Cost of Driving Report

Posted by Victoria Collins on

With over 75% of Brits holding a full driving licence and nearly 4 in 5 owning one or more cars per household, the UK has certified itself as a country of drivers - with cars being the favoured method of transport. 

But with some petrol prices in London hitting record highs of £2.50 per litre, as well as increasing driving lesson fees and the ongoing running costs of owning a car, is driving becoming a luxury Brits can no longer afford?

This report breaks down the costs of learning to drive, the most popular UK cars and their running costs and how you can reduce your car’s outgoings. With train fares also increasing, we also see which method of transport - train or car - is the best for your commute, based on popular commuting journeys. 

The results revealed:

  • The Ford Focus is the UK’s most popular car, but the Audi A1 takes the top spot for cost efficiency per mile at 49.02p
  • Although a more expensive upfront cost, the lifespan costs of an electric car actually works out as £465 cheaper than a petrol-run car. 
  • £11,225 is the average cost for budding drivers learning to drive
  • Car journeys are the most cost-effective way of travelling for popular commuter routes, over trains

  • Cost of Driving: The UK’s 30 most popular cars and how much they cost to run

    Of the most popular UK cars, the Audi A1 has the lowest average running costs at 49p per mile

    In a bid to find the most appealing car on the market, CarMats has utilised its nationwide sales data to find out the 30 most popular UK cars and used the car running costs calculator to see which of these models had the lowest costs per mile, taking into consideration fuel consumption, depreciation and service maintenance costs. 

    In first place for cheapest running costs was the Audi A1, which has the lowest average running costs at 49p per mile.  

    Seemingly a British favourite for its cost efficiency, the Ford Focus model was crowned the UK’s most popular car but came in fifteenth place for lowest costs per mile. 

    Of the UK’s 30 most popular car models, the Mercedes C-Class came in last place for its running cost efficiency, with an average running cost of 125.46p per mile. 


    UK’s 30 Most Popular Cars

    Avg Cost to Run*


    Audi A1 - A1 25 Sportback 5Dr 1.0TFSI 95 SS Technik 23MY



    Citreon C3 - C3 Hatch 5Dr 1.2 PureTech 83 SS €6 YOU 22MY



    Skoda Fabia - Fabia Hatch 5Dr 1.0 MPI 80 SS €6 Colour Edition 23MY



    VW Polo - Polo Hatch 5Dr 1.0 EVO 80 SS €6 Life 23MY



    Mini Hatch - Hatch II 3Dr Cooper 1.5 136 SS Classic Premium S7 22.5MY



    Renault Clio - Clio Hatch 5Dr 1.0TCe 90 SS €6 RS Line 6Spd 22MY



    Peugeot 208 - 208 Hatch 5Dr 1.2 PTech 75 SS Active Premium 22MY



    Nissan Juke - Juke SUV 1.0 DIG-T 114 SS Visia 6 21MY



    Ford Fiesta - Fiesta Hatch 5Dr 1.1Ti-VCT 75 SS Trend 5 23MY



    Peugeout 2008 - 2008 SUV 1.2 PureTech 100 GPF SS €6 Active Premium + 6Spd 23MY



    VW T-Roc - T-Roc SUV 2wd 1.0TSI 110 GPF SS €6 Life 6Spd 23MY



    Vauxhall Corsa - Corsa Hatch 5Dr 1.5 T D 102 SS SE Edition 6 22.5MY



    VW Golf - Golf Hatch 5Dr 1.0TSI 110 SS Life 6 23MY



    BMW 1 Series - 1 Series 116 Hatch 5Dr 1.5d 116 SS SE LCP 6 22.5MY



    Ford Focus - Focus Hatch 5Dr 1.0T EcoB 125 SS Titanium Design 6Spd 22.5MY



    Seat Leon - Leon Hatch 5Dr 1.0TSI EVO 110 SS SE 6 23MY



    Kia Sportage - Sportage SUV 2wd 1.6T-GDi 148 GPF SS €6 2 6Spd 22MY



    Vauxhall Astra - Astra Hatch 5Dr 1.2 Turbo 110 GPF SS €6 Design 6Spd 22.25MY



    Skodia Octavia - Octavia Hatch 5Dr 1.0TSI 110 GPF SS €6 SE Technology 6Spd 23MY



    VW Tiguan - Tiguan SUV 2wd SWB 1.5TSI 130 GPF SS €6 Life 6Spd 23MY



    Nissan Qashqai - Qashqai SUV 2wd 1.3 MHEV DIGT 140 SS Visia 6 22MY



    Mini Countryman - Countryman Cooper 1.5 136 SS Classic Premium S7 22.5MY



    Ford Kuga - Kuga SUV 2WD 1.5 EcoBlu 120 SS Zetec 6 22MY



    Hyundai Tucson - Tucson SUV 1.6T-GDi 150 GPF SS €6 SE Connect 6Spd 23MY



    Mercedes A-Class - A Class A180 Saloon 4Dr 1.3 136 SS AMG Line Exec 7G-DCT 23MY



    VW Passat - Passat Saloon 1.5TSI EVO 150 GPF SS €6 SEL 6Spd 22MY



    BMW 3 Series - 3 Series 318 Saloon 2.0i 156 SS SE Pro A8 22.25MY



    Peugeot 3008 - 3008 SUV 1.2 PTech 130 SS Active Premium + 6Spd 22.5MY



    Audi A4 - A4 35 Saloon 4Dr 2.0TFSI 150 SS Technik ST7 23MY



    Mercedes C-Class - C Class C220 Coupe 2.0d 194 SS AMG Line Edition 9GT+ 23MY


    *We used the variations of the models which had the lowest running costs per mile - car running calculator costs were applied over 2 years and 20,000 miles

    Petrol vs Electric: Which is the most cost-effective investment?  

