Electric cars

Should I buy an electric car?

Electric cars are rising in popularity as more models become available. Check out our guide to see if an electric car is right for you.

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By Cazoo editorial team

26 August 2020
Updated: 18 October 2022

More people are switching to electric cars as more models with improved technology and longer range become available and as the end to sales of new petrol and diesel cars looms in 2030. The number of used electric cars on the market is also growing as owners of older models move on to new ones.

While an electric car will be a great fit for many people, it still pays to consider how one might suit your particular lifestyle and driving habits. To help you decide if you should plug in or fuel up, here’s our guide to the pros and cons of owning an electric car.

The pros

Low running costs

In general, any electric car can cost less to run than an equivalent petrol or diesel car. The main day-to-day cost is recharging the battery, which is most cost-effective when done at home, using a home charger.

You pay for domestic electricity by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). Exactly what that costs depends on the tariff you pay to your electricity provider. You should be able to easily find out your cost-per-kWh and multiply that by the battery capacity of an electric car (also given in kWh) to work out roughly how much a full recharge will cost.

It’s worth bearing in mind that using public charging stations usually costs more than charging at home. Costs can vary significantly across the different charger providers. In general, you’ll still pay less than it costs to fill the tank with petrol or diesel but it pays to do a bit of research to find the best charger rates.

Other running costs for electric cars are generally lower. Servicing, for instance, can cost less because there are fewer moving parts to repair or replace than in a petrol or diesel car.

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Low tax costs

There’s no Vehicle Excise Duty (car tax) to pay on electric cars, which is a benefit worth hundreds a pounds a year over many petrol or diesel cars.

The tax savings for companies and drivers of company cars can be huge, too, because Benefit-in-Kind tax rates on company cars are significantly lower. These drivers can save thousands of pounds a year compared to what they’d owe with a petrol or diesel car, even if they pay a high rate of income tax.

Electric cars also get free entry into London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone and other clean air zones being implemented across the UK.

Better for the planet

The main factor behind the push towards electric cars is that they don’t emit carbon dioxide or various other pollutants while driving, which can help in the fight against climate change. They’re not completely emissions-free however, because CO2 is produced while building electric cars and in generating the electricity to power them.

However, most manufacturers are switching to greener renewable energy during the production process, among other measures. More renewable energy is also being supplied to the electricity grid. There’s debate over exactly how much of a CO2 reduction can be had from an electric car over its lifespan, but it could be huge. You can read more about car CO2 emissions here.

They’re great to drive

Electric cars are great for getting from A to B because they’re so quiet and relaxing to drive. They’re not completely silent but the most you’ll likely hear is a low whine from the motors, plus some rumbling from the tyres and wind.

Electric cars can also be quite good fun, feeling rather nippy compared to petrol and diesel cars because they can give you full power the moment you press the accelerator pedal. The fastest electric cars accelerate more quickly than even the most powerful petrol cars.

They’re practical

Electric cars are often more practical than an equivalent petrol or diesel car because they don’t have engines, gearboxes or exhausts, which take up a lot of space. Without those bits you have more room for passengers and luggage. Some even have a space for luggage under the bonnet (sometimes referred to as a ‘frunk’ or ‘froot’), as well as a traditional boot at the back.

The cons

They cost more to buy

The batteries that power electric cars cost a lot to produce, so even budget-friendly ones can cost thousands of pounds more than an equivalent petrol or diesel car. The UK government used to offer a grant of several thousand pounds on a new electric car, to encourage people to make the switch, but that initiative was discontinued in June 2022.

However, the price of electric cars is also starting to come down as they become more popular and there are some great electric cars available at the more affordable end of the market, such as the MG ZS EV and Vauxhall Corsa-e.

They cost more to insure

Insurance premiums for electric cars are generally higher because components such as battery packs can be costly to repair or replace. Premiums are expected to come down in the near future, though, as component prices go lower and insurers better understand the long-term risks and costs associated with electric cars.

You’ll need to plan your journeys carefully

Most electric cars have a range between 150 and 300 miles when fully charged, depending on which model you’re considering. That’s enough to cover most people’s needs for a week or two between battery charges, but you may need to go further than that at some point. On those journeys, you’ll need to plan stops at public chargers and allow extra time – potentially a couple of hours – to refill the battery. You should also take into account that motorway driving at higher speeds uses electricity from the battery more quickly.

Helpfully, many electric cars with built-in sat nav will plot a route between the best public charging stops, although it’s always good to have a backup plan just in case a charger is unavailable.

You can read more about how to maximise an electric car’s range here.

The charging network is still developing

The UK’s public charging network is expanding at a considerable rate but it’s concentrated on major roads and in large towns and cities. There are large parts of the country, including smaller towns and rural areas, where there are few, if any, chargers available. The government has pledged to install charging hubs in these zones but it’ll take some years yet.

Charger reliability can sometimes be an issue. It’s not uncommon to find that a charger is running at a low speed, or is out of order entirely.

There are also many charger-operating companies, all with their own payment methods and procedures for using the charger. Most work from an app, and only a few operate from the charger itself. Some allow you to pay as you go, while others require prepayment. You’ll probably find yourself building a suite of apps and accounts if you regularly use public chargers.

They can take a long time to charge

The faster the charging station, the less time it’ll take to recharge an electric car. A 7kW home wallbox charger will take several hours to recharge a car with a small 24kWh battery capacity but a 100kWh battery could take more than a day. Use a 150kW rapid charging station and that 100kWh battery could recharge in as little as half an hour. Not all electric cars are compatible with the fastest chargers, however.

The speed of the car’s onboard charger, which links the charging station to the battery, is also a factor. In the 150kW charging station/100kWh battery example above, charging will be completed faster with an 800v onboard charger than with a 200v one.

You can read more about how to charge an electric car here.

Home charging isn’t possible for everyone

Most owners of electric cars charge mainly at home but not everyone will be able to have a wallbox charger installed. You may only have on-street parking, your house electrics may be incompatible or you might need expensive groundworks to lay cabling. If you’re renting, your landlord may not allow you to install one, or it may simply not fit your budget.

The good news is that both the charging infrastructure and the battery range of electric cars are likely to improve significantly over the coming years, which should make having a home charger less of a necessity. In addition, innovations such as public charging points built into lamp posts are already being rolled out and you can expect more solutions to be created as the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars comes closer.

An easier way to find or sell a car

You’ll find lots of used cars for sale at Cazoo, all available to buy through our trusted dealers.

Cazoo makes selling a car just as easy – just enter a few details for an instant online valuation. If you accept the offer our partners will get in touch to arrange payment and collection of your car at a time that suits you.