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Soaring motoring costs mean that swapping four wheels for two can seem an appealing option. Car drivers have been hit by high fuel costs, steep car insurance premiums, rising road tax and increasing parking fees in recent years, not to mention on-going maintenance costs, causing many to consider whether it might be more cost-effective to drive a motorbike rather than a car.

While this won’t be practical for many – for example, if you have a family it won’t really be an option – for those who only need to get themselves around it may well be worth considering. Here, we weigh up the cost differences between cars and motorbikes, as well as looking at some of the pros and cons of each…

Cars v motorbikes: how costs compare

MoneySupermarket has analysed the potential running costs savings on offer to motorists if they were to switch from a car to a motorbike, focusing on a new Vauxhall Corsa, compared to a BMW R 1200 GS bike.

The Vauxhall Corsa costs £13,030 to buy, compared to £9,295 for the BMW bike, representing a saving of more than £3,700 on the initial cost alone. Insurance costs are also cheaper for the motorbike, with the average motorbike insurance premium for the BMW 2-wheeler coming in at £210.49, compared to £478 for the car. However, car and motorcycle insurance premiums will vary widely depending on your individual circumstances, so always compare quotes from a wide range of different insurers before buying.

Motorbike drivers save on fuel too compared to their car-driving counterparts. The BMW bike does 43.8 miles per gallon (mpg). That means, based on driving 10,000 miles a year with a fuel cost of 139.0p per litre, annual fuel costs would be £1,443. In comparison, the Vauxhall Corsa does 39.8 mpg, so driving the same number of miles would set you back £1,588 in fuel costs over the year.

However, cars prove the winners when it comes to breakdown cover, with the average comprehensive motorbike breakdown policy costing £74.50, nearly £15 more than the £58.85 car breakdown policy. But bikes are much cheaper to tax. Road tax for the BMW bike would cost just £16, whereas Vauxhall Corsa drivers would have to fork out a hefty £110.

Overall, the total cost of the motorbike would be £11,039, with running costs of £1,743.70, compared to the £15,265 cost for the car, with running costs of £2,234.56. That means the total potential saving from choosing a motorbike rather than a car is a massive £4,226.

The safety factor

Although bikes might be more cost-effective than cars, bike drivers face much greater dangers on the road. A motorbike is obviously not going to offer the same kind of protection as you would get from a car, as you are not enclosed and, if thrown from the bike, could hit other objects or vehicles.

In a crash between a car and a motorcycle, the motorcyclist is 26 times more likely to be injured or killed compared to any of the occupants of the car. Bikes are also less visible than cars and, because they have two wheels rather than four, they are less stable than cars. For example, if a type blew out on a car, you may be able to retain control of the vehicle thanks to the other three wheels, but if this happened on a motorbike, it is highly likely you would be thrown from the bike and suffer an injury.

Whether you choose a car or a motorbike, make sure you have comprehensive insurance in place so that you are financially protected in the event of an accident. Drivers who don’t pay for cover may think they are saving themselves money, but uninsured motorbike or car drivers could face thousands of pounds in liability costs, if they have an accident, a conviction including six points on their license, as well as charges up to £5,000.

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