Electric cars – should you buy or sell? (2023)
With the 2035 switchover looming, it might be time for most internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle drivers to think about switching to electric.
Many consumers are unsure of the best way to do this, however. So far in the early 2020s, we’ve seen huge changes to car prices and to running costs, making it hard to assess what it could cost to switch.
Here’s everything you need to know in order to make that decision, from myth-busting range anxiety to knowing what you can expect as we approach 2035.
While fully-electric cars can cost a lot more than their petrol or diesel counterparts, EVs offer a great, potentially cheaper way to get around – especially for short journeys.
With many cities in the UK now charging older ICE vehicles to enter the centre, we’re looking at big, real-time changes to motoring culture.
There are now Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones across the whole of the UK, and more in the works. Signs point to ICE vehicles being increasingly charged, fined, and restricted over the next few years.
Read on to learn more about the factors that should influence your decision of whether or not to switch to an EV.
So, should you buy an electric car over a diesel, petrol or even a hybrid?
Should I buy or sell an electric car explained:
- Where does an EV make sense?
- Should I switch to an EV?
- How far can electric cars drive?
- Are electric cars the future?
- Making a final decision on buying an EV
When does an EV make sense?
An electric car makes for a great commuter vehicle, especially in an urban area. If you tend to travel short to medium distances, an EV will suit you down to the ground.
You’ll save plenty of money on fuel, when electricity and charging costs are not at peak levels, and the lower range of some fully-electric models won’t matter at all. In fact, if you commute a total of 30-40 miles a day, you’ll probably only have to charge up once a week, or less.
It’s worth noting that range is getting increasingly better, and charging points are getting installed rapidly, so most drivers will not have to worry about running out of charge mid-route.
If you travel into central London regularly for business, an EV will save you a small fortune when it comes to the congestion and ULEZ charges.
Fully-electric cars are exempt from both fees, as are all the current PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) on the market as they emit less than 75g/km of CO2.
This means it makes even more sense to plan for city driving in a fully-electric car.
With plenty of large cities having introduced Clean Air Zones charging ICE engine cars and vans recently the next few years, EVs make for a strong commuter argument.
Should I switch to an EV?
For anyone considering a switch to an EV, it’s crucial to calculate the long-term value versus an ICE vehicle.
The market’s changing all the time, but so far EVs have been more expensive to buy than their petrol and diesel counterparts.
The running costs have also been in flux in the 2020s as fuel prices and taxation levels have changed dramatically.
Sales figures in the early 2020s are showing equal or more trust in hybrids and plug-in hybrids than full battery-electric cars among consumers, seemingly splitting the difference when considering their fuel type.
If you’re after an electric car that can be a straight swap for your ICE vehicle, some models do come in either engine type, but are more expensive for battery electric.
The cheapest EV on the market in 2023 is the MG MG4 EV Standard Range, coming in at £26,995.
Compared to some very popular models available as ICE or hybrid engines, this is up to twice the purchase price. The Fiat 500 hybrid, Citroën C3, and Hyundai i10 can all come in under £15,000.
In the 2020s, buying a used EV might be a great way around this price differential. Second-hand electric cars that are three or four years old typically have low mileage. You could get a great deal and avoid the delays and costs associated with buying a brand-new EV.
What a lot of people don’t know is that EVs are much cheaper to service.
There are lots of myths to bust surrounding electric cars in general, including plenty of fears surrounding the safety of the battery system. But in fact, EVs benefit from not having to house an intricate engine full of finicky parts.
Although you may need to look a little harder in some parts of the country to find a mechanic qualified to service EVs, most garages are quickly catching up and getting accredited, and EV drivers find that the servicing can be quicker and cheaper than for a conventional car.
It’s important to remember that all cars have major battery systems inside them; fully-electric cars just have bigger ones. So there’s no danger to your EV’s system to drive in the rain, and you shouldn’t worry about the rare battery faults that make the news any more than worrying about problems some conventional cars can be prone to e.g. weak transmission systems, or engines overheating.
From 1st April, 2025, newly registered EVs will lose their favourable road tax status of paying next to nothing, and will move to the current ’Band B’ which is charged at £10 per year.
Thereafter, each annual road tax renewal will cost EV drivers £165.
They will also have to pay the ‘expensive car supplement’, which applies to cars bought at £40,000 or more.
This is paid at an annual rate of £310 along with the annual road tax rate, for the first five years of ownership.
EVs that were registered between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2025, will start paying the standard annual rate car tax at £165 from 1st April 2025 too.
If you have an older EV, whether you bought it a while ago or buy it as a used car in the meantime, you’ll get away without this hike in road tax.
Low-emission and zero-emission cars that were registered between 1st April 2001 and 30th March 2017 will pay just £20 a year.
By the time the changes take place, these cars will be at least eight years old, so it’s worth checking the used market for EVs if you’re considering a switch, to see if it suits you and make the most of low running costs.
