Best used electric cars 2022

Published: 18 May 2022

► The best electric cars to buy used in 2022
► City-friendly small EVs to luxury SUVs
► Secondhand cars with tomorrow’s tech

There’s more pressure than ever to consider an electric car – not just through rising fuel costs and concerns around road pricing and city-centre emissions zones. Culturally owning an electric car is becoming a more mainstream way of signalling affluence, environmental responsibility and awareness. There’s even a counter-cultural reaction from fans of petrol and diesel familiarity. The reality is that the best electric cars provide a perfectly sensible means of transport for most drivers and their families, once new habits are learned.

The running costs of an electric car remain considerably lower than traditional fuels, and like the environmental benefits, the positive effects are most apparent when the car is a convenience for short trips, shops and school runs, rather than long-distance transport – exactly the kind of car use that is prevalent in Britain and the worst for the environment.

Mainstream electric cars have been on sale in the UK since the introduction of the Nissan Leaf in 2010; earlier models may suit London or other cities, but are rarely something that the average driver would want to use every day. Sales began to really pick up after 2019, where the diversity of models coincides with targeted incentives, particularly around company car taxation. With values of conventional used cars remaining high and likely to drop when new supplies return to normal, there’s never been a better time to consider a second hand electric car.

Before going electric, it’s worth considering a few things. Do you have off-street parking, or charging facilities at work or available locally, and are most of your trips less than 80 miles? If the answer is no, you might find a plug in hybrid offers a better compromise.

Why are electric cars so expensive?

According to the latest 2022 findings from the Auto Trader Retail Price Index, most types of used cars’ average prices are slowing in growth while the average asking prices of electric vehicles (EVs) are jumping the trend, growing at a rate of 27.5% year-on-year in March 2022 for mainstream models. The average asking price for an electric vehicle is £23,361 – by far the highest out of all other types of powertrains.

BMW i3 REX

‘When it comes to low-emission vehicles, the industry is facing a Catch-22 situation,’ said Auto Trader’s director of commercial products, Karolina Edwards-Smajda. ‘The growing appetite of AFVs [alternative fuel vehicles] offer the industry a great opportunity for growth, but for mass adoption, the average price needs to be more accessible to more people. However, with so few vehicles in the market, even second-hand cars are being pushed out of financial reach for most consumers.’

Best used EVs to buy in 2022: a guide

Current supply constraints mean excellent two-to-three year old EVs such as the Vauxhall Corsa-e, Hyundai Kona Electric and Porsche Taycan are better value new than used, particularly on finance. Assuming, of course, you can get one when you need it. Given the inflated nature of used prices currently, it may be worth buying a cheap old car to tide you over, rather than financing a car potentially with high interest rates and a much higher starting point to fall from when values adjust to a more normal supply of new cars.

Despite the new technology, older secondhand EV buying is, essentially, much like taking on any used car. In fact, some aspects are much better, with brake wear reduced thanks to regenerative technology (many Nissan Leafs were still on their original discs and pads after 60,000 miles), less dirt and pollution from oil and combustion, and simple single-speed transmissions.

The downside is that if things go wrong, repairs can still be very expensive and time-consuming. If a deal looks too good to be true, it could be a much bigger gamble than you anticipated…

Here are the best electric cars to buy used, how much to expect to pay, and why they’re worth considering as your next car.

10. Smart EQ ForFour (Electric Drive) (2017-)

  • New price: £31,245 to £34,745
  • Used price: £11,785 – £20,960
Best used electric cars - Smart ForFour electric drive

Not everything Smart has produced is the cleverest idea, but in the grand scheme of things the electrified ForFour isn’t a bad choice at all, as long as it’s priced accordingly. This little four-seater has the tiny charm of European city cars such as the Fiat 500 or Twingo, and that shouldn’t be a surprise as it shares a body with the latter.

The electric option isn’t vastly different to the two-seater EQ ForTwo, but it’s pushing a bit more weight around. Basic, and a touch crude in places, the Smart is the opposite of the BMW i3 in terms of technical investment; it’s a conventional car adapted for electricity. The compromises are fewer than you’d think apart from the big one – or rather, the small one, as the 17.6kWh battery is about the same capacity as some plug-in hybrids now. Range suffers accordingly and you’ll be lucky to get 70 miles of motorway speeds even in summer.