    With fuel prices increasing and car users becoming more eco-conscious, the prospect of owning an electric car has become more appealing to many Brits, but how much can you expect to pay? 

    To see how much running costs were for a year and over a car’s lifetime we looked at the initial average purchase price of a petrol, diesel or electric car with the GOV average cost of petrol per mile (0.19p) with the UK average car miles driven per year (7,400 miles) and per the average lifespan of a car (8.4 years).

    According to ONS, the average cost for an electric car (£36,633) will set you back an additional £7,615 more than the average petrol or diesel car (£29,018).  

    Annual costs of a petrol/diesel car

    Average Costs

    Purchase Price


    Annual Running Costs




    Lifetime costs of a petrol / diesel car

    Average Costs

    Purchase Price


    Lifespan Running Costs




    However, you can expect to save money on your running costs, as the EV Running Costs Calculator reveals the average cost to run an electric car is 13p cheaper per mile than a petrol/diesel car. According to CarAnalytics the average UK car user drives approximately 7,400 miles annually, so this is a saving of £962 per year. 

    According to RAC, the average life expectancy of a car is 8.4 years, with that in mind, the lifespan costs of an electric car actually works out as £465 cheaper than a petrol-run car.

    Electric Costs

    Average Costs

    Electric Cars


    Annual Running Costs




    An electric car’s lifetime costs

    Average Costs

    Hybrid & Electric Cars


    Lifespan Running Costs




    The Cost of Learning to Drive: Prices are on the up for learner drivers

    £11,225 is the average cost for budding drivers learning to drive

    According to RAC, it will take the average learner 45 hours of driving lessons to pass their driving test. 

    At an average cost of £25 - £30 per hour lesson, the average learner in the UK is looking at a cost of £1260. This cost excludes the theory and driving test payments (£23 & £62 respectively), the cost of a provisional driving licence (£34), car insurance (£851) and the largest payment of purchasing a car.

    According to, the Ford Fiesta Zetec was the most popular choice for first time drivers, with a price tag from £995 used to £16,995 new, making the average cost for one of these hatchbacks as £8995. 



    Driving Lessons


    Theory Test


    Driving Test


    Provisional Licence


    Full Licence


    Car Insurance






    How to reduce your car running costs

    Cars are an essential commodity for families across Britain, but with fuel prices, energy bills and general cost of living soaring, many are rightly worried about the cost of their monthly outgoings.

    To help reduce monthly costs, we have revealed the tips that will cut the cost of your car’s expenses. 

    1. Shop around for insurance

    Last year, a new law came in banning insurance companies from charging existing customers more than new ones for policies. This was to stop the practice of ‘price walking’, in which insurers increase premiums each year for existing customers. Although this means the end of discounts for new customers, it could still be worth switching insurers.

    The new law doesn’t mean your insurance bill will remain fixed and insurers could still increase your premium based on your potential risks. This includes your neighbourhood and your annual driving record, among other factors. 

    Not all insurers factor in risks the same, so, if you are getting your first-ever insurance, renewing coverage or switching to a different insurer, you can still save money by comparing rates from different companies. We’d recommend obtaining a few quotes from insurance providers to find the best deal suited to you and your car.

    1. Purchase a cheaper/insurance-friendly car 

    If you’re on the hunt for a new car, it’s worth considering which vehicle will fare best with your insurance company. 

    Insurance quotes assess a number of factors, including the vehicle, its model, engine size, purchase price, repair costs and safety history.

    Generally, more expensive cars will cost more to repair and replace if they are damaged in an accident, therefore it may be worth looking at better-valued vehicles. 

    1. Pay upfront for insurance

    Although it may seem costly upfront, paying your car insurance bill in one purchase is a great way to reduce your bill overall. 

    Most major insurers will offer a discounted price for a one-off payment as it guarantees their payment for the 12-month period. It also means you will avoid entering into a credit agreement that involves paying interest on the sum calculated by your insurance company. 

    1. Consider buying a more fuel efficient car

    In the UK’s 30 Most Popular Cars & How Much They Cost to Run section of this report, it’s clear to see that certain cars are more costly to run than others. 

    The key factors affecting your fuel efficiency is your car’s fuel type, its cost, the fuel consumption and the way you drive your car. For example, the general rule is that the faster you drive, the more fuel you burn. Varying your speed up and down frequently can also affect your fuel consumption. 

