Best used electric cars
With the latest and greatest electric cars capturing the imagination, it's easy to forget that the number of used electric cars available on the second hand market is growing by the day.
This is a very good thing, because anyone put off by the typically high purchase prices of new electric cars has another, more affordable avenue in which to pursue electric motoring.
With new electric cars not set to reach price parity with petrol and diesel models for another couple of years, it's highly likely that a lot of buyers' first electric cars will be used models.
You also shouldn't have to worry about range too much: lithium-ion batteries have proven to be much more durable than was thought possible even a few years ago, and manufacturers typically offer performance guarantees of between five and eight years. This means a lot of used electric cars will still be protected under warranty, giving you the ultimate peace of mind.
Below we've put together a list of the best used electric cars in order to give you a flavour of what's out there. As is the case when buying any second hand car, make sure you do all the usual background checks and insist on a test drive before parting with any cash...
The BMW i3 is a premium electric hatchback that offers great interior space, futuristic design cues, quality construction and a great driving experience befitting its famous badge. Two basic used versions are available: a range-extender hybrid or the all-electric model we’re focusing on here.
In its original form, the all-electric i3 was powered by an electric motor with the equivalent of 168bhp, which is enough for a sprightly 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds; range is around 80 to 100 miles. In 2017, an upgrade gave the car a range of 114 miles, while an update for 2019 boosted that up to 160 miles from a 42.2kWh battery.
You can pick up a high-mileage early example for as little as £11,000, but we’d aim somewhere in the middle of the market for a good-condition, low-mileage car for around £15,000. Later models with the improved battery start at around £20,000. It pays to consider the range extender option if you’re looking for a deal: these have supplementary petrol engine fitted to generate extra electricity when the battery is nearly empty.
Kia Soul EV
The first-generation Kia Soul EV is based on the standard internal-combustion version of the Soul, but features a 109bhp electric motor and 27kWh battery in place of a petrol or diesel engine, with a claimed range of 132 miles. A hatchback-like SUV with unique looks and decent interior space, the Soul is comfortable and easy to drive an has great performance for its size, especially at lower speeds around town.
The Soul EV’s batteries take 12 hours to charge fully from a domestic three-pin socket, while a fast charger should reduce this to around five hours; an 80% charge can be achieved at a public rapid charger in around 33 minutes.
Prices start at around £13,000 for a 2015 example with 25,000 miles on the clock; newer cars that have seen far less use start at around £15,000. It’s worth remembering all Soul EVs should come with a good chunk of their industry-leading seven-year warranty remaining.
First released in 2010, the Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric car in Europe, and should therefore be the most plentiful on used car listings. With a brand-new version released fairly recently, the previous model (which was built until 2017) will see its values drop. Performance is adequate – 0-62mph takes 11.5 seconds.
Two battery options were offered and effective range depends on which you buy: the 24kWh version manages 124 miles, while the larger 30kWh model is good for 155 miles. Both should be perfect for urban commuting duties, even if you don’t have charging facilities at work. A full charge from a domestic socket should take around 12-15 hours, while a wallbox charger should see this drop to around nine hours; at a public rapid charger, 80% should be attainable in around half an hour.
Prices range from around £6,500 for an early model with the smaller battery, rising to around £13,000 for a good 2016 example with the larger battery. Most will have covered fewer than 30,000 miles.
The Renault ZOE was introduced in 2013 and is a small electric supermini with an effective range of between 62 and 250 miles depending on which model you choose. It’s a great choice if you need a small, stylish runabout for urban commuting or shorter trips.
It’s best to aim for a ZOE Expression Nav or Dynamique Nav built after July 2015; these models came with a more efficient electric motor that made the most of the 22kWh battery, with an effective range of 149 miles. In early 2017, a version with a 40kWh battery was introduced, with a claimed 250-mile range. It’s worth remembering that colder weather will affect these figures; owners of the 22kWh model report that range drops to 70 miles or so in sub-zero temperatures, versus closer to 100 miles in warmer weather.