However, that’s not the point of the ForFour. It has wide-opening rear doors for easy childseat access, it is exceptionally easy to park, and it can be charged fully on a domestic supply overnight. It is one of the more efficient EVs you’ll find used, too, making the most of the small battery with tricks like heated seats and wheel rather than wasting 1kWh on heating for short trips, and regenerative coasting that senses a car in front with radar.

CAR verdict: ‘If more people liked cars like this, cities would be transformed. But they don’t, and we don’t expect you to either. But if it’s cheap, and suits your needs, don’t overlook the electric Smart’

Read the full Smart ForFour review on Parkers

9. Tesla Model X (2013-)

  • New price: £87,245 to £107,745
  • Used price: £44,785 – £102,960
Best used electric cars: Tesla Model X, splashing through water

Of course there are three Teslas on the list – it’s the only manufacturer with a range entirely made up of electric models. The Model X is a super-futuristic crossover MPV/SUV with six or seven seats. It’s got that space the old-school way, by being really big – disguising its bulk reasonably effectively with the grille-less design language shared by all Teslas.

The panoramic windscreen extends across the roof all the way to the pert sloping tail with concealed spoiler, so it feels amazingly light inside. Ironic, really – it’s as heavy as a Range Rover.

The Model X is also devastatingly fast for a car of this size, reaching 62mph in less than five seconds (3.1 seconds for the P100D) and of course, it’s all-wheel drive and has a range similar to many petrol-powered SUVs, around 280 miles between Supercharger stops.

As a near six-figure car new, the Model X’s used values are unreasonably high at the moment – but you get a unique, technically advanced car with unparalleled abilities and futuristic design throughout. If you think that at this price a car should drive itself, too, it comes close. Find a model with Enhanced Autopilot and motorways will usually be relaxing – as long as it works.

CAR verdict: ‘This is an SUV that’s all about performance in both senses; it’ll show-off at the Supercharger, and show up many supercars. But the driving experience is detached, and as digital as the tech behind it’

Read our Tesla Model X review in full here

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8. Tesla Model S (2014-)

  • Price new: £82,245 – £96,845
  • Price used: £22,870 – £94,710
Tesla Model S

Such is the power of Elon Musk’s Tesla brand, it comes close to taking a Veblen good and making it a household name for all electric cars. Close, but no cigar, as until recently Tesla has lacked the kind of mass-market reach that made people call all vacuum cleaners Hoovers. Don’t believe that can still happen? Just google it. 

The undeniably high-end Model S has been out for several years now, though. The longest-range models had a six-figure new price, but unlike contemporary Bentley, Jaguar and BMW saloons they have held their value well. Too well, in fact; last year they started from £25,000 secondhand, now, the cheapest are usually nearer £34,000.

Tesla slashed the new price of certain models by up to £30,000 in early 2019, knocking residuals for a time but now the Model S represents terrible value for a secondhand car. Buy a nearly-new one, or wait for prices to settle.

Tesla’s tendency to sell upgrades and offer over-the-air updates means that a 2015 Model S may be a very different car by 2022, but with no major changes to the design, and continued reliance on the Supercharger network for efficient charging, the experience of a used Tesla won’t be much different to the rarefied heights of a showroom-fresh example. Just don’t expect to get a full charge overnight from your household socket…

CAR verdict: ‘The EV for long-distance drivers and the fashion-conscious, but being one of the first means there could still be a few bugs to iron out’

Read our full review of the Tesla Model S

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7. MG ZS EV (2019-)

  • Price new: £27,745 – £34,495
  • Price used: £20,995 – £33,990
Best used electric cars - MG ZS EV

As far as sensible used buys go, the ZS takes some beating. Thanks to a low starting price, you can afford a much newer ZS than other cars of this size on this list. Not a huge deal of these around at the moment, but expect them to filter into the used market soon enough.

And here’s the kicker. They come with seven-year warranties, so even if you do buy a three-year old model for sub £20k, you’ll still have four years’ worth of warranty on it.

The ZS EV first came to the UK in 2019 and received a big update in 2021. Early cars have a 44.5kWh battery with an official range of 163 miles. While the later ones (denoted by slimmer front lights and stamped-effect grille) have a choice of a 51kWH battery (198 mile range) and a Long Range 72kWh model with a theoretical 273-mile (e) tank.

