EV Buying Guide – Everything You Need to Know to Make the Switch

This guide will answer all the questions you'll consider when making the switch to an electric vehicle (EV), ranging from how long it takes to charge an EV battery to how much you have to pay in road tax.

Last updated: Apr 10, 2024 13 min read

Summary

Are you considering making the switch to an electric vehicle (EV)? You’ll likely have a few questions, ranging from how long it takes to charge an EV battery to how much you have to pay in road tax.

In this guide, we’ll answer common questions about purchasing and owning an EV, helping you make the right choice when buying an electric car:

  • Buying an EV

  • EV maintenance, service and repair

  • EV charging

  • Driving an EV

Buying an EV

Where can I buy an EV?

When it comes to buying a new EV, you’ll get the car directly from a dealership. There, you’ll typically have one of the following financing options:

  1. Leasing

  2. Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)

  3. Hire Purchase (PCP)

  4. Buying outright

Some employers offer the option of leasing a new car through the Salary Sacrifice scheme. It’s a tax efficient way to lease an EV because the monthly payments are deducted from your gross salary, so pre-tax and National Insurance.

You can also buy an EV second hand from a used car dealer, a private seller or through auction. Like with any used car, the condition of an EV that had a previous owner won’t be perfect. Depending on the age and previous use of the electric car, you can expect to see some wear and tear, such as scratches to the bodywork.

Get tips on second hand EV buying in our guide.

How much does an electric car cost?

The average cost of a new electric car sits at around £50,000 according to data from BookMyGarage. EVs generally range from just over £8,000 up to £130,000 and more depending on the specifications of the car and any upgrades you choose.

The Citroën Ami is currently the cheapest electric car available, with prices starting from just £7,695. It’s a compact, two-seater EV made for short, inner-city journeys.

The lowest-priced five-seater EV on the market is the MG4, starting from £26,996. This is a full size car offering a standard 51kWh battery and options to upgrade capacity up to 77kWh.

Consider your lifestyle and driving habits before buying an EV. If you regularly take long journeys in your electric car, paying a little extra to upgrade the battery for extended range may be worth it for you. Another factor to consider is if and how easily you can charge at home or nearby. If you don’t have a driveway, it may be more difficult for you to charge your electric car at home.

Electric car battery lease

Some carmakers like Renault used to offer two battery options for electric cars: full purchase and battery leasing. When you buy a second hand EV with an existing battery leasing agreement, the battery will be transferred over to you with a new agreement or the option to buy it outright.

Back in the day, when EV technology was still in its infancy, the option to lease meant you could change the battery every few years to avoid early signs of degradation. Today, electric car batteries are more reliable. They offer decent ranges and fast charging times, removing the need to renew your battery every few years to maintain good performance.

EV warranty

Most manufacturers offer an 8-year or 100,000-mile EV battery warranty, whichever comes first. Some manufacturer warranties will only cover the battery during complete failure, others will repair or replace it if the capacity drops below 70% warranty period

There are providers offering warranty for used cars and to extend coverage beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. What is covered can vary, including a range of mechanical and electronic components. Always check the policy papers to make sure you understand inclusions and exclusions.

Electric car maintenance, service and repair

Electric car MOTs

EVs do require MOTs, just like traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. However, the frequency of these tests is generally the same for both types of vehicles. Not all garages may perform MOTs on EVs (yet), so ensure you choose a certified and qualified facility for this purpose.

Electric cars, just like ICE cars, are required to go through and pass an MOT every year to legally drive on UK roads. In year one and two after the car is first registered, it’s exempt from mandatory MOT testing.

You should be able to take your electric car to any MOT test station to carry out an annual test. If your tester is unfamiliar with your EV, they may ask you to show them how to operate your car. An official MOT centre can’t turn you away, because they don’t have experience testing a car like yours.

How often should I service an EV?

This depends on your car’s model and make. As a general rule, you should service an EV every 1–2 years or every 18,000–25,000 miles, whichever happens first.

