Is now the right time to buy an electric car? We can help you decide

If you’re thinking of replacing a petrol or diesel with a pure electric car, we have all the information you need to decide whether to make the leap now or wait for more new model launches...

Hyundai Ioniq 5 2021 front right tracking

Electric vehicles (EVs) are rapidly becoming mainstream. There are already around 50 fully electric models on sale, with plenty more due to arrive in the next six months, along with a host of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of popular cars.

Sales of fully electric cars hit an all-time high of 267,203 in 2022. If you add in PHEVs, almost a quarter (24.4%) of the cars sold last year were battery electric.

So, is now the time to replace your internal combustion-engined car with an electrified one?

Well, there are plenty of tempting EVs to choose from, whether you’re in the market for a city runabout like the Fiat 500 or a large SUV like the BMW iX3. And even the less performance-oriented models generally have zippy performance, so they’re fun to drive.

LT Audi E-tron Sportback charging

The first thing to consider is whether you can charge a car at an affordable location, such as your home or workplace, so you can avoid the sometimes pricey public charging options and reap the potential savings of driving an EV rather than a petrol or diesel. Don't forget to take into account the cost of having a home charger installed if you plan to get one of those.

EVs are currently still significantly more expensive to buy than their petrol and diesel-engined counterparts. However, with sales of EVs predicted to increase exponentially over the next few years, and battery technology improving, prices should start to come down.

This should also help with the cost of insurance, which also trends to be higher for electric cars right now, because insurance groups are based partly on a car’s purchase price, and the likely cost of replacement parts.

BMW iX3 2021 front

Servicing an EV should be cheaper than a petrol or diesel, however, because there are fewer mechanical parts. Just bear in mind that EVs can wear out brakes more quickly due to  their higher weight, and some sit on specially designed tyres that can be pricier to replace, so you’ll need to ensure you can afford these additional expenses.

On the other hand, if you're a company car driver, choosing an EV is a no-brainer, because you'll pay benefit-in-kind tax at a rate of just 2%

We’ve had a small number of reports from owners about electrical issues with EVs. One reader told us his Kia e-Niro has a problem with its heater that means he can’t use the car until a replacement part is sourced from abroad. Another said his Volkswagen ID 3 had suffered multiple software glitches. However, our annual What Car? Reliability Survey suggests EVs are mostly pretty dependable.

Kia e-Niro 2021 front

Electric cars can certainly make sense now, then, but you might also want to consider a PHEV or a hybrid car next, then go electric in a couple of years. Our 2023 Plug-in Hybrid of the Year is the Lexus NX, which has an electric range of more than 40 miles.

There are also hybrid versions of many family hatchbacks, giving lower emissions and better fuel economy than pure petrol or diesel versions. That could be a good option if you want a car with some form of electrification but are not yet ready for one that needs to be charged up to get the lowest running costs.

Finally, there are plenty of mild hybrids on offer. They use electrical assistance to boost the performance and economy of a conventional engine. These include a former What Car? Car of the Year, the Ford Puma.

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Read more: The best and worst electric cars >>