Petrol vs Electric Car: Which is Best?

Out of every debate, petrol vs electric cars is up there with the best of them as far as popularity goes and it’s easy to see why.

Electric vehicles have thrown a spanner in the works – a sustainable spanner, but a spanner nonetheless. This spanner has forced drivers, both old and new, into quite the predicament as they determine which is the better option moving forward.

There’s a lot of information out there to sift through – most of it super complicated to grasp – which is why we decided to do all the digging for you and present it in one handy post!

Our goal is simple:

To help you decide, once and for all, which is the right move for you.

Let’s begin by explaining the main differences between the two vehicles, starting with electric cars.

Tesla Model 3 driving Tesla are one of the leading electric car brands

What is an Electric Car?

Electric cars have completely changed the game as far as the actual driving is concerned.

Instant torque, high speeds, and a bunch of additional performance-related features are next to impossible to ignore, regardless of whether or not you care about these things. The moment you step behind the wheel of an EV, the differences are beyond noticeable compared to petrol cars.

The power of these vehicles comes from one or more electric motors which are powered by a large battery pack, meaning they generally only have one fixed gear that requires no manual shifting.

That’s right, all electric cars are automatic.

In the case of hybrid electric vehicles this is slightly different as power comes from both an internal combustion engine and a battery.

Pure electric cars are often referred to as BEVs or battery electric vehicles. As the name suggests, these vehicles are powered by electric power only.

Unlike petrol cars, these vehicles need to be charged in order to run. Charging requires drivers to visit a charging station or use a home charger. How long it takes to charge varies depending on the type of charger it is and its compatibility with the vehicle in question.

Charging speeds are constantly improving, as are the battery capacities of these vehicles, allowing them to travel a lot further without worry!

Pros of Electric Cars

There are many advantages to owning an electric car, the most obvious being:

They produce zero emissions when in motion, which is much better for the planet. Taking better care of the environment is a requirement of many these days, which is why a lot of drivers have already made the switch.

We’ll touch on this in a later section, but the costs associated with electric cars are a lot cheaper in comparison to petrol cars, too.

Money-wise, you’ll save a lot more money by travelling through certain areas of certain cities without having to worry about congestion charges or anything like that as these vehicles are fully exempt.

Below we’ve outlined the main pros of owning an electric car:

  • Zero emissions
  • Low cost per mile vs petrol cars
  • No noise when in motion
  • Government grants available
  • Performance benefits
  • No congestion charges
  • Minimal servicing requirements

Cons of Electric Cars

We need to paint the full picture in this electric vs petrol car debate which needs to include the drawbacks of owning an electric car (we’ll do the same for petrol cars in the next section too).

Range is an area of concern for some buyers as petrol cars tend to offer much better mileage in comparison to most electric cars. Affordable electric cars can only travel a set number of miles (between 100-150 depending on the model you choose).

Those travelling much longer distances might struggle to see the benefits where they are constantly having to visit a recharging station for some juice.

How long it takes these vehicles to charge is another point of concern for potential buyers. Charging an EV can take upwards of 8 to 12 hours depending on the type of charger used. Even charging at home, this is quite a long time.

Below we’ve outlined the drawbacks of owning an electric car:

  • Pricing can be on the high side
  • Range is lower than most petrol cars
  • Cold temperatures can affect performance
  • Charging takes longer to fill vs petrol

An image of a petrol station at night Petrol cars still hold a significant edge in the transport market

What is a Petrol Car?

Now onto petrol cars in the great petrol vs electric car debate!

Petrol cars, sometimes referred to as “traditional cars,” have been the status quo for quite some time now and continue to be a reliable option in the modern day despite the rising number of EVs.

These vehicles run via an internal combustion engine (ICE) that sends its power to the wheels through a gearbox. It operates in the same way a standard bike does where higher gears allow you to go faster whereas lower gears provide more power for acceleration.

For this engine to run it needs petrol, in the same way, that BEVs need electricity to run. The more petrol you put into your car, the further it can go.

One of the main differences between the two vehicles is that petrol cars need to be revved to access all of its available power and torque which can take a few seconds to trigger. Electric cars are the complete opposite and can access this near instantly.

If you want evidence of this, watch any Top Gear track testing videos on YouTube (preferably any that includes a Tesla vehicle).

Pros of Petrol Cars

There are many benefits to owning a petrol-powered car, despite how harmful they are to the planet. For example, if cost is a dealbreaker for you, then petrol cars are more likely going to be better for you if you like having more variety.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any electric cars available for those on a smaller budget, as we showed in this post.

Another thing petrol cars are great at is alleviating range anxiety, giving drivers complete confidence in their chosen ride.

