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Petrol vs. electric: which is cheaper to service?

Using our Expert Rating Index and manufacturer price lists, we've crunched the numbers to compare servicing costs for EVs vs fossil-fuel cars. The results were clear.

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Switching from a fossil-fuel car to an electric vehicle means that many of your usual motoring bills will change – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Today, we’re looking at the specific cost differences for servicing electric cars compared to petrol, diesel and hybrid cars.

Thanks to servicing cost data exclusively supplied to The Car Expert by our technical partner Clear Vehicle Data, based on official manufacturer servicing charges, we’ve pulled together the most comprehensive analysis of scheduled servicing costs you’ll find anywhere.

Our data set compares official servicing costs for some of the UK’s most popular fossil fuel and electric models over the first five years of ownership. We’ve then grouped these into costs over 1-3 years (relevant for new car buyers) and 3-5 years (more relevant for used car buyers).

The data is enormously detailed, covering tens of thousands of individual results. Every model of new car on sale is actually a collection of different vehicles with different running costs. We have aggregated data across model ranges to cover all the different versions of each model (eg – petrol/diesel/hybrid/electric motor, manual/automatic gearbox, different trim levels, etc), while also allowing for both time-based and mileage-based (based on average costs for 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 and 20,000 miles a year) servicing.

The data only covers scheduled servicing and maintenance, which means every job that the manufacturer requires to be done at each service. It includes any parts required (filters, oils and lubricants, etc) as well as labour. It doesn’t include wear-and-tear items, like brake pads or tyres, because these will wear faster or slower depending on how you drive.

Clear Vehicle Data provides a thorough overview of running costs on every new car, as well as many near-new used cars, for a number of UK fleet companies to help them make purchasing decisions. We use their data here at The Car Expert for fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, insurance groups and servicing costs – using our own custom algorithm to generate specific running costs ratings for new and used cars. These scores then feed into our overall new and used car ratings for our award-winning Expert Rating Index to help you choose the best car for your needs.

Petrol vs. electric servicing – overall market

After analysing the manufacturer servicing costs for the entire new and nearly-new car market in the UK – totalling more than 600 different cars, as featured in our Expert Rating Index – we can reveal that electric cars are about 30% cheaper to service over the first five years of ownership.

Average servicing costsPetrol/diesel/hybrid carsElectric cars 
Year 1£295£232
Year 2£730£508
Year 3£1,169£814
Year 4£1,169£984
Year 5£1,905£1,318
Total after 5 years£5,514£3,857
Year 1 to 3 average£733£518
Year 3 to 5 average£1,497£1,039
© Clear Vehicle Data and The Car Expert

The average annual servicing costs from year 1 to year 3 of ownership – a useful number for those buying a new car – are 29% cheaper if you opt for an electric car. EVs are also 31% cheaper on average to service from year 3 to year 5, which bodes well for anyone interested in a used electric car.

Electric cars generally have fewer moving parts that are likely to need repairs or wear down over time, which reduces their upkeep costs compared to a combustion-engined car. Most of the servicing costs are taken up by jobs that are not specific to the electric powertrain – things like tyres and brakes, windscreen wipers, lights and so on.

So, any electric car is very likely to be cheaper to service than its combustion-powered counterpart, but there are exceptions to this general rule, as we display below.

Petrol vs. Electric servicing – like-for-like model comparisons

While the overall market picture is broadly useful, it’s even better to have data that directly compares like-for-like models to give a more detailed picture.

There are far more choices for electric cars today than there were five years ago, but it’s still a much smaller number than for petrol, diesel and hybrid models. And in some areas like sports cars, which tend to have very high servicing costs, there are still almost no EV options.

So we went through the data, pulling out every model that has a choice between fossil-fuel and electric options (like the Vauxhall Corsa and Corsa Electric) as well as examples where car manufacturers offered two different cars in the same model category (like the Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen ID.3).

