How easy is it to insure an electric car, and does it cost more than a petrol or diesel?

By Will Dron on June 8, 2011 3:30 PM

Insuring an electric vehicle is a fairly simple process but there are some things you need to know about it before buying your car.

Firstly, in searching for insurance you're likely to find some quotes to be radically higher. This is because whereas the insurance companies know petrol and diesel cars inside out, electric vehicles are very new and there are some issues that have caused insurers some headaches. For one, the price of new electric cars is higher than for equivalent traditional cars and secondly, specialist repair work may need to be carried out after an accident. These can lead to higher premiums or, in the worst-case scenario insurance not being offered at all.

But don’t fear, insurance is still readily available and if you shop around you can find a good deal. Our basic advice is the same now as it will be in a few years’ time, when they all have got in on the act and prices have stabilised:

1. Get a quote before you buy

Make sure you find out how much it will cost to insure the car before you buy it. This is important whatever car you get.

2. Shop around

Don’t necessarily stick with your current insurer. They may be cheap for your Ford Mondeo, but they might not have got their heads round electrics just yet. Visit a price comparison website first and then speak to some independents. For example, Direct Line does not appear on price comparison sites, so you’ll need to speak with them directly.

3. Specialist insurers

While big name insurers find it hard to react to new technology like electric cars, others earn their living by being highly adaptable. Many vehicle owners with modified cars and bikes speak to specialists, who can assess each individual case much more easily, often finding a good deal in the process. For electric car owners this is also good practice – we found some of the best deals with (around £450 for a Nissan LEAF). However, we also found some of the worst deals with specialists so again, shop around.

4. Clarify whether the battery is fully owned or leased

Renault has made the decision to lease batteries to owners of their electric vehicles, which prompted Direct Line to raise concerns that this makes insuring the car more complicated. If you’re buying a Renault, or indeed any electric vehicle with a leased battery, bear this in mind and make sure you clarify this with the insurer.

5. Ask about cable liability

Connecting charging cables presents the opportunity for people to trip while the car is plugged in. Cables are generally very short and extension cables should never be used for safety reasons, so this is actually a minor issue but always ask the insurer about whether the policy provides cover for this eventuality. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

In short, at the moment there’s a bit more effort in finding a good deal for your electric car, but with wildly varying quotes you’ll want to make sure you’re covered for all eventualities, and not paying over the odds for the privilege.