Your Guide to Buying an Electric Car
Over two decades after the Toyota Prius first brought electric power to the mass market, it's now rare to see a new car that doesn't have at least one hybrid or fully electric engine option. With so much choice on the market, it can be hard to know exactly what to look for. In this guide, we'll tell you everything you need to know before taking your first steps into the world of electric cars.
Why are you buying electric?
If you want an electric car, the most important thing you need to determine is why you’re making the purchase. There are various reasons why the electric powertrain might appeal to you, and having a clearer idea of your motivations will make it easier to find the right vehicle. The most obvious benefits include:
A petrol-hybrid or diesel-hybrid engine offers drastically improved efficiency figures over regular fuel-only units. For example, the latest Volkswagen Golf model provides up to 320 miles to the gallon with its hybrid engines, as opposed to a maximum figure of 63 mpg for its most efficient diesel. If efficiency is what you’re after, make sure to focus on cars with the highest possible mpg figures. Of course, if you’re looking to go all-electric, mpg and emissions figures won’t apply – the equivalent number to consider will be how many miles you can get on a single charge.
The construction of an electric car means that it requires significantly less maintenance than its petrol or diesel equivalent. The electric engine is made up of fewer moving parts, and oil changes or other standard engine tune-ups aren’t necessary. Although the newer, less common parts might end up being more expensive if they do need to be replaced, an electric car is likely to be a lot cheaper to run in the long term. Compare what other owners have said about the running costs for specific models, and see what kind of warranty packages are available. On top of all that, the cost of charging an electric car overnight can work out cheaper than paying for fuel, and there are further savings to be had when it comes to road tax. Take a look at our expert advice on how to calculate the running costs of a car to work out how much you could save.
If you’re not swayed by the fuel and maintenance savings that you stand to make with an electric car, then you may be motivated by a more noble cause. A huge part of the appeal of an electric car is its reduced impact on the environment. A hybrid powertrain burns far less fossil fuel than a regular engine, and an all-electric car doesn’t consume any at all. This leads to very low carbon emissions and helps make driving a more sustainable, eco-friendly practice. If you want to do your part for the environment, keep an eye on emissions figures and manufacturing practices for the electric cars that you’re looking at.
Maybe you’re not so fussed about saving money or about saving the planet, but an electric car might still be appealing thanks to the cool factor. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s powered almost entirely by electricity, you’ll feel like you’re driving in the future. Especially if you head to the higher end of the market and take full advantage of what Tesla, Jaguar, BMW and some of the other luxury manufacturers have to offer.
Ready to look at the best electric cars? We’ve put together a list of the top ten for you to consider.
Where will you charge your electric car?
Perhaps the most important, and often most frustrating, part of owning an electric car is the recharging process. As electric-powered driving is still a relatively new phenomenon, you’ll find that accessing charging points is a slightly more difficult task than pulling into your nearest petrol station and filling up the tank.
There are two main ways to charge your electric car:
It’s possible to recharge your electric vehicle at home while it’s sitting unused outside or in the garage. This is an appealing option, but you need to make sure that you have the right preparations in place. If you just plug the battery into a regular socket in your home, it can take as much as two full days for it to recharge back to full capacity again. A better idea is to get a special, dedicated wallbox installed, so you can get back on the road a lot faster. When you’re doing your research, find out if your dealership can offer a wallbox installation as part of your deal. There may also be grants or funding available to you for subsidising the cost of a wallbox installation either at home or at your place of work – this is well worth looking into online for extra savings.
If you’re out and about and you’re running low on charge, there are charging points available in various locations around the UK. It’s best to download an app, such as ZapMap, which will give you all the information about where they are and how to access them. You might also need to use individual apps for different charging stations, depending on how they operate.
What’s your budget?
Electric cars tend to be much cheaper in the long run than their combustion engine counterparts, but you’ll generally have to pay more up front. To make the right decision before you buy, it’s worth estimating how much you’ll use the car over a set period of three years. You can use the electric car’s kwH/mile figures, and multiply this by how many miles you think you’ll cover in that period. Then add this to the initial cost of the car. This is the best way to figure out the true cost of your car, and whether it suits your particular budget. You might find that an initially affordable option turns out to be more expensive, once its efficiency has been factored in.
When comparing an all-electric option to a hybrid or traditional fuel model, remember to include the estimated cost of petrol or diesel for the latter, as well as any differences in road tax. It may sound like a lot to consider, but if you take your time on this research, you’ll give yourself the best chance of saving money with your next motor.
Whether you opt for a fully electric car or a hybrid, the choice to go electric could be the best one you’ll ever make. Now that you have a clearer picture of what’s involved when owning an electric car, and what costs you need to be aware of, you’re ready to start checking out what’s on offer. Why not head over to our listings to see what’s available?