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Electric cars vs petrol cars: what is the better option?

April 14, 2022 by

Apple vs Android, Smith vs Rock, these are the great rivalries of our times, but when it comes to choosing your next car the foremost question on your mind will be the petrol vs electric debate.

With constantly changing legislation, advances in technology and confusion over which option is more cost-effective in the long run, it’s no surprise that many consumers are uncertain about what to choose.

There’s no need to worry though, this guide should help answer any questions you may have to help you make the right choice.

What is an electric car?

An electric car makes do without a traditional internal combustion engine and instead has one or more electric motors which are powered by a large battery pack.

These types of purely electric cars are called BEVs or Battery Electric Vehicles. They generally have one fixed gear (so no gear changes take place while driving) and provide near-silent and smooth progress.

What is a petrol car?

A petrol car has an internal combustion engine that sends its power to the wheels through a gearbox. It converts petrol into energy, unlike a BEV that uses electricity. Whereas an electric motor provides all of its torque immediately, a petrol engine needs to be revved to access all of its available power and torque.

To ensure that it can operate efficiently over a broad speed range a gearbox is needed. It operates the same way as the gears on your bicycle; higher gears let you go faster while lower gears provide more power for acceleration.

What are the pros and cons of electric cars?

There are a number of great benefits to be had from going electric, but there are some negative aspects too.

Benefits of an electric car

  • Zero emissions
  • Lower cost per mile compared to petrol cars
  • Government grants offered on certain EVs
  • Exempt from charges in clean-air zones
  • Minimal servicing requirements

Drawbacks of an electric car

  • Pricing tends to be higher than for similar petrol models
  • Range is lower than in most petrol cars
  • Charging takes longer than filling with petrol
  • Charging infrastructure isn’t up to speed just yet
  • Environmental impact of building an EV can be more than an equivalent petrol car

What are the pros and cons of petrol cars?

There are still plenty of reasons to consider a petrol car, however, they aren’t always the best choice for every consumer.

Benefits of a petrol car

  • Lower pricing compared to EVs
  • Refuelling is quick and convenient
  • Range anxiety is not an issue
  • Broader range of vehicles to choose from – for now

Drawbacks of a petrol car

  • Ever tightening regulations will limit the viability of petrol cars in the future
  • Charges apply to drive in low-emission and clean-air zones
  • Higher overall environmental impact compared with EVs
  • More expensive servicing and running costs

Cost of running an electric car vs a petrol car

To many, the decision comes down to the simple matter of cost. An electric car is cheaper to run, and servicing and maintenance costs tend to be lower than for petrol cars. But does this outweigh the higher initial pricing of EVs?

Real world comparisons

Let’s compare two broadly similar vehicles to find out. The Seat Leon Estate SE 1.5 TSI and the MG5 Estate EV offer similar levels of standard equipment and interior space with comparable performance in everyday driving. The Seat costs £26,835 while the MG5 EV is £28,195 once the Government EV grant is factored in.

The total ownership costs over a 3-year period including fuel/electricity, leasing costs, servicing and ULEZ charges for the Seat are an estimated £18,410 while the MG5 Estate is £13,631. That’s a singificant insignificant £4,779 saved in total, or £132,75 each month if you pick the MG.

You will find similar savings on premium brands too, with the petrol-powered BMW 430i costing more overall than the all-electric BMW i4 over the same 3 year period.

If you are interested in where these numbers came from, you can see a detailed breakdown below. If not, it is clear to see that leasing an EV can yield a significant saving, but make sure that it suits your needs before committing.

Cost per mile

  • Seat Leon: £1,500 for every 10,000 miles travelled. £4,500 for 30,000 miles
  • MG5 EV: £398 for every 10,000 miles travelled. £1,194 for 30,000 miles

The Seat Leon offers 49.9mpg combined fuel consumption and filling its 50-litre (11-gallon) fuel tank will cost approximately £81.25. So, it will cost you £0.15 per mile or £1,500 for every 10,000 miles travelled.

The MG5 EV promises a range of 250 miles in mixed driving from its 61.1kWh battery pack. With electricity costing an average of 16.3p/kWh in the UK it will cost £9.95 to fully charge the MG5 EV. That equates to £398 for every 10,000 miles travelled. (Charging prices can be higher if you use public charging points regularly)

Leasing charges, Servicing, ULEZ and road tax

The calculations below are for comparison purposes only and your specific circumstances may yield differing results. For example, travelling more than 10,000 miles annually or entering low emissions zones on a regular basis will favour the MG.

Seat Leon:

  • £495 Road Tax (This cost is included in all carwow leasing deals)
  • £450 ULEZ charges (Entering a £12.50 ULEZ zone once a month)
  • £555 Estimated cost of 3 services
  • £12,905* carwow Leasing costs (36 months, 6 months deposit, 10,000 miles p/a)


  • £0 Road Tax
  • £0 ULEZ charges
  • £216 Estimated cost of 3 services
  • £12,221* carwow Leasing cost (36 months, 6 months deposit, 10,000 miles p/a)

Are electric cars better than petrol cars?

The answer to this largely depends on your usage scenario. For daily driving duties and commuting around crowded city centres, EVs are the better choice (providing you have somewhere to charge them). From their effortless power delivery to the option of driving in ULEZ zones for free, you also get the best range out of an EV in these stop/start driving conditions.

If you regularly travel long distances and visit areas where the EV charging infrastructure is patchy, then a petrol car will be the better bet. Petrol engines deliver their best fuel economy on long motorway cruises and filling up will take minutes instead of hours. An EV may also not be a good idea if you don’t have access to a charging point where you live.

If you are still uncertain of which option is right for you then head on over to our fuel chooser tool and answer a few simple questions to find the answer.

Buy your new car (and sell your old one) through carwow

Once you’ve decided on whether to go petrol or electric then take a look at the latest offers on your preferred model through carwow.

A network of trusted dealers will come to you with their best offers. There’s no need to haggle or negotiate and you can compare your offers in one place without even having to leave your home.

If you’re thinking of selling your old car, you can do that through carwow, too. Again, a network of dealers will come to you with their best offers for your vehicle — no haggling, no fuss, and the price you’re offered is the price you’ll get. The dealership will make payment and collect your car.

*Prices correct at the time of writing