Low-cost electric cars

A low-cost electric car can save you plenty in fuel without you having to pay over the odds for the car itself. Here are some of the best

Sam Naylor
Feb 10, 2022

Finding a truly low-cost electric car is still difficult, because the vast majority of modern electric cars simply aren’t old enough to have dropped into the sub-£5,000 market yet.

However, if you do want a low-cost electric car, there is a broad range of options available for less than £20,000 and with affordable monthly payments on PCP finance, which is what you’ll find below. We’ve used this budget to pick out our favourite electric cars available on BuyaCar right now.

Not every car is at the higher end of the budget, of course - the Nissan Leaf, one of the oldest electric cars around, is available for less than £10,000. One of the great things about buying a used electric car is that they tend not to have a high mileage, because their limited range per charge meant that owners were typically more likely to cover short journeys rather than long ones where they might have to charge en route.

Yet there’s no reason to worry about mileage anyway, because electric cars are proving to be impressively reliable so far. There are fewer moving parts than in a normal petrol or diesel car, so there’s less to go wrong, and things like brakes tend to last longer because electric motors can apply resistance to slow the car down (this is called regenerative braking) rather than wearing away the brake pads.

Then there’s the benefits of lower running costs - if you can plug in at home then you can save plenty over a petrol or diesel car. You also won’t ever have to visit a petrol station again - perfect in the current climate of social distancing.

We’ve picked out models that cover off a number of different bases - for example there’s options for those after a family car, a supermini, a city car and even an SUV. Yet what all of these cars have in common, apart from their low cost, is that they have a relatively short electric range.

Changes in the way electric car range is measured have made it hard to provide exact, comparable figures for each car, but you can expect somewhere in the region of 100-200 miles per charge from the cars below. That’s more than enough for most people’s commute to work and back, though, so there’s still a huge benefit to buying a low-cost electric car.

Low cost electric cars

1. Renault Zoe

Our pick Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav R110 40kWh
Used deals from £9,489
Monthly finance from £287*

The Zoe uses a small electric motor and battery pack and has a reasonable driving range that’s good for commuting and recharging overnight.

Some older models don't include the battery, so you will have to pay a monthly lease for this - this was a quirk of the way the cars were sold when new. It may be worth it, but this depends on how long you plan to use the car for before changing. Also bear in mind that this lease guarantees that the battery capacity stays above a certain level. If the capacity drops dramatically, you can request a replacement battery, which the lease provider should sort out for you, since the lease provider owns the battery.

The Zoe is comfortable, quiet and the electric motor makes it feel powerful from low speeds. It has enough room for kids in the back, but it’s not the most practical because it’s a fairly small car. That makes it easy to drive and park, though. If you can afford one of the newer Z.E.40 or Z.E.50 models, these come with the largest batteries and a more usable electric range.


2. BMW i3

Our pick BMW i3 Range Extender
Used deals Limited stock

The BMW i3 is one of the best electric cars around even now, so the fact you can find one for less than £20,000 means it’s a great value electric car. It has a range of over 100 miles but the great news is that it’s available in a 'range extender' format - which includes a small petrol engine that can work as a generator to charge the battery. Go for one of the latest 120Ah versions and you could be pushing 200 miles in the right conditions.

With the Range Extender model, you can fill the small tank up at a petrol station if you find you are running out of charge and there aren’t any charging points locally. It greatly increases the versatility of the i3, though you’ll pay a little less for an equivalent non-range extender model.

The i3 is great for lots of other reasons though, most notably its fantastic interior that’s roomy, looks great and has plenty of tech including sat-nav on a widescreen media system. There’s room for a whole family inside despite its small size as well, and it drives very nicely. It’s comfy, quick and quiet.


3. Hyundai Ioniq

Our pick Hyundai Ionic Electric Premium
Used deals from £20,900
Monthly finance from £377*

Don’t skip past the Hyundai Ioniq Electric because of the way it looks. Yes, it’s a little dull on the outside, but it’s well worth considering for those after an electric car. The Hyundai has all the right attributes: it’s quiet, smooth and easy to drive, and will save you lots of money on fuel.

