What is the true cost of motoring?

How much does you to run a car car day-to-day, month-on-month or over the entirety of your adult life?

Cars are a major household expense, yet there is limited comprehension of their private (internal) and social (external) cost per km, year, or lifetime of use.  So says ‘The lifetime cost of driving a car‘ by Stefan Gossling, Jessica Kees and Todd Litman (Linnaeus University and Lund University in Sweden), new research which puts the sum at about £500,000 – an eye watering sum of which society pays 41%.

The internal costs are particularly burdensome to low-income motorists who must invest a large share of their net income to own and operate a private vehicle. Furthermore, poorer neighbourhoods are more likely to be plagued by motor traffic air pollution and road danger. This has many implications for households, policy makers and practitioners.

It’s not the first time academic research has highlighted the true cost of motoring. The fallacy that drivers are ‘cash cows’ and pay a disproportionate amount of tax was debunked by a study in 2012 which demonstrated that road traffic collisions, pollution and noise associated with motor vehicles cost every EU citizen more than £600 a year.

The report by the Dresden Technical University in Germany calculated that these costs amounted to £303bn per year across the 27 EU member states – the equivalent of €750 per man, woman and child.

The report recommended that such so-called externalities be factored into the cost of driving.

According to the authors of the report: “It must be stated that car traffic in the EU is highly subsidised by other people and other regions and will be by future generations: residents along an arterial road, taxpayers, elderly people who do not own cars, neighbouring countries, and children, grandchildren and all future generations subsidise today’s traffic.”

The study said UK drivers accounted for £48bn of costs, or about £815 per person per year. This figure did not include costs from resulting from congestion or ill health caused by sedentary lifestyles.

Motoring related taxes have never been hypothecated, but even if they were, at the time the report was released there would be a £10bn shortfall between revenue from motoring taxes and the £48bn costs.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover  and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

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  1. Dr John Heathcote


    My village no longer has a regular bus service. It’s 7.5 miles to the nearest supermarket, 20 miles to the nearest large town. The bus goes a devious way round, so it’s quicker for me to cycle than to use the bus, and far more convenient. It takes twice as long to the large town as it takes by car, and even then you are a long way from the town-edge stores that the bus does not go past. I’m a pensioner so the bus is free, but it’s just too inconvenient. There has to be a better model of public transport than infrequent large buses.

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