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Electric cars: how to afford them

There’s no getting away from the fact that electric cars are expensive. But, there are ways to have affordable electric cars.

The amount you pay depends on things like the make and model, and whether you buy brand new or second-hand.

From electric car finance to second-hand electric cars, here are some ways to cut the costs of owning an EV.

Electric car charging

Research show that electric vehicles (EVs) can be cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars.

They also make sense when it comes to the 2030 petrol and diesel car ban and low emission zones that are popping up in cities across the UK.

But many are unable to afford even the cheapest electric cars. It’s the initial upfront cost that’s still a barrier to many people making the move to electric. 

Many cars could set you back £20,000 or more, and that’s without a battery included.

If you’re starting out on your electric journey, and looking for an affordable electric car, we look at some common concerns about the cost of EVs.

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How do electric car grants work?

Electric car grants are given from the government to help boost the use of low-emission electric cars. The purpose is to bring the price down so it's closer to the cost of buying a conventional petrol or diesel car.

The government offers grants of up to £1,500 for electric cars priced under £32,000. These are usually factored into the overall price when you buy from a dealer.

Not all low-emission cars can get a grant, only the ones that the government approves. So, it’s always worth reading the small print to make sure you qualify.

The government also offers a Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) for businesses and charities. The WCS is a voucher-based scheme that provides support to the cost and installation of electric car charging points.

 

Plug-in vehicle grant

A plug-in vehicle grant is available to offset the initial high cost of a new electric vehicle. For cars, the maximum grant available is £1,500.

To qualify for a plug-in car grant, the car must:

  • Cost less than £32,000 (including VAT and delivery fees)
  • Have emissions of less than 50g/km
  • A zero-emissions range of at least 70 miles

Other grants include:

Vehicle Type Grants available
£2,500
Large vans (2.5 - 4.25 tonnes)
£5,000
Taxis
£7,500
Motorbikes
£500

The grants are applied automatically when you buy a new vehicle and you don’t need to apply for them. The dealer should include the value of the grant in the price.

If you’re leasing the vehicle, the grant should be taken away from the amount you pay in rent.

 

Electric vehicle home charging scheme

If you install a charging unit at your home, so you can charge up your vehicle with it, you could get a grant to lower the cost.

The government grant could meet up to 75% of the cost of installing the unit, to a maximum of £350. To benefit, you need to be the primary user of an eligible electric vehicle.

 

Can you buy electric cars second-hand?

If you’re after a budget electric car, getting it second-hand could cut your costs.

You should also still qualify for some of the government grants available to offset some costs.

But, don’t expect them to fall too far as even a used EV could set you back around £6,000.

If you buy an EV second-hand, always check the original charging range. If it’s currently lower than what’s specified at the dealers, the battery might need replacing.

The battery is usually guaranteed to have around 70% of its original capacity after seven years, and this could be transferred if a car is sold.

Check the small print as with some models this might only apply with private sales.

When you test drive the used car, ask to see it when it’s fully charged and check what its information screen says about the battery health.

Also look at the warranty conditions and give the car a thorough once over before you make a decision. You could also get a dealer to check it out for you if you’re unsure.

Some dealerships specialise in second-hand EVs such as Drive Green. You could also pick up an ‘approved used’ electric vehicles at some dealers too.

 

Electric car batteries: should I lease or buy?

The cost of an electric car battery might be included in your total price, or it could be an extra cost.

This is because you can either buy the battery outright or you could pay monthly for an electric car battery lease.

Not all manufacturers give you the option between buying and leasing, so check first before committing to buy.

Car batteries tend to last for around 10 years, but this depends on how much you use the car, and how well you take care of the battery.

For example, leaving the battery flat for a period of time could mean it then isn’t able to charge.

 

Buying an electric car battery

The benefit of buying an electric car battery, which could cost around £5,000, is that you don’t have to pay anything more after the initial cost.

It might add a lot to the amount you’re spending on the vehicle, but this could be cheaper than paying a monthly leasing cost in the long run.

