Should I Buy an Electric Car?

With all of the news about the booming electric car market in the UK you may be wondering—should I buy an electric car, too? Here's what to consider before you decide.

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 Right for You?

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

  • 1. Can you charge an electric car at home or work?
  • 2. Do you drive less than the expected real-life range of the car?
  • 3. Can you afford a higher initial purchase price to save money on annual running costs?

If you can answer "yes" to these three questions, then an electric car will probably fit your lifestyle. If you've answered "no" to any of them, then an EV might not be suitable for you at this point in your life.

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). Why? Charging takes a lot longer than filling up the tank on a traditional combustion engine car.

And while charging times are typically faster at public charging stations, 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.

So for day to day charging, it's easiest to plug in at home or at work. In fact, if charging at home or work is possible for you then you may find driving an EV to be more convenient than driving a petrol or diesel because there's no need to drive out of your way to top up a petrol station!

What's your Daily Mileage?

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 my battery run out when I'm out driving?

Even used versions of most EVs with the smallest batteries should deliver over 50 miles of range (depending on a number of factors), which would be more than enough for the typical driver. For reference, the average car in the UK is driven 7,600 miles a year, or 21 miles a day. (Learn more about how electric car batteries deplete over time in our articles on Tesla battery degradation and Nissan Leaf battery degradation.)

Even the cheapest new electric cars now deliver around 148 miles on average (although the Smart electric car delivers the shortest range, of around 60 miles on average). More expensive cars typically have larger batteries, and consequently longer range. Below is a table showing figures from our average EV car range article.

Average Electric Car Range UKTypical Battery Size (kWh)Real-life Range (miles)
Cheapest electric cars40.1148
Non-luxury electric cars48.7175
Luxury electric cars81262
Tesla cars70.6273

If you regularly drive very long distances, some EVs may not be as suitable. Are the distances above enough for your needs?

chart showing the average range of electric cars in the UK
The average electric car range in the UK is around 193 miles.

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 close to £4,000 in fuel and tax costs.

But keep in mind that 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, especially now that the government grants have expired. In fact, the cost of a non-luxury electric car is around £33,000. While this is on par with the average cost of a medium-sized car in the UK, keep in mind that electric cars are typically smaller and the average cost of a small car in the UK is closer to £20,000, which is noticeably less than the cost of an electric car.

To help you decide if an electric car is worth the added cost in terms of purchase price, know that the average annual savings on fuel and taxes you can get by driving an EV is roughly £800 a year.


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