Should I Buy An Electric Car Now Or Wait?

Rowan Harris 10 minutes Published: 20/01/2022

The end of petrol and diesel is in sight. The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has been brought forward to 2030 and no new hybrid cars will be sold beyond 2035. 

Although electric cars remain more expensive to produce than traditional ICEs, there are some generous Government grants for electric cars on offer to help you make the transition. 

But if the switch to electric cars is all but inevitable, should you buy an electric car now or wait? In this article, we consider everything from the costs and ease of charging to the electric range of models currently on sale to help you decide.

Comparison Summary Table

Reasons to Buy Now Reasons to Wait
Environment No tailpipe emissions and lower production emissions (depending on your country’s energy mix).
Legal Avoid ULEZ charges in some cities. Avoid parking restrictions in some areas.
Purchase Cost Can reduce the cost with Government grants. ICE cars are cheaper to buy.
Servicing and Repair Costs Maintenance costs are lower as EVs have fewer moving parts. Battery lasts a very long time.
Insurance Costs Insurance could be cheaper depending on the purchase price of the car.
Charging Costs Far cheaper than petrol/diesel. Access to EV tariffs at home.
Ease of Charging May be as easy to find a charger as a petrol station in your area. Quicker to fill up fuel than to charge. May be easier to find a petrol station in your area.
Model Choice Electric models available in all body styles. Far wider choice.

Environmental Benefits

Are electric cars better for the environment? On the whole, yes.

EVs don’t have tailpipes - which means no tailpipe emissions. If everyone were to drive an electric car, we could significantly reduce the amount of air pollution in urban areas. 

However, while electric cars are often referred to as ‘zero emissions vehicles’, this is a little misleading. 

There’s no doubt that the lifetime emissions of an electric vehicle are significantly lower than those of a typical internal combustion engine (ICE). Because there’s no need to produce and distribute petrol and diesel, EVs produce less “well-to-tank” or upstream emissions.

Exactly how environmentally friendly an EV is to drive depends on where the electricity used to fuel them comes from. 42% of the UK’s energy mix last year was derived from fossil fuels.

However, in countries like Norway, where almost all of the electricity produced within its borders is from Hydropower or other renewables, driving an EV brings even greater environmental benefits.

In other words, while EVs are already a great choice for environmentally conscious individuals, they will only get better as the UK marches towards its net zero target. 

Because EV manufacturers recognise that potential EV owners want to maximise their environmental impact, they also tend to incorporate sustainable materials and manufacturing processes. 

Tesla produces many of its batteries at a solar powered gigafactory in Nevada. Many of its cars are also now entirely leather-free. You can learn more about the types of sustainable materials used in EV manufacturing in our vegan car guide

Legal Requirements

The ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will come into force in 2030, with sales of new hybrids projected to last until 2035. While this means you won’t be legally required to purchase an EV, there are some other laws that you may want to keep in mind.

As cities across the UK attempt to reduce their carbon footprint and clean up the air, many have introduced Low Emissions Zones or Ultra Low Emissions Zones (LEZ/ULEZ). 

If your car does not meet the ULEZ standards for CO2 emissions, you will be forced to pay £12.50 per visit to the ULEZ. This is true for all vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes, and rises to £100 for heavier vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches. 

From 25th October 2021, the ULEZ is set to expand from central London up to the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

Increasingly, local councils are implementing restrictions on parking for petrol and diesel cars. New rules introduced in Lancashire have made it illegal to park a petrol or diesel car in any of the parking spaces adjacent to the county’s on-street electric vehicle charging stations. This practice, known colloquially as ‘ICEing’, could attract a significant fine. It’s likely that other UK counties will follow suit in the coming months and years.

Costs

Are EVs cheaper or more expensive than petrol or diesel cars? It’s a question which will leave many prospective buyers scratching their heads. 

While recent research from Direct Line suggests you can make a marginal saving over a vehicle's 14 year lifespan, many don’t plan on owning or leasing a vehicle for that long.

LV takes a more nuanced look at the potential savings to be made on 9 different EVs, depending on whether you buy, lease or take a PCP deal - and it’s a mixed picture. 

So, where do the additional costs or savings come from - and is it worth the risk? 

Purchase

EVs cost significantly more to produce than ICE vehicles. The high cost of batteries alone is a significant contributing factor. 

But that could all change when the cost of producing a lithium ion battery reaches the critical $100/kWh mark. This would bring EVs to price parity with petrol and diesel cars as early as 2023, according to IHS Markit. To put this into perspective, that would be a $580/kWh or 86% price reduction in just a decade.

New manufacturing processes and economies of scale could cut the price even further to just $73/kWh by 2030. 

EVs may not yet be able to compete with petrol and diesel cars on retail price (and that’s even before we consider the cost of installing a wallbox), but Government grants for electric cars do soften the blow. These include the Plug in Car Grant (PiGC) which will give you a discount on the purchase or lease price of an EV, as well as vouchers towards the cost of installing charging points at home. 

Servicing

The high price of EVs might lead consumers to think that they are somehow more complex than petrol or diesel cars. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The drivetrain of a Tesla Model 3 has just 17 moving parts. The drivetrain of a typical ICE, by contrast, has at least 200 moving parts. There are items like cambelts or oil filters on electric cars that can be fairly expensive to replace. 

You will still need to replace tires, windscreen wipers, brake pads and other consumables every so often, and these will usually be surplus to your service charge. 

However, unlike petrol or diesel cars, EVs all have some form of regenerative braking. This uses the electric motor, rather than friction brakes, to slow down the EV while also putting electricity back into the battery. 

