The Driving Series: Car Costs

Owning your own car is a great way to gain freedom (and friends) but with it come costs that are slightly more hidden than those involved with learning to drive. The most obvious of these costs is the actual price of the car. It might be attractive to go for the cheapest car that will do the job, so that you can spend the money on the stuff below. Unfortunately, there are some hidden costs that I won’t be able to tell you about and that won’t rear their heads until you have handed over the money. Every component in the car has a lifespan and the older the car, the more likely it is to break and cost a lot to repair. It is better to buy a newer car for £1500 and have it run flawlessly for 4 years, than to buy an older car for £500, spend £1000 on repairs and have it die after 3 years. Older cars tend to be less efficient so fuel costs will be also be higher in the long run.

Unfortunately, unlike the costs below, the costs for repairs are not easy to predict. Some used cars are just plagued with more faults and require more repairs than others. To get round this, you can use used car reviews, from places like Whatcar and Autocar to find out the common faults of the cars that you want to buy, and see which is cheaper to keep running in the long term.

By law, there are some things that you need to have before you go driving, the first of these being road tax. This is your way of paying the government to keep the roads in a drivable state so that you can get to where you need to go. This is not a flat rate and the cost of this is based on the age of the car and the amount of CO₂ that it emits. Every car, van, truck and motorcycle requires you to pay this tax, and you can work out the cost here.

Image by Pictures of Money, Flickr

Secondly, you will need insurance. There are many types of insurance depending on; who you are, who else is driving the car, who drives the car the most and what you want protection from. All these things alter the type of insurance, but that is for another post. There are various things that alter the price that you pay for insurance, the simple things like the make and model of the car, the age of the car, your age and how long you have been driving. There are also more complicated factors, these are calculated using statistics and probability. Your postcode will affect the price due to crime rates, your profession, how many times you have claimed before and where you park your car at night. The general rule is that the older you are, the longer you have been driving, the longer between insurance claims, the slower the car and the safer your parking spot, the cheaper the insurance. It used to be that the driver’s gender also influenced the cost as women were seen as safer drivers, but a EU ruling in 2012 made that practice illegal. You can reduce the insurance by getting a black box fitted, which is a little GPS device with an accelerometer that measures your driving. The more gentle and calmly you drive, the lower your costs. I would suggest looking into it as it can save you money but bear in mind that not all insurance companies offer it, and that they can make your insurance cost shoot up if you drive erratically. Both insurance and road tax has to be paid on a regular basis and is usually taken straight out your bank account to make things easier.

The last thing needed to make your car road legal is an MOT test. This tests the roadworthiness of the car to make sure that it is safe for you to drive and safe for those on the road with you. These are carried out at garages all over the country. The centres should be certified by the DVLA and can be identified by this logo.

For cars, the cost of the test is £54.85 at the time this post was written, and looks at the following areas:

  • Lighting and signalling equipment
  • Steering (including suspension)
  • Brakes
  • Tyres and wheels
  • Seat belts
  • Body, structure and general items. Includes body and components such as spoilers, bumpers and mirror housings.
  • Exhaust, fuel and emissions
  • Driver’s view of the road


A car must be tested at 3 years of age and every year after that. If the car fails any part of the test then it can’t be returned to the road.

So, that rounds off the things you need by law to have before you head onto the road. If you don’t have any of these, then you risk being stopped by the police and possibly getting points on your license.

Now we have looked at the stuff that you NEED to have by law, we can move on to the stuff that is very useful to have, the first of which, is breakdown cover. Membership to a company like The AA, RAC or Greenflag will ensure that if your car breaks down then someone will be there to help you out. Secondly, regular servicing will make sure that your car runs smoothly for as long as possible, saving you money in the long run. It is advised that a car should be serviced every one to two years. They take place at the same garages that do MOTs but it involves stuff that isn’t safety critical, battery health, engine health and oil level. They cost about £80 to £100 a time but will prevent problems that can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage in the future. That, and a healthy engine will be more efficient, costing you less in fuel.

Finally, there are the things that will only apply to some of you. To park in certain places, you will need to get a parking permit from your local council. Unfortunately, these are not free, and can cost up to £80. This might just be a pill you have to swallow to be able to park outside your house but once you start driving around your area then you quickly pick up on places you can park without a permit.

I know that this post is a long one but the aim was to get every cost involved with driving a car, down in one place. I hope that this doesn’t scare you away from learning to drive or getting a car yourselves, but I do hope that when you do take this step towards freedom, you understand the costs involved so that you don’t go bankrupt or get in trouble with the police.


Cover photo by stvcr, Flickr


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