Is service and maintenance cheaper on an electric car?

BMW i3 electric car and mechanic

In the vast majority of cases, an electric vehicle will be cheaper to maintain than a petrol or diesel car.

Indeed, a study in 2018 found that service and maintenance costs are, on average, 23 percent lower for electric cars over three years and 60,000 miles. The gap is even wider for small cars, with a difference of 35.7 percent.

Go Ultra Low claims that maintenance costs could be as much as 70 percent lower over a car’s lifetime.

This is partly because an electric car has fewer moving parts, while a conventional car is powered by a complex engine and transmission that requires regular servicing. Less to go wrong, less to maintain and therefore less impact on your wallet.

The cost difference

Hyundai Ioniq range

Let’s examine the evidence.

A three-year service plan on a BMW i3 costs £15 a month. A similar plan on a BMW 1 Series or 2 Series costs £20 a month. That’s a difference of £180 over three years. It’s not a like-for-like comparison, but it highlights the potential savings.

There’s more good news when we use the Kia Niro as an example. When based on a three-year service plan on a car registered within the past 11 months, the cost is £259 for the e-Niro electric car and £459 for the Niro plug-in hybrid – a difference of £200.

You can still save money even if you don’t fancy a service plan. Based on a nearly-new Hyundai Ioniq and driving up to 10,000 miles a year, here are the costs of the first three services:

10,000-mile/1st year service20,000-mile/2nd year service30,000-mile/3rd year service
Ioniq Hybrid/Plug-in Hybrid£141£242£148
Ioniq Electric£55£139£57
Difference-£86-£103-£91

Which items need to be serviced?

Kia Soul electric car maintenance

Although the service intervals might be longer, it’s important to stick to the manufacturer’s recommended servicing schedule. This is especially important when the car reaches its third birthday, at which point it will require its first MOT.

In 2019, CNET created a useful list of the top five electric car maintenance issues, which is well worth a look. In summary, these are the biggest issues:

  • Battery care. As the electric car’s most expensive feature, it’s important to play close attention to the battery. Don’t allow it to go totally flat and don’t charge it too often. Batteries aren’t great at tackling extreme hot or cold temperatures, but this won’t be a big issue in the UK. If in doubt, read the manual.
  • Brakes and brake fluid. With the right regeneration settings, you could find that you rarely use the brakes. However, the discs, pads and brake fluid will still require attention.
  • Coolant. Electric cars require coolant to stop the battery from overheating and catching fire.
  • Tyre rotation. Electric cars tend to be 20-30 percent heavier than their petrol or diesel equivalents, which puts pressure on the driven wheels. Be sure to look after your tyres.

Remember, an electric car will also require serviceable items such as bulbs and windscreen wipers, while many will require a visit to the dealer for the latest software update.

You still need to wash them, too…

You could find that you’ll need to change the tyres more regularly on an electric car. The extra weight will increase the rate of wear, while accurate alignment is essential to prevent premature wear to the inside edge of the tyres.

In the main, it’s all positive news for electric cars. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that, for now at least, electric cars are more expensive to buy, which might offset the maintenance savings.

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