Keep down the cost of motoring

All about car running costs

there's a lot more to the cost of owning/running a car than fuel consumption alone

there's a lot more to the cost of owning/running a car than fuel consumption alone

Along with safety and reliability, the cost of running a car – usually expressed as fuel consumption – is one of the top considerations for most of us when choosing a car.

But there's a lot more to the cost of owning/running a car than fuel consumption alone.

There are two types of cost you need to take account of: Those you have to pay to keep a car on the road (standing charges) and day–to–day expenses (running costs) such as fuel, servicing and tyres.

Standing Charges


With the exception of real classic and collectors cars, all cars lose value over time. This depreciation is the biggest single 'standing charge' you face.

Whatever make or model you buy you can reduce the cost of depreciation by buying used rather than new.  You can also minimise depreciation by:

  • Keeping the car in a good and clean condition
  • Attending promptly to any minor repairs that are required
  • Keeping mileage low
  • Making sure that the car is serviced according to the manufacturer's schedule
  • Keeping a comprehensive service record

Read more about depreciation »


To get the car on the road, you'll have to get it insured. Choosing a car in a lower insurance group should mean lower premiums as may choosing a policy with limited cover.

Third party insurance cover is the minimum required by law but it only provides basic cover - damage to other property or injury to others where you are found to be at fault.  Repairs to your vehicle are not covered nor are theft or damage by fire. Third party fire and theft insurance provides the same basic cover along with protection against loss or damage as a consequence of fire or theft.

Fully comprehensive includes cover for damage to your own vehicle and may include other additional cover/benfits too.

If you're insuring an older car, don't automatically assume that third party or third party fire and theft cover will be the cheapest option - get quotes comparing different types of cover as fully comprehensive insurance can sometimes work out cheaper.

Car tax

Car tax is based on the amount of CO2 your car emits – official figures are shown on the V5C registration document.

Diesel cars generally produce less CO2 than the equivalent petrol model as they're more efficient but they're not suitable for everyone – modern diesels are not well suited to low mileage, town-based stop/start driving.

Loan interest and cost of capital

If you borrow money to buy the car you will need to take account of interest and other fees charged on the loan.

If you use cash/savings to buy the car then you should also take into account the loss of any interest it could have been earning.

Running Costs

The biggest contributor to day-to-day running costs is fuel, but you'll also have to budget for tyres, servicing, repairs, parking and tolls.

Before you buy, take a look at our motoring cost tables. They're published every year and give a general guide to standing charges and day–to–day expenses individually and as an overall pence-per-mile figure for different types of car and annual mileage.


There are four factors that affect how much you'll spend on fuel for every mile you drive: the fuel price, the type of fuel, the car's efficiency (fuel consumption) and the way you drive.

For most of the past decade diesel has been consistently more expensive than petrol, but you do get more miles per gallon.  The bigger the price gap the longer it will take you to recover any additional outlay on buying a diesel in the first place. You'll need to be a high mileage driver to make diesel a more economical choice than petrol.

Cars that run on Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) are more expensive to buy (or convert) than petrol or diesel cars, but the gas itself is around half the price. Fuel consumption will be higher but overall you can expect a saving of around a third on your fuel bill. You'll need to do your sums carefully to make sure that your annual mileage is high enough to recover the initial costs within the period you plan to keep the car.

Pump prices vary quite a lot around the country and between different forecourts in the same town so it pays to get to know the cheapest in your area and shop around when you're away from home.

Think Small, Drive Smart

Small cars - to make your fuel/money go further, buy the smallest car that meets your needs.

Go green - opt for a fuel–efficient or alternative fuel car and you'll pay lower road tax and company car tax.

Once you've bought your car, there's a lot you can do to keep fuel bills down:

  • Service your car regularly to maintain engine efficiency and cut fuel consumption.
  • Drive smoothly and change gear as soon as possible without labouring the engine – typically between 2000 and 2500 RPM.
  • Pack your roof rack carefully and remove a roof box when you don't need it.
  • If you've got air–con try to avoid using it all the time.
  • Check tyre pressures regularly and adjust them to suit the load as advised in the handbook.
  • Stick to 70mph on the motorway. By travelling at 80–85mph, fuel costs can increase by 25% or more.
  • Fill up before getting on the motorway to avoid higher pump prices

(14 June 2013)


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