If you own the battery, you’d also be responsible for the upkeep if it’s out of warranty, as well as replacing it.

 

Leasing an electric car battery

Leasing means you pay smaller payments every month. This could be more affordable if you can’t afford to buy a battery outright.

As you’re leasing the electric car battery, you don’t own it and if it needs repairing or replacing, the dealership should arrange this.

The more you drive, the more expensive your monthly costs could be and there might be a cap on the number of miles you can drive.

 

How much does leasing a battery cost?

To give a rough idea of cost, here are some battery leasing costs for some popular EVs:

 

Renault Zoe 22 kWh*

Miles per year <4500 <6000 <7500 <9000 <10500 <12000
Cost per month
£49
£59
£69
£79
£89
£99

Renault Zoe 40 kWh*

Miles per year <4500 <6000 <7500 <9000 <10500 >10501
Cost per month
£59
£69
£79
£89
£99
£110

Nissan leaf flex 24 kWh*

Miles per year <7500 <9000 <1200 <15000
Cost per month (in 12 months)
£90
£97
£113
£129

 (*kWh is a unit of electric energy - the same that you'd find on your electric bill. This figure relates to how many units of electric energy the battery stores. The higher the kWh, the higher the range.)

 

Affordable electric cars

The cost of a new electric car depends on the type of car you choose and whether you buy it outright or use an electric car finance scheme.

You might also need to factor in the cost of electric car insurance when budgeting for your new car

Here we look at some of the most popular models, and how much they might set you back.

These may be the cheapest electric cars when looking across the market. But, the initial cost when compared to diesel and petrol cars could be much more.

 

EVs for under 35K

If you want a brand-new EV, and you’ve got the funds to pay for it, here are some of the most affordable electric cars on the market.

 

Smart EQ fortwo coupé

Designed for city life, the smart EQ fortwo coupé retails at around 20-25K with a 70-mile battery range.

At the time of writing, Smart is also offering a free BP chargemaster wall-box worth £525.

If you don’t want that, they’re offering free 2 year membership to BP pulse charging network. This is worth £148.

 Read the full vehicle specification online

 

Smart EQ forfour

You could get a 4-door smart EQ for between 20-25K with a 68-mile range.

The offers for the smart fortwo couple apply to this model too.

Read the full vehicle specification online

 

Fiat 500 Electric

This car is perfect for city driving with a price of around 22-30K.

The newer Fiat 500 comes with a battery that has a good range of up to 199 miles from just 1 charge.

Read the full vehicle specification online

 

MG ZS EV

The MG ZS EV is an electric SUV and has a 5 star Euro NCAP rating.

Setting you back at between 27-31K, it covers up to 273-mile range. It's fast charging and has intelligent features included.

Read the full vehicle specification online

 

MINI Electric Hatch

Priced from 29-34K, the MINI has up to a 145-mile range.

It has the same features as its petrol engine versions, but saving you more money as it costs as little as 5p per mile.

Read the full vehicle specification online

 

Electric car scrappage schemes

Several manufacturers offer car scrappage schemes. They work by offering a saving to those who trade in older, less efficient cars.

The aim is to get more green cars onto the road, and reduce the amount of polluting cars being driven. It's also to increase new car sales.

Manufacturers set their own schemes. But it’s possible to get up to £5,000 off the cost of a new electric car, when trading in an older car, or up to £9,000 for a new van.

Here we look at what some electric vehicle manufacturers are offering.

 

Kia

Kia is offering up to £2,250 off some of its low emissions vehicles depending on the Kia model you buy. It includes the new Kia Picanto, Rio, and the Stonic.

More details on the Kia scrappage scheme

 

Renault

The scheme offers up to £1,500 off some of the new models too, like the Kadjar.

More details on the Renault scrappage scheme

 

In the past, Audi, BMW, Hyundai, MG, Vauxhall and many more offered scrappage scheme deals. But these have been discontinued for now.

Manufacturers introduce new and updated scrappage schemes every quarter, so it's worth keeping an eye out for these.