/ Motoring

When cars cost too much to run

Car exhaust

Ever bought a car and all-too-quickly regretted it because it cost an arm and a leg to live with? Do you consider the running costs of cars before you buy?

Being a car fan, I have to admit that I’ve regretted some of my car purchases due to the cost of running them. Before my mortgage and kids were denting my earnings, one of my most extravagant purchases was a 1939 Studebaker Commander.

Not only did it weigh a couple of tons, it was fitted with a 2.7-litre petrol engine with the thirst of a squaddie on a weekend’s leave. And to top off the astronomical running costs, this American giant was also too big to fit in my garage, so I had to rent a barn for it to live in.

That may be a very extreme case, but there are still pretty massive differences in the cost of running different versions of the same modern car model.

Car running costs calculated

If you choose a pacey Audi RS6 Avant estate over a bog-standard A6 Avant you’ll pay 20p more for every single mile you drive. The RS6 costs £1.90 per mile for fuel costs servicing and car tax, while the A6 costs £1.70 according to CAP.

And most people cover more than 10,000 miles a year, so that’s a £2,000 difference.

Before buying my Commander I could really have done with a quick calculator to plug in some raw stats, which would then spit out a simple cost-per-mile figure. That way I could see how much each element of ownership was going to cost up front, as well as the overall figure.

Do you work out the cost of owning a car before you buy? If so what factors are most important to you – depreciation, car tax, servicing, fuel costs, insurance, or others? Or perhaps you don’t really consider costs upfront and have a car running cost regret to share…

Comments
Member

Certain costs – fuel, insurance, depreciation – can be estimated pretty well before you commit to a car (but look at road tests / Honest John for fuel consumption, not the published figures). What you will find less easy are repair/replacement costs if things go wrong. These can make a big hole in your budget. Turbo failures, injectors, alternator, replacing Xenon bulbs, may hit you, particularly if, like me, you keep you car into 6 figure mileage. My alternator is water cooled and costs £400 parts (repaired locally last time for £200), my turbo failed, my gearbox failed at 90k, but I philosophically regard this as a trade off against low depreciation in a car a like and hopefully will now motor on for a lot more miles. However, worth looking at these costs when considering a car. My Son’s BMW windscreen costs £1000 – not necessarily replaced on insurance with a genuine BMW screen – so if it matters you’ll have to stump up the cost.
Also worth checking whether you have a local independent garage for your make to service your car – mine is ex-dealer people who charge 60% of the main dealer labour cost – a substantial saving.

Member

For me, the top priority is to avoid buying models or makes with a very poor reputation for reliability. For many years I have listened to Fiat and Renault owners’ tales of woe. I try to avoid buying a new model, preferring to wait until the major problems have been overcome. Before buying, I try to find out about common problems with a model and how much they would cost to fix.

There is a lot to be said for buying popular models because they are often sold at competitive prices and spares are usually readily available.

My tips to save money are to minimise car use by combining journeys, and not to replace a car unless there is a compelling reason for doing so.

Member

You probably bought the Studebaker for reasons other than fuel economy and with such a car, this shouldn’t really be an issue. Your use of it is. A “sensible” second car, to supplement the classic Studebaker, is a pre-requisite of ownership. My elderly Volvo averaged 28 to the gallon and, while it ran well, I put up with that, because a replacement was a costly alternative. When it finally became unreliable, I bought my first diesel, and this was principally to improve fuel economy. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have considered diesel as an option. Times change.

Member
richard says:
9 June 2013

The only expense I’ve really considered has been fuel economy – But have been caught out several times – Had Austin Martin DB – the cost of insurance was prohibited (couldn’t afford to renew) Had a Mazda from new that cost an arm and a leg to replace worn out fittings within four years – Had a Mini Cooper S that was unreliable. The best was a Nissan that I had 20 years and only went wrong once at 20 years old and decided to replace it with an Hyundai..

Member
Leonard says:
12 June 2013

I’ve been pleased with my Honda Jazz, but disappointed at the cost of things that I didn’t think should wear out as soon as they do. I’ve just done 36000 miles since I bought it in 2004, but have had to pay for replacement brake discs twice at £200 a time, replacement front suspension units at £275, and £195 to replace a lost key. I was told that the discs became corroded “because I didn’t use the brakes enough to keep them shiny” and that the suspension was likely to become loose because of speed humps in the road (though I always crawl over these). Am I being unrealistic in expecting a car to last 10 years without needing major parts to be replaced at such cost? If brake discs are considered “consumables” we need a warning of this. I can’t blame Honda for the lost key, but the replacement cost seems ridiculously high.

