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Electric car running costs explained

All-you-need-to know about owning and running an EV, from car tax to parking, and from insurance to servicing

Electric car running costs explained

Fortunately, there’s nothing too different about the processes involved in running an EV compared to what you’re familiar, but you might just find yourself with more cash in your pocket once you’ve done the sums.

It's no secret that with tax breaks and other incentives to switch to an EV, you can reap the financial rewards in the short and long term when you buy or lease an electric car. 

To make an accurate comparison you’ll have to calculate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). On top of purchase price or monthly payments, this includes:

  • charging costs 
  • taxes 
  • insurance 
  • tolls such as congestion or ULEZ charges 
  • servicing, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs 

Let's take each of those in turn...

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

With an EV, there's no need to pay for petrol or diesel. But how much does it cost to top up your battery?

There are a range of factors to consider, from the weight of the car to the heaviness of your right foot and where you do most of your charging, but we can give you a few ballpark examples.

The easiest and cheapest way of charging an EV is to plug it in at home, which means that you’ll see the cost of charging your car reflected in your electricity bill.

While the cost of charging on the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway and at other public charging points varies with the cost per kWh often tied to the charging power of the unit you’re plugged into.

For more on this topic check out our complete guide to EV charging costs

How much does it cost to tax an electric car?

Good news, electric cars are currently exempt from road tax. Yes, you heard that right, you won’t have to pay the annual fee (known as vehicle excise duty) to keep your EV on the road. A huge saving for you each year.

It’s important to note that from April 2025, this will change and EVs registered after April 2017 will pay to pay the flat £165 rate. For those registered after April 2025 there will be an additional expensive vehicle supplement in line with the current rules for petrol or diesel cars.

You can find out more about EV tax and grants here.

How much does it cost to insure an electric car?

Electric cars are so common now that you shouldn’t have any issue finding an insurer. All the major players you can find on comparison websites will offer you cover, while there are also specialist insurance companies who will tailor policies for EVs.

You’ll likely find that premiums may be a little higher than a petrol or diesel equivalent because the cost of repairs is often slightly more expensive due to specialist parts and tools needed (the flip side of this is that there’s less to go wrong on an EV).

However, cost of repairs is only one factor in the insurance premium algorithm – driver profile, location, mileage and vehicle type play a part so it’s not quite as straightforward to say EVs are more expensive to insure.

It's also true that as more and more EVs are sold, insurance costs will become lower as the specialists parts and tools will become normalised and cheaper. 

Do electric cars pay the Congestion Charge?

More good news for EV drivers, zero-emissions cars and vans are exempt from the Congestion Charge in London, as well as the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).

Combined that’s a saving of hundreds of pounds a month if you regularly have to drive into the city. It’s also likely to be the case that EVs are exempt from payment if, and when, other cities introduce Clean Air Zones.

Do electric cars get free parking?

There’s no straight answer to this one as each borough or car park operator has their own rules. Generally speaking, councils don’t offer free parking but will offer residents with an EV a subsidised rate on permits.

In supermarkets or shopping centres you may plug into their chargers while parking – so do you need to pay for parking too? Often, if you’re paying for the charge then you won’t have to settle up at the ticket machine as well but make sure to check individual rules – and make sure of the limit you can stay to charge without paying.

Servicing, maintaining and repairing an electric car

Electric cars have a lot fewer parts than a petrol or diesel (an internal combustion engine has about 2,000 individual components to get you from A to B, where an EV has something like 20), which means there’s less to go wrong. 

This means two things. Firstly, you have to spend less time visiting your local garage, and secondly, average maintenance costs can be as much as 50% less than for an ICE car.

You’ll still need to follow the manufacturer’s scheduled servicing recommendations, whether you visit the dealer network or an independent garage (make sure they’re fully trained to work on EVs and what is stipulated in your lease agreement).

You won’t need to change your oil at a regular service but other things such as brake pads, brake discs and fluids will all need checking and maintaining on a regular basis.

For the full rundown of maintaining an electric vehicle our complete guide is the place to start. 

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