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Car travelling down road.

How much does it cost to run a car?

Clearly, driving a car costs more than just the price of the vehicle itself. There are a number of additional payments you'll need to make to ensure you're driving legally and safely.

The cost of motoring also varies broadly between owners because each person's car usage and vehicle is different. For this reason it's impossible to put an exact price on your car's running costs. However, the costs of owning a vehicle can be split into the following two categories: Standing Costs and Running Costs.

Standing Costs

These are the costs you have to pay before you can take your car out on the road:

Car Insurance

The cost of car insurance is different for each individual and their vehicle. This is because an insurance quote is based on the following four factors:

  • Personal details (age, driving history, etc.) of you and anyone else on your policy
  • Place of residence
  • Level of cover required (comprehensive/ third party fire and theft/ third party)
  • Age, value and type of vehicle
  • Vehicle storage/ security

Younger, less experienced drivers are considered a higher risk and therefore pay a higher premium, while drivers with a lower annual mileage are less likely to have an accident and therefore pay less for their insurance. Insurance quotes can also vary hugely from one provider to another so it pays to shop around.

Car Tax

Car Tax, also known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is graded on engine size, fuel type and the level of CO2 emissions of your car. Cars with very low CO2 emissions may be exempt from car tax altogether while, depending on your tax band, in 2013/2014 you could pay anywhere between 20 and 490 a year for road tax. Brand new cars, direct from the showroom, might pay a potentially higher tax rate for the first year which could be anywhere between 125 and 1065 for the 2013/2014 tax year.


If your car is more than 3 years old it must have a valid M.O.T. Certificate that indicates your car is roadworthy. Your M.O.T. Certificate has to be renewed annually at an authorised MOT test centre and currently the maximum price any test centre should charge for a standard Class 4 car is 54.85. However, you may be able to find one that offers to carry out an M.O.T. for less than this.

Breakdown Cover

Although not mandatory in the UK, breakdown cover from companies such as The AA, Green Flag and RAC provides cover for you when your car breaks down. Roadside/Recovery cover is the most basic service, where technicians will perform a quick fix or tow you to the nearest repair centre. This level of cover costs around 30 per year across the three listed companies.

Running costs

Running costs are those you will need to pay to keep your car running safely and efficiently. These include:


Clearly, every car needs fuel but the price will vary depending on whether your car runs on unleaded or diesel. Fuel prices have reached record levels in 2013with the average fuel price in the first half of the year being around 140p/litre. Fuel consumption varies according to the model of car and your driving technique. Smooth driving at moderate speeds will generally reduce your fuel consumption.


It's important to maintain your tyres correctly to ensure they remain both safe and legal. Keeping your tyres inflated at the correct PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) can help prevent unnecessary wear and tear but they will need replacing from time to time. Your owner's manual will tell you the legal tread limits for your tyres and you should never exceed these since you could incur a large fine and invalidate your car insurance if you had an accident and your tyres were found to be illegal.

Service, Labour and Replacements

Every car should be regularly serviced and you can find details of your service schedule in the owner's manual. Service costs will vary depending on the make and model of your car and where you take it to be serviced.

As well as regular servicing, your car may also incur additional costs when it needs repairs or replacement items.


Parking your car may incur further costs as you will sometimes need to use public car parks. In some cases, if you do not have your own garage or driveway, you may need to rent garage space or purchase a local authority permit for on-street parking. Alternatively if you live in a flat or apartment complex you may be paying for parking space as part of your service charges.


Motorists are sometimes required to pay a toll to use certain bridges or roads, such as the M6 toll road, the Severn Bridges, Dartford Crossing or the Tamar Bridge. However, unless these roads are part of your daily commute they are likely to be a negligible part of your overall running costs.

However, the Government are proposing a scheme where private operators take over the maintenance of some major routes and motorists and motoring organisations, including the AA, which could lead to more toll charges in future.