Top 10: used electric cars (and the one to avoid)

Electric cars are all the rage at the moment, and if you buy used you don’t need to spend a fortune to get into one. Here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the model to avoid.....

There was a time when attempting a top 10 list for used electric vehicles was impossible; there simply weren’t enough of them.

Electric car compilation image

However, with the improvements in battery technology, the growing concern of localised pollution levels and the fact that EVs no longer perform like overloaded milk floats, demand for them is growing.

EVs are certainly not new technology and have in fact been around since the invention of the car. They were often preferable in major cities because they didn’t smell and, unlike the horse, didn’t produce any waste. But it’s only been in the past 10 years that manufacturers have made a concerted effort with electric cars, producing a wide range of EVs in different shapes and sizes.

Our top 10 has everything from small city cars to top-of-the-range luxury SUVs to whet your appetite; some of them are cheaper than others, but all of them represent the best of their type. Read on to find out what are the best used electric cars you can buy.

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10: Volkswagen e-Up

Volkswagen e-Up

Basing your electric car on the cute little Up is not a bad place to start since it’s one of the best city cars on sale. And, in some ways, the e-Up is even better.

For starters, if you need an automatic car, the smooth electric motor and instant torque make the e-Up a swift urban runabout. Second, the additional weight of the batteries helps to settle the ride over the standard car. Plus, the batteries are neatly hidden beneath the seats, so there’s no loss of interior space.

10: Volkswagen e-Up - interior

Volkswagen e-Up - interior

Trouble is, because the battery pack is so small, the range is only really 66 miles, which limits it to those who mostly do urban driving and have easy access to a charge point.

Still, if you regularly commute into central London, not needing to pay the congestion charge or ULEZ is useful. A 7kWh charger will refill your e-Up in about six hours, while the rapid-charging facility means you can be back in action in 30 minutes.

We found: 2015 e-Up, 20,000 miles, £12,000

9: Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul EV

The Kia Soul EV is proof that electric cars need not look boring. And it’s still a highly practical five-seat family car that’s much cheaper to run than the standard car.

Equipment levels are pretty decent with climate control, heated front seats, cruise control, sat-nav and a reversing camera.

9: Kia Soul EV - interior

Kia Soul EV - interior

A home charger should recharge a fully depleted Soul in six hours, while a fast charger will get the battery to 80% in about 30 minutes.

We found: 2015 Kia Soul EV, 8000 miles, £14,995

8: BMW i3

BMW i3

Here’s proof that you can even have a premium-badged electric car for a fraction of what it cost new. There are plenty of BMW i3s out there in either range extender or pure electric form, like the example here.

The EV actually has the longer electric power range, and because we’ve gone for a car registered after the model revisions in July 2016, you should be able to go for 120 miles between charges. A recharge from empty using a 7kWh home charger takes four hours, and the i3 can be fast-charged so you can get it up to 80% within 40 minutes.

8: BMW i3 - interior

BMW i3 - interior

Once topped up, the i3 is quite pleasant to drive and grips the road well, even with those skinny tyres. The ride can be a little firm, but it means the i3 resists roll despite being fairly tall.

We found: 2017 BMW i3 E 94Ah, 13,000 miles, £21,500

7: Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

The first Tesla on our list is the biggest and brashest electric car on sale today, and certainly turns heads wherever it goes. Meanwhile, range of 150-200 miles on a charge should be easily achievable from a 75D model thanks to a huge battery.

7: Tesla Model X - interior

Tesla Model X - interior

This does mean charge times can be quite long unless you’re using one of Tesla’s own superchargers (it can take 25 hours from a standard three-pin plug and 11 hours from a 7kWh wall charger) that take 40 minutes to get an 80% recharge.

Just don’t be surprised when you have to fend off crowds of people wanting you to demonstrate ‘ModelXmas’!

We found: 2017 Tesla Model X 90D, 32,000 miles, £57,000

6: Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

The first-generation Nissan Leaf should always be remembered for having been the one to kick-start mass production of electric cars.

What’s more, it was even produced in the UK and proved you could electrify a more practical family-sized car rather than put up with the tiny little ones that went before it.

6: Nissan Leaf - interior

Nissan Leaf - interior

Early Leafs can be picked up for a pittance, but the range was never great on them and battery degradation means it’ll be even worse today. We’d recommend going for a facelifted example from 2016 onwards with the 30kWh battery, which means that 105-120 miles on a charge is achievable.

A dedicated 7kWh home charger should fill a flat Leaf in four-and-a-half hours while a rapid charger should get you to 80% in 30 minutes.

