Best used green cars (and the ones to avoid)
Thinking of buying a used electric car or hybrid? We take a look at the second-hand green cars that are worth your cash.....
Think electric cars and hybrids are only for new car buyers?
Think again. Now that these cleaner, greener technologies have been around for a few years, they’re filtering down nicely into the used market, meaning there’s now a plug-in car out there to spark (ho, ho!) everyone's imagination.
And you don’t have to put up with driving around in something weedy or abhorrent, either. Many of these used electric cars and hybrids are now genuinely desirable, with usable electric ranges, comfortable rides and, ahem, electrifying performance.
To prove it, here are our top 10 used green cars, plus, as ever, two with all the appeal of a flat battery (I'm sorry. That's it for now).
10: Honda CR-Z
Who says buying a great-value green car has to mean missing out on driving fun? The Honda CR-Z proves otherwise.
With its great handling and manual gearbox, it involves you in the action, but, like most hybrids, it’s frugal around town. Prices are low, reliability is high, and the CR-Z looks fantastic to boot.
10: Honda CR-Z - interior
Sure, there’s not much room in the back, but that’s par for the course with a coupé. Otherwise, there’s lots to love here, and potential future classic status too.
The CR-Z was in production from 2011 to 2016, so shopping starts from as low as £5000 and prices go up to around £10,000 for the later ones.
We found: 2013 Honda CR-Z Sport, 46,000 miles, £6000
9: Vauxhall Ampera
Here's a bit of a curveball. Indeed you might struggle to find a Vauxhall Ampera, as not many of them were sold when it was new.
But if you can, you should, because it's comfortable, quiet and spacious. It also has the potential to become a bit of a cult classic.
9: Vauxhall Ampera - interior
It uses its combination of a petrol engine and an electric motor cleverly, too, meaning you can run it on electric mode far more than most plug-in hybrids.
Keep in mind, though, that although it's reasonably practical it’s only a four-seater.
We found: 2015 Vauxhall Ampera Positiv, 20,000 miles, £14,000
8: Kia Soul EV
If you’re after a small SUV with electric power and enough room for all your family needs, the Kia Soul EV could be the answer.
8: Kia Soul EV - interior
This version can’t match some other electric cars for range (although the all-new Soul EV, launched in 2019, can, thanks to tech it shares with the firm's groundbreaking e-Niro, also recently launched), and neither is it the most refined or upmarket feeling thing inside, but it does offer loads of space inside – and you get the balance of Kia’s seven-year warranty to add extra peace of mind.
We found: 2016 Kia Soul EV 81kW, 9400 miles, £14,000
7: Toyota Prius
As a minicab, the Toyota Prius has become truly ubiquitous, but that’s to the used buyer’s advantage, because it means they’re everywhere.
Obviously, you’ll need to choose with care, but do so and a Prius will reward you with miles of reliable service, plenty of room and, as long as you stick to town driving, very impressive fuel economy.
7: Toyota Prius - interior
Okay, it’s hardly the most exciting thing on the road and its ride comfort is so-so, but if what you want is an easy and undemanding way into family-friendly green car ownership, this is it.
Plug-in models are rare and still command good money, and expect to pay more than £20,000 for the latest (and much improved) Prius.
We found: 2016 Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT-I Active, 26,000 miles, £15,000
6: Audi A3 e-tron
Blending the Audi A3’s classy interior and smart looks with plug-in hybrid power, the A3 e-tron offers the best of both worlds.
Very few family-sized cars are as nice to drive and as pleasant to ride in as the A3, and this version only adds to its appeal.
6: Audi A3 e-tron - interior
If it fits into your lifestyle and you can plug it in regularly you'll find it a cheap and economical way of getting around, too.
Only a fairly steep price prevents it from finishing even higher in the rankings here, but if you’re willing to stretch your budget a little, it's a genuinely good all-rounder.
