How much will an electric car really cost me?

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  • Electric car prices seem absurdly high, but we’ve been looking at how much an electric car will really cost you to run. Hint: it’s good news

    Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that an electric car is well beyond your pockets, even if every other concern – range anxiety, how and where to recharge it – were taken care of. However, the cost of owning and running a car goes beyond the monthly amount that exits your bank balance, stage left, pursued by a dealer.

    If maths isn’t your strong point, fear no longer – we (well, Auto Trader, actually – we’ve nicked their homework) have done all the sums so you don’t have to.

    Price tag of an electric car

    This is the biggest pain point, and from this position, electric cars look like a no-no. Take any small electric car – Peugeot e-208, Vauxhall Corsa-e, Honda e, Renault Zoe, Mini Electric – and the price tag will be somewhere between £25,000 and £30,000. You can buy a BMW 3-Series for that. Or, put another way, you can buy a new petrol Vauxhall Corsa for half the price of the electric version. And with less hassle, too. When you remember that these prices are AFTER the Government’s £3,000 subsidy, the whole thing looks ridiculous. Let’s not even go as far as the bigger electric cars – the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace, Porsche Taycan and so on, all of which have very hefty prices tags indeed, heading into the £70,000s.

    It doesn’t get any better for used electric cars – the average price of a used EV (electric vehicle) on Auto Trader in May was £25,866, compared with £12,707 for a used petrol car. But….

    Monthly price

    Things start to look immediately better when you follow 90 per cent of the British motoring population, and take out a finance package. Let’s take that Peugeot 208, mentioned above. According to Auto Trader’s calculations, if you buy the electric version, the e-208, in the GT-line trim, on finance, you’ll actually save £1,692 over a three-year payment plan – the e-208 will cost you £47 a month less. The DS3 Crossback e-Tense will also cost you less than the petrol version in Performance Line trim, as will the Mini Electric compared with the Cooper S petrol version.

    The electric Vauxhall Corsa-e, meanwhile, will cost you more – about £60 a month more (depending on the terms and deposit for your plan) – but, when you factor in the noticeably lower running costs and incentives (below), you could end up cancelling out that extra £60 and saving money. Which leads us to…

    Free stuff with an electric car

    The Government, various quangos and politicians, local authorities, car brands and car dealers are all desperately keen for you to buy an electric car. So there are some sweeteners on offer. Buy a car this year, and there’s no road tax to pay. Or congestion charge in cities. Or Benefit In Kind tax (BIK) if it’s your business car.

    Many brands are also throwing in a free home-charging wallbox, which you’d pay about £500 to fit otherwise, or a year’s free subscription to a public charging network (take the wallbox…). And this stuff leads us to…

    The actual cost of owning an electric car

    This is called the Total Cost of Ownership (ToC) in technical language. This is where you start to claw back that heavy initial outlay. For a start, if you charge your car at home, you’ll probably pay about £20 for a full charge, that will take you 200-240 miles. That’s half what the petrol could cost you for the same distance. If you switch your energy tariff to a provider that does one for electric cars, and set the timer on your car to charge between midnight and 5am, you could see that cost half again, to the point where 240 miles is costing you something like £11, which is insanely good value.

    Someone worked out their new Honda e electric car cost them £1 for every 24 miles. There aren’t many public transport options that would charge you as little.

    Then there’s cheaper servicing, and fewer expensive parts to go wrong. It all starts to add up. Factor in the convenience of charging at home while you sleep every night, and we think electric cars start to look the business.

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