Electric cars: how to afford them

There’s no getting away from the fact that electric cars are expensive but there are ways to make them more affordable. From electric car finance to second-hand electric cars, there are ways to cut the costs of owning one.

Electric car charging

You might be asking yourself - how much is the cheapest electric car? But the amount you pay depends on lots of things, including the make and model, and whether you buy brand new or second-hand.

There’s a lot of research to indicate that electric vehicles (EVs) are 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 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 around £17,000 or more, and that’s without a battery included.  

If you’re just 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?

The government offers grants of up to £3,500 for electric vehicles. These are usually factored into the overall price when you buy from a dealer.  

There are a few different grants you can take advantage of, but it’s always worth reading the small print to make sure you qualify.

Businesses and charities could also get grants of up to £350 if they install up to 40 charging sockets for employees to use.  

 

Plug-in vehicle grant

To offset the initial high cost of a new electric vehicle, a plug-in vehicle grant is available. For cars, the maximum grant available is £2,500.

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

  • Cost less than £35,000
  • Have emissions of less than 50g/km
  • A zero-emissions range of at least 70 miles. 

If you’re buying a small electric van, grants of up to £3,500 are available. The van must weigh less than 2.5 tonnes. 

Large vans, of between 2.5 - 3.5 tonnes could get grants of up to £6,000, taxis up to £7,500, and motorbikes £1,500.  

The grants are applied automatically when you buy a new vehicle and you don’t need to apply for them.

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

 

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 your overall costs.

However, 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.

Just 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.

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 the battery of an electric car 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 of buying or leasing, so check first before committing to buy.

Car batteries tend to last for around 10 years, but this might depend 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 properly. 

 

Why it could be worth buying an EV battery

The benefit of buying a 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.

 

Why leasing an EV battery could be an option

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

As you’re leasing the 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 <13500 <15000
Cost per month
£49
£59
£69
£79
£89
£99
£109
£119

Renault Zoe 40 kWh*

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

Nissan leaf flex 24 kWh*

Miles per year <7500 <9000 <10500 <12000
Cost per month
£70
£77
£85
£93

 (*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.)

 

Cheap 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.

While they seem to be the cheapest electric cars when looking across the market, the initial cost when compared to diesel and petrol cars could be significantly more. 

 

EVs for under 20K

If you know 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.

 

SEAT Mii Electric

The SEAT Mii Electric retails at £19,800, with the government grant included.

It’s a four-door, with a good range of 160 miles per charge.

It’s also got heated seats, cruise control and rear parking sensors. 

 Read the full vehicle specification online

 

Skoda CITIGOe iV

One of the pricier cars on the list, the CITIGOe retails at £17,455.

At full charge it has a 125-mile range. You can also set the car’s temperature via an app before you get in. 

Read the full vehicle specification online

 

Renault Twizy

The cheapest and smallest in the list, but a great contender for a first EV. Prices start from £10,690.

It’s a two-seater and has a modest range of 62 miles at full charge. 

Read the full vehicle specification online

  

smart EQ fortwo coupé

Designed for city life, the smart EQ fortwo coupé retails at £17,350 with a 60-mile battery range.

At the time of writing, Smart is also offering a free BP chargemaster wall-box worth £499.

If you don’t want that, they’re offering free signup to a public charging network group called Polar Plus. This is worth £149. 

Read the full vehicle specification online

 

smart EQ forfour

For £435 more you could get a four-door smart EQ for £17,785. Again, with a 60-mile range.

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

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 to reduce the amount of polluting cars being driven, and 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. 

 

Hyundai

With Hyundai’s car scrappage scheme you could get up to £3,000 off the hybrid IONIQ. This brings the price down to around £20,000. You could also make some decent savings on the low emissions range too. 

More details on the Hyundai scrappage scheme

 

Kia

Kia is offering £2,500 off some of its low emissions vehicles. It has also included the Niro PHEV and Niro self-charging hybrid in the scheme.

More details on the Kia scrappage scheme

Mazda

Mazda is running a scheme exclusively for low emissions vehicles.

You could trade your car in and get up to £4,000 off certain models with emissions below 161 g/km. 

More details on the Mazda scrappage scheme

 

MG

MG is offering up to £2,000 off petrol and diesel models. It’s also offering £3,500 off the MG ZS EV, which should bring it down to around 22K. 

More details on the MG scrappage scheme

 

­­­­­Renault

If you’re after the popular Renault ZOE, this car scrappage scheme could work for you. The scheme offers up to £3,000 off some of the new models too. 

More details on the Renault scrappage scheme