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Average car costs more than £160 per month to run

A new report has calculated that the average UK motorist spends £162 per month on running their car – not including the cost of the car itself.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is from 2018, and we have a new article with running costs for 2022 that shows the average running costs have now increased to about £220 a month.

One of the things we always preach here at The Car Expert is that you need to make sure you can comfortably afford to run whatever car you’re looking at buying. Now a new report has helped put some numbers on those running costs.

The report, commissioned by Kwik-Fit, has calculated that the average UK motorist spends £162 per month on running their car. That covers things like fuel, insurance, road tax and servicing, and doesn’t include the cost of the car itself.

Kwik-Fit’s research found that the average monthly car finance payment was just over £226. Given that most car buyers (both new and used) are borrowing money from somewhere to pay for their car, that means that the average total monthly spend on a car is about £400 per month in the UK.

Based on £162 per month, the annual running cost of a car averages out at just under £2,000. Obviously, some of those expenses are small, regular amounts like fuel, which accounts for an average of £67 per month. Other costs are larger, annual bills like a service (average of £191) or unexpected repairs and breakdowns (average of £159).

As part of your new or used car purchasing plans, you should look carefully at your likely expenses to make sure you have enough in hand each month to cover your known expenses and put towards any unexpected costs that may pop up. I’ve just spent more than £500 on an annual service and new brakes for our family car, which is enough to go way over the average costs shown in the table below. If you don’t have enough of a buffer in your finances to cover these bills when they crop up, it’s very easy to fall into financial trouble.

The table below shows the average amounts drivers spend each month on their motoring costs.

ItemAverage monthly spend
Car insurance£31.64
Routine maintenance and servicing£15.96
Unexpected repairs and breakdowns£13.26
Vehicle excise duty (road tax)£12.16
Breakdown cover£6.96
Parking permits and tickets£6.89
Monthly average total (excluding finance)£162.33
Monthly average total (including finance payments)£388.45

Source: Kwik Fit

The research also threw up some other interesting numbers. Almost a third of respondents said that they kept their car cleaning costs down by only using household cleaners. People, no! Household detergents are far too harsh for your car’s paintwork and will eat it up, leaving your car looking faded and splotchy in no time.

Of more concern was the suggestion that 8% of motorists spend nothing on routine maintenance, trying to save pennies by not having their car serviced at all.

Kwik Fit’s communications director, Roger Griggs, says this could be a false economy: “Regular servicing is important to ensure a car is running efficiently, and also to pick up any issues before they create long-term damage. As with most things in life, prevention is usually better than cure.”

Servicing plans – check the fine print

The purpose of the research was to promote Kwik-Fit’s service plan offer, matching similar plans offered by manufacturers and car dealers. Any service plan can be a good way to spread your annual maintenance expenses, but you need to look carefully at the fine print to ensure that any terms and conditions suit your needs.

The Kwik-Fit plan allows you to take your car to any Kwik-Fit garage in the UK, but has limitations on the age and mileage of the vehicle, and the plan only lasts for one year. Some dealer plans offer a multi-year plan but lock you into that specific dealership for servicing, which is no good if you move house to the other side of the country.

Keep  some cash handy for unplanned expenses

Finally, we can only repeat what we’ve already said above and repeatedly in recent years. Any car can go wrong at any time with expensive consequences, so you need to make sure your wallet can cope with it.

It doesn’t have to be a breakdown or failure – it could be a puncture or damaged wheel from hitting a pothole. It could be a broken window from a vandal or thief. It could be that you accidentally put the wrong fuel in your tank during a moment’s inattention (it happens every four minutes), or any sort of unexpected drama.

If you are so financially stretched that you can’t deal with these inevitable demands on your bank account, you are very likely to hit money troubles at some stage of your car ownership. Choose a cheaper (or cheaper to run) car.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.