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Should I buy a used electric car?

Skip the higher prices that come with brand-new cars and purchase your electric car used.

Buying an electric car

Electric vehicles (EVs) can be a bit more expensive than traditional petrol and diesel equivalents because the battery costs more than an internal-combustion engine. 

With zero emissions, barely any engine noise and excellent performance in terms of acceleration and economy, EVs currently account for one car in every seven sold in the UK. 

As petrol and diesel cars are due to be phased out over the next decade, electric cars will become even more popular. Currently, from 2035, all new cars must be emission-free

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the three main types of EV on sale today.

Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs)

First up, battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) also known as “Pure EV’s” (think Tesla) but there lots more now on the market such as the Smart, Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf and Kia Soul.

These cars don’t have a conventional engine, so you need to plug them in and recharge them when the batteries run out of juice.

The main selling points are:

  • No engine emissions – the battery powers the entire car so there are no waste gases.

  • Efficiency – pure EVs convert more than 80% of the power drawn from the National Grid into oomph at the wheels, and so no energy is lost as heat or noise.

  • Refuelling – to re-juice, the average EV costs less than a tenner.

  • Running costs – EVs are exempt from road tax and congestion charges. Their simple motors are also easy and cheap to service.

  •  Performance – EVs deliver their torque (pulling power) immediately so acceleration is, literally, electric.

There are things you might want to consider:

  • Charging times – to refill your battery using a slow charger or your normal home electricity supply could take up to 16 hours. Public ultra-rapid chargers can boost your juice from 10-80% in a speedy 30 minutes.

  • Range – most EVs are limited to 150-250 miles on a single charge. This only becomes an issue on very long journeys, although it’s easy to plan a pitstop and plug-in to a rapid charger if needs be.

  • Initial price – used EVs hold their values so prices remain high.

  • Insurance – can be more expensive, worth getting a quote before you buy just to check.

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Hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV)

The second type of EV available are Hybrid-electric Vehicles (HEV) like the Toyota Prius. They have an electric motor and a small engine that together to balance performance and economy.

They emit fewer pollutants than traditional engines, cheaper on fuel costs (and the battery can recharge itself when you brake or coast).

You also won’t have to worry about grinding to a halt if you drain the batteries because the conventional engine will take over. 

However, hybrids are more expensive than petrol/diesel equivalents. They also do still emit some gases and their small battery means you can’t travel far on electric power alone. And by not far, we mean around 30 miles.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)

The third type of EV available is a Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) like the cool BMW i3 and Mitsubishi Outlander.

They're similar to the HEV concept, but the battery is usually charged from an external power supply. Larger battery packs means a bit (and we do mean a bit) more pure-electric range. 

Is a used EV for me?

The future of motoring is purely electric. In a few years, no new petrol or diesel cars will be sold in the UK due to the 2035 car ban.

So, should you buy a used EV now or wait a bit?... Honestly, it depends on if an electric car is suitable for your motoring needs.

Consider your current driving habits: Are you doing long drives on a daily basis or sticking close to home? Given that the average car journey in the UK is only 8.4 miles - think the school run or a trip to the shopping centre - the range for an EV during everyday use shouldn’t be an issue for most drivers. The charging infrastructure is developing rapidly, and petrol/diesel engines are being phased out. 

If you only drive a couple of times a week over short distances, you’ll never need to run on anything other than pure electric power, which is cheaper and kinder to the environment. However, the high initial cost of new and used pure EVs and hybrids means that petrol/diesel are still financially viable over short distances.

Plug-in hybrids look very clever on short journeys because you can charge the car overnight and never use the conventional engine. As such, the PHEV is probably only a stop-gap on the road to pure electric.

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