“Range anxiety” is the term given to the fear associated with not having enough range to reach a destination. It is often used in conversations about electric cars as range is often a major talking point during petrol vs electric car conversations.

Below we’ve outlined more pros of owning a petrol car:

  • Lower price compared to EVs
  • Putting petrol in car is quick and convenient
  • Little to no “range anxiety”
  • Much more to choose from currently

Cons of Petrol Cars

Benefits of petrol cars aside, there are still some major drawbacks that do limit the viability of these motors leading into the future.

One of these drawbacks literally limits the viability of these motors leading into the future as every major country around the world is currently in the process of phasing out these vehicles, replacing them with electric cars.

Most countries have set a 2030 end goal, with sales of ICE vehicles being completely scrapped by then. So be sure to keep that in mind when looking for a vehicle to take into the next decade.

Another downside to owning a petrol car is the maintenance and general upkeep costs. Refuelling your car on a regular basis can cost you quite a lot of money (again, totally depends on how far you travel and how often you drive around).

Below we’ve outlined the cons of owning a petrol car:

  • Upcoming regulations will limit use
  • Charges apply when driving in certain zones
  • Bad for the environment overall
  • Tends to be more expensive to upkeep/refuel

Electric Car Charging A lot of established car brands are working on EVs

Electric Car vs Petrol Cars: The Costs

The costs associated with these vehicles tend to be the main deciding factor when people engage in the great petrol vs electric car debate.

So, which is the cheaper option between the two?

The answer to this question varies depending on what you’re asking exactly.

If you’re asking which is cheaper to purchase outright, then 9/10 we’d say petrol cars are cheaper, unless you’re looking at vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or the Renault Twizy.

These vehicles aren’t nearly as impressive as some of the electric supercars there are out there, but they’re still electric cars. If you’re looking for a much more powerful EV, then there are plenty of leasing options available.

Leasing is another entryway into the ever-expanding world of electric vehicles. You won’t ever own the car you drive around in per-se, but you’re still driving around in one and don’t have to worry about the steep costs.

Plus, there are few costs required should your vehicle run into any issues, which can be rather expensive if, say, there’s a problem with your car battery.

Electric car batteries are very expensive to fix or replace and will get even more expensive as updated EVs are released and some of the older batteries are cycled out.

All that said, electric cars are the cheaper option in terms of general upkeep costs. Here, we’ll show you using the MG5 EV as a case study:

With this vehicle you pay:

  • 0 road tax
  • 0 ULEZ charges
  • £216 estimated cost of 3 services
  • £12,221 leasing cost (Carwow)

Do keep in mind that the costs included are subject to change, but this is cheaper than the costs associated with petrol-fuelled cars, generally speaking.

To recap:

  • Petrol cars are typically cheaper to buy
  • Electric cars are cheaper to run
  • Petrol cars are cheaper to maintain (currently)

A woman driving a car Have we helped you make a decision?

Petrol vs Electric Car: Which is Best?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer as to which is better in the great electric vs petrol car debate.

For daily commuting and moving in and out of crowded city centres, EVs are by far the superior choice. The same goes for general charging costs when compared to the cost of petrol and the frequency of needing to fill up an ICE vehicle.

And that’s without highlighting the notable performance differences, and the fact that you can say you are part of the electric revolution (if status is something you care about?).

Still, all of that doesn’t change the fact that petrol cars still have a significant edge in the current market when it comes to accessibility and certain costs, such as maintenance and the initial upfront costs.

Range is another area that petrol vehicles hold the lead, however, we expect this to change as and when the technology improves.

That statement can be applied to a lot of answers in this debate, in that the technology across the board – from the battery to other internal systems – all of it is constantly receiving tweaks to make it better.

Petrol vehicles now have a clearly defined endgame, as mentioned. We are only a handful of years away from 2030, a year when you’ll really begin to see how different the transport landscape is.

Granted, you have a few more years to enjoy ICE vehicles, but electric cars are inevitable – this is likely to apply to hydrogen-powered cars, too!

Electric vs Petrol Car: FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions in relation to petrol vs electric cars.

Is an electric car better than a petrol car?

In terms of performance and general fuelling/charging costs, yes, electric cars are much better, and that’s without talking about the environmental benefits. If you’re looking at the cost of the vehicle outright, then you might have a different opinion.

What are the disadvantages of electric cars?

One of the main barriers to entry for electric cars, and electric vehicles as a whole, are the costs associated with buying them outright. Electric cars can be rather expensive and are the reason why so many drivers are choosing to lease these vehicles.

Which is cheaper to run between an electric and petrol car?

Electric cars tend to be a lot cheaper to run compared to petrol cars. Charging your vehicle costs significantly less than traditional fuelling methods. Of course, this will vary depending on the vehicle you own and the type of charger used.

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