You’ll pay around £6,000 for an early example with around 35,000 miles on the clock, or around £7,500 for a 2016 ZOE with the more efficient motor and lower miles.
Smart ForTwo Electric Drive
The closest rival to the Renault Twizy on the used market in the UK is the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. After a few trials, the electric Smart entered full production in 2012; these models are most common on the used market, along with nearly-new examples of the latest version.
The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive uses a 74bhp electric motor and 18kWh battery to give an 11.5-second 0-62mph time, 78mph top speed and 90-mile effective range. Its trademark diminutive size makes it the perfect city runabout if you don’t need much space for luggage, with just enough space for two to travel in comfort. There’s even a cabriolet version with a folding soft-top.
There aren’t likely to be many Smart ForTwo Electric Drives on the used market at any one time, but around £9,000 should buy a decent example with low miles. Cabriolets are rarer still; £12,000 should secure one. It’s worth remembering that nearly-new examples of the more powerful, 99-mile-range new model start at around £14,000.
Tesla Model S
The fastest and probably most famous car on this list, the Model S was the first mainstream effort from the disruptive US manufacturer. An electric answer to the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class, the Model S was so far ahead of its time that other manufacturers are only just getting round to offering rivals.
The Model S has been on sale since 2012, with incremental upgrades and performance-orientated versions added along the way, along with a four-wheel-drive version, increased safety equipment and the addition of the controversial ‘Autopilot’ system. Unlike the majority of cars featured here, even the basic Model S has a range of around 250 miles and a 0-62mph time of just under six seconds; generally, range and performance increase as the number after the car’s name (indicative of the battery size in kilowatt-hours) does the same.
It’s worth focusing your search on models from 2015 onwards to get a good level of equipment; prices start at around £45,000 for a higher-mileage 70D example, with £50,000 being the sweet spot for 85D models with low miles. You’ll need at least £60,000 to secure the P90D version with its ‘Ludicrous’ mode, 300-mile range and 2.8-second 0-60mph time.
The original Volkswagen e-Golf was released in 2014 as an electric version of the brand’s most popular model. Early examples boast a 118-mile range, 113bhp electric motor and 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds; top speed is 87mph. Later models (from 2017 onwards) got a more powerful 134bhp motor and a larger battery for a 186-mile range.
By being based on the best family hatchback available, the e-Golf enjoys great build quality, practicality and comfort as a matter of course. It’s not the most electrifying drive, but the e-Golf is perfectly suited to family motoring.
Prices start at around £16,000 for a good 2015 example with 30,000 miles on the clock; £20,000 will buy an even better example with fewer miles, while the best nearly-new cars with the latest power and range upgrades nudge £30,000.
Originally introduced in 2014, the Volkswagen e-up! is the electric version of the company’s popular up! city car. It’s powered by an 81bhp electric motor with an 18.7kWh battery that gives an effective range of up to 99 miles; 0-62mph takes just over 12 seconds.
The e-up! is a great alternative to the Smart above on this list; it’s fun to drive around town, with peppy performance and space for four people. Just 30 minutes on a public charger should be enough for an 80% charge, so it could easily fit into many urban owners’ lives.
Prices start at around £8,000 for a well-used early model with around 60,000 miles on the clock, but jump to around £12,000 for most available examples that have enjoyed a quiet city life and lower mileages. Nearly-new facelifted models cost around £20,000. With a new version of the e-up! hitting our roads in 2020, prices of the earlier models should fall accordingly.
If you've got a bigger budget to play with, you might want to consider a Jaguar I-Pace. The SUV was introduced in 2018, and it immediately impressed with its excellent straight line acceleration and wonderful handling through corners.
Fitted with a 90kWh battery, the I-Pace should achieve some 230 miles of range in the real world, making it viable over long distances on routes that have adequate public rapid-chargers. At its maximum charging speed of 100kW, an 80% top-up should take around 45 minutes, which isn't bad going either.
A figure in the region of £50,000 seems to be the opening rate for 2019 editions of the I-Pace, many of which have less than 10,000 miles on the odometer.