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How to calculate your car's running costs

It is important to consider how much a car is going to cost to run before you commit to buy. Here's a list of additional costs that you should budget for.

Cars can be expensive to run, so consider all the costs before you buy.

Cars can be expensive to run, so consider all the costs before you buy.

Owning a car can be an expensive undertaking, especially in the UK where prices are higher than anywhere else in the world. Before making your purchase, carefully consider calculating the cost of running a car.

We all know about the normal standing charges like car tax, insurance, MOTs and breakdown cover but here is a list of extra running costs that you may have overlooked.


Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Simply put, the amount of fuel you use is going to be the largest impact on your running costs and as crude oil prices soar, it’s unlikely this will change any time soon.

The average UK motorist paid more than £1000 for fuel last year and you can expect this number to double if you have a lengthy daily commute to work.

Buying an appropriate, fuel-efficient vehicle is going to be the greatest benefit in reducing this cost. Opting for a hybrid or alternative-energy car may be a big investment up front but will save you plenty in fuel and tax in the long run.

Another money-saving tip is to do some research on local pump prices: supermarkets in competitive areas will offer the best deals.


Tyres are another cost you must consider. In order to maintain a safe and smooth journey, tyres must be replaced once they get too worn. Each tyre should have a minimum lifespan of 20,000 miles, meaning that over a five-year period, the average driver will go through between four and six tyres.

All this translates into roughly £120 per year for the average driver, however, unlike fuel, the price of tyres varies dramatically. Charges can differ by hundreds of pounds depending on which brand you choose and where you buy from.

Servicing and replacement parts

Faults and accidents do unfortunately happen and can really hit you where it hurts – your bank account. Therefore, it is sensible to keep an emergency savings fund for when things go wrong. We all make mistakes so for peace of mind it is also sensible to invest in fully comprehensive car insurance.

Websites such as the Reliability Index can give you a breakdown (no pun intended) of reliability by car make and model which could save you from buying a vehicle that spends half the time in the garage.

Parking and tolls

Here’s a small cost that can add up over time, £160 a year for the average driver to be exact. Contemplate where your car will be parked on a daily basis. If you don’t have access to free parking near your place of work you may be forced to fork over a small fortune on a weekly basis. For commuters that live outside major cities, park and rides could save you time and money.

Lastly, those who live in London may have to take into account the congestion charge. At an eye-watering £11.50 per day, this cost may be just enough to put you off owning a car in the capital.

Total cost

You may want to sit down for this. The average, annual, total cost of owning a car in the UK is £3,500. For some, this could even be more than the price they paid for the car. We feel that this highlights the importance of budgeting around your lifestyle before making a purchase.

About the Author

Kirsty Leckie-Palmer

Staff writer at Arnold Clark