Top 3 Used Electric Cars – How to Pick the Right EV for You

Top 3 Used Electric Cars – How to Pick the Right EV for You

Whilst Electric Car driving is soaring in popularity, the motor industry is struggling to keep up, leaving the electric car market dominated by only a handful of key manufacturers who have had the good sense and foresight to invest considerably in electric car tech.

“The electric car market is currently dominated by only a few key manufacturers.”

Several manufacturers have trialled electric car production with varied levels of success, and other have produced vehicles of questionable quality.

Now that the electric revolution is very much underway; manufacturers are busy working towards producing their own range of quality electric cars. However, it is probably a year or two before we see a significantly greater selection and a wider variety of electric cars on the market place.

With that in mind it will be several years before we see new affordable electric cars hit the second-hand market.

As electric vehicle specialists, we have considerable first-hand experience of almost every electric car available on the used market. As a result, we know what makes a good electric car, and which best suits your differing individual needs.

“The Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf, and the BMW i3 are the 3 best selling and best value electric cars available presently”

Although there are several good electric cars now out there, there are fundamentally 3 great electric cars that dominate the used market – the Renault Zoe, the Nissan Leaf, and the BMW i3.

It is these top 3 that are available in enough number to be available at good value in the used market.  They are the best sellers because they are the best cars on the market, at an accessible price point.

Nissan Leaf

The practical family favourite

There is a reason why the Nissan Leaf is the most popular electric car in the world.  It is a very well built and very practical EV.  Its practical everyman size is what makes it the family favourite.  With 3 decent sized rear seats and a large boot it is the most practical family choice.

“There is a reason the Nissan Leaf is the most popular electric car in the world – practicality and value”

The 24kW model has approx. 80miles of real world range and the 30kW version approx. 110 miles – plenty ample for most people’s needs.

The Leaf is also a great long distance EV with Chadeamo DC rapid charge points in thousands of locations and at every motorway service station. It is easy and reliable to charge.

Despite a recent soar in prices the Nissan Leaf still represents great value. Aas it has been around since 2011 there are used models to suit every budget.

The Leaf is available in 2 versions the Gen 1 (2011 – early 2013), and the more common Gen 2 2013 – 2017.

The Gen 1 is only available in one specification (roughly the same as a gen 2 Acenta) although only available with a cream interior.  Important things to note is that the Gen 1 has a lower range than the Gen 2 (65 miles as opposed to 85 miles) and a slightly smaller boot space.  It is also worth keeping an eye on the battery health on a Gen 1 Leaf. Even so, most out there are still showing 11 or even a full 12 bars of battery health.

Rapid charge was also not a standard specification in the Gen 1 so definitely worth watching out for, as the ability to rapid charge is very important in the long-range usability of an EV.

“Available in Gen 1 and Gen 2 models, 24kW and 30kW versions, and 3 different specs, giving lots of variety and price options.”

The Gen 2 is available in 3 models – the Tekna, which is the top spec model, that includes a very hard wearing full leather interior, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, Bose sound system, and overhead cam, as well as all the spec of an Acenta.  The Acenta is the mid-range model, but it still has an inbuilt sat nav and media system with reversing camera, and alloys.  The rarer bottom spec Visa model is really there for those who don’t like lots of buttons and tech and doesn’t include the media centre or alloys.

In 2016 a 30kW version was released taking the range of the Gen 2 Leaf up to 110 miles from 85.  The 2016 onwards models also come with an upgraded media centre and DAB radio.

“Good quality Nissan Leafs available from as little as £7500.”

The Leaf also come in 2 fast charging options – 3.3kW (standard) which will charge the car from empty to full in about 8 hours at your home charge point.  They also do an upgraded 6.6kW charger that means the car will charge at home and at some public AC chargers in half the time.  Since most charging is done at home and overnight the standard 3.3kW charging option is fine for most people.

“5 seats, a large boot, great build quality, and good value pricing makes the Nissan Leaf a very practical family electric car.”

Price wise there is a real range, from £7500 for a good quality Gen 1 model, to £16000 for a 30kW Tekna model, with every price point covered in-between.

