Is getting an electric car really worth it?

Justus Visagie
Justus Visagie

This week, #Trending Car Doctor Justus Visagie gives advice on cars for learner drivers, a unicorn and electric cars after the recent fuel price hike.

Jerry: I have a budget of R50 000 to buy my son a car – something that’s cheap to maintain, reliable and fuel efficient. A Citi Golf, Tazz and Corolla are on the short list. I’d like to know which is the easiest to learn to drive in. Please also feel free to add a car to the list.
The cars you mention are good options. Add the Kia Picanto and Rio, Hyundai Accent and Getz, the Honda Ballade, Nissan Micra and Sentra, and the Daihatsu Charade and Sirion to the list. Any small to medium car with good outward visibility is easy to learn in – even better if it has power steering.

Anonymous: I have a budget of R200 000 to R300 000 for a car. I will be travelling great distances and I need it to be reliable, cheap to maintain, quick and fuel efficient. It should transport four comfortably – preferably a hatch or sedan. An automatic transmission is a must. I’d like to keep the car for 10 to 15 years.
If you travel great distances, it’s unlikely that a car will last 10 to 15 years. For example, if you drive 40 000km a year, you’d rack up a galactic 400 000km in 10 years. I can still recommend a car that would meet most of your other requirements, including an automatic gearbox. These are the Suzuki Ciaz, Toyota Corolla Quest, Mazda3 sedan and Honda Ballade – if you’re buying new. For a used car, consider a one-year-old Hyundai Elantra or Toyota Corolla for under R300 000. None is quick, though. If you want a reliable, sporty car with room for four, you’ll have to up your budget.

Kieran: With the rising petrol price, is it worth my while to look for an electric car to save on transport costs?
This depends on a multitude of factors, including what you currently drive and where you’d charge your car. If you own a luxury petrol or diesel car valued at R400 000, it can make sense to trade it in for a used, electric BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf of the same value. But if you drive a R150 000 car, don’t bust your budget just to go electric. Electric cars available in South Africa can only travel about 140km on a charge. This means you’ll have to do a lot of driving and charging to offset the higher purchase price of an electric car. If you can regularly charge your Leaf at a Nissan dealer (they offer free charging for Leaf owners), at a solar charging system or at any other free charging station, you will reach a break-even point sooner, but not significantly so. A range of only 140km also makes these cars quite impractical. The Jaguar I-Pace, with a range of about 400km, will arrive next year, but it will sell for well over R1 million. The next Nissan Leaf, rumoured to arrive in Mzanzi later this year, will cost about R500 000 and has a range of 250km.

Do you have a car question you’d like Justus to answer? Using the words CAR QUESTIONS in the subject line, email You can also SMS the keywords CAR QUESTIONS and your query to 35697. Please include your name. SMSes cost R1.50


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