We suggest you refer to the recommended service intervals provided by the manufacturer to ensure you keep your EV in top shape.

Not every garage is qualified to service electric cars, so it’s worth checking they have a specialised mechanic on hand before you book.

If your electric car is still under warranty, you want to make sure the garage you use is dealership-approved or only uses genuine parts to keep your warranty.

Are electric cars more reliable than petrol or diesel cars?

In theory, electric cars should be more reliable than petrol or diesel cars. ICE cars have many moving parts that need to be maintained to keep the engine running. Think pistons, valves, pumps, spark plugs and so on, whereas an EV motor only has a rotor in place of all of these parts. With little to no maintenance required, there’s less opportunity for a crucial component to fail and take your car out of action.

Most of the time, if an EV has a fault, it'll be related to a software issue which is easier to fix than a mechanical issue. Electric cars allow you to troubleshoot most software issues ‘over the air’, so through software updates or by restarting – just like you would with a computer. This makes the majority of software-related issues easily fixable on your own (and for free) or with the help of the manufacturer’s customer support.

Some of the most reliable EVs on the market are the Mini Electric, Volkswagen e-Golf, and Nissan Leaf.

Electric car insurance

The cost of insurance for EVs can vary, but it's not always more expensive than insuring a regular ICE car. Factors such as the EV model, your driving history, and where you live can impact your premiums. Shopping around and comparing insurance quotes is essential to find the best rates.

Most mainstream insurers provide cover for electric cars now, offering a good variety of coverage options and price ranges to compare.

While it’s easy enough to find insurance for an electric car, they cost more on average to insure than a comparable petrol or diesel car. Reasons for higher insurance premiums are the specialist parts required for repairs, the generally higher list price, and increased risk of accidents associated with the faster acceleration of EVs.

Read more about electric car insurance in our guide.

EV breakdown cover

There are no differences in breakdown cover for EVs and ICE cars. You’ll find that most popular providers like the RAC or AA simply include electric cars in their standard breakdown cover at the same price as petrol and diesel cars.

Do EVs pay road tax?

Fully battery electric vehicles are currently the only type of vehicle that don’t pay road tax. Although partially battery-powered, most plug-in hybrid and full hybrid cars still pay up to £120 in the first year and £170 per year from the second year after registration.

However, the road tax exemption for electric cars will change in April 2025 when EVs:

  • Registered before April 2017 will pay £20 per year after the changes come into effect.

  • Registered on or after 1 April 2017 will pay £10 in the first year of the road tax changes and £180/year from the second year.

There are a few more changes affecting EVs and hybrids from April 2025. You can find details on the Government Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) page or read about how road tax is currently calculated for EVs in our guide.

Electric car grant

To incentivise the uptake of electric cars, particularly among people who would traditionally be less likely to consider driving an EV, the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) offers an EV chargepoint grant of up to £350.

The money is intended to help people owning a flat or living in a rental property with the cost of buying and installing a chargepoint.

There are a few eligibility criteria, such as that off-street parking is required and this must be the first chargepoint grant you’ve claimed. Find more information on the OZEV EV chargepoint grant in our guide.

The UK Government and devolved nations offer a number of further grants, including for commercial spaces. See them all in our overview of government grants for electric cars and charging infrastructure.

How much does it cost to install an electric car charger at home?

Installing an electric car charger at home can be cost-effective, and in many cases, standard installations don't come with extra charges. Check our Solo page for more details on home charging options.

You can get an electric home car charger for one cost, which covers the charger itself and standard installation by a qualified installer.

Charging at home has many benefits. It’s much cheaper than using public chargers and more convenient, as you can charge more quickly than using a 3-pin plug socket whenever you’re parked up at home.

EV Charging

Electric car range

EV ranges have improved significantly over the years. The popular Nissan Leaf had a range of 73 miles in 2011, whilst most modern electric cars offer a respectable range of around 250 miles or more. That’s plenty for the average car which will cover around 127 miles per week.

