Best cars

Top 9 best used electric cars 2021

Secondhand electric cars are becoming more widely available on the market in the wake of more and more models being launched. Here are some of the best-value choices out there...

Renault ZOE

Electric cars have been part of the mainstream for more than a decade now, and while this may make you feel a little bit older than you’d like, there's a big upside. With earlier electric cars having reached a certain age, the list of the UK’s best used electric cars has expanded to make electric motoring a much more realistic idea for many drivers.

With new electric cars still commanding a higher price than their petrol and diesel counterparts (although this gap is dropping), it's likely that a lot of buyers' first electric cars will be used ones. The secondhand market is now big enough to offer something for everyone, ranging from small city cars to big SUVs.

You also shouldn't have to worry too much about range: lithium-ion batteries have proven to be much more durable than was initially thought possible, and manufacturers typically offer performance guarantees on their complex battery packs. 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 secondhand car, make sure you do all the usual background checks and insist on a test drive before parting with any cash...

BMW i3 (2014-present)

The i3 is a premium electric hatchback that offers great interior space for its size, as well as futuristic design cues, quality construction and a great driving experience befitting of its famous badge. Two basic used versions are available: a range-extender hybrid or the pure-electric model we’re focusing on here.

In its original form, the 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 another update for 2019 boosted that to 160 miles.

You can pick up a high-mileage early example for as little as £15,000, but we’d aim somewhere in the middle of the market for a good-condition, low-mileage car priced around £19,000. Later models with the improved battery start at around £25,000. It pays to consider the range-extender option if you’re looking for a deal: these have a supplementary petrol engine fitted to generate extra electricity when the battery is nearly empty. Read our guide to buying a used BMW i3 here.

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Hyundai Ioniq Electric (2016-present)

One of the biggest rivals to the Toyota Prius, the Hyundai Ioniq comes in hybrid, plug-in and electric forms. The Ioniq Electric is the focus here and is one of the longest-serving electric cars on the UK market, originally going on sale in 2016. While it isn’t the prettiest electric car, the unusual looks are in fact functional, as the Ioniq is designed to be aerodynamic. Thanks to this design, the rather small 38kWh battery will actually give you a decent 193 miles of range.

A facelift in 2020 upgraded the Ioniq with an improved infotainment system and an interior refresh. However, older models make for the best bargains when buying secondhand and the good news is that equipment on pre-facelift models is generous: 16-inch alloy wheels, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a reversing camera, LED lights, adaptive cruise control and sat nav are all standard. Read our review of the Ioniq Electric here.

Jaguar I-Pace (2018-present)

If you've got a bigger budget to play with, you might want to consider an I-Pace. The SUV was introduced in 2018, and 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 £45,000 seems to be the opening rate for earlier editions of the I-Pace, many of which have less than 30,000 miles on the clock. Read our review of the Jaguar I-Pace here.

Kia Soul EV Mk1 (2014-2018)

The second-generation Soul EV is now on sale, but that only makes the first generation look like more of a bargain. It was based on the internal-combustion-engined Soul, but featured 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, with 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 rapid charger in around 33 minutes. Prices start at around £15,000 for a 2015 example with around 30,000 miles on the clock; newer cars that have seen far less use start at around £19,000. Read our review of the 2014-2018 Kia Soul EV here.

MG ZS EV

MG ZS EV (2019-present)

The ZS EV was introduced in 2019 and wasn’t just one of the cheapest new electric cars, but also a practical SUV, rather than the city cars that shared its sub-£25,000 price bracket. Two years on since its launch, this already low-priced car can easily be found secondhand for less than £20,000. Make no mistake, the ZS is a cheap car, so driving excitement was never high on the agenda and there are some obvious low-cost materials on show. However, if you’re after a straightforward zero-emission family car, then the MG is hard to beat for such a reasonable price. 

A range of 163 miles from the modest 44.5kWh battery should prove perfectly fine for most daily uses such as school runs and shopping trips. Luggage space is good, too. With the rear seats in place, the ZS EV offers 470 of boot space. Somewhat surprisingly, this is 22 litres more than its petrol-engined counterpart. Read our review of the MG ZS here.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf Mk1 (2011-2017)

Unveiled in 2010, the Leaf was for many years the best-selling electric car in the UK and Europe, and should therefore be the most plentiful on used-car listings. With the second-generation version on sale since 2018, the previous model (which was built until 2017) has dropped in value. Performance is adequate – 0-62mph takes 11.5 seconds – but you still benefit from the same refined ride you'll find in most new electric cars.

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 will drop this 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 £12,500 for a good 2016 example with the larger battery and around 30,000 miles. Beware, however, as the newer, much improved second-generation Leaf may be starting to creep within budget, too. Read our guide to buying a used Mk1 Nissan Leaf here.

Used Renault ZOE

Renault ZOE Mk1 (2013-2019)

The 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. The newer versions can even double as a practical family car thanks to their much improved all-electric range.

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 £8,000 for an early example with around 30,000 miles on the clock, or around £10,000 for a later ZOE with a more efficient motor and lower miles. Read our guide to buying a used ZOE here.

Tesla Model S (2014-present)

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 credible rivals.

The Model S has been on sale in the UK since 2014, with incremental upgrades and performance-orientated versions added along the way. Tesla has also launched four-wheel-drive versions, increased safety kit and added 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. Bear in mind that Tesla has recently dropped these numbers in favour of its 'Long Range' and 'Performance' nomenclature, which is worth remembering if you're after a newer car.

Focus on models from 2015 onwards to get a good level of equipment. Prices start from around £26,500 for a 2014 car, while newer versions cost from £30,000 for a higher-mileage 70D example. You’ll need at least £46,000 to secure the P90D version with its ‘Ludicrous’ mode, 300-mile range and 2.8-second 0-60mph time, although prices are falling every month. Read our guide to buying a used Tesla Model S here.

Volkswagen e-up! (2014-2020)

Originally introduced in 2014, the e-up! is the electric version of the 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 city car; 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 for late models that have enjoyed a quiet city life and have lower mileages start from around £20,000 due to this model’s apparent desirability. With a new version of the e-up! now on the road, prices of the earlier models should fall accordingly. Read our review of the 2014-2019 Volkswagen e-up! here.

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