The Cost of Running a Car
Everyone knows that running a car costs a lot of money. But how much is a lot of money? would you be better off taking the bus? Or is running a car well worth the money when compared to the cost of other forms of transport? Whatprice have gathered some car running cost data already.
We also have a handy car running cost calculator to make things easy for you.
Owning a car is a complicated business and there are many hidden costs that you may not first consider. Take a look at our page on tax, MOT and Insurance for a full explaination of car ownership obligations.
UK Car running costs example
This example uses a Renault Clio 1.2 litre (made in 2001, bought nearly new in the UK) to calculate a cars running costs. Obviously the running costs will vary from car to car, if you are interested then you should do the calculations yourself, and submit them to Whatprice!
The simplest way to calculate the cost of running your car is to add up all of your bills over the year, take into account depreciation of the car, and that's your cost. However this doesn't really give a good comparison to other forms of transport, and certainly doesn't help when claiming mileage for business. Therefore a much better way to calculate car running costs is to work out the cost per mile..
To work out the cost per mile of owning a car simply take the annual car cost and divide by your yearly mileage rate. Typically this would be around 12,000 miles a year, but this obviously varies a great deal on how you use the car.
Petrol Running Costs
Next time you fill up the car with petrol, fill it the absolute maximum fill level and then zero your mileage counter. When you come to refill your car again, take the mileage reading and record how many litres of petrol you use. The amount of petrol you use will obviously vary depending on how and where you have driven your car, so it is probably worth repeating this cost calculating exercise a few times to get a good average petrol cost figure.
If you want to save on refueling costs then check out our very own petrol price map showing you the cheapest petrol prices in your area.
Cost per mile (p/mile)= Litres put in x 81p / number of miles
Annual Running Cost (£) = Cost per mile x Average mileage /100
For a Renault Clio
Cost per mile = 40 x 81 / 400 = 8.1p per mile
Annual Running Cost = 8.1p x 12,000 / 100 = £972
Car Insurance Costs
Obviously car insurance costs vary a great deal from driver to driver, and it pays to shop around. We did this on Whatprice and were shocked at the varying car insurance prices that we found for a 40 year old male and a 22 year old female driver.
Annual Running Cost = Your annual insurance bill
Cost per mile = insurance bill / annual car mileage / 100
For a Renault Clio
Annual Running Cost = £350 (2 years no claims)
Cost per mile = £350 / 12,000 x 100 = 2.9p
Running Cost so far = 11p/mile or £1320 a year
Car Service and MOT Costs
Again car service prices vary a great deal from car to car and depend on where you get your car services. Typically a service would cost around 100 pounds a year. , but this can be much more if you get it properly serviced at an authorized dealer.An MOT would be around 50 pounds a year, as long as the car doesn't require any extra work.
Annual Running Cost = Your annual service bill
Cost per mile = service bill / annual car mileage / 100
For a Renault Clio
Annual Running Cost = £250 (authorized dealer)
Cost per mile = £250 / 12,000 x 100 = 2.1p
Running Cost so far = 13.1p/mile or £1570 a year
Unfortunately we all have to pay this, and its about 100 pounds a year for a reasonably non polluting car, this increases slightly for the large, gas guzzling cars.
Annual Running Cost = Car tax bill
Cost per mile = tax bill / annual car mileage / 100
For a Renault Clio
Annual Running Cost = £100 (authorized dealer)
Cost per mile = £100 / 12,000 x 100 = 0.8p
Running Cost so far = 13.9p/mile or £1670 a year
Car Wear and Tear Costs
This is a catch all category that collects all the car costs that aren't included elsewhere. This should contain small items such as oil refills, bought washer bottles, replaced light bulbs and replacement of worn tyres. These may seem like small amounts but the costs can quickly add up!
Annual Running Cost = Total of all items bought for car
Cost per mile = Total cost / annual car mileage x 100
For a Renault Clio
Annual Running Cost = £179
1 can of car engine oil = £10
2 bottles washer fluid = £8
1 replacement headlight bulb = £6
2 new car tyres = £120
1 new washer blade = £10
1 new car hubcap = £12
1 bottle car polish = £8
1 bottle car shampoo = £5
Cost per mile = £179 / 12,000 x 100 = 1.5p
Running Cost so far = 15.4p/mile or £1849 a year
Depreciating Car Value
This running cost of cars is usually forgotten, which is unfortunate as it can often be the biggest expense! Your brand new car is depreciating in value every mile that you drive it, especially when you first drive it off the forecourt. So although once you have bought the car you wont see this added cost it should be taken into account when working out the total running cost of a car.
Annual Depreciation Cost = (Value when bought - Current value) / Years
Cost per mile = Depreciation / annual car mileage x 100
For a Renault Clio
Annual Running Cost = (£5500 - £3000) / 3 = £833
Cost per mile = £833 / 12,000 x 100 = 7p
Running Cost so far = 20.9p/mile or £2503 a year
So there you have it! To run a Renault Clio costs just over £2500 pounds a year, or £208 a month. So the running costs aren't quite as bad as mortgage payments, but they are still pretty significant..
Note that a Renault Clio is a very cheap car to run, so don't be surprised if you work out that your running costs are more than twice this figure. But don't forget, no matter what the running cost of your car is, please let us know!
Check out our car running cost calculator to work out your personal running costs
The Cost of Running a Car
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"I don't get it - why is it "unfortunate" that you have to pay car tax??? "
"Thank you, at last I have found a sight that really is useful. All the others I have found tend to deal with new cars and look mainly at depreciation."
