The real cost of running a car over a lifetime

Every motorist knows that running a car isn’t cheap, but have you ever thought of what it costs over a lifetime? We’ve decided to crunch the numbers and the total is jaw-dropping, prompting the question: what’s more expensive a lifetime behind the wheel or your house? 

Average House Price According to HM Land Registry’s House Price Index the average property is valued at £234,794. It’s a high target to hit, but you’ll be surprised at how the figures stack-up.

Average Motoring Lifespan Most motorists pass their test aged 18, so that seems like a sensible start point, but calculating the end point is a little more difficult. The average lifespan in the UK is 81.6 years and figures from the Institute of Advanced Motorists show there are 4.6million drivers aged over 70 on the roads (and over 1million aged over 80). The numbers are predicted to double over the next 20 years, so to keep the maths simple let’s say the average motorist drives until 78; that’s 60 years behind the wheel.

New cars Research carried out by the RAC found that the average Brit will own nine cars in their lifetime. The average car costs £12,919 and will depreciate by 60% in three years or £7,752. While second hand cars hold their value much better, the average period of ownership is six and a half years (not three) so let’s say that’s £6,000 depreciation per vehicle. Lifetime cost: £54,000

Diesel & Petrol Fuel costs make-up the lion’s share of the motoring budget and vary wildly between vehicles and usage. The National Travel Survey found the average motorist drove 7,900 miles in 2015 and the RAC Foundation puts the average fuel consumption for new vehicles at 56.5 mpg (diesel vehicles get about 10 more miles per gallon than petrol vehicles, but we have used the average). The AA fuel price report shows similar prices between diesel (115.4p/litre) and unleaded (114.7p/litre) averaging at 115p/litre. Do the maths and you’ll find that adds-up to £730.95 a year. Lifetime costs: £43,858

Car Insurance According to figures from the Association of British Insurers the average cost of comprehensive car insurance is now £484 a year. Comparison websites put the figure much higher and it’s never been more important to shop around for the best insurance deal. Lifetime cost: £29,040

Vehicle Maintenance The government backed Money Advice Service website has calculated that servicing, maintenance and MOT cost motorists an average of £472 a year. Lifetime cost: £28,320

Vehicle Excise Duty A recent government shake-up has changed the way that ‘road tax’ is calculated, moving away from a charge based on emissions to a flat fee. Basically, if your car has an exhaust pipe; you’ll have to pay a minimum of £130 a year (and that’s for a hybrid). Lifetime cost: £7,800

Parking Costs Pinning down parking costs is tricky and here we’ve used some educated guesswork. For residents permits and parking meters £10 a month doesn’t seem unreasonable, if not slightly conservative. Lifetime cost: £7,200

Driving Licence In a previous post we covered ‘the cost of passing your driving test’ and it’s another surprising statistic. Lifetime cost: £1,300

Motoring Fines More than 115,000 speeding fines are issued every year adding-up to £11.5million. However, that’s pocket change compared with the 3,000 parking fines issued every day which add-up to nearly £330million a year. Given that the DVLA has 45.5million active licence holders that’s £7.5 a year. Lifetime cost: £450

Add-up all the figures and you get an eye-watering total of £171,968 for a lifetime’s motoring. Admittedly it’s not quite the average cost of a house in the UK, but throw in some fluffy dice and an air freshener, and it’s not far off the average price of a terraced house at £186,784. All of which goes to show that while motoring gives you a sense of freedom; it demands a good deal of financial commitment.


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