Member
Stephen J Butler says:
19 June 2013

Once owned a RAV4 that when booked in for its annual service, I was told the same i.e., brake discs needing replacing due to corrosion on discs caused by not using brakes enough to keep them shiny and smooth. When a vehicle is in the driveway or garage and overnight it rains, discs display rust spots which are eliminated after taking vehicle out for even a short run, using the brakes. I ignored the garage’s advice and ran the RAV4 for another year before taking it to a different garage for servicing who serviced it and DID not mention anything about the discs needing replaced. Discs were never replaced in my 5 years of ownership and when sold back to a dealership they tested the RAV4 prior to exchanging for a new car and still did not mention anything about the discs. New car, a Kuga, after driving fir a year and putting it in for its 1st service, I was told that tyres needed replacing as the fronts were down to 4.4mm & 4.5mm respectively at a cost of nearly £600 even though legal limit is 1.6mm!!! Moral here, get a second opinion.

Member
Peter Lawley says:
12 June 2013

We bought a new VW Golf Bluemotion 1.6D on the strength of its claimed fuel economy in October 2011. It’s never achieved anything like the claimed figures, first averaging around 50mpg, and more recently after 25000 miles it’s now up to around 56mpg overall.
Our motoring is a mix of uncrowded urban and suburban roads, dual carriageways and infrequent motorway trips, where I always use cruise control wherever safe to do so.
VW claim figures for our ‘Match’ version of the high 60’s for the extra-urban cycle, and low 70’s for urban, all of which is a complete fiction as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t even make the supposed Which? ‘real world’ consumption figures.
I complained both to Which? and to VW, who had it in for testing and pronounced everything to be in order and very politely told me it’s down to my own driving style and pattern of usage.
The Golf is a lovely car to drive, and well built, and if I had the GTi version, I wouldn’t complain, but I’ll be very wary of taking any notice of manufacturers’ figures in the future.
I think all the consumption figures publicised by manufacturers can be taken with a very large handful of salt.

Member

The EU consumption figures are derived from standard tests to put published consumption figures on a common basis; they are not claimed to represent real life. This is not about manufacturers mis-claiming. One place to look for real life figures is Honest John’s website.

Member

Peter

I bought a Golf 1.6D Match a year ago, rejecting the economy BlueMotion simply because there was no spare wheel. I have yet to measure the true fuel consumption but assuming the gauge is reasonably accurate I can achieve over 60 mpg on longer journeys without difficulty. Thanks to a lot of short journeys and paying less attention to how I drive, my average over the last 2k miles is only 58.6mpg. I reckon that Which? is right in saying that driving technique and how the vehicle is used that is important.

If you study the instantaneous fuel consumption it is not difficult to see how to use less fuel. My experience is that being slightly held up in traffic can produce substantially better fuel economy than driving at constant speed. Constant speed is important for safety on motorways but there is certainly no need for this on single-carriageway roads. I will focus on my driving again and expect to average over 60mpg this summer.

Some people use their air conditioning all year round. I don’t know how much extra fuel this uses, but there is certainly a running cost.

Member
Richard Laycock says:
12 June 2013

You state that you use cruise control on long journeys. While this is a boon to a relaxed drive it has been shown that it uses more fuel than a careful right foot. Top Gear tried to get a new Audi diesel from London to Edinburgh and back on one tank of fuel and was on course to miss by a big margin until J Clarkson turned off the cruise control. He just made the target.

Member
Smofalsh says:
12 June 2013

In my experience of cruise controls, I have discovered over several years that on long journeys, for example through France where the traffic is relatively sparse compared to British motorways, I have considerably bettered my average mpg whilst travelling utilising the cruise control. I never get the sameresults in the UK.

