Go Ultra Low calculated that running an electric vehicle (EV) can cost a quarter or less of what it costs to run a conventional petrol or diesel car, while zero tailpipe emissions are kinder to the environment.
In 2019 a total of 2.3 million new cars were sold in the UK, compared to 7.9 million used vehicles, with alternatively fuelled vehicles (including hybrids) accounting for 1.7% of second-hand transactions. That's an increase of 23.4% with 135,516 changing hands.
There's no doubt that the used EV market is going to expand dramatically (there are now more than 265,000 on UK roads). More than half of British motorists (52%) are considering buying a used EV for their next car, according to our research, with a similar number (55%) looking to switch to a second-hand electric vehicle in the next five years.
If this sounds like you, try using our interactive map to find the average price and availability of second-hand EVs near you.
But let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of buying a used electric car. On a basic level, buying a second-hand EV is the same as purchasing a petrol or diesel-powered car – you still need to check the documentation and the car's history etc. But when it comes to the viewing and the test drive, there's a lot less to go on.
Sure, you can check the general condition of the car, plus the handling and brakes during the test drive, but without an oil dipstick, for instance, there's more of a reliance on a good service history and a lower mileage.
The good news is that EVs have fewer components than cars with combustion engines, so there’s less to go wrong.
Cardiff University automotive expert Professor Peter Wells said: “I believe there will be a strong growth in EV sales from now onwards as many cars will be returning to the second-hand market after 24 to 48 months.
“The market for second-hand EVs is currently dominated by the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, BMWi3 and Tesla. However, companies like Volkswagen are entering the new EV market while premium brands like Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo have pledged to go all-electric by 2025.
“By 2022/2023 the second-hand EV market will be firmly established, with drivers having a much greater choice of what car to buy and how and where to buy it.”
The cost of electricity to power an EV for a mile depends on the tariff used, but it's estimated to be around 2-3p, compared to 11-13p to fuel a typical diesel car. Test how much switching to an EV could save you on your commute with our car journey calculator.
It’s not just fuel savings, either. Switching to an EV can net you tax and congestion charge savings.
Pure electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, making them kinder to the environment than any petrol, electric or hybrid car. Less pollution means cleaner air and a healthier planet.
You can now buy a used electric car from as little as £2,000, while big sellers like the Nissan Leaf can be bought from £5,000.
Electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain than petrol and diesel cars because they have fewer moving parts and there’s reduced wear and tear. It's estimated that switching to an EV could save 20-30% on service and maintenance costs – significant, especially when cars get older and less reliable.
Buying a used EV can offer extra peace of mind. Some battery packs on new cars have a warranty of eight years (eg BMW, Tesla and Nissan), meaning you’ll still be able to benefit from that when buying second-hand.
So, broadly speaking, if the battery's capacity drops below a certain percentage, it’ll be repaired or replaced.
Apart from zero road tax, business users can save thousands of pounds a year. Under the latest tax changes, fully electric cars pay no company car tax in 2020/21, just 1% in 2021/22 and 2% in 2022/23.
With no engine noise, EVs offer a refined, relaxing driving experience.
There's no traditional manual gearbox in an EV, so it's simply a case of accelerating and braking, just like a conventional automatic car, but easier.
Thanks to the instant torque delivery of an electric motor, EVs are surprisingly quick away from the lights, capable of out-sprinting many an expensive performance car.
EV batteries degrade as they get older, delivering a shorter range than when new. The jury’s out on this, but there’s evidence that they don't lose as much capacity as was once feared. That said, many older electric cars typically had a real-world range of around 100 miles when new, so any drop in range is unwelcome.
Professor Wells said: “The main unknown for second-hand EV buyers is the condition of the battery and how much capacity is remaining. However, long manufacturer warranties on battery packs help reduce some of this risk. Plus, as a battery pack has a high value, the end-of-life price of a second-hand EV is higher than a traditional petrol or diesel car.”
Thankfully, the number of public chargers is increasing in the UK. Use our electric car charger map to find your nearest service, wherever you may be in Britain.
When buying a second-hand electric vehicle, check the battery pack is included. Batteries on some older EVs (eg Renault Zoe) were leased in a bid to reduce the car’s initial purchase price, so you'll need to factor in a cost of at least £49 per month if your used EV has a leased battery.
All cars lose their value over time, so depreciation affects any vehicle. However, electric cars (with their relatively high prices new) have historically lost value at a high rate. According to our research, the cost of a brand new EV is the biggest barrier preventing motorists from making the switch, with almost half (45%) admitting a new EV is too expensive.
However, as newer, competitively priced EVs go on sale and buyers see older electric cars reliably plying the roads, perceptions will change.
The same problem, whether you buy new or used – you’ll have to factor in time to stop and recharge on longer journeys.
Whether you're buying new or used, many petrolheads argue that electric vehicles deliver a dull driving experience, devoid of engine noise, the thrill of changing gears and exciting handling characteristics.
This is a controversial argument and manufacturers are improving driving dynamics for their latest EVs. Test drive one for yourself. There are many converts out there!
If something goes wrong with your EV, you may have no choice but to go to a main dealer, because many independent garages don’t specialise in electric vehicles.
Buyers of used electric cars suffer from the same infrastructure limitations as new EV buyers. The network of public chargers is growing, but if we all switched to electric this year, there wouldn't be anywhere near enough. Also, drivers living in flats or houses with no driveway are snookered.
Most new electric cars come with a generous eight-year battery warranty, and so far, there's no evidence that battery packs on older EVs degrade massively, although we know they lose some range with age. However, there’s always a worry that future owners could be landed with an expensive battery replacement bill out of warranty.
I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.