The incredible lifetime cost of running your car

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Research from tyres company reveals the average British motorist will spend more on maintaining and insuring their cars in their lifetime than they would spend buying the average home.

It seems we’ll each fork out an eye-watering £189,416.64 on motoring costs during our lifetimes. That’s nearly £10,000 more than the £179,492 cost of the average home in Britain. Insurance is one of the biggest costs, with each of us spending on average £380.49 a year on cover. That’s a pretty compelling reason to make sure you’ve got the best cover at the best price. Tax (OK, OK, vehicle excise duty) is another major expense, costing the typical driver £91.70 over 12 months, or nearly £6,000 over a potential 63 years behind the wheel.

Testing times

You can’t dodge expenses such as these (not without breaking the law, you can’t), but there are savings to be made if you look after your car. A spokesman for said: “Almost £1,000 of the total expenditure figure goes on failing MOTs. This could easily be lowered if we keep an eye out for problems.” Of course, the actual amount you’ll spend on your own car will depend on a huge range of factors, but if this research shows one thing, it’s that running a car is expensive. According to, on average it costs British drivers nearly £3,500 a year to run our cars. For the average family, earning £31,000 after tax (source: Institute of Fiscal Studies), that’s a big chunk of annual income eaten up by motoring costs.

Out of the blue, into the red

The biggest challenge for most of us is the unforeseen expenses that often arise. It just takes one mechanical fault to result in a garage bill that runs into hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.

We also have to budget for higher fuel costs too. The AA says that since mid-February, the average price of petrol has risen 3.64p a litre in a month, from 108.28p to 111.92p a litre. Diesel now costs an average of 118.19p a litre, up 3.13p from a month ago (115.06p). So what can cash-strapped families do to try and drive down motoring costs?

Life of your drive

The most obvious thing to think about is whether or not having a car is absolutely essential. For most families, the answer will be yes. But if you live in a city location, with good access to public transport, it might be worth considering whether or not you could do without your set of wheels. There are plenty of car clubs available which allow you to hire a car for those times when you just can’t be without one. Even if you rent one pretty regularly, costs will still be substantially lower than owning your own motor.

Cost control

For people in rural locations, or with very young children, doing without a car simply isn’t an option, but there are still ways to keep costs to a minimum. Remember that loyalty rarely pays when it comes to insurance, so rather than just accepting your renewal quote every year, see if you can find cheaper cover elsewhere. If it’s unexpected garage repair bills that are your biggest worry, check what protection your manufacturer’s warranty offers. If that’s expired, then you might want to look at getting a standalone extended warranty which you pay monthly premiums for. Check the small print carefully though, as some of these policies can be riddled with exclusions.

Going green

A more extreme way to keep longer-term running costs down is to consider replacing your car with a new model altogether. Although this will involve a big initial outlay, it’s worth remembering that most new cars are much more economical to run than older models.

This is especially true of the new breed of green cars, which not only come with generous incentives to buy them, but also mean you escape road tax and the congestion charge when driving in the capital. Think of it as short-term financial pain for longer-term financial gain – and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.

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