Can you really afford to keep your car on the road?

As any car owner will know, buying the car itself is just the beginning of the journey. And the journey we’re talking about here is a financial one. 

Once you own a car, you will always be spending money on it. Unless you realise this, you could be overwhelmed pretty quickly with all the costs of running a car. If you’re not careful, you could end up sliding into debt. So it’s best to be fully informed about this before even buying a car. 

But if you are already a car owner, the big question is: can you really afford to keep your car on the road? 

In this article we look at seven of the main expenses you will face as a car owner, and how you can try and keep these costs down.


Seven costs of motoring

1. Fuel

Fuel is the highest ongoing cost for drivers. So anything you can do to reduce your costs here could make a big difference to the affordability of your car.

Some tips on reducing fuel costs are:

  • Cut down unnecessary journeys, particularly shorter ones that are less economical on fuel.
  • Look out for special offers on fuel, for example supermarket deals.
  • Be careful not to buy more expensive fuel (for example premium brands) by mistake.
  • Drive carefully: excessive accelerating and braking can use more fuel.
  • Don’t carry excess weight in your car, for example lots of extra stuff you don’t really need. Also don’t overuse air conditioning. Both of these can use more fuel.

Also be aware that electric cars are big news at the moment. As part of its zero carbon emissions target, the UK government has committed to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and new hybrid cars from 2035. So over the next few years, more and more of us will be switching to electric cars, and will no longer need fuel. Something worth bearing in mind for the not-too-distant future.


2. Insurance

Car insurance can be really expensive, especially for new and younger drivers. So do your research and shop around. There are many car comparison websites available, such as Compare the Market and Money Supermarket, and also other companies such as Direct Line that do not appear on these websites. Also use word of mouth: ask around to find recommendations from family and friends. 

When taking out car insurance, always read the small print carefully. Make sure that you are not paying for things that you do not need. For example, third party insurance may be sufficient for your needs rather than comprehensive.

Many insurance policies also have an excess, which is a sum of money you would contribute in the event of a claim. It may be worth opting for a slightly higher excess as this could save you money on your premium. If you are a new driver it may also be a good idea to add a second, more experienced, driver to your policy as this can reduce the cost.


3. Vehicle tax

Another unavoidable cost of motoring is your vehicle tax. Paying tax on your car is a legal requirement unless the car is off the road (in which case you must notify the DVLA by registering a SORN – Statutory Off Road Notification).

For cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017, the rate of vehicle tax is based on fuel type and CO2 emissions. The annual cost can range from £0-£600.

For cars registered on or after 1 April 2017, you need to pay 12 months tax when the vehicle is first registered. After this, the annual cost is currently £155 for petrol and diesel cars and £145 for alternative cars, including hybrid, bioethanol and liquid petroleum gas.

It is possible to set up a direct debit to spread the cost of your vehicle tax over 12 months rather than having to pay it all at once.


4. Servicing and MOT

All cars in the UK that are over 3 years old need to have a valid MOT certificate. It is a legal requirement and if you do not have one you could be fined up to £1,000, or even prosecuted. 

You can save money on your MOT, firstly by doing some pre-MOT checks yourself to make sure there is nothing obvious that could cause the car to fail. So check tyres for damage and wear and tear, windscreens for cracks and wipers, and lamps and indicators for faulty bulbs.

Also choose your MOT testing station carefully. Many Councils have MOT testing centres that can be cheaper than some garages. Also check out motoring chains such Kwikfit and Halfords.

Many car owners choose to have a service and MOT done at the same time, which can make sense. Ideally your car should be serviced once a year to keep it in its best condition. Just be careful not to choose an expensive garage that will charge a lot of money to put things right for the MOT. 


5. Repairs

As well as an annual service, make sure that you keep up to date with any repairs that your car needs. Minor repairs can develop into major problems and cost more to fix than if you had sorted them out straight away.

So don’t ignore odd noises or warning lights. That doesn’t mean you have to take it straight to a garage and spend a lot of money. Try asking around or looking on Youtube for advice. There may be something that you can sort out yourself, or someone may know someone else who will be able to help you.


6. Cleaning 

Keeping a car clean is not just about it looking good, but it will also enable you to check that everything is as it should be, and there is no hidden damage to bodywork, glass or tyres.

Taking your car to be cleaned, or even putting it through a car wash, can start to get expensive. It is much cheaper to wash it yourself if you can make time to do this.

Also clean out the inside regularly. Get rid of all rubbish, vacuum the seats and mats, and wipe down all surfaces. Your car will be a much more pleasant place to be in if you do this.


7. Parking, tolls and fines

The cost of a journey can increase dramatically when you add on any charges for parking and tolls. Especially if you drive to work, it’s really important to find somewhere to park that is good value. 

When looking for cheaper parking, investigate not just car parks, but also whether there are streets a little further away from your destination where you could park for free and walk the rest of the way. Another option would be to see if you can find a private parking arrangement such as Park on My Drive.

If you can’t find a cheaper parking solution, you may want to look into other options such as Park & Ride, public transport or car sharing, for at least some of the time. 

Some journeys can take you into areas with congestion charges (such as central London) or on toll roads. Wherever possible, plan your journey to avoid these additional costs. 

Also when driving be careful not to pick up a fine without realising. It can be so easy to drive in the wrong lane (such as a bus lane) or park in a restricted zone. You know nothing about it until a penalty notice turns up in the post later on. So always be on your guard when driving and parking, and read signs carefully to avoid unpleasant surprises.


We hope that the above information helps you to understand the costs of running a car so that you can make the best decision about whether or not to buy or keep a car.

If you are facing unexpected car expenses and need some money to sort them out, do get in touch with us at Simple Fast Loans to see if one of our short term personal loans may be able to help.

Remember to check back here soon for more financial and lifestyle tips from Simple Fast Loans