When should I buy an electric car?

Last updated January 27, 2022

Motorist’s appetite for electric vehicles began to take off at the start of the 21st century due to the increasing concern of environmental damages, but inventors have toyed with battery-powered automobiles for almost 200 years. Concerns about carbon emissions have fuelled this rise, with the government now offering electric car buyers a discount of up to £1,500.

Once perceived as a niche item, an electric car could now be seen as a desirable option. This is typified by the Tesla Model S, which can go 0-60 mph in 2.4 seconds without emitting any carbon dioxide at all.

As technology has advanced, the dominance of petrol and diesel-powered engines are now being challenged by three car categories which are principally powered by electricity:

  • Plug-in electric: Powered purely by rechargeable batteries.
  • Plug-in hybrid: Uses a rechargeable battery until the cells run dry, before switching to petrol or diesel reserves.
  • Hybrid: Alternates between a rechargeable battery and fossil fuels, depending on usage.

As electric cars are becoming ever more popular, should you consider making your next car an electric one? We’ve rounded up some of the key points to help you determine the right time to jump on the battery-powered bandwagon.

If you're already thinking about going electric, use our free car valuation tool to find out how much we could offer you for your existing vehicle.

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How many electric cars are there in the UK?

Today, there are more than 315,000 plug-in cars registered in the UK, with the registration of pure electric vehicles in the first six months of 2020 up 86% compared to 2019. In addition, plug-in vehicles now make up 7.7% of all new cars sold in the UK.

How much does it cost to buy an electric car?

With prices starting from £26,000, the Nissan Leaf is the best-selling EV of all time, with 186,000 models sold since 2009. The Tesla Model S, which has a longer range than any other EV, was the best-selling electric car of 2016, with 51,000 sales. However, as prices start at £66,500, it's certainly not a car to suit the average buyer's bank balance.

If we include hybrids, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the UK’s highest selling EV, with the Mercedes Benz C 350 e and Volkswagen Golf GTE popular too. The cheapest EV on the market is the funky Renault Twizy at £6,995, although its design is a little less conventional – the compact EV looks more like a golf buggy than a Tesla.

Manufacturers expect long-range electric cars in the £25,000 range to be priced at less than £17,000 by 2040. As prices fall, consumer perceptions seem to be warming to EVs too: a recent survey conducted by BMW found that 20% said their next new car would be electric.

How do electric cars compare?

How much does it cost to run an electric car?

Electric vehicles have a reputation for being pricier than conventional cars. The main culprit here is the battery pack: the battery that powers the Tesla Model S makes up around 25% of the purchase price, whereas it could cost you just less than £5,000 to replace the battery in a Nissan Leaf.

When it comes to electric car running costs, EVs can be cheaper than conventional equivalents. At today’s electricity prices, you can expect to pay around 4p per mile, whereas even the most economical driver may struggle to get anything lower than 10p per mile on a tank of petrol.

EV drivers are also exempt from road tax and other 'hidden costs' like the London Congestion Charge. What's more, EVs have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines, meaning the next incarnation of the car has much less room for error!

Are electric cars worth it?

New owners report being surprised by how fast they accelerate and are generally pleased with handling, although the brakes can be surprisingly powerful. Most drivers also come to appreciate the quiet engine.

Perhaps the biggest performance challenge for EVs is the issue of range. Looking again at the most popular EVs, the Tesla Model 3 offers 348 miles of range, whereas the maximum range of a Nissan Leaf – at least according to Nissan – is around 168 miles. By contrast, most standard cars will take you well over 400 miles on a full tank. Add to that the fact that range suffers further in poor weather conditions, and EVs still have a way to go.

Another common concern is charging capability. The lithium-ion cells that power EV engines wear out over time and can often be very costly to replace. What's more, recharging an EV is also time-consuming: a full charge using a standard UK plug will take most of the night, and even the most efficient chargers take 30 minutes to powerup your car.

Should I buy an electric car now or wait?

There are plenty of electric car models due to go on sale in 2021, along with a host of plug-in hybrid versions of popular models. Although EV sales were relatively modest in 2020, they account for one in every ten cars sold when hybrids and plug-ins are factored in, making them well worth considering.

For most drivers, the deciding factor for when to buy an electric car is how you intend to use it. If you mainly use your car for short, urban commutes, and you have access to chargers at both ends of your journey, the low running costs of an EV make the prospect of going electric extremely appealing, particularly if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint.

If you have a long daily commute or regularly drive on motorways, it's unlikely that an EV will meet all of your criteria at present. However, it shouldn't be too long until car manufacturers offer advanced capabilities at a much lower price tag. Equally, there’s an enormous amount of innovation going into finding alternative energy sources, from biofuels to oil-producing algae. While the electric car market looks set to continue expanding, what we do know for sure is that it’s a very exciting time to be a driver of an electric vehicle right now.

If you’re looking to sell your car and make the change to an EV, we can offer you a valuation on your existing vehicle in just 30 seconds.


The exact cost of charging an electric car is dependent on a couple of factors, including your energy tariff and what electric car you have. You should be able to get a rough estimate of electric car charging costs by checking your cost per kWh and determining how many kWh will be required for a ‘full tank’.

The lifespan of an electric car battery is dependant on what model you have and how you use it. However, according to Battery University, electric car batteries could last from between 10 and 20 years before needing to be replaced.