Should I Buy an Electric Car?

With all of the news about electric cars lately you may be wondering - should I buy an electric car? There are two main issues to consider - cost and suitability. Electric cars may have lower running costs (approximately £1k per year), but they typically have higher upfront purchase costs (even with government grants of up to £4,500 and dealer discounts) and may be inconvenient to charge, depending on your particular situation.

Is an Electric Car Suitable for You?

There are two important considerations to keep in mind before deciding on an electric car:

If you can answer "yes" to these two questions, then an electric car will probably fit into your life. If you've answered "no" to any of the questions, then you might find an electric car is a hassle.

Why It's Important to Charge at Home or Work

While the network of public charging points is continuing to expand, you probably wouldn't want to rely solely on public charging for your electric car (EV). Charging times vary, and are typically faster at public charging stations, but you still would need to carve out around 30 minutes to an hour at the fastest of public charge points (43 kWh) to achieve an 80% charge. That's a lot slower than filling up a petrol tank.

If you can plug in at home or at work, then it's no hassle to top up your car. In fact, you may find driving an EV to be more convenient than driving a petrol or diesel - no need to drive out of your way to a petrol station!

How Many Miles do You Drive per Day?

As long as in your typical day you drive less than the expected real-life range of your electric car (and you can charge at home or work), you should never run afoul of one of the biggest concerns surrounding electric cars - will I run out of charge when I'm out driving... and then what happens? Even a four-year old used electric car should deliver over 50 miles of range (depending on a number of factors), plenty of buffer over the typical 20 miles or so most drivers tally up each day.

Clearly, if you regularly drive long distances, an EV may not be suitable. Excluding the luxury Tesla (which has a range of 200 - 350 miles), more affordable EVs offer ranges of 80 miles - 155 miles per full charge. Is that enough for your needs?

chart showing real-life electric car ranges
Real-Life Electric Car Ranges in Winter and Summer

Costs: Electric vs Petrol

In our article on Annual Cost Savings with an Electric Car, we estimated that over five years the average driver could save over £6,000 in fuel and tax costs. While the savings in running costs are clearly attractive, you are likely to pay more upfront to purchase an electric car than a comparable petrol car, even with governments grants up to £3,500. Keep in mind the average annual savings of £1k or so for fuel and taxes when comparing purchase prices of cars and deciding if an EV is right for you.