For some running a car is a luxury, for others it’s a necessity. For example, in areas with poor public transport or for people who need to travel to and from work late at night or early in the morning.

But owning and driving a car is expensive. In this blog, we’ll run through the main costs – and share tips on how to keep some of these expenses down.

Purchase price 

Obviously, the first expense that any would-be driver will face is the purchase price of the car. This is going to vary due to a wide number of factors like the make, model and age of the car, as well as whether you’re planning to buy it privately or from a dealer.

The latter will almost certainly try to offer you finance to pay for the car. This will involve putting down a deposit and then splitting the balance of the cost over a set number of payments. Before you sign up to any dealer finance it’s well worth shopping around with your bank and other providers to see if they can offer you a better deal. You can also check out other people's experiences of using various loan providers here.

An alternative is to lease your car. This is really an extended hire period, usually for three years. After paying your initial deposit there are monthly payments for the lease period. When it ends you simply return the car to the leasing company – or you can choose to buy it for its market value. Many leasing companies will include servicing costs in the monthly price which helps you to budget for the running of the car.

Of course, you may be in the lucky position of being able to buy your car outright.

Car insurance

Having car insurance is a legal requirement for anyone who drives a car. Any search for quotes will find that they vary greatly between different insurers so it pays to shop around. It also pays to read the reviews of other drivers as these will tell you what it’s like to deal with the company in question in the event of having to make a claim.

Road tax

Car owners must also tax cars as well as insure them. The emissions from your car and whether it has a list price of £40,000 or more determine the amount you’ll pay. Some cars pay no road tax. This includes fuel-efficient cars or electric cars, and certain models made before 1983. You can check out the road tax you’ll have to pay on the government’s official website.


The most regular expense of running your car is always going to be the fuel to run it. This may be petrol, diesel or electricity. Obviously, the higher mileage that you cover each week the higher the costs will be. There’s always some variation in the costs of different petrol and charging stations. So, to find the cheapest in your area use a site like or for electric cars.

Maintenance and repairs

Making sure that your car is regularly serviced will not only help to maintain its value, it’ll also reduce the risk of a breakdown.

Using a main dealer for this will be more expensive than using an independent garage but many people prefer to entrust their cars to the former. However, a good local garage will generally give just as good service for less money.

Cars over three years old will also need to have an annual MOT test. As of November 2023 the cost for this is £54.85, but many garages charge less for the test as a way of attracting business.

If you do have a breakdown then you’ll find that there will be the cost of parts plus labour charges. This can range from £50 to £80 an hour depending on the size of the garage and even the location.

You also need to take into consideration that from time to time you’ll need to replace car parts. These include tyres, wiper blades and even the exhaust to keep your car safe and roadworthy.

Breakdown cover

Although modern cars are more reliable than ever before, they can break down. And accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of the car you drive. So having good breakdown cover is essential if you don’t want to find yourself stranded by the roadside. Sometimes you can include this as part of your insurance and it’s even a benefit that comes with some bank accounts. Alternatively, you'll need to take out separate cover.

There are many providers out there but be sure to check out the reviews before you pick what could turn out to be a very important service for you.

While all the above are the main costs of running a car there are a number of other expenses too. These include parking charges that you may have to pay. Plus some cities have a congestion charge. These may seem insignificant compared with the main costs of car ownership, but they can certainly mount up over the course of a year.


There’s no escaping the fact that it can be expensive to run even a small car. But shop around for everything from low-interest loans to the cheapest fuel. This way you can keep on top of the costs and work to a budget. So use all the tools that we’ve shared in this blog and happy motoring.