This gave us 48 like-for-like comparisons where we could compare similar cars from the same brand, allowing an even more accurate analysis of the cost differences. In 45 of those cases, the electric model was cheaper to service, often by a substantial amount.

On average, we found that like-for-like electric models were about 24% cheaper to service over the first five years – 23% in years 1 to 3, and 25% in years 3 to 5.

Direct comparisons

Firstly, we have some examples where the same basic car is offered in both fossil-fuel and electric versions. Manufacturers like BMW and Stellantis (Peugeot, Vauxhall, Citroën, etc.) are generally in favour of this approach.

There were 26 cases where we had a full set of five-year servicing cost data, and in 24 cases the electric car was cheaper – the only outliers were the Kia Niro EV and the Vauxhall Vivaro Life Electric, which were slightly dearer than their fossil-fuel siblings.

We haven’t displayed every single model below, but tried to cover a range of different vehicle types.

Vauxhall Corsa (2020 onwards)

Vauxhall Corsa (2023 onwards) | Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£449
Year 3 to 5£1,024

Vauxhall Corsa Electric (2020 onwards)

Vauxhall Corsa Electric (2023 onwards) | Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£304
Year 3 to 5£680

The sixth-generation Vauxhall Corsa has been on sale with pure-petrol and electric powertrain options since 2020, and is a perfect servicing comparison case study. From year 1 to 3 of ownership, the Corsa Electric is 32% cheaper to maintain on average. From year 3 to 5, the electric version of the hatchback is 34% cheaper.

BMW 5 Series (2023 onwards)

AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£851
Year 3 to 5£1,716
  • Expert Rating coming soon!

BMW i5 (2023 onwards)

BMW i5 | Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£701
Year 3 to 5£1,328

The new BMW 5 Series range arrived in the UK towards the end of last year, which includes a battery-powered i5 model for the first time. Clear Vehicle Data’s numbers predict that the electric model will be 18% cheaper than petrol and plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW 5 Series to service annually from year 1 to 3, and is 23% cheaper from year 3 to 5.

MG ZS (2017 onwards)

MG ZS (2017 onwards) – Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£470
Year 3 to 5£1,002

MG ZS EV (2019 onwards)

MG ZS EV (2021 facelift) – Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£360
Year 3 to 5£763

One of the older models on this list, the mid-sized MG ZS SUV has been offered with petrol power since 2017, with an all-electric model joining the range in 2019. Already fairly cheap to service, a new ZS EV is still 23% cheaper to maintain for the first three years than the petrol model. If you’re looking at a used model, the electric version is 24% cheaper from year 3 to 5.

Volvo XC40 (2018 onwards)

Volvo XC40 – Small SUV Class Champion of 2021
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£629
Year 3 to 5£1,276

Volvo EX40 (2021 onwards)

AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£497
Year 3 to 5£892

The more upmarket Volvo XC40 also has fairly reasonable upkeep costs. That said, the recently-renamed electric EX40 (formerly the XC40 Recharge) is 21% cheaper than its petrol and plug-in hybrid counterpart to service annually from year 1 to 3. From year 3 to 5, the EX40 is 30% cheaper.

Kia Niro (2022 onwards)

Kia Niro (2022) | Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£483
Year 3 to 5£1,012

Kia Niro EV (2022 onwards)

Kia Niro EV | Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£491
Year 3 to 5£1,022

Clear Vehicle Data’s numbers estimate that the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the second-generation Kia Niro are actually 2% cheaper to service than the electric Niro EV from years 1 to 3. For years 3 to 5, the regular Niro range is 1% cheaper to maintain.

This is an interesting result, as it suggests that not all electric cars offer cheaper servicing costs than petrol-powered models. It’s also surprising, as the fundamentally similar Hyundai Kona range has much cheaper servicing for electric versions – the Kona Electric is a huge 52% cheaper to service from year 1 to 3 than the petrol version, which makes the Kia costs rather curious.

