Electric cars are becoming more mainstream, with prices coming down and mileage range going up, making them a realistic proposition for more and more people. These are our favourites.

Hybrid or electric?
If you do a mixture of short and long journeys, a hybrid - either self-charging like Toyota and Lexus sell, or a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) like everyone else sells - will probably suit you better than a pure electric car (EV).

That’s because the UK doesn’t yet have a comprehensive public charging network, so you have the back-up of a petrol or diesel engine to get you to your destination. Just make sure, however, that you do charge and use the battery element wherever possible, otherwise you’re lugging round a heavy electric power source for nothing, which will use more fuel. Most hybrids are good for up to 30 miles on electric power alone.

If, however, you’re nearly all about daily mileages that are 150 miles or less (big, expensive EVs have ranges of up to 350 miles these days, and that’s improving all the time), then go electric, get a domestic wallbox fitted at home, charge overnight and you’re good to go each day.

Your running costs will be about half that of running a petrol or diesel engine, because electricity is cheaper and EVs don’t need so much servicing. That will go some way to offsetting the more expensive list price of an electric car.

Learn more about electric cars, hybrids and other alternative fuel types.

Best electric cars of 2021

Tesla Model 3
Yes it’s been out for a while (in theory, although patient UK customers had to wait a long time to get theirs), but it’s still the one to benchmark.

Say what you like about Elon Musk, but he was bang on with the Model 3, because it’s still the mass-market electric car with the best range, best infrastructure of rapid chargers and best interior if you want futuristic design and high-tech software that offers things like “chill mode” and Santa’s sleigh bells as indicators.

Read our Tesla Model 3 review
Find a used or new Tesla Model 3 on Auto Trader
Blue Tesla Model 3 driving through puddles
Tesla Model 3 interior, with white seats and a black steering wheel
Tesla Model Y
We’re sticking our necks out because we haven’t driven this small crossover SUV yet, but look what Musk did with the Model 3… All we’ll say is imagine a range of 300 miles, best-in-class storage and 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds, even if indulging in the latter will rather dent the range. Rear-wheel drive for the base model. Boom.

Find a used or new Tesla on Auto Trader
It surprised us, too, to find ourselves typing this one in, but by George, take it for a test drive. A fantastic small family SUV, with a great interior, smart styling (fab pastel blue paintwork), decent range and good pricing compared with the competition.

It feels like a quality offering on the move, with a smooth ride and little wind and tyre noise. We particularly like the different colour codes for the infotainment system’s various functions.

Read our MG ZS EV review
Find a used or new MG ZS on Auto Trader
Sky blue MG ZS EV driving on a road that cuts through fields of yellow flowers
Sky blue MG ZS EV parked in front of redbrick flats
Honda E
Smart move by Honda, to go retro in its styling when everyone else went futuristic for their electric vehicles. The result is a small urban car that everyone has fallen in love with before they’ve set foot inside it. As it’s Honda, you know it’ll have state-of-the-art, reliable engineering. Just don’t expect long-distance range: this is an electric car for daily urban use.

Read our Honda E review
Read about living with a Honda E
Find a new or used Honda E on Auto Trader
Mini Electric
Where Honda went distinctive with its electric car, Mini has purposefully stuck a splash of neon yellow and a different badge on its Mini hatch and left it at that. The result is a comfortingly familiar car, with a premium interior, loads of customisation options, smartly badged and stitched leather, and the electric know-how from parent group BMW.

Read our Mini Electric review
Watch Rory Reid’s Mini Electric video

Audi E-Tron
The big one. A large, wide family SUV that feels sized between a Q7 and Q5. That may not be best for nervous parkers (although it’s packed with parking sensors and cameras), but it gives passengers loads of space in a very plush interior.

The A-Tron includes lots of great infotainment features, two large flat glass touchscreens and whizzbang graphics. Also, the electric cap slides back to reveal the port when you push a button which is kind of cool. Small things.

Read our Audi E-Tron review
Find a used or new Audi E-Tron on Auto Trader
Audi E-Tron parked in a desert at sunset
Rear view of the Audi E-Tron
Mercedes EQC
A medium family SUV from Mercedes. Decent range, with Mercedes’ familiar, upmarket interior. The “maximum power from zero revs” feature of electric cars, which gives you all the acceleration from a standing start, comes in handy for shifting this car away from the lights rapidly. Smart domestic wall charger, too.

Read our Mercedes EQC review
Find a used or new Mercedes EQC on Auto Trader
Nissan Leaf e+
The Nissan Leaf has been with us since the dawn of electric cars. It’s been through multiple revisions and is now a refined small electric car with much better looks and much better range.

Nissan’s one-pedal feature means you can accelerate and stop without touching the brake, due to the strong regenerative braking, which recoups some of the lost energy back into the battery. We’ve chosen the “e+” because it gives you more than 200 miles’ range.

Read our latest Nissan Leaf review
Find a used or new Nissan Leaf on Auto Trader
White Nissan Leaf e+ parked in front of a bronze spherical structure
Nissan Leaf e+ interior, with black leather and an infotainment system
Renault Zoe
It used to be that you had to lease the battery separately from the car, in order to give early adopters peace of mind that if anything went wrong, it wouldn’t be their responsibility.

