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What is the lifetime cost of an electric vehicle?

As we continue to face the issues of climate change, one of the biggest areas of concern is the automobile industry. We have long known that the emissions produced by petrol and diesel-burning vehicles harm the environment, but there hasn’t been a viable alternative until now.
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Buying an electric car

Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly visible on our roads and, with the UK government committing to a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 (though second-hand vehicles will still be available), their numbers will only increase. Further investing into the public electric charging points network.

However, there is still a significant proportion of the population which is opposed to switching to an electric vehicle and having to use EV charging stations. Uswitch's research shows that the initial upfront cost of the vehicle is the main obstacle to people investing in one.

What are the main reasons people don't want to buy an EV?

concerns over cost pie chart

The higher upfront prices of EVs are to be expected because electric vehicles are currently produced in much smaller numbers than conventional vehicles, and the batteries they contain are made of expensive materials. That’s not much consolation for drivers looking to make the switch who feel the price is too high.

But is this the right way of looking at things? While the initial cost is high, does that translate to the lifetime cost of the car as well? 

Uswitch has investigated the total cost of an electric vehicle over its lifetime to provide the fullest possible picture of expenditure for those who want an EV.

What is the upfront cost of buying an EV?

With nearly three quarters of those surveyed saying that their main objection to getting an EV is the high buying price, it's true that the initial cost of an electric vehicle is higher than that of a petrol or diesel car. 

As a representative example, as of June 2022, a new Peugeot E-208 Active Premium Electric 50KWH 136 starts from £30,195 OTR, while a new 208 Active Premium 1.2L Puretech 75 S&S starts from £19,050 OTR. While there are various potential financing and leasing options available, there’s no getting away from the price difference of over £10,000 here. The differences are reflected in comparable cars from manufacturers like Jaguar, where the all-electric I-Pace SUV starts from £65,620 and the equivalent petrol F-Pace SUV starts at £46,250.

In a more general sense, Uswitch research has found that the buying prices for similar medium-sized cars rise significantly when the car is fully electric. 

Average cost upfront cost of an electric, diesel and petrol car

Lifetime of an EV 2

On average, an EV is 35% more expensive to buy brand new than a petrol or diesel car.

That said, the second-hand market for EVs has yet to fully develop. Most electric cars on the UK’s roads are bought new, and as drivers begin to move on to their second and third EVs, there will be more second-hand, cheaper cars available for EV drivers.

How quickly do EVs lose their value?

One of the best-known facts about car ownership is that depreciation occurs as soon as a car is driven off the dealership forecourt. It’s only natural - prospective buyers are less attracted to and less likely to pay big money for cars that have already had an owner. 

According to the AA, the average car will have lost around 40% of its value by the end of its first year of ownership and, while the rate of depreciation slows the older the car gets, some may have lost 60% of their value by the end of their third year.

Petrol and diesel car value depreciation over time

Lifetime of an EV 3

But what happens when we compare electric cars to petrol and diesel cars? 

Monetary deprecation over time

Percentage value depreciation over time

Uswitch’s research shows that an electric car generally retains over double the value that a petrol or diesel car does in the first year of ownership. This wasn’t always the case - Whatcar notes that EVs “used to lose more of their value over three years than almost any other type of car, because they were seen as a niche choice and there were concerns about how long their batteries would last”.

However, the fact that battery warranties tend to be set at around eight years or around 100,000 miles indicates the general length of time that manufacturers expect batteries to work for before their performance begins to degrade.

What are EVs' running costs?

After you’ve bought the car, you then need to consider its running costs - either you’ll be filling up the tank or you’ll be charging the battery.

EV drivers can charge at public charging stations and via their own home charging stations if they have one. While public charging stations will cost more over an EV’s lifetime depending on their speed and how often the car needs to be charged, they can still be charged for much less than it costs to fill a tank with petrol.

Although the cost of electricity is rising thanks to a volatile energy market, the cost of petrol is rising even further. 9 June 2022 was the first day in the UK’s recorded history that filling a car’s tank up with petrol hit the £100 mark as part of a wider cost of living crisis.

Cost of petrol news article

EV, petrol and diesel car running costs

running costs comparison

In Uswitch’s research, we can see how the average costs per mile for different types of medium-sized car stack up.

At 8p per mile, the electric car has a clear advantage here. This translates into an annual cost as follows:

Fuel cost by distance travelled

Lifetime of an EV 6

And finally, we can see how much more diesel and petrol cars would cost each year than an electric model:

Fuel cost comparison

Vehicle typeAnnual fuel cost (based on average miles driven)Cost for the same distance in an EV
Diesel car£1,800£1,050
Petrol car £1,400£630

What are EVs' maintenance costs?

The other big cost over a car’s lifetime is its maintenance. While the dreaded MOT each year is capped at a maximum cost of £54.85, it is a legal requirement and can lead to significant costs if any issues are found which mean the car won’t operate safely.

ev maintenance costs

*All costs are based on averages

Here we can see that, while the cost of the MOT and insurance combined is about the same regardless of the type of car, the maintenance costs for an electric car are lower than they are for petrol and diesel vehicles. 

The reason maintenance for electric vehicles costs so much less than petrol or diesel cars is because they don’t have internal combustion engines, which have hundreds of moving parts and therefore a lot more chance of breaking down when compared to an electric car, which has about 20 moving parts.

The RAC’s common breakdown issues are as follows:

  • Flat battery

  • Damaged, bald and flat tyres

  • Broken clutch

  • Alternator faults

  • Starter motor connection issues

  • Engine overheating

  • Fuel issues

  • Electronic Control Unit fault

  • Gearbox fault

  • Diesel Particulate Filter blocked or broken

The only issue in this list that could affect an electric vehicle is the issue with the tyres - all others relate to either standard car batteries (as opposed to electric vehicle batteries) or specific internal combustion engine or gear problems.

Long term cost of EVs vs. petrol and diesel cars

Extrapolating the higher maintenance costs of petrol and diesel cars, we can also see how long it would take for the long term costs to exceed those of an electric car.

Lifetime of an EV 10

While the length of time that you might have a car could vary (if, for instance, you think you would get a new car before the point at which the long term cost becomes relevant), it should now be clear that, though electric vehicles cost more to buy, their lifetime cost is much less than that of a petrol or diesel car.  

Thinking about getting an EV home charger?

If you’re considering getting a home EV charger, Uswitch has teamed up with Wallbox to offer a discount on the purchase and installation of Wallbox’s smallest and most powerful charger, the Pulsar Max. 

The Pulsar Max’s features include:

  • Charging power up to 7.4kW

  • 5m integrated charging cable

  • Type 1 and Type 2-ready

  • WiFi & Bluetooth connectivity

  • Built-in earthing

  • Solar panel integration