Similar size models from the same manufacturer

In many cases, car manufacturers will offer specific EV models in a certain segment alongside their existing fossil-fuel cars, rather than developing one car that can be configured to run on petrol/diesel or electricity. Manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen tend to favour this approach.

Arguably, this creates a better result for both the electric car and the fossil-fuel version, as there are fewer compromises on either side to get the best result for each. But in practice, it’s less important than other factors in determining a vehicle’s overall quality and suitability.

Out of 22 examples where we ave full five-year servicing costs, 21 showed a significant cost advantage for the electric model. The only exception was the Mercedes EQE SUV, which was dearer than the fossil-fuel equivalent Mercedes GLE. While there are plenty of differences between the two models that make a direct comparison more difficult, it’s an outlier even within the Mercedes-Benz family, where the EQA, EQB, EQC and EQS SUV models are all cheaper to service than their GLA, GLB, GLC and GLS equivalents.

Again we’ve only shown a few examples below to cover a range of popular vehicles rather than every pair of cars we compared.

Fiat 500 (2015 onwards)

Fiat 500 hatch (2015 onward) Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£451
Year 3 to 5£966

Fiat 500 Electric (2021 onwards)

Fiat 500 electric charging
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£331
Year 3 to 5£707

The pint-sized Fiat 500 and its 500 Electric sibling might look very similar, but the EV model was a brand-new car in 2021, while the petrol 500 dates back to 2007 and is very different underneath the retro skin.

The 500 Electric is notably cheaper to service, being 27% cheaper on average in the first three years. For used models, the 500 Electric is also 27% cheaper from years 3 to 5.

Audi Q5 (2017 onwards)

Audi Q5 (2017 onwards) – Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£795
Year 3 to 5£1,668

Audi Q4 e-tron (2021 onwards)

Audi Q4 e-tron (2021 onwards) | Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£562
Year 3 to 5£1,139

While they don’t belong to the same model range, the petrol/diesel/hybrid Audi Q5 and electric Q4 e-tron are a similar size. The electric Q4 e-tron is 29% cheaper to maintain annually than the petrol or diesel Q5 from year 1 to 3, and is 32% cheaper from year 3 to 5.

Nissan Qashqai (2021 onwards)

2021 Nissan Qashqai | Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£533
Year 3 to 5£1,083

Nissan Ariya (2022 onwards)

Nissan Ariya price reduction
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£453
Year 3 to 5£899

The Nissan Qashqai is one of the UK’s best-selling vehicles, while the all-electric Nissan Ariya is one of our favourite EV family cars. They’ll take up a similar size on your driveway, although the Ariya is more expensive to buy or lease.

In terms of servicing costs, the Ariya is 15% cheaper over the first three years, and 17% cheaper in years 3 to 5.

Volkswagen Golf Mk8 (2020 onwards)

Volkswagen Golf Style (2020 onwards) Expert Rating
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£420
Year 3 to 5£964

Volkswagen ID.3 (2020 onwards)

Volkswagen ID.3 (2023 onwards) – Costa Azule blue paint
AgeAverage annual servicing costs
Year 1 to 3£384
Year 3 to 5£812

Last but not least, Volkswagen launched its ID.3 hatchback in 2020 as an all-electric alternative to its popular Mk8 Golf. The ID.3 is 9% cheaper than the petrol and plug-in hybrid Golf range from year 1 to 3, and 16% cheaper from year 3 to 5.

Summary

There are lots of expenses in running a car, and servicing is just one of them. But it is one where we can make direct comparisons across different makes and models, as well as across similar versions of the same models.

Servicing costs form a key component of our recently upgraded Expert Rating Index, along with other running costs like fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and insurance groups. If you’re looking for a new car, or a near-new used car, make sure you look through the data carefully so you know what to expect when your car is due for its next service.

Additional reporting by Stuart Masson

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Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.