Top 10 best used electric cars 2021
Second-hand EVs are becoming more widely available - here are the best used electric cars to buy this year
Most electric vehicles (EVs) are much more expensive than equivalent petrol and diesel cars but there are now quite a few on the second-hand market. Tiny electric city cars start from around £5,000, but spending the price of a new supermini can get you a much more modern car with a more respectable range and the latest creature comforts.
Gone are the days when electric cars lost almost all their value as soon as you’d bought them - now, residual values are catching up with petrol and diesel cars, and in some cases you might get more for the electric model on the used market.
Part of the reason you can’t get many bargain used EVs any more is that battery technology is so much better than it was a decade ago. The amount of miles you can travel on a charge has massively increased and batteries shouldn’t degrade as quickly - although you should bear in mind that used electric cars will probably have a slightly shorter battery life than brand-new ones.
Still, a second-hand electric car can still be a savvy purchase. You won’t need to pay VED (road tax) and recharging costs a mere fraction of what you’d pay for a tank of petrol. With far fewer moving parts than an engine, an electric car should theoretically be more reliable and easier to service. Plus, the driving experience is smooth and quiet, there’s usually nippy acceleration and you won’t be emitting any carbon dioxide.
Read on for our guide to the best used electric cars. You might also be interested in our guide to the cheapest electric cars, as several new EVs cost under £20,000.
The second-generation Nissan Leaf went on sale in early 2018 and you can now buy one of those early examples for the price of a mid-range Nissan Micra. This Leaf offered the best part of 170 miles on a charge when it was new, and cars of this age should still be covered by Nissan’s generous eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty. Nissan gave the new car much more conventional styling, and both the exterior and interior look far more modern. There’s plenty of tech - even the entry-level model has sat nav, a reversing camera and cruise control - and it’s decent to drive, too, hitting 0-62mph in a sprightly 7.9 seconds.
With the Honda e, MINI Electric and Peugeot e-208 now on sale, the Renault ZOE has more rivals than before - but those cars are only just catching up to Renault’s big-selling EV. The ZOE was updated in 2019 with a new face and a bigger battery but, if you can live without these, there are plenty of second-hand ZOEs available - even for under £7,000. Later models come with fast-charging capability and a more powerful battery than earlier ones, so you should be able to manage around 150 miles between charges. We’d recommend hunting out a newer ZOE if you can because they’re also faster and better equipped.
Besides the grey blanked-off grille, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric looks pretty normal, especially in comparison to cars like the BMW i3 and the original Nissan Leaf. With the inside looking pretty similar to any other Hyundai, the Ioniq could be an ideal choice if you’re worried about an EV feeling too unfamiliar. Few EVs currently offer a sparkling drive and the Ioniq is no exception, but instead it does well for comfort and refinement and is still better to drive than the Ioniq Hybrid. Newer second-hand examples should manage around 150 miles between charges - enough for most people’s weekly commutes - and the battery should be fully topped up if you charge overnight.
If you want an electric car that feels barely any different to a petrol or diesel, a Volkswagen e-Golf is a great choice. Besides model-specific alloy wheels, C-shaped daytime running lights and a couple of blue trim finishers, the e-Golf looks pretty much identical to any other Golf, and inside very little gives away the electric powertrain. The boot’s exactly the same size as petrol and diesel models, too, and acceleration is about the same. In fact, perhaps the only difference is that you’ll need to plug it in every 130 miles or so. e-Golfs are a little bit more expensive than regular ones on the second-hand market but running costs are tiny and Volkswagen offset the high price by including lots of tech.
The Kia e-Niro is our favourite mainstream electric car, and it seems that prospective buyers like the look of it too - Kia sold out quite quickly, and there’s a long waiting list. That means there aren’t many used e-Niros on the market just yet, but hunting one out could save you money compared to the list price. It’s another EV that subscribes to the idea that electric cars should look normal - only the fared-in grille and blue highlights mark it out. Unusually, the fully electric e-Niro is more practical than the hybrid models, so there’s a big boot and plenty of space inside. It’s better to drive than the hybrid pair, too, and running costs are even lower - although you’ll pay much more in the first place. Perhaps the best bit is that the e-Niro offers the longest range of any EV this side of a premium model twice the price, with a fantastic 282-mile range.
The Jaguar I-Pace shows that electric cars can be very fun to drive, as well as an environmentally-friendly way of getting from A-to-B. It’s quicker from 0-62mph than most hot hatchbacks and impresses on a twisty road. Used buyers can pick up an 18-month-old I-Pace for around £20,000 less than the initial cost price, so you can enjoy its well-appointed interior, futuristic styling and massive boot for under £50,000. Insurance will be expensive - like any premium electric SUV - but running costs are low. Official estimates suggest you can get almost 300 miles on a full charge, and the ability to recharge at up to 100kW means 80% of the battery’s capacity can be topped up in the time it takes to have a coffee.
When the Tesla Model S was launched, electric cars were in their infancy and none were fast, fashionable or able to travel far. It wasn’t Tesla’s first model, but it was the first to show that EVs could be a real alternative to luxury petrol and diesel cars. As a result, the Model S is very desirable and holds its value well. Some models feature lifetime free charging at Tesla’s Supercharger network, so we’d recommend looking out for one that offers this. Tesla updates all its cars over-the-air so even early models can get the latest technology, and you should easily be able to manage 200 miles between charges.
The BMW i3 has been on sale for almost eight years now and it still looks as fresh and as futuristic as the day it was launched. Inside is just as interesting, with a wide expanse of dashboard barely interrupted by the infotainment screen and digital dials. Earlier cars get quite a small screen but the cabin is incredibly light and airy, thanks to a high roof and tall windows. You might expect it to be a little more practical than it is, and battery degradation may mean you get fewer miles from a charge than the figure BMW quotes for new models. Those drawbacks don’t stop the i3 being a very sought-after car.
Tesla’s Model X was the company’s first SUV, and it was certainly eye-catching - its bizarre egg shape, the blank front end and those ‘falcon’ upward-opening rear doors make sure it’s like nothing else on the road. The most powerful models are some of the fastest cars you can buy, too, but even an entry-level Model X is quick. You can also expect a range of around 200-250 miles between charges, and you’ll be able to find some cars with free Supercharging, like the Model S. Almost all the car’s features are controlled by the huge central touchscreen, while the panoramic windscreen impresses too. With all these plus points, the Model X is still expensive second-hand; you’ll need to spend about £50,000 to park one on your driveway.
The previous Kia Soul EV was expensive when it was new but it’s quite good value on the second-hand market. Sure, the boot isn’t the biggest and the styling is an acquired taste, but you’ll find few more spacious and well-equipped electric cars for the price. Its 132-mile quoted range wasn’t amazing when it was launched, but we’d suggest not to expect more than 100 miles from a used car. Fast-charging to 80% battery capacity takes just half an hour and the Soul feels nippier than its 10.8-second 0-62mph time suggests. Kia's seven-year/100,000-mile warranty means most Soul EVs will still be covered if faults come up.
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