Hand filling up a white car with fuel from a petrol pump

The Cost of Driving Crisis: What Is the True Cost of Driving?

Although learning to drive can be a costly and time-consuming process, it’s often just the tip of the iceberg. From the moment we hit the roads, our outgoings increase as a result of the costs required to simply keep a car on the roads. From the initial purchase, or finance or leasing cost, to fuel, new tyres, MOTs, services, car washes and unexpected repairs – the list of requirements to keep our vehicles in working order goes on and on.

Although learning to drive can be a costly and time-consuming process, it’s often just the tip of the iceberg. From the moment we hit the roads, our outgoings increase as a result of the costs required to simply keep a car on the roads. From the initial purchase, or finance or leasing cost, to fuel, new tyres, MOTs, services, car washes and unexpected repairs – the list of requirements to keep our vehicles in working order goes on and on.

With around 80% of adults aged over 17 in England holding a full driving licence in 2020, and 68% of people in Great Britain estimated to commute to work by car, owning a car and being able to drive is a necessity for many people across the country. However, with the rising cost of living and surging fuel costs, increasing pressure is being put on drivers as the cost of driving also rises.

Brits are spending almost £500 a year on repairs, MOTs and services

Although getting ownership of a car, whether an outright purchase or through leasing and financing options, may seem like the biggest hurdle to getting on the road after securing a licence, it’s keeping up with running costs that should be considered more carefully. Insurance, particularly for new drivers, is notoriously expensive, but running costs can quickly stack up too. Unfortunately these costs are part and parcel of keeping a vehicle in good working order, to ensure you can get from A to B both efficiently and safely.

It could be tempting to buy a cheaper or older vehicle to get you started on the roads, however it’s worth considering the running costs that can come with an older model too. Often higher mileage vehicles are more likely to run into routine maintenance issues.

Nationally, the average (mean) amount spent on repairs each year, such as bumps, scratches, breakdowns, faults, new tyres and general maintenance (not including services, MOTs and fuel costs), is £478.93, or approximately £40 per month if averaged out across a 12-month period. However, more than a quarter (26%) of drivers surveyed report spending £251-£500 a year.

As may be expected, younger drivers incur higher than average costs, at around £1,014.32 in repair costs per year – likely as a result of the increased risk drivers carry during their first years of driving, which unfortunately also carry higher insurance premiums as a result. However, generally these costs decrease by age group, with the 65+ bracket paying just £210.00 per year on average.

Age GroupAverage Amount Spent
on Repairs Each Year (£)
Average Amount Spent
on Repairs Over the
Past Three Years
18-24 £1,014.32 £1,564.68
25-34 £591.43 £1,463.85
35-44 £726.7 £1,054.93
45-54 £361.8 £797.63
55-64 £252.54 £579.78
65+ £210.00 £476.03

Repair costs do also differ depending on location in the country, with Londoners spending an average of £1,319.24 on vehicle repairs each year, while those in Wrexham spend just a tenth of this, shelling out £193.10 per year on their cars.

RankCityCost of Repairs (£)
1London £1,319.24
2Liverpool £659.20
3Walsall £637.90
4Leeds £615.32
5Gloucester £611.56
6Norwich £557.26
7Birmingham £423.40
8Dundee £422.34
9Newcastle Upon Tyne £420.46
10Wolverhampton £417.14

When looking at this over a three-year period, motorists tend to spend around £935.61 on their cars – but again, this varies hugely with Londoners paying out the most at £2,183.64 for this period compared to Wrexham residents spending £427.52 during the same time.

Over one in ten Brits avoid getting their vehicle MOT due to unaffordable costs

For many, unexpected costs associated with running a vehicle such as a breakdown or tyre puncture can be unaffordable. Given that recent stats revealed 1 in 10 Brits (9%) have no savings at all, even low costs can be too far out of reach to pay. For many, it won’t be possible to pay for repairs immediately, if at all, resulting in some drivers trying to keep their cars going in order to help them get to work, or to pick up necessities, without getting them fixed.

When asked if they’d delayed or entirely refrained from getting their vehicle repaired as a result of costs at any point during the last three years, a quarter (25%) said that they had. In the same period, 16% said that they’ve avoided getting their vehicle MOT’d or serviced due to cost – two maintenance visits that are essential when owning any vehicle.

