Best used electric cars

Electric cars are a brilliant way to save in fuel costs, while also helping out the environment. Here are the best used electric cars

Jun 29, 2018

A recent survey found that four in five people would consider buying an electric car - but that most rapidly changed their minds when they saw the purchase price.

Despite falling costs and a government new car grant, new electric vehicles remain more expensive than a conventional car, even though much lower fuel costs help to offset the difference.

But with sales continuing to increase, there are more and more models filtering onto the used car market, where lower prices and long battery warranties make them an appealing proposition.

Zero tax or Congestion Charge for London drivers helps to cut the costs of running an electric car further. You won’t have to worry about petrol and diesel bans or clean air zone charges - although most other drivers won’t be affected for years either.

Some finance agreements ensure that you’ll be able to return your electric car at the end, so you won’t be left with an outdated model. For more advice and information, read our full guide to buying an electric car, which includes information on running and charging one.

One key point worth remembering is that the cheapest Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf models don’t come with batteries, which must be leased. Prices typically start from £60 per month, so you may be better off with a more expensive model that includes the batteries.

                    

The best used electric cars and EVs you can buy

BMW i3

Best used electric car for innovation and style 

Typical example BMW i3, 2014 Price £15,000
Representative finance payments £225 per month

Unlike some electric cars, which are based on petrol and diesel models, BMW gave its engineers free rein to create an electric car from scratch. So the i3 is made from large amounts of strong but light carbon fibre. The batteries are placed low down, beneath the seats, and the electric motor is between the rear wheels. These features reduce the effect of the heavy electric components and make the i3 surprisingly agile and fun to drive.

The interior is spacious and as cool as a Scandinavian furniture store. But it’s only got four seats, and there’s no compartment for storing charging cables, so they eat into boot space.

The original i3 features a 22kWh battery, and can manage around 80 miles on a single charge. Used examples for around £15,000 have done on average less than 20,000 miles, which means relatively fewer recharges so the battery should still be in good health. More recent models have a higher-capacity 94Ah battery, providing at least 125 miles per charge.

Kia Soul EV

Best used electric car for a long warranty

Typical example Kia Soul EV Age 2015 Price £14,600
Representative finance payments £237 per month

The Kia Soul is an unusual example of a car that doesn’t really fit into one particular category. The electric version was introduced in 2014, with a range of around 90 miles in daily driving conditions. With a lofty driving position, it’s good at threading through crowded roads and the boxy proportions make it easy to park.

The dashboard is smarter than regular Soul models, with digital instruments, a large centre touch screen and energy-saving features, including a button that switches off ventilation to all people but the driver. There’s also a spacious boot and a false floor for storing the charging cables.

It’s not at all engaging to drive, but given the savings this car could bring to drivers and the remaining balance of its original, seven-year warranty, that’s unlikely to be of much concern.

Nissan Leaf

Best used electric car for frugal motoring

Typical example Nissan Leaf Acenta Age 2014 Price £9,000
Representative finance payments £155 per month

It may be no oil painting but the Nissan Leaf could brighten up your life in other ways, namely saving you money. The best-selling pure electric car in Britain is widely available on the used car market, with prices starting at £6,000 for the VW Golf-size hatchback.

Those are the previous generation models which have a 24kWh battery, making for a comfortable driving range of around 100 miles. Trying to match the claimed 150 miles will bring you out in a cold sweat. A new Nissan Leaf with a longer range went on sale at the beginning of this year.

It’s a bit devoid of personality, so think of it as a money-saving appliance and the Leaf will grow on you. It seats four adults in comfort, five people at a pinch, and the interior is a sea of grey and black plastic with few stylistic flourishes. A tip is to avoid the basic Visia trim level and pick Acenta, instead, as it includes a useful touchscreen system, more efficient heater and allows for rapid charging.
Nissan Leaf buying guide 

Renault Zoe

Best used electric car for a compact second car

Typical example Renault Zoe Dynamique Age 2014 Price £5,295 
Representative finance payments £1010 per month

For the princely sum of £5000 you could own a 2014 Renault Zoe that’s covered no more than 30,000 miles and still feels fresh enough to pass for a new car – after a professional valet.

Buy it as a second car and you might be surprised to find how much you come to depend on it. Many owners report that they soon switch to using their Zoe as their everyday car, because it costs so little to run and is surprisingly practical – seating five, assuming those in the back don’t mind getting snug. Alternatively, two child seats will fit.

At that price, you’ll be getting a Zoe without batteries, which have to be leased. Costs start at £49 per month, based on an annual 4,500 mileage. You’ll pay more if you drive further. The range can drop to just 60 miles in the winter, but this increases to 90 miles in the summer. A newer version, called the Zoe Z.E. 40 has greater range.
Renault Zoe buying guide 

Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

Best used electric car for a compact second car

Typical example Smart ForTwo ED Age 2013
Price £8500 Representative finance payments £158 per month

Not everyone needs, or wants, a family car. Which is where the Smart Fortwo comes in. It’s wonderfully different to anything else on the road. The brief for the original Smart was to hold two people and a case of beer.

Those pocket-sized proportions (it’s less than 2.7m long) mean it may be just the thing for those after a cheeky little runaround. Pick the previous generation Smart ED (Electric Drive), launched in 2012, and you get a car capable of up to 90 miles on a charge. A wall charger will replenish the battery in three hours.

It’s at its happiest in town or pottering about the suburbs, where the ride comfort is just about acceptable. Venture onto main roads and the Fortwo ED does a little pogo dance, shaking up that case of beer in the boot, while the top speed of just 78mph tells you all you need to know about how it’s being pushed to its limits on dual carriageways and motorways.
Smart ForTwo buying guide

Tesla Model S

Best used electric car for range

Typical example Tesla Model S 85 Age 2014
Price £48,000 Representative finance payments £710 per month

In the context of the other used electric cars in this selection, the Tesla Model S is likely to seem breathtakingly expensive. However, compare it with an Audi A7, BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo or Porsche Panamera and it is fairly priced.

Tesla’s electric cars are renowned for their impressive performance and generous driving range. The Californian car company offers free updates over the air for the lifetime of its electric cars.

There have been several versions, with the least powerful being the Model S 60 and 60D (the D means it has dual motors, giving all-wheel drive). These were phased out, last March, due to a lack of demand. From that point, the 70 and 70D were the bread-and-butter models, with a 300-mile range. The flagship P100D is silly-fast, able to go from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds, and extends the range to a potential 380 miles. The problem is, despite being Tesla’s best-selling EV, the Model S is in short supply in the UK, which is another reason prices are so high; demand outstrips supply.

Volkswagen e-Golf

Best used electric car for a great family hatchback

Typical example Volkswagen e-Golf Age 2017
Price £30,000 Representative finance payments £490 per month

The first attempt at creating an electric Golf didn’t go terribly well. The Golf part of the car was fine, but the electric part was poor. Range was a claimed 118 miles, but considerably less on the road, and the performance was mediocre. Not many drivers bought one, and as a result, supply is limited and cars aren’t much more affordable than later, updated models.

In 2017, VW introduced a substantially improved version with its own, in-house engineered powertrain. The range climbed to 186 miles, although VW realistically said that would be around 130 miles in everyday use. Charging times sped up (80% capacity in 45 minutes, using a 45kWh rapid charger). And the car sped up, too, finally feeling nippy rather than half-asleep.

A false floor in the boot gives somewhere to store charging cables, and as the rest of the package is a Golf it’s oh-so-nice to live with. However, as a relatively expensive new car that’s still young and in short supply, used examples are pricey. In face, some drivers might be better off with a GTE plug-in hybrid, which costs from around £17,000.

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