The Nissan Leaf is a great EV and there is a reason it is the most popular electric car in the world.  With such a range of ages, miles, and specifications there is also a Leaf out there to suit every family and every budget.

Key Features:

  • 65-115 mile real world range depending on model
  • 24kW and 30kW models
  • DC rapid charging (80% + charge within 30 mins)
  • Home fast charging in either 4 or 8 hours depending on charger option
  • Reversing camera
  • In-built sat nav
  • 5 seats, 4 doors and a large boot
  • Quality build
  • Leather interior option

Renault Zoe

Great value highly affordable ‘first’ EV

The Renault Zoe is now Europe’s most popular Electric Car.  Its combination of cute continental styling and very low pricing has made it the most financially accessible, and the ideal first electric car choice.

Its non-fussy spec and intuitive controls make it an ideal first EV.  It is a really enjoyable and easy drive, and it has great range.  Whilst it has 5 seats and a surprisingly large boot, it is really a compact city car, that is able to suit a small and growing family.

“Great value, great range and great to drive – a perfect city car and an ideal first EV”

They key to the Zoe’s popularity is its affordability, with a 3-year-old model costing only £6-7k.  The reason it is such a cheap car to buy is that in the majority of Zoes the battery is leased rather than owned.

The battery lease means that the cars battery is guaranteed for the life of the car (although battery health is not really a concern on a modern EV; with batteries showing remarkably little degradation,) which gives a real sense of security to the EV purchaser.  However, the main thing is the fact the battery is leased means that the car is approx. £4-5k cheaper to purchase than it would be if it had an owned battery.

“The Zoe has a leased battery which guarantees battery heath and greatly subsidises the cost of purchasing the car”

The battery lease means that you will need to pay a monthly charge based on your mileage, which starts at £49pcm for 4500 miles pa, and increases £10pcm per extra 1500 miles pa.  If you are doing heavy miles then there is a strong argument for having an owned battery, however if you are only doing low miles, having a battery lease is a great way to buy the car.

Depreciation is also halved on the car as the battery doesn’t depreciate in value and as a result depreciation is only occurring on half a car at a much lower value. You can certainly argue that half of your battery lease payments is off-set by reduced depreciation.

“As the Zoe has a leased battery its depreciation as a car is greatly reduced.”

The Zoe is available in 24kW and 40kW models, however the 40kW are still very rare in the used car market.  Of the 24kW models there was a change in motor and battery management configuration that occurred July 2015 onwards.  This gives the 65 plate models additional range with a real-world range of 105 miles, compared to 90 miles for the pre-65 plate models.

“A compact continental styled city car with brilliant driving range”

The pre-65 plate models however are able to charge faster at an AC rapid charger and can achieve 80%+ charge in half an hour, compared to an hour for the newer model, so this should be bared in mind if you plan to do a lot of long distance driving in your Zoe.  There is a ‘quick charge’ version of the newer model, however it is basically the same as the older model, and as result of its faster charging capabilities it has a lower range.

“The perfect electric car if you are on a tight budget with prices starting at £5000”

If you are on a tight budget and looking for a compact, fun to drive, city car with great range then the Zoe is the ideal electric car for you.

Key Features:

  • 90-105 mile real world range depending on model
  • AC rapid charging (80% + charge within 30 mins for quick charge and pre-65 plate models, 1 hour for 65 plate onwards)
  • 4 hour at home fast charging
  • Reversing camera
  • In-built TomTom sat nav
  • 5 seats, 4 doors and a large boot
  • Continental styling
  • Speed limiter and cruise control

BMW i3

Head turning looks and incredible performance

The BMW i3 is a stunning looking and superbly engineered car that really showcases what an electric vehicle is capable of.

Where the Nissan Leaf and the Renault Zoe are trying to be familiar and like a traditional car, the BMW i3 is trying to be as different as possible.

“The BMW i3 really showcases what an electric car is capable of”

BMW not only built a new renewably powered factory just to manufacture this car, they also threw away the rule book and designed something completely new.

