Electric vs Petrol Cars: Costs & Savings

While we take performance and safety into account when choosing a car, cost is often the most important consideration. This is both in what we pay for a car, as well as its running costs. As technology evolves and more people embrace electric mobility, the future of cars in New Zealand could be greener and cheaper than many of us expect. 

With the rising cost of petrol and the Government’s commitment to low emission vehicles via the Clean Car Discount, you might be wondering if it’s worth considering an electric vehicle (EV) right now. 

To help you decide, let’s take a closer look at the major differences between electric and petrol cars.

What are your options?

Whether it’s a hatchback or sedan, crossover, or large SUV, there’s almost sure to be an electric car option in New Zealand today. However, the range of makes and models is still limited. In New Zealand, the only EV vehicle type that’s not currently available is the ute. but the LDV EV T60 is reported to be hitting our shores later this year. 

Up-front costs

The up-front cost of a brand-new EV compared to a brand-new petrol car is significantly higher. Currently, the cheapest new EV in the country is the MG ZS EV, which comes in at around $49,000 (or around $40,000 after the Clean Car Discount). Not only is that price well beyond what you’d pay for a large proportion of petrol vehicles, but it’s the only EV in the country below $60,000. 

Motor Trade Association (MTA) Advocacy and Strategy Manager Greig Epps says that the average cost of a new electric car is about $68,000. By comparison, consumers can get a good new petrol car for under $30,000. So, even with the Clean Car Discount, the cost of a brand-new EV is significantly higher. 

Running costs

As the cost of petrol continues to rise, EVs are making a name for themselves due to their fuel economy. Canstar NZ has put together a guide that compares the running costs of both EVs and petrol cars to see what the differences are.  

Petrol car*

Mitsubishi Outlander – 7.2 litres / 100km = $21.60

Toyota RAV4 – 7.1 litres / 100km = $21.30

Mitsubishi ASX – 7.6 litres / 100km = $22.80

*Based on fuel cost of $3 per litre


Tesla Model 3 – 7.2 kWh / 100km = $4.43

MG ZS EV – 18.6 kWh / 100km = $5.77

Hyundai Kona EV – 14.3 kWh / 100km = $4.43

**Based on national average electricity price

Using this guide, we can see that the running costs of an EV are significantly lower than petrol vehicles. Based on an average travelling distance of 14,000 km per year, the above works out to total yearly costs of $683.20 for EVs and $3,066 for petrol vehicles. Over the year, this is a difference of $2,382.80.

If your electricity provider offers free electricity (such as Electric Kiwi’s Hour of Power) and you take advantage of this, you can essentially charge your EV for free. Another way to get some free kilowatts is by installing solar at your house, so your EV runs on nothing but sunshine. 

Maintenance and servicing

Petrol vehicles generally require more work, due to the need for oil and filter changes and engine repairs, while EVs never need oil changes or other engine mechanical repairs.

However, EVs still require brake pads, tyres, and suspension checks and/or replacements. Another factor to consider with EVs is battery maintenance and replacement. 

As it’s still early days in EV adoption in New Zealand, the true costs of EV maintenance are still not very clear and you’re your mechanic down the road may not even offer EV servicing. But, as more mechanics become familiar with EV servicing, the number of options should increase, which should ultimately decrease the cost. 

EV batteries

A new battery, depending on its size and brand of EV, costs between $5,000 to $10,000. As battery technology improves, you may be able to buy a battery with more capacity than the car initially came with.

EV batteries come with a significant warranty (up to eight years), which covers the rare instance of a battery malfunction and the loss of a certain percentage of its capacity. A 2019 study by Geotab found that EVs lose, on average, just 2.3% of their capacity annually. Therefore, after eight years, your battery would still be operating at 81.6%. 

So, if in 10 years, you do need to replace your battery, you can expect the cost to be significantly lower than at present, due to the EV industry’s constant growth and evolution.