We found: 2016 Audi A3 e-tron, 28,000 miles, £17,000
5: Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf has been the best-selling electric car for a while now, and that bodes well for used car buyers, because it means plenty of choice on the market and low prices.
Keep in mind that the cheapest Leafs will have a leased battery, though, meaning there’s a monthly charge to pay. But even with this extra cost, you should still find a Leaf is a very cost-effective alternative.
5: Nissan Leaf - interior
The only drawback with the Leaf are some reported issues of overheating and faulty charging, this caused by its battery pack being air-cooled rather than liquid cooled.
This money buys you the first-generation car. Spend upwards of £20,000 to get the much-improved second-generation Leaf, with better road manners and a longer range.
We found: 2016 Nissan Leaf 30kWh, 22,000 miles, £12,000
4: Hyundai Ioniq
If you want to switch to low-emissions motoring without breaking the bank a used Ioniq is a great proposition.
A barely two-year old example offers a great saving on the new price, and the Ioniq hybrid drives pretty much like a conventional petrol car.
4: Hyundai Ioniq - interior
It's a supremely polished package, being cheaper to buy and nicer to drive than its obvious rival, the Toyota Prius. It's well equipped, too, and comfortable.
There's also plenty of room inside for a family. You can choose your Ioniq as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a fully electric car, though we swing towards this hybrid version as the best all-round bet.
We found: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid, 20,000 miles, £14,995
3: Volkswagen Golf GTE
With styling that apes the Volkswagen Golf GTI's and low running costs, it’s no wonder the plug-in hybrid GTE version of the Golf has proven so popular.
3: Volkswagen Golf GTE - interior
It doesn’t come cheap (you’ll pay more than you will for either a GTI or a diesel GTD), but if you can run the GTE on electric power only for some of your driving, you may well save more than you’ll spend.
And, of course, you get the Golf’s classy, spacious interior and superb balance of ride and handling thrown in.
We found: 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTE, 12,000 miles, £16,000
2: BMW 330e
Smooth, quiet, comfortable and great to drive – all descriptions that can be applied to any BMW 3 Series, so that they also stand true for the 330e is a mark of this car's completeness.
The powertrain is potent, and in electric mode, refinement is excellent.
2: BMW 330e - interior
The 330e rides and handles as well as any other 3 Series, too, which is quite an accomplishment given its extra weight. And, considering what you get for your cash here, it’s not bad value.
There's a new model out now so expect even better value on your used one.
We found: 2017 BMW 330e Sport, 10,000 miles, £18,000
1: Renault Zoe
The Renault Zoe would already be a highly recommendable used car purchase even if it wasn’t such great value, thanks to its comfortable ride, engaging handling and a sensible amount of space.
That it’s also so cheap to buy is the icing on the cake. Okay, you’ll have to pay a monthly battery lease on the cheapest examples, but the upside of this is that Renault throws in breakdown recovery and guarantees it’ll replace the battery if it drops below 75% of its original capacity for the life of the car.
1: Renault Zoe - interior
A small car of this age at this price is a great deal in anyone’s book, but when it’s this good and will save you so much money on fuel, it’s a steal.
You can pick up the earliest Zoes now for under £6000, but don't forget that monthly battery lease cost too. Later models will set you back nearer the £10,000 of the just over one-year-old car we found, but that's still remarkable value.
We found: 2018 Renault Zoe Q90 40kWh Dynamique Nav, 7000 miles, £10,000
So what about the used green cars to avoid?
Ones to avoid - Honda Insight
It’s spacious and well equipped, but that’s all the now rather dated Honda Insight had going for it.
Honda Insight - interior
Vague handling, a lumpen ride, sluggish performance and poor interior quality are all reasons to stay away.
Ones to avoid - Citroen DS5 Hybrid4
The Citroen DS5 (latterly just the DS 5) suffers from an overly stiff ride, a cramped interior and stodgy handling.
Citroen DS5 Hybrid4 - interior
In Hybrid4 form, it’s also expensive to buy and not that efficient.