Here are some of the best-selling EVs in the UK and their ranges:

  1. Tesla Model Y – 331 miles

  2. Kia e-Niro – 283 miles

  3. Volkswagen ID.4 – 250 miles

Check out our complete guide on EV charging for everything you need to know about how to charge an electric car and the wide range of charging options available.

Electric car battery life

The lifespan of an electric car battery varies between drivers. Factors such as charging habits and temperature impact how long your battery retains its capacity to hold charge. With average use, an electric car battery should last at least 10 years before it needs replacing.

Over time, an EV battery will lose capacity, meaning it can hold less energy than when it was new. This process is called battery degradation and happens to all lithium-ion batteries, whether they’re in your smartphone, laptop or car.

The majority of manufacturers provide 7- to 8-year battery warranties. They typically offer to replace your EV battery once the capacity drops below 70% or after 100,000 miles – whichever happens first.

Learn more about how EV batteries work in our guide.

EV environmental impact

EVs are known for their positive environmental impact. They produce zero tailpipe emissions, help cut air pollution and reduce your carbon footprint when you switch from an ICE car.

The production of an EV, specifically the lithium-ion battery, is energy-intensive. The extraction of the raw materials needed for the battery and the production itself create a high number of carbon emissions. Over the lifetime of an electric car, this is offset by the lower fuel production emissions and tailpipe emissions, meaning EVs are ultimately greener than ICE cars.

Tip: Maximise the environmental benefits of your EV by switching to a renewable energy tariff, so you can charge at home using green energy only.

Learn more about how electric cars are better for the environment in our guide.

Driving an EV

EV performance

Driving an EV offers unique performance characteristics to ICE cars. They’re mostly caused by the use of electric motors instead of combustion engines.

Here are some performance differences:

  1. Faster acceleration: Unlike a combustion engine with gears and other mechanical parts, the battery delivers energy instantly and makes acceleration faster.

  2. Less noise and vibration: The lack of a combustion engine leads to a generally quieter and smoother ride in electric cars.

  3. Regenerative braking: It allows EVs to recover energy during braking and store it in the battery, increasing overall efficiency.

Electric car safety

Electric cars are as safe as ICE cars. Car manufacturers go to great lengths to protect vital parts of an EV, like the battery pack, and shield drivers and passengers from any harm in the case of a crash.

An independent safety body called Euro-NCAP crash tests a selection of passenger vehicles in Europe every year. According to their results, EVs are just as safe as conventional ICE cars. Some electric cars have even come on top of petrol or diesel cars in safety ratings.

While reports of EV batteries catching fire occasionally make the news, let us be clear: ICE cars are actually more likely to set alight. Electric cars are fitted with a Battery Management System (BMS) to prevent instances of overheating and faults in the first place, adding to the overall safety of battery-powered driving.

We discuss electric car safety in more detail in our guide.

Do you need a special driving licence for an EV?

No, you don’t need a special licence to drive an EV. Most electric cars are automatic, so even drivers with an automatic-only licence, called category B auto, can drive EVs.

Do EVs pay congestion charges?

EVs are exempt from London’s Congestion Charge until 25 December 2025. To claim the 100% discount offered to zero emission, battery electric vehicles, you must register your EV with Transport for Greater London.

After 25 December 2025, the discount offered to EVs will end. Drivers of electric cars will have to pay the £15 daily charge when driving within the Congestion Charge zone:

  • Monday to Friday from 7am to 6pm

  • Saturday to Sunday (including bank holidays) from 12pm to 6pm

There are no charges between Christmas Day and the New Year’s Day bank holiday.

Across the UK, a number of cities have introduced clean air zone schemes (CAZ), including Bath, Bristol and Sheffield. London has its own type of CAZ called the Ultra Low Emission Zone, referred to as ULEZ. Their purpose is to improve air quality in the immediate area instead of reducing congestion.