"It's a great help, don't know why some people leave such bad comment. Of Course you have to adapt it to your one situation... MAny thanks for it"
"Hi All, I thought I help out with a real example I am middle aged running a BMW 320d. MPG 51 mainly motorway work. Annual mileage 15K. Oil service comes around £170, big service comes £400 at dealer. Service interval 20K so oil and big service every second year. Insurance £420. Road tax £200. Plus tyres in the odd year, sometimes additional repair. I log my car cost and in 2010 I spent £3585 without depreciation. Cars like this run at least for 200K so keep it for a long run. Avoid changing your cars just to keep up with the Jonses, buy a good one and keep it for years. If you maintain it well it last you for a long time. Changing cars frequently just cost you money. Some people think BMW\\\'s are very expensive to run, but its not true."
"the final total should be 22.4p per mile, not 20.9 but thanks for doing the example, v helpful"
"Yeah that's really useful. Thought I was getting ripped off on my (first) car servicing but seems it's pretty average. Cheers"
"I think the figures are out of data. I wish I only had to pay the amounts cited here. Typically I pay thousands a year, can't walk or use public transport, simply not practical. I suppose the best bit is that, I have to drive to work, AND pay '000s in tax for the privilage!"
"Sorry, am I doing something wrong? Why do I multiply by 100? I get a £12/mile figure...surely that should be £0.12?"
"Great page - I think you've just convinced me to stick to trains, buses and taxis. When you're buying a ticket to Manchester for sixty return you think - god this costs a lot, but I suppose it's about the same as the petrol anyway, plus all the other amounts on top. My tip is use National Express, especially if you're travelling to London. I got a Megabus for three pounds return from Bristol the other day. I suppose I'll buy a car when I need one to get to work (as this will coincide with losing my young person's railcard!)"
"I was recently faced with a £1300-1500 outlay for my 8 year old Skoda Fabia 1.9 diesel. It was the cost of getting through the MoT, a service, tax and insurance all due at the same time. I buckled, and sold the car for peanuts. Now I'm walking, busing or training it, with an occasional bike ride thrown in. I enjoy the feeling - and my guilt at years of high CO2 emissions etc is assuaged! Trains vary enormously - standard day return on one route from here averages 8p a mile. Another route, same company, same type of ticket is 20p a mile. I live in Shrewsbury."
"Make insurance around 1000 pounds a year for new young drivers. fuel is going to be in the 1.10 to 120 per litre or more for the foreseeable future."
"This is an excellent realistic (perhaps if anything slightly pessimistic) cost analysis. Since done, cars have got cheaper and devaluation slightly less, fuel has increased steeply so you should add 2-3p per mile, but other than that, this is very accurate. We have tested 15 similar family runabouts and have equatable figures for all. "
Car Mart UK
"good to know for someone just new to the country and considering getting a car!"
"I think some of the comments posted are a little too hostile. This seems to be a very "average" example and as such, draws attention to how much cars can really cost to run. Obviously if you're 50 yrs old with 20 yrs no claims driving a careful 2,000 miles p.a it'll be a lot less, but that's hardly a typical clio driver. Bottom line, the costs of running a car are subversive. The alternatives like rail travel are not much better depending on times and distance travelled and less flexible with no carrying capacity. It's up to the individual to find the best solution for their needs - just don't be an arse about it."
"It depends who's driving - £350 for insurance could be quite an understatement!"
"Interesting. I run a 9 yr old car for occasional trips. I try to keep fixed costs below £500 per year, petrol on top. But I only do 2000 miles so my per mile cost isn't pretty! One area that seems pricey in your calculation is the insurance (£350). Try price comparison sites then use cashback sites (quidco.com for example) and you'll lower that number quite a bit, I reckon."
"funny, for me, train travel is actually at least twice the price of car travel, you do seem to picked rather one-sided cost comparisons."
"Thank you very very much. Just bought a car and this has been very useful"
"Matt, you are a (edit:) To the author...well written, with a little tweaking you can get very near to what it is actually costing, thanks."
"thank you that was useful"
"The snag for me is that I'm switching to commuting to work by cycle and rail but will still be keeping the car for private travel. So I'll still be paying for the MOT, tax, and insurance, so need to exclude those from the calculations in order to work out what (if anything) I'm saving (other than the planet, of course, which is worth more than money!)"
"I switched to cycle commuting last November. I hadn't really noticed the savings to be honest, though I suppose they will add up over time. The biggest change that I'm still trying to get over is how much healthier I feel and look. Looking at your calculations, they seem pretty average for a small car. Just one question though: you never park?"
"Thank you this was very useful"
"Propoganda? I'd be really interested to see how you managed to shave 1/3 off all the prices quoted, they were pretty conservative. Take the 40miles per gallon calculation for fuel costs, that has decreased as my car has aged. Also it assumed only 81p a litre for fuel. Servicing? The example assumes £250 a year, fair if its just an MOT and a service, but what if there is a problem? My suspension needs fixing at a cost of around £600. And of course car tax has gone up from £100 to £120 a year. I think if I recalculated then my annual running costs for the Clio are now probably 1/3 higher than the example!"
"Thank - You always knew running a car was expensive and have been considering whether to give it up and go to public transport With my own figures I was ot taking into account actually buying the car - I was just adding up the "running" costs. Makes you think - If I give my car up I will be over £600 better off per month including depreciation but immediately £520 just running costs - Thats a lot of money for a bit of a change of lifestyle - Thanks for enlightening me. Appreciated."
"Highly presumptuous example full of propaganda. I read through this and managed to cut a third off most of the figures displayed... Thank you for wasting my time."
"am considering your example, so thank you for result "