespan and will diminish in capacity over time. Largely, the online Volt owner community says that battery degradation has not been an issue thus far. Volt seems to have experienced few if any problems on this front, especially when compared to total sales volume.

With a lengthy battery warranty offered from the factory and numerous advanced control strategies aimed at prolonging battery life, shoppers seem to have little to worry about.

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