Member
Daxiboy Cornwall says:
12 June 2013

I bought a VW Tiguan 2Ltr 2wd Bluemotion brand new in Janurary 2012 all went well till I went to collect after signing the hand over docs my wife noticed it said 4wd oh dear pointed out to the salesman who said you are lucky you have got 4wd for the price of 2wd when asking about fuel consumption told very little in it you will be ok told to expect about 45mpg .After 1000mls found average 35mpg on a journey around urban cycle 23-25mpg this was horrendous went back to the dealer who found nothing wrong with the vehicle said run it in a bit more . 1500mls later still no i,provement went back to the dealer and complained told shouldnt of excepted the vehicle in the first place ???? g had close relative dying of cancer at the time of delivery and had to cut handover short and rush away In the long term I couldnt afford to run the vehicle ended up with the correct vehicle 8 months later and having to fork out another £2500 morale of the story dont ever believe manufacturers quoted MPG told they are dont independantly of the manufacturer so there fore no re-course, ask a few owners about fuel consumption before parting with your hard earned think twice before parting with the honeypot

Member
Peter Lawley says:
17 June 2013

The instantaneous mileage read out on the Golf I find meaningless and distracting to the point of dangerous, as it changes in the blink of an eye, and can vary from 13 – 200mpg in a millisecond.
The Gold has two memory indicators, no 1 for day to day journeys and no 2 for monitoring up to 999 hours of travel. No.1 monitors average, as opposed to instant, fuel consumption, every few seconds for any given trip, whilst No2 will give you longer term average consumption.
No 2 memory in conjunction with accurate mileage recording on fuel fill ups confirm one another at an average overall consumption at present of 56 mpg (up from 50 mpg when new) which accords with the returns on Honest John website for this model, at about 86% of the manufacturers claimed figures.

Member

I see the instantaneous fuel consumption indicator useful to help understand how the engine is using fuel and has helped me adapt my driving to decrease use of fuel. I don’t use it very often and would not look at it when overtaking, negotiating a junction, or driving in heavy traffic.

Member

I just got a new Golf last week.
I have not come to terms with what is meant by range. This changes on a whim. With a full tank it sugested400 miles. Next day, after I had driven 120 miles, it suggested 550 miles. Now at under half a tank it says 220. I’ll fill up again tomorrow and enter the details in to a spreadsheet on my computer at home and that will give me the actual accurate information from each time I fill up and also the average over the next two or three years that I expect to keep it.

Member
Dr C Fleming says:
12 June 2013

Have a Mercedes 300D. Some time ago needed a replacement for a blown rear light….was driving past a main dealer so stopped and went in . Told cost was £49!!!!! Left and went to my usual service people in NW6…..cost nil + free cup of coffee!! Family run firm,excellent mechanics (as opposed to fitters) and customer service as it should be.

Member

I bought a pre-registered Saab 9-3 1.9TDI in March 2006 for £20,000. Effectively a new car with 5 miles on the clock and it has now done 64000 miles. I have in my calculations of running costs, depreciated this to zero value. Including running costs, standard services, tyres, MoTs, insurance, depreciation and unexpected repairs the average cost of the car over its life has been about 65p/mile. Not sure if that’s good or bad but the unexpected repairs have included: (a) alternator and battery (£550); (b) inlet manifold, swirl actuator and EGR valve (£1,880); (c) dual mass flywheel and clutch (£1,650); (d) steering column integrated module and replacement keys (£670); (e) steering rack (£1,500); and (f) a drive belt pulley (£150). Total = £6,400. Dual mass flywheels are a known issue with manual diesels but overall the above list is a bit longer than I was expecting over the period I have owned the car. That said, it is comfortable and very good when running well. Only the alternator failure left me stranded and needing a recovery truck.

Member
peter hudson says:
12 June 2013

BMW 520d. excessive tyre wear on a rear tyre. My tyre supplier checked wheel alignment -all correct -no charge. a week later the Bmw dealer did the same check -found nothing -charged £150.Took about half an hour.

Claimed fuel consumption 55 mpg(diesel). Actual 38mpg.

Runflat tyres cost £200 in UK but € 400 in France.

Member
Paul Evans says:
12 June 2013

BMW 520d M sport since new, fantastic car to drive, but so expensive to service, and the run flat tyres have to be the special ones made for a BMW.
Have had to fit 6 new tyres in the last 4 years ! This is car is probably best as a company car where you don’t have to pay the running costs !

