Best tax exempt cars

If you're looking for a new car that's tax exempt, then you'll need to go electric

BuyaCar team
Apr 3, 2017

For a brand new car that’s free from road tax, your only choice is to go electric.

A new tax system, introduced on April 1, took tax-free status away from all other low-emissions petrol, diesel and hybrid cars, and introduced a new £140 flat rate tax for them all.

Only fully electric cars, which produce no emissions as they drive along, are now tax-free, along with the handful of hydrogen vehicles on the road. Their prices are discounted too, thanks to the government’s plug-in car grant, which provides up to £4,500 towards the cost of a brand new car.

It brings the cost of many electric vehicles closer to that of a conventional one – just with lower running costs. For really cheap motoring, you will need to ensure that your car had a list price of less than £40,000 when new – before any new car discounts. Vehicles over this limit are liable to a tax surcharge under the new system, which will cost you £310 a year for five years.

You can easily avoid these restrictions if you’re not set on a brand new car. Used cars, which were on the road before April 1, continue to be taxed under the old system and retain their tax-free status, whether powered by petrol, diesel or electricity. They are also cheaper to buy, having lost some of their value already.

We’ve highlighted the best used tax exempt cars in a separate article. Scroll down for our our pick of the top 5, new, battery-powered, zero-rated tax-busters

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Renault Zoe Z.E.40

Range 178 miles
For a car that’s designed from scratch as an electric vehicle, the Zoe looks unusually normal, so you don’t feel like a Green Party campaigner as you’re driving one. An update last year has boosted the car’s range to almost 200 miles if you choose the larger Z.E.40 battery, and the Zoe has no problem on long-distance motorway journeys.

However, the car is at its best in town. It’s smooth on poor roads and feels nippy, thanks to an instant surge of power when you press the accelerator. It really is a car that could turn you away from petrol or diesel engines – just be prepared for a sharp drop in value if you buy it new.

New and used Renault Zoe deals


Nissan Leaf 30kWh

Range 155 miles
If you’re ready to take the leap and replace your family car with an electric model, then the Nissan Leaf is a decent choice. With as much space inside as a Volkswagen Golf, a comfortable ride and a reasonable price (after the government grant), it doesn’t feel like a compromise when you’re behind the wheel.

That’s also because the Leaf has finally been upgraded with an improved battery that should provide more than 100 miles of range on a single charge, no matter what the conditions outside.

Where the Leaf splits opinion is in its looks. To some it’s the ugly duckling of electric cars; to others, it’s a mould-breaker. Like most of the other cars on this page, it loses value fast, so you should take advantage of the Nissan Leaf discounts on new models to reduce the financial impact that will have.

New and used Nissan Leaf deals


BMW i3

Range 114miles
A few years ago, BMW decided that electric cars were the future and began developing its range of battery-powered I cars, which look like the future.

Without the mechanical parts of a conventional car running through the interior, the i3 is surprisingly spacious and practical behind its hi-tech styling and rear-opening ‘suicide’ doors. The batteries are crammed in underneath, so you have a flat floor and room to stretch out in the back.

The range is around 90 miles in normal driving, which is adequate for city trips but on longer journeys, should it run out of juice, the i3 can be charged in 40 minutes from a rapid charger.

It’s a BMW, so you do get a kick of power when you press the accelerator. And it’s nimble too, for a car that’s relatively tall and heavy. It’s not particularly cheap as a new car, but used BMW i3 deals start at under £18,000.

New and used BMW i3 deals


Kia Soul

Range 130 miles
Even in conventionally powered form the Soul is a pretty unconventional looking car, so as an electric model, it fits right in with other electric options such as the Nissan Leaf and Citroen CZero.

Except for its digital dials, gloss white finish on the dashboard and 8in touchscreen with sat-nav, the EV’s interior is much like any other Soul’s, too. It’s underway that it feels different. Like most electric cars, the power arrives in an instant and the motor is eerily quiet. The ride is quiet, too, making it a comfortable and relaxing car to drive.

It’s nippy around town but runs out of puff on faster, more open roads. If you find a fast charging point, you can charge the Soul in 30 minutes. Otherwise it’s a 12-hour job using a domestic socket.

New and used Kia Soul deals


VW e-up!

Range 93 miles
Say it in a Yorkshire accent and the e-up! conjures an image of sleepy villages among rolling hills, but the car is a polished and well-built product of German engineering.

It looks much like a standard VW up! and is as brilliant around town as the petrol-powered car, with nippy performance and small dimensions for excellent manoeuvrability. However, the modest 93 miles range (in ideal conditions and with extremely careful driving) and high price mean that it’s hard to justify buying this over larger and cheaper rivals that will go further on a single charge.

New and used VW e-up! deals


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