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How to buy an electric car in five steps

Want to ditch the petrol or diesel but terrified at the idea of going full electric? Don’t be!

Erin Baker

Words by: Erin Baker

Published on 8 February 2023 | 0 min read

Given we’ve all grown up running petrol or diesel cars, and pretty much know how it all works, the idea of starting afresh with an electric one can look intimidating. Where to start? There are so many head-scratching jobs to be done, and understandable worries about higher purchase costs, new jargon to get your head around like battery sizes and the scary world of charging in public or at home. We'll try to help you with this short, simple article. We've kept it short, because we don't want to put you off - driving an electric car is genuinely a satisfying and fresh experience, and they're getting cheaper, and greener, all the time. So we've linked to the information you need, all of which is right here on Auto Trader.
Here are the five basic steps to making the switch.

1: Start with the charging

If you have off-street parking call your electricity provider to see if they have a peak/off-peak tariff so you can charge cheaply at night. If you don’t already have one they’ll need to fit a smart meter to monitor this. Make that switch, then price up having a charging point installed on your property – big name energy suppliers keep it simple but an independent may be more flexible if you have particular needs. There are plenty of both. Depending on the charger you may also need a data connection so you can control it from a phone app, but many have this built in already.
Choosing a home EV charging point is made easy with Auto Trader’s new handy EV charging tool. You can compare all of the EV home charging points that are suitable for your EV, from all of the best home charging point brands. If you park on the street and will be running your car on public charging alone find your nearest plug-in point, check whether there are there kerbside ‘lamp post’ chargers on your street and where is the nearest rapid charger? You’ll need one or more of those unless you can charge at work. Most are pay-as-you go and easy to use via apps on your phone. Auto Trader's charging point map or the navigation in your car or on your phone can meanwhile guide you to the nearest charger.

2: Figure out your budget

Can you afford it? There are new and used EVs on sale. They are more expensive than the equivalent petrol or diesel cars, but they are cheaper to ‘fuel’ with electricity once you own them, and you can potentially save about £160 per 1,000 miles driven. If you’re a company car driver, you’ll get good deals with tax breaks. They are getting cheaper every year.

3: Does your lifestyle suit electric?

Think about your typical weekly mileage and the kind of trips you do – if it’s all relatively short distance stuff like the school run, commute or shopping trips there’s every chance an electric car could already work. If you regularly drive long distances or on motorways, it may not be for you yet. In either case, compare how far you need to go with the officially stated range of the car you’re considering, but bear in mind you’ll rarely achieve this figure in the real world and factors like cold weather can reduce that by as much as a half. Good news? Even this will probably be fine for most regular journeys.

4: Let’s look at cars!

Time to ditch the conventional brand snobbery because the electric revolution is bringing new brands to the fore, with the likes of Kia, Hyundai, MG, GWM Ora and others are introducing cool tech, stylish designs and impressively efficient electric power to the market faster than some of the more established names. Given they are typically clean-sheet designs they’re often less compromised than some of the conversions of existing petrol or diesel models, with better range and more interior space. Don’t worry about battery life, either. These power packs are good for eight years, or longer than you’ll likely own the car. Used electric cars five years or younger should therefore be a safe bet as a used buy.

5: Go for a test drive

Test driving can seem a faff but you won’t regret it with an EV - they’ve got to be experienced to be believed! There are even special events where organisers let you try out cars from a selection of brands in one hit, saving multiple visits to lots of different dealerships.