Now, however, it’s all bundled into one price because batteries are better and customers only want to pay one monthly price. This is still a great budget proposition.

Read our Renault Zoe review
Find a used or new Renault Zoe on Auto Trader
Red Renault Zoe parked in front of a road
Red Renault Zoe viewed from the left, parked in front of trees
Kia e-Niro
Nearly 300 miles of range from this relatively affordable family crossover. Hyundai’s Kona EV is this car’s sibling: both offer great reliability and a good ownership experience, with a helpful dealer network. We think the e-Niro looks better, but you be the judge.

Read our Kia Niro review
Find a used or new Kia Niro on Auto Trader
Red Kia e-Niro parked in front of a block of redbrick flats
Black interior of Kia e-Niro, with trees visible through the windows
Volvo XC40 Recharge
When the XC40 came out, it won plaudits from all journalists who drove it, due to the satisfying mixture of luxurious materials inside, exemplary safety features, and great tech on a large tablet, presented in a small SUV. It was missing one thing: an electric option. Here it is.

Read our review of the standard Volvo XC40
Find a used or new Volvo XC40 on Auto Trader
Polestar 2
An electrified, premium performance offshoot from Volvo, Polestar impresses for its individualistic attitude and strong sense of style. The Polestar 2 is the physical embodiment of that and combines stirring performance with great looks inside and out. The Google-powered infotainment system helps you integrate your digital life with the car’s systems and will appeal to the kind of tech-heads who enjoy the forward-looking view of EVs.

Read our Polestar 2 review
Watch Rory Reid comparing the Polestar 2 against the Tesla 3
Mazda MX-30
A stylish alternative to the Mini Electric or Honda E, the Mazda MX-30 has a small battery that limits range but helps keep costs down and means it’s quick to charge. As such it’s ideal for urbanites for whom style and looking good matter more than being able to cover hundreds of motorway miles. A version with an onboard charger – also known as a range-extender hybrid – is due to follow if you do want to go further but, as it stands, the MX-30 is already a distinctive and attractive addition to the EV world.

Read our Mazda MX-30 review
Buy a new or used Mazda MX-30 on Auto Trader

Porsche Taycan
Fast, expensive, stylish – the Taycan successfully remixes everything we love about Porsche for the electric age in spectacular fashion. A sleek, low-slung four-door coupe, the Taycan has the sportiness of a 911 with the space of a Panamera but blitzes them both on the road thanks to its mighty performance. The interior, meanwhile, successfully puts a next-gen twist on Porsche’s classic design cues. Mighty. And the closely related Audi E-Tron GT isn’t half bad, either.

Read our Porsche Taycan review
Watch Rory Reid’s video on the Porsche Taycan
Buy a new or used Porsche Taycan on Auto Trader
Volkswagen ID.3
Huge horsepower and supercar blitzing performance grab the EV headlines but what most of us really want is an affordable, practical electric car with enough range to get us where we need to go without biting our nails about the range. And that’s exactly what the VW ID.3 delivers, with its range of battery options and power outputs to let you choose the right one for your particular needs. Futuristic without being gimmicky and based on a dedicated electric car platform to free up maximum interior space this is the sensible way to go electric.

Read our Volkswagen ID.3 review
Watch Rory Reid’s video on the Volkswagen ID.3
Buy a new or used Volkswagen ID.3 on Auto Trader

Learn more about electric and hybrid cars

What if my electric car runs out of power?

It’s a common fear with electric cars. People worry they’ll be stranded by the side of the road until someone manages to get some electricity to you. It’s called ‘range anxiety’, and you’re not the first person to face it.

All electric cars show you how much distance you can cover with your current battery life, so you can plan your journey accordingly, and avoid running out of power.

If you are running a bit low and hadn’t noticed, most electric cars will show you the location of your nearest charge point on the sat nav. Some electric cars also have a ‘low power’ or ‘eco’ mode that will help to preserve energy if you’re cutting it fine on your way to a charging point.

And if, by some chance you do still run out of charge, you’ll either need to be towed to the nearest charging point, or some companies now have mobile charging units to get you some power at the roadside.

How much is electric car tax?

Fully electric vehicles are exempt from paying road tax. If you drive, or are considering a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), you’ll pay reduced road tax.

Just keep in mind, if the vehicle has a list price of £40,000 or above, you’ll have to pay an additional premium for the first five years. Learn more about car tax bands.

Do electric cars need servicing?

Electric cars need servicing, but as they tend to have fewer moving parts than petrol or diesel vehicles, they’re often cheaper and easier to service and run.

One key difference is the battery will need an occasional health check, just to make sure it’s working properly. Most electric car batteries are covered by a longer warranty of around eight years. Related: top tips on charging your electric car.

What are green number plates?

UK green number plates were available for zero-emission cars in December 2020.

Green number plates are part of a Government initiative to easier identify electric cars. This should make it easier to exclude zero-emissions cars from congestion zone charges, and include electric cars in future policies like zero-emission parking zones, and even zero-emission lanes.

Learn more about green number plates and the number plate system.