buying an electric car - what to look for

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buying an electric car - what to look for

Thinking of choosing a full-electric car. Read this first.

Interest in purchasing electric cars has surged with the UK government's promise to veer away from petrol and diesel. But, it's normal to not have a clue where to start. Here are some top tips on what you need to know before you buy and the five hidden costs of electric cars:

How often do you drive?

The length of your journey, whether you commute or do the school run by car, and your average monthly miles are factors that need to be considered when buying an electric vehicle. Depending on the length of your journey and the number of trips you'll be making, you'll need to think about how many you'll need to charge your electric vehicle.

Do you have a charging point at home? How much do they cost? And are you within a good mile radius to charge your electric vehicle? It's key that questions like these are answered before you purchase.

Are you purchasing your next car soon?

Markets can change. Dramatically. If you're thinking of buying an electric car and then changing your new car within the first couple of years of purchasing - then great, have a shop around.

However, if you're thinking of purchasing an electric car as an investment to keep for 5+ years, take your time. It may be best to wait a little while as the market for electric cars is likely to continue changing at a pace as more car brands bring out their electric car offering.

How much does it cost to charge my electric car?

With more than 30,000 public charging points across the country, electric cars are considerably cheaper than owning petrol or a diesel car. For a 100 mile charge, you're looking at around £6.50 (30 minutes), and a short term charge might even be free. There are also grants to help employers and homeowners with electric cars, so perhaps that's also something to look into.

Are electric cars safe?

In a word, yes, pure electric cars can be safer to drive than petrol or diesel cars. This is because in a typical car the fuel is housed in a tank made of thinner metal or plastic. However, in electric cars, the battery casings are tougher and more durable.

Although electric cars don't yet have any ground-breaking additional safety features vs petrol or diesel cars, they are fitted with lithium-ion car batteries which have a lower risk of fire explosions than gasoline in conventional vehicles.

Some models even feature regenerative braking which causes the car to start braking when you take your foot off the accelerator. This means that in the event of a potential accident where the driver tries to brake quickly, the regenerative braking could start deceleration a fraction sooner.

Electric vehicles are better for the environment

Electric cars have a smaller carbon footprint than petrol or diesel-powered cars, no matter where your electricity comes from. The electricity that charges and fuels the battery in electric and plug-in hybrid cars comes from the national power grid. The power grid relies on a range of sources ranging from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy meaning some of the electricity powering your car is sustainable, whereas petrol and diesel cars solely rely on fossil fuels.

5 hidden costs of buying an electric car

Although EVs are cheaper to run there are a few costs that you need to consider before buying:

The outright cost of the car itself

EVs are more expensive than their petrol/diesel counterparts because of their more expensive electric motor and batteries. Make sure you shop around and compare petrol and EV models from different car manufacturers to get a better idea of what's in your price range.

Battery lease schemes

Some car manufacturers offer battery lease schemes with their EVs which can help save you money on the outright cost of the car. Costs can vary between £50-£100 per month and it's worth noting that manufacturers will replace the battery if it becomes faulty.

EV charging can be expensive

Similarly to petrol stations, where you charge your car and who you charge up with can vary greatly in price. EV manufacturers do offer pay-as-you-go and subscription schemes, so it's always worth checking what the rate per kWh is with your prospective car manufacturer first.

Convenient quick charges like those at service stations are typically more expensive. Cheaper options include home charging and finding a free public charging station. You can find these at specific supermarkets and hotels among others.

Insurance can be more expensive

Typically an electric car is more expensive to insure than a petrol or diesel car. If you're looking at buying an EV, get an insurance quote first so you have a better idea of what's within your budget.

Servicing requires specialised skills

Unfortunately servicing and repairing Evs is more specialised than replacing component parts and checking over petrol or diesel vehicles. You'll need to do some research to make sure your preferred garage is able to look after electric cars, or see if there's a garage in your local area that can.