Cost of owning a BMW i3

BMW i3 Rapid Charging

Bye-bye i3. You were amazingly fun to drive.

We've had our BMW i3 electric for three years now and it's time to say farewell. Back when we bought it, I made some rough calculations in order to budget and estimate costs. It's been really pleasing to see that the car has been way cheaper to own than I'd originally expected. We bought our previous car, a Mini Clubman D, brand new for a similar cost to the i3 second hand, and the i3 was much much cheaper to own.

Fuel expense & Mileage

Fuel costs have been extremely low, I've recorded all fuel expense over the 3 year period so have a thorough idea of what we've spent.

Without our own off-street parking, we've relied on the public networks to keep us moving. This has become easier over time as the networks have improved and after we saw 7kW chargers installed locally to us, within an 8-minute walk, it has become (almost) hassle-free. I've not included charging at my mum's house (paid for with manual labour) or work (no charge incurred, although an annual donation to charity is made).

We tried to keep the petrol expense from using the range extender to a minimum. We mostly needed to use the range extender during cold winter months (when the vehicle's range was reduced), when there were issues with local chargers and for longer journeys.

In total over three years, we spent £170.95 on petrol (getting us an estimated 1260 miles at 13p a mile) and £542.04 on electricity (getting us 31,221 miles for 1.73p a mile). This came to an overall average of 2.18p a mile during ownership on an average of 900 miles a month.

Total mileage during ownership 32,679 miles
Annual mileage 10,893
Miles per month 908
Annual fuel cost £237.66
Fuel cost per month £19.81
Cost per mile 2.18p

Maintenance costs

Costs for maintenance totalled £3056.08 over the 3 years, around £85 a month. We still had 12 months of warranty when we bought the car, which we made the most of and probably helped keep costs lower in the first 12 months. There were a couple of items of expenditure that are inflating this cost a little overall though.

One mistake we made early on was speaking to the BMW dealer about the squeaky brakes. Because EVs use regenerative braking, they don't get as much use, which can lead to some squeakiness a bit more than is usual on other vehicles (or at least this was our conclusion with the i3). We spoke to the BMW dealer at the time who offered to replace the brake pads, which we decided to do. This solved the issue, for a short while, but cost a whopping £415 which we didn't really need to spend - a month later and the brakes were a bit squeaky again. That was the biggest single expense on the car over 3 years, and we needn't have spent it! Then, there's an MOT and service with the BMW garage that was duplicated. We had a bad experience at the dealer, so decided to go elsewhere meaning the MOT cost and service investigation costs were repeated (£138).

Tyres were the biggest expense overall though. The i3 has quite a specific tyre from a single manufacturer and are about £150 a pop, we got through 8 of them. I'm going to assume that due to their narrow profile, they may wear faster than wider tyres.

Other expenses

Additional costs include the wall charger I bought to charge the car at my mum's house, plus the annual insurance. I decided to leave the wall charger (£149) out of the calculations as it is more of a one-time expense not related specifically to the i3. I couldn't find the records of the exact insurance quotes so had to estimate.

I've not included incidentals such as wash fluid or cleaning.

Insurance year 1 £300.00
Insurance year 2 £320.00
Insurance year 3 £320.00
TOTAL £940


Before we first got the car, I looked around online to figure out what the depreciation might be. Based on average depreciation rates I saw online, I estimated 18% annual depreciation and based our budget around that. We purchased the car for £17,400 from a private seller on AutoTrader.

Well, three years later I've been really pleased to see that the annual depreciation was actually around 13.9%, having sold the car for £11,600. We had to cut the price at the last minute due to an airbag warning light that came on, but even so, it was a reasonable saving over what I had expected.

The total cost of ownership

The overall cost savings of switching to an electric vehicle have been great. Over the equivalent time period, our previous car, a Mini Clubman D cost us £4500 more. Granted, because we purchase the vehicle new the depreciation was perhaps higher, but then again this was probably made worse as it was a diesel. The higher depreciation of the Mini was offset a little by the increased maintenance expenditure on the i3 (slightly older vehicle, but also bearing in mind this is slightly inflated by £554 we didn't have to spend).

The fuel expense was the biggest saving though, we used to spend an estimated £111.74 a month on diesel, but it now takes us 6 months to spend near that. Our monthly bill was reduced to £19.76 on average, a saving of over 80%! In total, over three years the mini cost around £4,469.59 in diesel fuel, meaning the i3 has knocked a whopping £3,759.22 off our 3yr fuel bill.

All in all, we've been really pleased with the cost-saving of owning an electric vehicle, especially one as nice as the BMW i3. It wasn't clear at the start whether or not we would be able to save money on the fuel cost, what with us having to use the public charging networks, but it's great to see that actually, it's possible to pay just as little if not less than charging at home. I've published all this data in case anyone else finds it helpful - as I really wanted some information like this when we were first thinking about buying the car.

Fuel £712.99
Maintenance £3,056.08
Other costs £940
Depreciation £5,840.00
TOTAL £10,549.07
Overall cost per month £293.03

You can download a spreadsheet version of the above data in Numbers, PDF and Excel formats.