CAR Verdict: ‘Hugely sensible electric SUV with decent range and long warranty’

Read our MG ZS EV review in full here

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6. Tesla Model 3 (2019-)

  • Price new: £43,545 – £56,545
  • Price used: £30,345 – £53,775
Tesla Model 3 secondhand

Here it is, the Ford Escort of electric cars – it’s not built of the same stuff as, say, a VW Golf. It took a while for production to deliver to early adopters, but now it’s in full production it’s leapt into sales charts. Many would agree it’s been worth the wait; the truncated four-door fastback evokes classics like the Citroen GS or Alfa Romeo Alfasud – and in time, the Model 3 will probably be remembered for bringing essentially uncompromised electric-car tech within reach of the masses.

Okay – over £45,000 may not sound mass-market, but if you look around you at all of the Evoques, high-spec BMW and Mercedes small SUVs and even blinged-up Qashqais, it’s not as rarified as you might assume. Strong residuals and low running costs mean on a monthly basis, the Model 3’s a prudent choice; one that comes with realistic mileage claims even if you drive on the motorway, and can be found with decent tech and an ’80s-futuristic white-and-black interior aesthetic.

Like the Model S, the Model 3 is currently terrible value secondhand and you may be better off going for a new finance package and waiting. If you can find one, it’s still possible to trade ‘age’ for ‘spec’, with a 1,000 mile top-spec long-range AWD performance model, complete with supercar-baiting performance, for less than the standard entry-level model new. If you plan to keep the car a long time, that’s the best option.

CAR verdict: ‘The Model 3 does for electric cars what the iPhone did for smartphones’

Read our Tesla Model 3 review in full here

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5. Jaguar i-Pace (2018-)

  • Price new: £64,495 – £74,995
  • Price used: £41,055 – £63,140

You might not find many Jaguar i-Paces available used yet, but they’re worth waiting for. Think of it like a Tesla designed with more British sensibilities and scale, and engineered by people who started out making sports cars, not software, and you’ll have an idea of what to expect.

EV credentials first, then – 90kWh, 395bhp from dual motors (all-wheel drive, of course) and a claimed 298-mile range, it’ll hit 60mph in well under five seconds, and unlike many EVs the top speed isn’t capped at an artificially low level. Jaguar’s experience in building all-aluminium bodies means the i-Pace has a low centre of gravity despite the weight of that battery pack, and it rides superbly.

The i-Pace also handles well – adjustable, grippy, and fun to drive on more challenging roads. Inside, the interior feels traditionally sporting rather than forced-futurism, with controls focused on the driver and relatively conventional dual touch screens. The flat-floor design means it feels spacious – the centre console floats – but it’s not a full-on people-carrier, and the sloping roof limits ultimate practicality (and rearward visibility – you’ll appreciate the reversing camera). All the concept-car stuff is outside, where the Jaguar is about as beautiful as you can get for a 4×4-esque crossover.

CAR verdict: ‘Cutting-edge design, but more importantly, genuinely good to drive’

Read our Jaguar i-Pace review in full here

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4. Renault ZOE (2013-) 

  • Price new: £29,170 – £32,870
  • Price used: £7880 – £27,665

Quietly making its way onto British roads in 2013, the Zoe’s soft song of progress emanates from a smallish supermini, about the size of a Dacia Sandero. It’s unassuming and refreshingly simple; that torquey electric motor means it’s also pleasingly rapid away from the lights. Zoes are available with different combinations of motor and a choice of 22kWh or 41kWh battery. The most basic, Q210/Q90 and 22kWh combination allows a range of around 130 miles, with quick charging; the newer R110 and 41kWh can exceed 200 miles on a full charge. 2019’s updated Zoe has a 52kWh battery for greater range, but the range still suffers if driven at motorway speeds; the price to pay for the relatively low torque on offer.

In our experience the Zoe’s rather inconsistent compatibility with fast chargers means trusting one for a carefully-planned long-distance trip could be frustrating, but where possible a Q90 can obtain 80% charge in a little over an hour.

One aspect of buying a Zoe is the ongoing cost of battery leasing, which some lower-cost examples may be liable for. It’s generally more affordable than putting fuel in an economical car, and warranty coverage of leased packs means failure is Renault’s problem, but be prepared for monthly costs up to £99/month if you cover up to 10,500 miles a year. This does include breakdown assistance, at least.

Discounts on new models, and the battery leasing arrangement does impact the Zoe’s appeal as a used buy – but Renault did sell them with the battery included, and those represent excellent secondhand value for a subtle, practical EV that is immensely easy to live with.