It has a carbon fibre body, which is incredibly light and strong, normally only found in £100k + sports cars.  This has enabled the i3 to have its innovative shape.  The interior is made from recycled materials and using renewable energy. From the ground up it is an extremely green car with the smallest carbon footprint of any EV.

Although it is a very compact car, inside it feels incredibly open and spacious, thanks to its pillarless carbon fibre body.

“Incredible speed and performance and the most fun electric car to drive.”

The i3’s party trick is its performance.  It is unbelievably fast off the line, and has power and acceleration to rival the fastest of sports cars.  Its high level of regenerative braking means it is a one pedal driving experience, with the accelerator used both for speed and to slow the car.  It is the easiest car to drive and yet at the same time it is the most exhilarating.

The i3 is an exciting car that really makes a statement – ‘look at me – I am an electric car and I am different and the future’.

The i3 is full of interesting features and ideas, however it lacks some of the practicality of other electric cars, as it only has 4 seats and its boot is on the small side.  Also this level of engineering and performance comes at a cost with an entry level used i3 costing around £15k.

“If you are after excitement and want to make a statement, the i3 is the car to drive.”

The i3 is available in both a battery only model, and a range extender model.  The range extender is a small petrol-powered generator that is used to top up the battery and is able to extend the range of the car without needing to stop and charge.  If you are regularly driving outside of the range of an electric car, then a range extender is an option worth consideration.

“Available with a range extender which is very useful if you regularly drive outside of the battery range of the car.”

The range extender adds about 60 miles of range to the car and can be simply refilled at any petrol station to extend the range further without needing to stop and charge.  It is still classed as a fully electric vehicle and not a hybrid as the drive train is run solely by the battery and motor, and the range extender is a generator and not an engine.

There are 2 battery sizes the 60Ah (20kW) and the 90Ah (30kW) model that came out in 2016.  The range of a 60aH is approx. 80 miles in a battery only i3, and 70 miles for an i3 REX.  The 90 Ah battery gives a fantastic 120 mile range.

“loads of optional extra to make a state of the art high spec electric car to suit your needs and wants, with impressive range potential, and blistering performance”

The i3 has loads of options that can be selected:

  • 4 different interiors
  • Sunroof
  • Autonomous parking and driving
  • Upgraded nav and media system
  • 4 different types of alloys
  • LED hedlights
  • Comfort access
  • Harmon Kardon stereo

As a result there is almost an infinite mix of specs and colours making no i3 the same.  Naturally the additional spec adds lots to the cost of the vehicle, which is also reflected in the used car values.

Key Features:

  • 70-120 mile real world range depending on model
  • Range extender available that adds 60 miles of range for 9l of petrol fill
  • 60aH and 90aH models
  • DC rapid charging (80% + charge within 30 mins)
  • In-built sat nav
  • 4 seats, 4 doors (rear doors pillarless coach doors) and a small boot
  • Quality engineering
  • Lots of options, including every high tech extra you could wish for
  • DC Rapid charging (empty to 80% + within 30 minutes
  • AC fast charging at home, empty to full in 3-4 hours.

Other electric cars that didn’t make it into the top 3


The Tesla model s and X are both fantastic cars, however their very high price point is what keeps them off this list, as their appeal and accessibility and affordability do not make them mass market cars, and thus they do not feature in our top 3 used electric cars.

There is a whole host of other electric cars whose scarcity of supply means that they are comparatively costly to buy compared to the value they offer. This is not to say they are not good vehicles, but just too expensive relatively to be a real value and therefore have not made the top 3.

Included in this is the VW E-up and E-Golf; the Kia Soul EV, Hyundai Ioniq, Mitsubishi I-Miev, Peugeot Ion.  Whilst electric cars with their individual strength, they are not cars that we consider the best good value EV’s.

Test Drive an Electric Car for Yourself

Hopefully this article will help you choose the right electric car for you, however the best advice is to test drive and take a look at the cars for yourself.  If you are looking to change your car then please do consider an electric car, as like everyone who has test driven an EV, you are sure to be impressed with the cars that are set to be the future of motoring.

Author Details: Richard Norris, founder and Director of ‘Completely Green’ and ‘Drive Green’, family man, and sustainable living enthusiast, and electric car driver.