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The rise of electric cars

by Quentin Willson

As petrol prices continue to rise and emissions-linked road tax increases, electric and hybrid cars are becoming more popular. With multiple manufacturers competing for your business, let’s look at what to consider before going electric.

Can I afford an electric car?

Affordability of electric cars (ECs) is often a concern. However, prices for new ECs are coming down (although they’re often higher than those for petrol and diesel cars) and used ECs can work out cheaper than a conventional car. Here’s how:

If you purchase a 3 year old, 25,000 miler Citroen C-Zone/ Renualt Zoe for £6,000*   and own the vehicle for 3 years driving 6,000 miles per year could save up to £5,550**.

£4,500 in fuel

£300 in tax

£750 in servicing


What should I look for?

Approach buying a used EC as you would buying any car. Look out for

  •    low mileage
  •    a fully stamped service history
  •    interior and exterior damage and wear and tear.

It can be worth asking your local dealer to hook up any prospective purchase to their diagnostic machine and, if you’re buying directly from a private owner it’s worth asking how often they’ve used rapid chargers. Charging an electric car twice a day, every day on a rapid charger can degrade battery life by one per cent a year. Slower, regular home charging tends to retain battery efficiency.


How efficient are the batteries?

Early negativity about battery packs failing has not materialised. Battery failure rates are nowhere near predicted levels and 150,000-mile ECs like Nissan Leaf Taxis are coming off fleet with 98% battery efficiency***.

What’s more, car manufacturers have deliberately factored in long battery warranties, transferable to new owners, as standard on new ECs.


What about depreciation?

According to Glass’s Guide, the gap between ECs and normal car residuals is narrowing and more clean air legislation and benefits like free parking for ECs will increase their appeal in the re-sale market. Whilst high new car prices means high depreciation in the first couple of years, by years four and five, there isn’t much between ECs and normal vehicles. For example: A BMW i3 will retain 40 per cent of its value after three years and 60,000 miles and a Tesla Model S 43 per cent; both close to the second-hand values of a conventional BMW 3 and 5 Series****.


Who do I buy from?

The used-EC market is so new that there isn’t an established route for buyers yet, although dealers will have a selection (particularly Nissan, BMW, Toyota and Renault) and there’s a few EC-only buying sites. Prices vary wildly and you really can spot bargains. Remember it’s currently a buyer’s market and negotiation is expected.


*Based on average prices posted on www.autotrader.com

**Compared to a similar sized supermini over three-years, 30,000 miles old

*** http://www.routemonkey.com/drivers/everything-ev/why-it-makes-sense-to-buy-a-used-ev

**** based on figures from Glass’s Guide

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Recommended links

Specialist EC buying sites include:

Some ECs can also be found on sites like: 

You can get more data on battery efficiency and plan your journey with Route Monkey

Get more information on trading cars on Glass’s Guide

Find your nearest charge points on Zap Map