CAR verdict: ‘Zoe is much quieter than Nicole, but Renault still knows how to package cutting-edge tech for the masses’

Read our full review of the Renault Zoe

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3. Volkswagen e-Golf (2017-)

  • Price new: £31,075 – £31,680
  • Price used: £10,510 – £23,435
VW e-Golf

Where some manufacturers go for bespoke electric models, a few jumped on the bandwagon by converting existing cars; a proven path for short-range experiments for decades, there’s inevitably a compromise in the engineering and packaging. Volkswagen’s 2017-on e-Golf is more successful than most, though – and has the advantage of being a completely normal looking car.

For tech-obsessed early adopters, that can border on disappointing – even inside, aside from the instruments and stubby gearlever, it’s all normal Golf. No clever materials or futurism, just a popular family hatchback. And on the improved 2017-on models, a startup beep that always gets Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” stuck in your head. 

What isn’t disappointing is how the e-Golf drives. It’s more in tune with enthusiast’s needs, and although the real-world range is not quite as impressive as some rivals, the 35.8kWh battery and 134bhp motor allow 0-62mph in under 10 seconds and a claimed range of 186 miles when launched. The extra weight of the battery is well distributed, and even the above-floor bootspace is unchanged (though you do need to carry that charging cable).

CAR verdict: ‘Decent real-world performance, cohesive dynamics and compelling fundamental togetherness – a, very classily-executed everyday car’

Read our full review of the Volkswagen e-Golf

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2. Nissan Leaf (2010-)

  • Price new (Leaf 2.0): £29,845 – £39,395
  • Price used: £3085 – £17,805
Nissan Leaf

By rights, Nissan should be the dominant force in EVs in the UK – but the quirky-looking Leaf probably did more to sideline their appeal to mainstream motorists, with odd proportions and a strange, grille-less face. You won’t mistake a Leaf for any other Nissan, that’s for sure.

By being unrelated to any other Nissan, however, the Leaf gets to be clever. Opera seating for the rear passengers helps the feeling of spaciousness, and allows Leaf occupants to have a little bit of SUV high-riding freedom without the associated bulk. A bespoke bodyshells allows class-leading safety and of course, a class-leading range at the time, making the Leaf one of the first truly usable electric cars. The 108bhp motor allows brisk performance, though maximum speed is limited to 93mph.

Both 24kWh, and later 30kWh models, are available, and DC fast charging is supported – though that does accelerate the loss of battery capacity over time that EVs suffer. Post-2013 models are the better buy, and the second-generation Leaf from 2018 on is a very accomplished, affordable mainstream EV. Like the Renault Zoe, some models are part of a battery leasing scheme.

CAR verdict: ‘An amazingly un-rubbish electric alternative to combustion powered hatchbacks.’

Our Nissan Leaf review: we test the latest version of the bestselling EV

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1. BMW i3 (2013-)

  • Price new: £36,025 – £40,555
  • Price used: £8270 – £32,375
BMW i3

Somewhat surprisingly, one of the best value used EVs is the BMW i3. A clever car, with carbonfibre construction and little shared with other BMWs, the i3’s appeal is more than badge-deep; it’s a groundbreaking EV that demonstrates the advantages of thinking differently. Inside, natural materials and exposed carbon weave underline the 21st-century futurism of the quirky pillarless four-door supermini, and underneath there’s a relatively small 22kWh (60Ah in BMW-speak) battery, which provides a short range, but faster charge to full capacity.

As you’d expect from a BMW, there’s a performance edge – by EV standards, the 168bhp motor is very generous, particularly in a car this light. It’ll reach 62mph in 7.2 seconds. Later models include the 33kWh ‘94Ah’, with increased range and DC fast charging, and the i3 S with sport suspension, sharper handling and 6.9-second 62mph sprint. Production ended in 2022, and there’s nothing as bespoke or distinctive to replace it from any manufacturer.

Like the idea of the i3, but still enjoy visiting petrol stations? There’s also the i3 REx – range extender – that uses a BMW scooter engine as a generator to top up the battery charge for an extra 80-90 miles of range. The latest i3s are available with a 42kWh (120Ah) option which matches the range of the REx, but you’ll find a fair number of used RExs available if you want the peace of mind of an on-board generator.

CAR verdict: ‘Eye-catching design, spacious interior and engaging driving experience – an immensely likeable, very quick city car’

Read our full review of the BMW i3 

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Further reading on electric cars

Read all our electric car reviews here  

Browse electric cars for sale 

The fastest electric cars and EVs

Learning to drive in an electric car

 

By Richard Kilpatrick

Technology writer and photographer since the early '90s, now car-obsessed, too

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