If you regularly rely on regenerative braking (most EVs allow you to adjust the strength of regenerative braking) then you will notice less wear and tear on the brakes meaning they will also need to be replaced less frequently, cutting costs over the long term. 

In summary, compared to petrol and diesel cars, electric car servicing and other electric car maintenance costs are very low.

Repairs

The longevity of EV batteries is one of the biggest concerns for would-be EV adopters. Manufacturers have attempted to allay fears of massive battery degradation by offering compelling warranties.

The Audi e-Tron, BMW i3 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 all offer 8 year battery warranties for up to 100,000 miles. 

Thankfully, you probably won’t ever need to call upon that warranty, as a decade of data from real-world usage suggests that the rate of battery degradation is much less than initially feared.

Those who are still hesitant will be pleased to hear that Tesla has recently announced its ‘million mile’ battery

This is not a battery that can drive a million miles between charges (that would be some feat!) but it does mean that you will be able to drive an EV for at least a million miles before the battery can no longer function effectively. 

To put that into perspective, the average age of a vehicle on the road in the UK is 7.8 years, while the average age at scrappage is 13.9 years. If motorists drive on average 10,000 miles per year, it is likely that the car battery would outlast the car itself. 

Insurance

"Is electric car insurance cheaper than it is for a petrol or diesel car", you might be asking?

Although cars like the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe are towards the lower end of the price spectrum, owners have generally struggled to find cost-effective insurance plans. This is partly due to the paucity of historical data, which has led to insurers producing over-cautious predictions, raising premiums and in some instances declining to insure electric cars. 

As electric cars are becoming increasingly commonplace, this is starting to change. More insurers have entered the market and costs have started to come down. 

Although there are less moving parts on an electric vehicle (which should in theory make them easier to repair), insurance groups are still primarily based on how expensive your car is. Because EVs (in particular EV batteries) remain more expensive than petrol or diesel cars, the price of insurance is generally higher too. 

Charging

The cost to charge can vary considerably depending on whether you are at home or using a public charging station - though it’s almost always cheaper than refuelling with petrol and diesel. 

Electric car charging at home is almost always the cheapest option. Many electricity providers now provide special EV tariffs (such as Octopus Agile and EDF GoElectric) which offer incredibly low prices for recharging your car overnight when demand on the grid is low.

Electric car charging at home with no driveway is a little trickier. It’s likely you will have to rely on public charging points or workplace charging. 

Occasionally, public charging points offer free charging (often at hotels for paying customers) and employers may decide to offer free charging as a BiK-free employee incentive. 

More often than not, you will have to pay to use public charging points. There’s now a whole suite of electric car charging companies, from household names like Shell and BP to new arrivals IONITY and Gridserve - and their prices vary considerably. For an answer to that all important question ‘how much does it cost to charge an electric car’, check out our guide.

Are there enough charging points?

It’s a question that plays on everybody’s mind - so much so that EV owners even have a name for it: ‘range anxiety’. But things have changed a lot over the last decade. 

The Nissan Leaf launched in 2010 with a range of just 73 miles. In 2012, there were just 913 public charging locations across the UK, compared to 8,693 petrol stations. 

Now, the number of public charging station locations has exceeded the number of petrol stations. Indeed, we can confidently say that there are enough charging points for the number of EVs that are currently on the road. 

Don’t believe us? Check out our electric car charging map to see for yourself.

Nowadays, the electric range of cars is increeasing rapidly - see this list of electric cars with the longest range.

Is EV charging quick enough yet?

For many used to refuelling in a matter of minutes at the petrol station, the thought of waiting for hours to recharge an electric car might seem perplexing. 

Advances in battery technology in recent years have meant that many new EVs including the Kia EV6, Tesla Model S, and Audi e-tron GT are able to recharge from 0-80% in 30 minutes or less. 

While that’s still a lot longer than it would take to refuel an ICE, there are plenty of ways you can minimise the impact on your life.

If you have a driveway you can install a wallbox to recharge while at home. It won’t be as fast as your average service station rapid charger, but if you leave your car plugged in overnight you will have a full charge by the morning. Better still, you can make use of the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) to install a wallbox at a discounted price.

Alternatively, if your employer owns a car park they can apply for the Workplace Charging Scheme and install a charger on the premises. Working 9 to 5 is a great way to get a charge in!

Do they have the right electric car for me?

The range of EVs on offer has gradually expanded as governments have introduced new deadlines for net zero and manufacturers have developed new dedicated EV platforms.

Consumers can now choose from an array of EVs including small cars, SUVs and sports cars. 

If you’ve got cash to splash, the new Tesla Model S Plaid and Porsche Taycan Turbo S offer great looks, rapid charging, blisteringly fast acceleration and luxurious interiors. 

For cheaper EVs and city cars, check out the New Fiat 500 or the Seat Mii Electric. We’ve also compiled a list of our favourite affordable EVs in our list of cheapest electric cars.

Alternatively, check out our list of the best electric cars for cars of all shapes, sizes, and prices.

Conclusion

Electric cars are still more expensive to buy than petrol or diesel cars, but that doesn’t mean that you should wait to buy or lease one. The government currently offers a range of generous incentives and EVs have shown huge promise in retaining their value against other rapidly depreciating cars. 

However, with more durable battery technologies and faster charging capabilities just around the corner, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your shiny new EV could soon be old hat. What better reason to take out an electric car lease? 

Check out our electric car lease deals to find the best prices on EV leases right now.