The Average Car Running Costs & How To Budget Them

The Average Car Running Costs & How To Budget Them

Everything seems to be getting more expensive, and motoring expenses are no different.  

With the estimated cost for 2023 being over £3,000, the average car running costs will soon make up an even larger portion of modern life's costs. Energy bills can be reduced by lowering your central heating temperature and food bills by eating out less, yet car running costs seem to be immovable.  

Luckily, there are some ways we can save money on cars. Today, we’ll explain how to reduce car running costs with easy and actionable tips.  

The average running costs for a car  

Do you know the average running costs for a car in the UK? The answers might surprise you.  

Data from the ONS shows that the average UK driver spends £2,500 a year on car costs. Let’s have a look at the breakdown below. 

Expense Cost (Approximate)
Insurance £580
Fuel £1,200
Vehicle Tax £160
Services & Maintenance £600
Total Cost £2,5400

Factors that affect the average running costs  

The average car costs above give you a good insight into what UK drivers are paying. But these figures aren’t set in stone. There are plenty of factors that can impact these numbers. 

For example, the age and make of your car can easily swing the numbers. Older cars may need more servicing, and some cars may have higher taxes. Likewise, some drivers will have higher insurance premiums than others.  

Planning your car running costs 

If you want to stay ahead of expenses, it’s a good idea to forecast your annual car running costs. Alongside looking at averages, you can work out your individual expenses from previous payments. 

Here are a few steps you can take to plan your future car running costs: 

  • Make a table like the one above with relevant expenses.  
  • Enter approximate figures from previous years and upcoming bills, or use our figures as a general guide.  
  • Add up how much everything costs together. 
  • Start setting aside savings to cover these expenses or start looking at alternative ways to split the cost. 

Should you plan for the unexpected?  

Yes! Alongside setting a budget for your average running costs, you should try to build an emergency fund for unexpected car expenses.  

This isn’t possible for everyone. However, having some funds set aside can take the pressure off your finances in an emergency situation. Financial gurus suggest having around three months of expenses saved up for a trusty emergency fund.  

If you don’t have cash saved up and face an unexpected bill, don’t worry. Companies like Bumper are here to help you split the cost without taking out an expensive loan. 

Split the cost of your bill into monthly payments. 

How to reduce fixed motoring costs 

Shopping around and doing your research before purchasing a car can make a big difference to your yearly expenses. Here’s how to reduce the average car running costs. 

Reducing your Road Tax (VED) 

If you already have a car and are not thinking of or in a position to change it, then this one is difficult. The only way to reduce your vehicle’s excise duty is to convert it to an ‘alternative fuel’ such as LPG.   

This isn’t feasible for most people, as the conversion costs over £1,500 in most cases, but if you intend to keep your car for a long time, and it’s particularly thirsty, it might be worth considering.   

If you receive PIP, you may be eligible for a road tax reduction. So be sure to check out the .gov guide here.  

If you’re in the market for a new car, though, check sites like Autotrader to find cars sorted by the lowest tax band. The other advantage is that those types of cars usually get better MPG, too.

Getting cheaper car insurance 

Insurance is often the largest one-off bill when running a car. The average premium hovers around the £450 a year mark, but this drastically increases if you're under 25, have any driving convictions, or are in a job deemed risky to the industry.   

Disclaimer: Do not try to mislead when taking out insurance or intentionally deceive about details such as who drives the car, your job, the car's modifications, and where you live. This offense will cause many more issues down the road - including criminal charges and fines - always be honest with the insurance company.  

That said, there are a few legitimate ways to help reduce your premiums, such as:  

  • Shop around: Try a few comparison sites, call a few companies, and bid their quotes against each other.  
  • Add another driver: If you're a younger driver, adding a responsible named driver can reduce the risk and, therefore, the premiums.  
  • Get quotes in plenty of time: For some reason, insurers offer the best prices 23 days before the renewal date.  
  • Try multi-car policies: if you have more than one car at your address (even if they're not due at the same time), you can sometimes save by taking out one multi-car policy.  
  • Tweak your job title: Profession plays a large role in assessing risk, but sometimes, the job titles are a bit vague, meaning there is some scope to select the best one that still matches your description to reduce the cost—as above, though, do not be deceitful. Money Saving Expert's tool is the best for researching this.  

