Direct Line magazine

What you need to know before you buy an electric car

Updated on: 14 September 2023

a woman with electric car

To EV or not to EV? That is the question.

And it's a tricky one to answer.

Many people may be considering switching from their petrol or diesel car to an all-out electric vehicle. 

But, from range anxiety to questions about tax and MOTs, there's a lot to consider before making the switch.

So, here are some key questions (and answers) that may help you decide. 

Why are people deciding to go electric now?

Traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars are on the way out. 

In 2022, electric cars made up 16.6 per cent of all the new cars sold in the UK, overtaking sales of new diesel cars for the first time.

In 2023,electric car sales were up a third in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year. 

From 2030, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK.

There are also more EV options than ever before, meaning drivers have a huge selection of electric cars to choose from.

Add to this the ever-increasing range on electric vehicles and the growing availability of charging points, and it's becoming easier to make the move to EV.

Are electric vehicles cheaper to run?

Recharging your electric vehicle is generally more cost-effective per mile than filling up a petrol or diesel car. However, the amount you save depends on several factors, including the specific model of your car, where you charge it (home, work, or public charging stations), and the electricity tariff you have at home if you charge your EV there.

The energy crisis has had a significant impact on the cost of electricity, pushing prices up to record levels which obviously affects people who pay to charge their cars.

But let's also remember that fuel prices have also been volatile in recent years, so it's important to keep an eye on what's happening to energy costs in real-time and assess what works best for you.

Other factors that decreased the price of electric motoring have gone or are being removed, including tax breaks and government subsidies, but the rise of low emission and clean air zones currently favour EV drivers.

Do EV drivers have to pay CAZ, LEZ, ULEZ and congestion charges?

Clean Air Zones, Low Emission Zones and Ultra Low Emission Zones are areas, usually around busy cities, where vehicles are charged a fee if they are considered to be polluting.

Some of the locations across the UK that have these zones in place, include: 

  • Bath
  • Birmingham
  • Bradford
  • Bristol
  • Glasgow
  • London
  • Oxford
  • Portsmouth

This list is likely to grow, as other major cities are considering implementing these charges. 

While the London and Scottish city zones do affect private cars, many others don't... yet. It's highly likely the rules will change. For example, the long-standing London congestion charge (CCZ) will be applied to EVs from 25 December 2025.

(A note on the CCZ: exemption doesn't happen automatically, and drivers need to apply for a Cleaner Vehicle Discount (CVD) online to avoid CCZ fines).

While EVs certainly attract fewer fines and fees today, everything is subject to change. The simplest solution is to look at the rules for your car and where you're heading. 

Is my car affected by low emission and clean air zone charges? 

The best thing you can do is to check. The links below let you check your car registration number against the different locations.

Check emission charges for driving in Scotland

Check emission charges for London and surrounding ULEZ

Check emission charges elsewhere in England  

Are EVs exempt from road tax?

Many electric cars currently qualify for free road tax, but this will change in 2025 when Vehicle Excise Duty (VED, more commonly known as 'road tax') charges will be introduced for the first time for EVs.

Zero-emission cars registered on or after 1 April 2025 will be liable for the lowest first-year rate of VED, currently £10 per year.

From year two, EV owners will pay the full amount – currently £180. More valuable cars, with a list price of £40,000 or more, will also have to pay the £355 supplementary tax. That cost runs from years two to five of the car's lifespan. Therefore, owners of affected EVs will go from paying zero car tax to £520 a year.

These taxes will also apply to existing EV owners. So if you own an EV already, you could start paying tax on it in 2025.

Do electric cars need more servicing and maintenance?

Maintaining an electric car is relatively simple compared to a traditional car. While an ICE may have hundreds of moving parts, an EV has comparatively few. 

That's not to say, however, that electric vehicles don't need maintenance. Regular checks are still necessary, and it's best to follow the manufacturer's guidance. An annual service will make sure the high-voltage system, battery and electrical brain of the car are working as intended. As a driver, you will still need to stay on top of tyre pressure, washer fluid and other less-technical exercises.

And don't forget, electric vehicles still need an annual MOT.

You should also consider the cost of EV batteries. Some EVs come with leased batteries which removes some financial responsibility from the driver, but if you own the battery and you end up having to buy a new one, the cost could run into the thousands.

Are EV batteries covered by car insurance?

Many insurance policies cover an electric car's battery as well as the car itself.

For example, Direct Line's comprehensive car insurance policies cover batteries, charging cables and home chargers. Many policies also cover the possibility of someone being injured by tripping over a charging cable.

Should I be worried about range?

It's impossible to talk about EVs without addressing the issue of range and how far an electric vehicle can travel on one charge.

Electric cars can be less convenient than traditional cars; they often have a shorter range before they have to be recharged, and that process can take a lot longer than simply pumping petrol into a tank.

However, range is improving significantly, as is the speed it takes to recharge a battery. The average range of an electric car sits at around 220 miles, though some cars can’t meet that distance, while others can go a lot further.

What's more, chargers are becoming more widespread.

At the end of July 2023, there were 45,737 electric vehicle charging points across the UK, across 26,805 charging locations. This represents a 40% increase in the total number of charging devices since July 2022.

Prospective EV owners should always check the real-world range of any car they're looking at. Numbers provided by manufacturers can be markedly different to what an everyday driver will experience, so do your homework before making a decision.

So, should I buy an electric car?

It's a cop-out, but only you can answer that. Think carefully about your lifestyle, driving habits and finances, and don't be pressured into signing up for anything that doesn't feel right for you.

Check out this video from our friends at for more help and advice about buying an electric car.

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