In the Ioniq range there are also Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models but we’re focusing on the Electric model here. It has lots of tech inside and a good media system, is nippy around town and has comfortable and spacious seats.

It also has a good size boot with a wide hatchback-style opening. It provides enough electric range to get you from home to work and back every day unless you have an abnormally long commute, and it should do so comfortably and reliably.


4. Nissan Leaf Mk1

Our pick Nissan Leaf Tekna
Used deals from £11,500
Monthly finance from £236*

The Nissan Leaf really lives up to the title of this article because it’s the cheapest proper electric car around if you choose a first-generation model. This version went on sale in 2011 and early models are available at extremely attractive prices.

The original Leaf set the mould for the modern electric car in some ways. It’s quiet and serene around town, comfortable over bumps and has enough space for a whole family inside. Its distinctive looks set it apart from other cars of the same age, too.

The older Leaf may be cheaper but it does have significantly less range than its newer counterpart (below). This means it’s less suitable for long trips as you'll have to plug in much more often, but it’s still good for those who rarely make longer trips.


5. Nissan Leaf Mk2

Our pick Nissan Leaf Acenta 40kW
Used deals from £20,000
Monthly finance from £329*

If you’re prepared to spend more, then a newer Nissan Leaf is a great choice. It can travel further on a single charge than the previous version (above) but it’s better in many other ways as well.

The most noticeable improvement was the way the car drives - Nissan improved its handling and comfort with the new model. The interior is higher-quality and more pleasant than before too, and smartphone technology using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay improved the media system as well.

The newer Leaf is also more spacious than before, so it’s more usable as a family car. It has a big boot and you can fold down the rear seats to open up even more luggage space. Unfortunately, it has an uncomfortable driving position for tall drivers, so if you're particularly tall, you might want to consider one of the other cars in our lineup.


6. Seat Mii Electric

Our pick Seat Mii Electric Base
Used deals Limited stock

The Seat Mii Electric is a low-cost electric car for those who want a practically new or used car. There are other options as well - the Volkswagen e-Up and Skoda Citigo-e share many of their mechanical and electrical parts, so the key difference is in their styling.

Both have a fairly limited range as they have small batteries, but this means they charge up quickly and are useful for those who live and work in the city. They are nippy, fun to drive and comfortable.

The boot in these cars is small but there’s a good amount of room for passengers despite the cars' tiny size - an element which also means they’re easy to park. The interior is basic for an electric car, or compared to other cars of a similar price, however.


7. Smart EQ ForTwo

Our pick Smart ForTwo EQ Prime Premium Plus
Used deals from £14,500
Monthly finance from £294*

The Smart ForTwo is one of the most distinctive city cars around, and it has long appealed to those needing a tiny car to get them around a congested metropolis. The electric version is better than the traditional model because it gets you where you need to be without any tailpipe emissions.

The EQ ForTwo is the electric version of the car that's both quiet and fun to drive. It's worth noting that Smart updated the car in 2020 so go for one of these if you want the latest tech.

The Smart isn’t one of our favourite electric cars, though. It’s a bit uncomfortable and is very small, with only a tiny boot and space for two people. There’s also a Smart ForFour model which has some small rear seats, though it’s more expensive.


8. Kia Soul EV

Our pick Kia Soul EV
Used deals Limited stock

The Kia Soul EV is a good choice for anyone wanting a quirky, unique-looking crossover that uses electric power. The Soul’s interesting looks mean that it stands out, but it’s also one of the only high-riding electric cars available for a budget.

The Soul EV is comfortable enough and has a good amount of space inside, with plenty of equipment and technology included. The electric motor means that it’s quick from low speeds but also really quiet and relaxed in traffic.

It’s bound to be reliable - as Kia has a good record in this area and offers long seven-year warranties on all of its cars - and has a nice big boot that’s a useful shape, so it will work well as an electric family car. It doesn’t have as much range as the newer model that’s currently available new, but it’s good enough for the average commuter or for those doing short trips.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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