Servicing, Repairs, and MOT 

Cars are complex machines with lots of moving parts and complex systems. Because of this, they need regular maintenance and sometimes repairs. Alongside your MOT cost, these can contribute to a significant chunk of the overall cost of running a car.  

The MOT is an annual inspection of roadworthiness but does not include servicing. For more information on what an MOT contains, check out our guide here.  

One way to help with car repair costs is to check your car regularly. Annual service is the ideal time for this to be done. The mechanic can refresh the various fluids and check for excess wear and damage, allowing you to plan your repairs in advance.   

Preventative maintenance can also reduce the likelihood of being stranded at the side of the road and costly towing/recovery fees.   

Read our guide here to learn more about the benefits of regular servicing or to see what's generally included in a service.  

If you have a major service or repair coming up and you are worried about being able to cover the bill, Bumper's zero-interest repair financing could be ideal for you. It allows you to split the cost into easy-to-manage monthly instalments at 1000s of garages and dealerships nationwide. 

7 Tips to reduce your fuel costs  

Fuel prices fluctuate along with the economy and global oil prices, and recent increases have been attributed to some of them due to the war in Ukraine. However, the cause of the price increase isn't the biggest issue for most. The strain on their wallet is.  

Increasing your car's efficiency may not appear to have much effect, but it can have a significant impact over a year of driving. We've detailed some great ways to increase your economy below:  

1. Walk or cycle more 

It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to not realise how much using your car for short journeys can amount to, especially considering its effect on your vehicle.   

Engines are designed to work best at an ‘operating temperature’ of approximately 90 degrees Celsius. Short journeys will not get the engine up to temperature, and as a result, it will return worse fuel economy than normal.  

2. Modify your driving style 

Simply adjusting your driving style is the easiest way to increase your fuel economy, and it can have a much bigger impact than you might think.  

One way to reduce fuel consumption is to look further ahead. Acceleration is the enemy of fuel efficiency, so any time you can avoid coming to a complete stop, you will save fuel.  

Prime examples are when a car in front is slowing to turn. Pre-empting the stoppage, increasing the gap to the car, and slowing down gradually allows you to retain more of your car's momentum.  

3. Remove clutter 

The heavier the object, the more energy it takes to move it. This applies to cars, too. It’s part of the reason SUVs get worse fuel economy than light, compact cars.   

If you’re carrying around extra weight in your vehicle, that will affect your fuel consumption. Things like extra water bottles, tools, and other stuff all take effort to haul around.  

Spend half an hour sorting your car out and save money!  

4. Check your pressures 

Tyres play a huge role in how your car drives, affecting braking, steering, and fuel economy. Think back to how much harder it is to ride a bicycle with a flat tyre. Now imagine that but on a car weighing well over 1,000kg.   

Check your handbook for the optimum pressures. They depend on how much weight you’ll be carrying and must be adjusted to ensure braking and road grip are unaffected.  

5. Slow down 

A significant amount of the energy required to propel your car along is used to overcome the vehicle's aerodynamic drag. However, this is not directly proportional to speed; the faster you go, the more energy is needed.  

In real terms, this equates to a worse MPG figure the faster you go. For example, travelling at 60mph can save up to 10% on fuel compared to travelling at 70mph. In most cases, this will barely impact your journey time at all.   

6. Turn off Air-Conditioning 

Cooling down the air inside your car takes quite a bit of energy. The air conditioning system is driven directly from the engine. Naturally, this will sap an amount of power from the engine, not used for propulsion.   

It's estimated that using your car's air conditioning can reduce the MPG by up to 10%, saving you money. If you can't do without your air conditioning, then at least make sure it is as efficient as possible by getting an air con recharge. 

7. Plan your journey 

Differing engine types have weaknesses and strengths. For example, diesel engines are inefficient in cities, while hybrids are, and vice versa.   

Google Maps route planner allows you to select your engine type. The best route will be selected based on where your car will be most efficient.   

Eco-friendly routing is found within the app’s settings, and more information can be found here. 

For more information on fuel consumption, check out our in-depth guide, which also helps identify the possible causes of poor fuel consumption.  

Repairs to fit your budget  

Working out a budget that covers the average car running costs and unexpected repairs can feel impossible. However, with Bumper’s services, you can split the stress of surprise repairs into manageable monthly payments, allowing you to cover your car’s usual costs without making any sacrifices. 

Split the cost of repairs and services into interest-free monthly repayments with Bumper. Choose from 1000s of reliable garages and dealerships nationwide.  

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