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Cost of car ownership in the UK

It's important to consider the costs of running a car before going ahead and making a purchase. Take a look at the costs of ownership to see how much you could expect to pay.

A close up shot of hands holding a steering wheel in the front of a car

Can I afford a car?

It can be tempting to look at your budget and the price of your dream car and think that you can afford it, but you’ll also need to factor in the costs that come alongside. Owning a car does mean you’ll take on a few extra bills, so it’s important to see if these also fit into your budget.

How much do cars cost to run?

There are a few things you might want to consider when it comes to the costs of owning a car:

  • How much does fuel cost?

  • How much is a car service and MOT?

  • Is car insurance expensive?

  • Is car tax expensive?

  • Do you need breakdown cover?

Here’s a run-through of the basic costs that come with owning a car.  

Fuel costs 

It’s alright having a car, but you won’t be going very far without fuel (or electricity, if your car is electric). Your driving habits will determine how much fuel you’ll need and how much this will cost, as will the specific car that you’re driving.  

Some cars guzzle through more fuel than others, so consider this when you’re comparing your options.  

It’s usually cheaper to fill up your car at supermarket fuel stations, and these might also feature free electric charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).  

Some supermarkets will also have a points system where you can collect points each time you pay for fuel, and these can build up to vouchers and discounts.  

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Servicing and maintenance  

Owning a car means you’ll need to take care of it, and that means servicing and MOTs.  


Your car MOT is a yearly check that a car must pass to legally be able to drive on UK roads.  

A brand-new car won't need an MOT until the vehicle is three years old as it isn’t a legal requirement, but you can still opt to get one if you want that extra peace of mind.  

During your MOT, your car will be checked for any minor or major faults that could impact the safety and running of your car in the following areas:  

  • Exhaust, fumes and emissions 

  • Tyres and wheels 

  • Seat belts 

  • Steering and suspension 

  • Lamps and reflectors 

  • Electrical equipment  

  • Brakes

A black car plugged in and charging up with a person opening the door, and a man looking at his phone

Car servicing 

Getting your car serviced regularly can not only help keep it in good condition, it can also make it more attractive to buyers if you sell in the future. A full service history shows that a vehicle has been well maintained, and could check over the following areas: 

  • Engine oil and oil filter 

  • Lights 

  • Tyres 

  • Bodywork 

  • Exhaust 

  • Brakes 

  • Coolant levels 

A car service is not a legal requirement unlike a car MOT, and can cost anywhere between £75 to £150 for an interim service. These services are done every six months or 6000 miles.  

A full service can cost more than this, depending on where you choose to get it done. The manufacturer’s garage is the best choice for a car that’s newer, but this will cost more.  

A full service should be done every 12 months, or 24,000 miles.  

Tax and insurance  

Car tax and insurance are the main bills you will regularly pay for your car, and ensure that you’re legally able to use your vehicle on UK roads.  

Car tax 

Car tax, officially called ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’, used to fund the maintenance of roads and the building of new ones. Now, the money we pay for this tax goes into the big taxation pot that the government uses to pay for everything.  

If your car was registered on or after April 1 2017, your car will be placed into a band for the first year based on its carbon dioxide emissions and the fuel it uses.  

Each tax band aligns with a price, and the cheapest road tax is for cars with low emissions (electric cars have zero!). If you’d like to see which band your car falls into, head over to the website.

Car insurance 

You need to pay your car insurance annually to be able to legally drive on UK roads. The amount you pay will be based on factors like your age, address, the car that you drive, and the insurance group that it falls into. This bill can be spread across monthly payments, or paid in one lump sum on a yearly basis.  

You can reduce the cost of your car insurance by having a black box fitted to monitor your driving, having a higher voluntary excess on your policy, or building up your no-claims bonus discount.  

Some cars are more expensive to insure than others, so make sure you look into this before you purchase your vehicle if you want to stick to a budget.  

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Other costs of running a car

  • Breakdown cover and warranty: adding on a breakdown assistance package or an extra warranty can give you peace of mind about looking after your car. You can add a cinchCare plan when you buy a used car with us, and this will offer extras like warranties, breakdown assistance, and routine servicing for a monthly fee.

  • Tyres: you might need to replace your tyres over the course of owning your car, and this can seem expensive. Learn more about the types of tyres you can buy here.

Car costs calculator  

There are calculators online that can help you work out the costs of running your car. You might want to consider sitting down and getting an estimate before you purchase your vehicle to see if it really sits within your budget.  

MoneyHelper have a handy online tool that can help you work out your car running costs and track your spending.

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