Most manufacturers recommend having a full service once a year, or every 10,000-12,000 miles, depending on usage. Although many may view them as unnecessary, services are another way of ensuring that your car is running safely, and without being carried out, drivers risk unknown damage occurring with their vehicle such as wear and tear or engine faults. In the case of new vehicles, not adhering to the set servicing schedule can invalidate the warranty, which can create more costly problems down the line.

When we look at the age groups hit hardest by the country’s cost crisis, the number of drivers delaying or avoiding routine checks and repairs increases significantly from the national average. Half (49%) of 18-24s and 43% of 25-34s have avoided or delayed repairs over the past three years, with 45% of 18-24s and just over a quarter (27%) of 25-34s delaying or avoiding MOTs and services on their vehicle. As a result, we could be seeing increasing numbers of vehicles on the road in an unfit state, due to the basic costs of running a vehicle being too high for some.

Age GroupPercentage That Have
Avoided a Vehicle Repair
Due to Cost
Percentage That Have
Avoided Their MOT
or Service Due to Cost
18-2449%45%
25-3443%27%
35-4434%23%
45-5427%13%
55-6411%4%
65+4%4%

Looking at the picture on a national basis, many cities also have a higher-than-average percentage of drivers avoiding or delaying repairs. In Durham, approximately half (50%) of drivers have delayed or avoided repairs in the past three years, in comparison to Blackpool, where just 5% of drivers have done so.

RankCityPercent Who Have
Delayed or Avoided
Repairs Due to Cost
1Durham50%
2Belfast41%
3Walsall40%
4Birmingham35%
5London34%
6Wolverhampton33%
7Northampton31%
8Manchester31%
9Liverpool30%
10Dudley39%

For MOTs and services, 40% of those in Walsall said they’d avoided the checks due to costs, with Walsall, Durham, London and Birmingham among the top 5 locations that are most likely to see cars missing out on routine procedures.

For those who’ve delayed or avoided repairs altogether, the cost that sparked this action was on average £7,742.73 – the cost of a whole new car! However, a fifth (19%) delayed repairs over costs of just £200-£299, with 15% delaying over £300-£399 and a quarter (23%) over costs of £500-999. However, in many cases the figure is much lower – with one in ten 25–34-year-olds postponing repairs over charges less than £100 and one in five 45–54-year-olds postponing over costs of £200-299.

More than a fifth of drivers feel stressed about car costs on a weekly or daily basis

Of course, being under financial strain can cause more pain than on our bank balances alone – with costs rising and compounding across the board, the persistent stress can trigger or worsen a range of mental health issues.

Already, more than a fifth (21%) of drivers surveyed said that they feel this way every week, if not every day, when it comes to the costs of running their vehicle. Once again, these stresses are also being felt more predominantly by younger age groups, with more than a third of those aged 35-44, 18-24 and 25-34 feeling this way.

Regionally, residents from Belfast are the most stressed, with 2 in 5 (41%) drivers feeling the pinch from running costs on a weekly or daily basis – significantly higher than the national average.

RankCity Percent Who Are
Stressed About Running
Costs Every Week,
If Not Every Day
1Belfast41%
2London36%
3Durham33%
4Bath31%
5Walsall30%
6Wolverhampton28%
7Nottingham26%
8Lisburn25%
9Birmingham25%
10Newcastle Upon Tyne24%

As for the future, it looks like costs are set to continue rising yet, with more penny pinching to come as the UK economy struggles to avoid recession. When asked if they think they may need to avoid getting their car fixed in the future as a direct result of the cost of living, almost half (44%) of drivers agreed – just shy of 20% higher than the quarter who have already felt the need to do so.

While the findings from our study may be uncomfortable reading, the cost of keeping our cars on the roads and out of the scrap heap is climbing and is unfortunately necessary for many who need to travel to work or for medical and childcare, among other reasons.

Most recently, drivers may have been looking for ways to curb their fuel costs as the average price of filling up a family car with a tank of petrol has hit £100, which has undoubtedly caused many people stress when paying at the pumps. However, if your money stresses are getting more serious than the occasional worry about fuel, then please reach out for support from services such as Samaritans.

Methodology

We partnered with 3Gem to survey 1,500 UK drivers, asking them a range of questions about the costs of repairs, MOTs and services.

Responses were analysed nationally, as well as using age and regional demographic breakdowns.

Survey conducted in June 2022.

 
 

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