It used to cost more to insure an electric car than an ICE engine car because, when they were rarer, there was less trust in easy and affordable EV servicing.
In 2023, the average insurance premium for EVs ranges between £400 and £1,000, with prices matching premiums found for equivalent ICE models.
This means that, as we approach the 2035 switchover, your EV insurance costs are likely to be equal to your petrol or diesel insurance costs, with differences in premium reflecting your age, history, location, and model.
It saves a lot of money to install a wallbox for the best value charging. Unfortunately, you can only take advantage of this if you have off-street parking at home.
There is an upfront cost to buy and install the charger, which will typically charge at 7kWh, compared to 2.3kWh with a regular wall outlet, but you’ll benefit from VAT-free charging, so cheaper than at public points.
The pricing for a wallbox can vary significantly from brand to brand. Most will offer installation as part of the price for the charger itself, this is usually in the £800-£1,500 range.
It is important to know that you will need a qualified electrician to install the wallbox regardless of where you buy it from, it cannot be done yourself.
Current average electricity pricing in UK is at 34p per kW (as of June 2023). A 60kWh capacity car, such as the Nissan LEAF e+, would therefore cost £20.04 to fully charge with a 7kWh wallbox.
Most public charging points offer free parking, even if the charging is a little slower or more expensive than an at-home solution. It will pay to do some research into the best charging spots for you and along the routes you drive.
The charging infrastructure across the UK is mostly privately run and owned; therefore it can be incredibly hit-and-miss. It might take you a bit of research to find a local public charging station that suits you in terms of price, convenience, and location.
How far can electric cars drive?
Often the biggest question surrounding EVs is range. The most common reason for people to avoid switching to fully-electric cars is range anxiety.
In fact, many people switching to hybrid and plug-in hybrid models do so because it gives them more confidence that they won’t get stuck far from chargers on low fuel.
However, for many drivers’ habits and lifestyles in the UK, EV range does not pose a major issue.
The average range in the UK in 2023 is over 200 miles, which for most drivers would power two weeks of driving. And there are plenty of models offering much more range, from Mercedes EQS and EQE, to Tesla Model 3 and Model S, BMW iX and i7, Hyundai Iconiq 6, Polestar 3, and Ford Mustang Mach-E, all of which come in above 350 miles.
Batteries perform differently depending on the ambient temperature. On average you’ll lose around 20% of your range in colder conditions.
Some EVs will also limit the amount of power you can use during colder weather to help protect the cells.
But if you do the old-fashioned thing and ‘warm up the car’ a little before setting off, your batteries will be a bit more comfortable during the drive.
Are electric cars the future?
Yes, it’s definitely clear that EVs are the future. Although sales of hybrids and plug-in hybrids are high, they are theoretically coming out of production along with full petrol and diesel engines in 2035.
For some types of transportation which need the best and most cost-effective range possible, such as commercial and delivery vehicles, we can expect for them to stay diesel-based for as long as they are legally able to.
Most vans are diesel, with the next biggest quotient being electric. Once electric van producers are able to increase range, and once the UK’s charging network is stronger and more affordable, we can expect to see a stronger rate of switch among these bigger, longer-driving vehicles.
These days you can buy any car class as an EV, with huge new choice among SUV and crossover models.
In the 10+ years since Tesla came out with the Model S, EVs have slowly but surely transformed the marketplace, and we can expect even more changes to pricing and innovation going forward.
Making a final decision on buying an EV
As you can see, going electric isn’t as easy as just replacing your old petrol or diesel car with a new one.
There are new habits to include in your motoring, such as planning your charging on longer drives.
And the cost to purchase a new EV is still much higher than a petrol or diesel equivalent, although the running costs are coming down year on year.
The good thing about EVs is there are far fewer moving parts to go wrong, and batteries have been seen to last up to 10 years while only losing about 10-20% of their original capacity. Then, they can be reused as part of your at-home energy set-up, for example storing energy coming from solar panels.
So, buying an electric car could do even more than solve your transport needs the long term.
What’s clear is times are changing, and with the government looking to ban the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles by 2035, time is running out for the car industry to show rapid change.
Ready to sell your car?
Ready to learn more about valuing, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from hybrid and electric car depreciation, to converting your car to dual-LPG fuel.
- Electric cars – the ultimate guide
- Electric car FAQs
- Hydrogen cars – the ultimate guide
- Hybrid cars – should you buy or sell?
- CO2 emissions – the ultimate guide
- ULEZ – the ultimate guide
- Birmingham Clean Air Zone
- Do electric cars pay the congestion charge?
- How & where to charge your electric car at home and on the road
- How long does it take to charge an electric car?
- What is a hybrid car and how do they work?
- Do electric cars need servicing?
- Do you pay road tax for an electric car?
- The future of manual cars
- ULEZ compliant cars: the ultimate guide