How much does it cost to run a car?

Cost of Running a CarThe cost of driving has been increasing year on year, which has put more people off learning in the first place. Still, many of us own and use our cars regularly and don’t really think about how much we’re spending. Driving can be a necessity to get to work, visit family and for other purposes.

When considering how much it costs to run a car, most people automatically think of the fuel price. This doesn’t provide an accurate amount though; if you were to work out the value of driving 1000 miles, there are a lot of other factors to bear in mind too.

Initial purchase

The primary cost involved in owning a car is affording the actual vehicle. There are various ways of doing this, from buying outright to leasing. Either way, this should be worked out on a monthly basis over the time you have the vehicle to result in an accurate running cost. When leasing this is easy, but for buying outright many of us discard that amount as a one-off, when really it should be broken down against the time the car is owned.

Second-hand car checks

When buying a second-hand car you want to be sure that everything is as it seems. Having an approved engineer carry out a Vehicle Inspection will settle any worries. All that’s required is the seller’s permission and a little information.  There is a small fee involved but this is a one-off cost so could be factored into your budget for the initial purchase. Doing a comprehensive car history check is another way to stay safe when buying a used car as it will show you data about the car’s past. AA Cars offers this service for free.


Unless you are leasing a car, depreciation should be factored into the cost of running a vehicle. New cars lose their value a lot quicker than older ones, so the costs involved are a lot larger. Depreciation costs will depend on how long you intend to own the vehicle for – the longer you keep it, the more its value will drop. In general a car drops in value by 15-35% after a year and 50% after three years.

Insurance and breakdown cover

The costs of insurance can be astronomical for new drivers and, in some cases, eclipse that of the actual car. It is vital to have insurance though and the cost does go down over time. This cost should be included when working out the amount for running your car, as it can affect your choice of vehicle to stay within a budget. Breakdown cover is not a necessity but is advisable to stay safe. Sometimes it can be included for free when opening a bank account, for example, but otherwise can add an extra few hundred pounds a year to your car’s bill. Good news though: all the cars on AA Cars come with a year of free AA breakdown cover (or member upgrade).

Vehicle tax

A big incentive for running a green car is that it will be exempt from vehicle tax if it emits less than 100g/km CO2. Those below 120g/km only have to pay £30 before there is a big hike in the amount. This can have a big impact on running costs, so it is always worth looking at mpg and CO2 emissions before deciding on your next car. Vehicle tax for those producing between 186 to 200g/km CO2, for example, adds on more than £20 extra to running costs each month.


Currently, the maximum amount you can be charged for your car’s MOT is £54.85. It is a one-off charge that only needs to be made once a year but that still works out at about £4.50 a month. Plus, any repairs to be made along with a service will push it up even further.


Leasing may work out at a little more over the long term than paying for a new or used vehicle outright but it does usually include maintenance costs. This makes  it simple to add to the running costs per year. Depending on the age and state of your car, the maintenance costs could be minimal or excessive. On average, a used car has been assessed to cost around £450 a year in maintenance bills.


There are also all the little extras most drivers forget about, such as foot mats, cold weather kits (de-icer, scrapers etc.) and many other less expensive bits and pieces. Those who take their car abroad will need to factor in the costs of extra insurance and ensure it is ready to take on holiday with all necessary equipment.

The amount it costs to run a car will depend on all these factors, and will differ from driver to driver due to their circumstances. Either way, there are more costs to running and driving a car than just paying for fuel.


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