    From our research into the UK’s most popular cars and their costs to run per mile, we found the Audi A1 (A1 25 Sportback 5Dr 1.0TFSI 95 SS Technik 23MY) was one of the most appealing cars on the market, other cost-efficient cars in the top ten include the Citreon C3 (C3 Hatch 5Dr 1.2 PureTech 83 SS €6 YOU 22MY) and the Skoda Fabia (Fabia Hatch 5Dr 1.0 MPI 80 SS €6 Colour Edition 23MY). This was after taking into account fuel consumption, depreciation and service maintenance costs. 

    1. Keep your tyres inflated

    The tyres on your car have an essential role in carrying the entire weight of your car, and everything in it. But the air pressure of your tyres is not only essential for safety reasons, but it can also help improve your vehicle’s performance and decrease your fuel consumption and costs. 

    According to Goodyear, underinflated tyres can increase fuel consumption by 0.6% to 3%. The increased rolling resistance affects your braking performance and also makes your engine work harder. 

    Keeping your tyre air pressure at their recommended levels is a cost-effective way of reducing fuel consumption as well as keeping you and other road-users safe.

    1. Lower your mileage 

    Started working from home since the pandemic but not changed your annual mileage? You could save yourself a hefty chunk by calculating and updating your premium with your new mileage. 

    If your mileage hasn’t been affected by the pandemic, you could look to reduce your driving time in other ways. We’re all guilty of hopping in the car for even the shortest of journeys, but it may be time to get your walking shoes for shorter trips, as it could cut the cost of your car insurance bill. 

    Many companies offer discounts if you have a lower mileage count because it reduces your time on the road - meaning you’re less likely to make a claim.

    If you’re looking to cut down on your car usage, you could:

    • Walk more
    • Carpool with colleagues
    • Take a train or coach for extra-long journeys
    • Take up cycling

    Cost of Non-Driving Commuting 

    Car journeys revealed as the most cost-effective way of travelling for popular commuter routes, over trains

    Although train travel is often considered a cheap and efficient way to travel, train fare costs have recently increased by 3.8% and are now the most expensive they have ever been in the UK. 

    In this section, we will find out the costs of common UK commutes and see how it compares with the average cost of petrol for the same distance travelled.

    According to Statista, cars are by far the most common mode of transportation for commuting in the UK as 68% of the nation said that’s how they travelled to work. By comparison, only 1 in 10 said they travelled by train. To see why driving was the most preferred method of commuting, we broke down the travel costs for some of the most popular commuter routes to major cities in Britain. 

    According to ONS, the average commute time in the UK is 29 minutes, so CarMats has looked at train journeys close to that time duration from commuter towns to major cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

    Popular Commutes to Cities

    Train Journey Duration 

    Train Fare (Peak Time)

    Avg Trip Cost in Petrol

    Money Saved in the Car


    St Albans City to London St Pancras

    23 - 35 mins





    Welwyn Garden City to London Euston

    29 - 48 mins





    Macclesfield to Manchester Piccadilly

    26 - 33 mins





    Rochdale to Manchester Victoria

    15 - 21 mins





    Stirling to Glasgow Queen Street

    35 - 40 mins





    Falkirk to Edinburgh (Waverley)

    27 - 35 mins





    Huddersfield to Leeds

    19 - 40 mins





    Mirfield to Leeds

    25 - 32 mins





    Hinckley to Birmingham New Street

    36 mins





    Tamworth to Birmingham New Street

    15 - 19 mins




    Petrol costs calculated as an average of 0.19p per mile according to Gov UK. Mileage was calculated via Google Maps  - fares were taken from TrainLine.

    According to our data and research, 10 of the most popular commuting routes in the UK were cheaper to travel to by car than via train. Some fares even had a substantial saving of more than £10. 

    The Cost of Driving report has shown, that despite the major hikes to fuel prices and the costly upfront fee of learning how to drive, travelling by car is one of the most cost-effective ways of travelling. 

    Dispute the increased running costs of a car, in the battle of cars vs. public transport, cars have come out as a clear winner for the public. This indicates just what a huge role cars have in 2022. 

    For those wanting a sustainable alternative for travel, the report reveals there is a lifetime cost benefit of swapping from a petrol-run car, to an electric car, as our findings revealed you could be saving £962 a year on petrol and when that includes the cost of the initial purchase of the car, it works out as a £465 saving over a lifetime. This could also be a positive for those looking for a more eco-friendly way of getting around, without having to give up the luxury of car ownership and travel independence. 


    Research conducted by team utilising the sources below. Information correct as of 5th October 2022. 

    1. Households with cars, disposable, 2019 to 2020 (76.3 kB xls), Households with cars, gross, 2019 to 2020 (67.6 kB xls)
    2. Data according to - original source -
    3. internal nationwide sales data 
    5. ONS - Average car prices: 2021 (Download)




    1. ONS Average commute and percentage travelling by car for the UK and constituent countries (Download 73.7 kB xls)

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    If you want to share our study, any findings or images from the study, please credit with a link to this page.

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