Electric vs Petrol Cars | What are the Differences?

09th Mar 2023

By Ellie Brown

Electric vs Petrol

Buying a new car can be challenging at the best of times, with many things to consider including running costs, design, and build quality. And with numerous manufacturers deciding to go fully electric in the coming years, there's now much more to take into account.

Petrol and diesel cars are often chosen over their electric counterparts due to their affordable prices and practicality, but will buying an electric car save you money in the long run as well as being more environmentally friendly?

In this guide, we'll be taking a look at the differences between ICE (internal combustion engine) and electric cars to help you decide which is best for your lifestyle.

What's the difference between a petrol and electric car?

Peugeot 2008 Exterior Side

Powered by an internal combustion engine, petrol cars use spark ignition to power the vehicle and require regular trips to the petrol station to refuel. Once topped up, petrol is mixed with air that's been pulled into the cylinder through the open intake valve(s).

Unlike petrol cars, electric cars are powered by electricity alone, replacing the internal combustion engine with an electric motor. Whilst petrol cars need to be topped up with fuel at a petrol station, electric cars require charging, which can be completed at various locations, including your own home.

Torque is instant in an electric car, which means a smooth and silent ride, while petrol cars require the engine to be revved before it can get moving.

All electric cars come with an automatic gearbox as standard, whereas petrol cars are available with both manual and automatic gearboxes.

Diesel cars are also powered by an internal combustion engine, however, they are ignited by high temperature rather than spark ignition and are more practical for travelling long distances.

Pros and cons of petrol cars

Petrol Engine

Numerous motorists opt for a petrol car due to their long list of benefits, however, there are also some downsides to ICE-powered cars that may need considering.


  • Affordable to buy
  • Plenty of used options
  • Convenient to refuel
  • No range anxiety


  • High fuel prices
  • High emissions compared to electric cars
  • Charges apply in low-emission zones
  • Road tax charges apply

Pros and cons of electric cars

Kia Niro

Just like their petrol equivalents, electric cars have a wide range of benefits that might sway drivers to make the switch, but there are a few drawbacks to take into account too.


  • Zero road tax
  • Low emissions
  • Affordable to run
  • Government grants available
  • Smooth and quiet driving experience


  • Expensive to buy
  • Charging can be time-consuming
  • Range anxiety
  • Low range compared to petrol cars

Petrol vs electric: which is cheaper in the long run?

Kia XCeed

Although there's a lot to consider when looking for a new car, for tons of motorists, it all comes down to the most affordable option.

With much to take into account in terms of value for money, such as upfront, running, maintenance, and refuelling/charging costs, it's important to study the differences.

  • Upfront Costs: Electric cars tend to be more expensive to buy than petrol and diesel vehicles because of the new technology and hardware they possess.
  • Running Costs: Servicing and maintenance costs are more expensive for petrol vehicles, as they require services such as oil changes that aren't needed in an electric car.
  • Refuelling/Charging Costs: It's currently much more affordable to charge an electric vehicle than it is to refuel with petrol.
  • Road Tax: Electric vehicles come with no road tax, unlike their petrol counterparts.

Best Petrol Cars

With such a wide range of new and used cars available with a petrol engine, it can be hard to narrow it down. From spacious family cars to nimble city cruisers, there's no doubt you'll be able to find a vehicle that suits your needs perfectly. Here are just a few of the most popular cars on the market in the UK:

Best Electric Cars

Electric cars have grown in popularity in recent years, and are only set to become a staple for many UK motorists in the coming years. There are plenty of new and used EVs to choose from, with some of the most popular including:

What about hybrid cars?

Hyundai PHEV

Mixing attributes from both petrol and electric cars, hybrid vehicles can offer something different entirely, bringing with them a whole host of their own benefits. There are three different types of hybrid powertrains:

  • Mild Hybrid (MHEV): A battery-driven electric motor assisting an internal combustion engine in powering the vehicle.
  • Hybrid (HEV): A self-charging hybrid with the ability to switch from an ICE and the vehicle's battery.
  • Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV): Offering decent range with the requirement of plugging the vehicle in to a power source.

Hybrid vehicles have similar benefits to fully electric vehicles, such as low road tax, affordable running costs, and an enhanced driving experience. However, possible downsides include expensive upfront costs than petrol and diesel vehicles.

The Verdict

Deciding on a petrol or electric car isn't as straightforward as it might seem initially, and it's important to consider the pros and cons in depth before making a decision. But with so many new and used petrol and electric vehicles on the market, you're guaranteed to find a vehicle that suits you perfectly.

For more handy information and advice, visit our blog section which is regularly updated with buying, driving, and hybrid and electric guides.


Frequently asked questions

Are electric cars better to drive than petrol cars?

Whilst electric cars offer a silent driving experience that's smooth out on the road, some petrol cars are known to be more fun to drive, as they are typically more engaging for enthusiasts. Therefore, it depends on each individual's requirements.

Are electric cars cheaper to insure?

Although it's not the case with all electrified cars, most EVs tend to have higher insurance than their ICE counterparts due to their higher prices and less availability.

Are electric cars better for the environment?

Electric cars are better for the environment as they emit very low to zero exhaust emissions, making them super eco-friendly.

Are electric cars better than petrol cars?

It really depends on an individual's needs, but if you're looking for an eco-friendly car that's cheap to run and smooth to drive, you'll likely prefer an electric car to a petrol vehicle.