We found: 2017 Nissan Leaf Acenta 30kWh, 25,000 miles, £11,995

5: Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Another Tesla makes it onto our list, but this time it’s a little more affordable than an X.

Being an American car means that it’s massive and there’s therefore lots of leg, head and shoulder room for five adults. The hatchback boot allows you to easily load odd-shaped items into the back so, in many ways, the S is a very practical car.

5: Tesla Model S - interior

Tesla Model S - interior

Like the X, charge times can be quite drawn-out affairs: a 75D can take 11 hours from a 7kWh home charger, but find a Tesla supercharger and it do an 80% fill in 40 minutes. 150-200 miles is achievable too, which unlocks its potential for long-distance electric motoring.

Unfortunately, it cannot go any higher in this list because although it didn't feature in our most recent What Car? reliability survey it came bottom in our 2018 one.

We found: 2017 Tesla Model S 75, 9090 miles, £42,995

4: Hyundai Ioniq

Hyundai Ioniq

While the Ioniq is available in three different flavours – hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric – we’re focusing on the all-electric version here

The 117-mile real range according to our tests is similar to the Volkswagen e-Golf, but the Ioniq comes with more equipment and is a little more practical.

4: Hyundai Ioniq - interior

Hyundai Ioniq - interior

It doesn’t drive quite as nicely as the e-Golf – or the regular hybrid version, for that matter – but it’s comfortable to go long distances in and, of course, quiet. A home charger should have it recharged in four hours, or an 80% charge in 30 minutes.

We found: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium, 14,000 miles. £19,995

3: Volkswagen e-Golf

Volkswagen e-Golf

The biggest compliment you can pay the e-Golf is that it feels just like a regular Golf. Only the electric car is much quieter and quicker off the line than a regular petrol or diesel model.

Claimed range is 125 miles, which is on par for this type of car, and so are the charge times. It should take four hours from a 7kWh home charger or 45 minutes using a fast charger.

3: Volkswagen e-Golf - interior

Volkswagen e-Golf - interior

Then once you’ve got your head around that, you’ll be able to enjoy the normal qualities that make the regular Golf so popular: the light steering, a pleasant ride and refined motorway manners.

Add to that a decent-sized boot (it’s slightly down on the regular car, but still big enough for a buggy or set of Golf clubs) and plenty of room for people front and rear, and you’ve got a highly practical electric car.

We found: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf, 16,000 miles, £21,500

2: Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar I-Pace

Introduced in 2018, the I-Pace SUV is Jaguar’s first electric car, and it can drive for more than 250 miles between charges.

It can also be charged to 80% of capacity in just 90 minutes, and its futuristic interior features two 12.0in screens and another 5.5in screen for climate settings. Add in fun handling, and it's a very appealing option.

2: Jaguar I-Pace - interior

Jaguar I-Pace - interior

It's still a relatively new car, of course, but even so it's possible to put a used one on your driveway for around £50,000-£53,000, a healthy saving on the price of a new one, even allowing for the government grant and any potential dealer discounts.

Sure, it's an expensive car, but its dramatic body hides a lovely and suitably sybaritic interior and some real high-tech and world-beating wizardry. On top of that, like all the best Jags, it's guaranteed to catch your neighbour's eye, too.  

We found: 2018 EV400 S 90kWh, 5000 miles, £52,995

1: Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe

Despite the potential battery leasing costs, the Renault Zoe is still one of the more affordable electric cars on the market, and thanks to an improved battery from 2015 onwards, the range is decent too.

Being similar in size to a Clio, the Zoe can be more than just a second car. The boot is a decent size and can accommodate a pushchair without issue, plus there’s enough rear seat room for children.

1: Renault Zoe - interior

Renault Zoe - interior

While the Zoe certainly isn’t as polished to drive as the e-Golf, the longer range makes up for this. We managed 146 miles from an R110 model during our What Car? Real Range test, a figure that makes the Zoe one of the more useful electric cars available.

Charging times from flat vary between eight hours on a 7kWh home charger point to two hours and 40 minutes from a fast charger. There are even some Zoes with rapid charging if you need to travel further afield. All in all, the Zoe deserves its place as the best used electric car currently available.

We found: 2018 Renault Zoe R110, 8000 miles, £12,995

So what about the used electric cars you should avoid?

Renault Fluence

Renault Fluence

It might seem odd that the best and worst used electric cars come from the same manufacturer, but think of the Fluence as where Renault learned how not to do an electric car.

Renault Fluence - interior

Renault Fluence - interior

The range is very poor, it’s heavy and there’s no rapid-charging facility on it, so completing a long journey is out of the question because of the time you’ll spend recharging it.

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