Member
Bigbob says:
12 June 2013

Purchased a new Toyota RAV4 D4D in 2002, in warranty I had a new waterpump and cambelt,
a replacement gearbox and new modified brakes. After the warranty I had the duel mass fiywheel and clutch replaced £2000 with no help from Toyota GB now I have had the second set of suction valves replaced in total £950 and no help from Toyota GB.
The Toyota dealership is very good and have serviced the vehicle since new but Toyota GB are a total disgrace and have total disreguard for the failings of poor quality parts fitted to the RAV4.
The customer service at Toyota GB is none exisitant, beware of the myth that Toyota are a reliable make and produce quality vehicles!

Member
Andy in Rossendale says:
12 June 2013

We bought a Fiat Punto Evo Sporting in 2010 as it had lot of standard kit and boasted a 1.4 Turbo Multi-Air system, which claimed Fiat gave it great economy together with the low-down grunt of a supercharged engine using a turbo. All very clever and indeed it pulled from a very un-turbo like 1200 rpm all the way to the red line. The down-side to this is that it is impossible to obtain the mpg claimed by Fiat and averages 28-32 mpg on mixed cycle driving which is poor for a 1.4 litre engine. The only way of getting close to claimed mpg figures is to drive on a flat motorway at 55mph!

Member
Smithy in Ealing says:
12 June 2013

Purchased a Seat Altea,5 door 1.6 petrol what a super car.Took the car to Paris, now the realization begins used nearly half a tank going from Enfield to the channel tunnel, the car had something about stopping at petrol stations, it cost a fortune in fuel.I put this down to the fact in order to maintain a constant 70 mph I was always driving at 4000 rpm, you are now drinking fuel big time, gearing all wrong in my opinion
Car now due a service, still under warranty, took the car to the local seat dealer it was the cars second annual service, a whopping £390, the car had not even covered 10,000 miles 2 years old.
Part X for a Nissan Qashqai

Member
Smofalsh says:
12 June 2013

The one thing about virtually every vehicle manufacturer’s claims about their products is the blatantly dishonest way they “massage” the performance/durability and costs figures. For example does ANY vehicle attain the mpg figures quoted in the sales literature? They advertise the lowest possible purchase price in extra large print(with a miniscule “from”) whilst illustrating the advert with a much higher-priced model which usually costs many thousands more than the “basic” price.

Member
Richard Laycock says:
12 June 2013

As stated by Honest John (Daily Telegraph) car manufacturers have no option but to comply with EU fuel usage procedures. True they probably switch off every electrical device, pump the tyres up hard etc. but they all do the same. HJ publishes readers’ figures and compares them with the quoted ones.

Member
Graham Ward says:
3 July 2013

Jaguar S type SE auto 2.7 diesel. Published “combined” mpg figure is 36mpg. Computer currently says 39.5mpg over approx 5000 miles. Mind you taking into account Jaguar electrics and electronics, the computer figure could be wrong!

Member
David says:
12 June 2013

My wife and I cover a small annual mileage and on the strength of MPG figures published by the manufacturer I bought a Hyundai i10 Automatic to replace a 1.4 Honda Jazz automatic. Our driving activity is very similar to that which we did in the Honda but whereas we achieved around 41 mpg with that vehicle we are fortunate to get 30 mpg in the Hyundai.

I read a few months ago that Hyundai USA are giving fuel vouchers to users who have complained about the unrealistic claims about economy but nothing has been offered to owners in the UK.I feel that double standards are being shown here.

Member
john hibbert says:
13 June 2013

I am staggered that people just accept what the manufactures say when they must know that these tests are done under lab. conditions.

Member
Richard Laycock says:
12 June 2013

I fell in love with the new (at that time) Mercedes-Benz A class back in 1998, it was the most unreliable car I’ve had since a Ginetta G15 kit car. On top of that the M-B servicing charges were appalling. I realise since that the company went through a bad time with build quality but that experience has put me off prestige cars for good. The Toyota Corolla which replaced it was comfortably the most reliable car I’ve ever had, if not the most exciting! I just need to find out how good my VW Polo 1.2 TSI is, it drives brilliantly.

Member
Keith H says:
12 June 2013

In March I bought a new Mark 7 Golf 2.0 TDI Bluemotion and opted for the DSG autiomatic, adding £1400 to the price. Big mistake. Driving carefully, as I was running it in, I’ve averaged less than 49 mph against VW’s claimed 62.8 mpg. My previous car, a 1997 VW Jetta 2.0 TDI manual, would have achieved 10 mpg more if driven in the same way – in spite of being a bigger and heavier car with older trchnology.

In addition, I find the automatic action, although very smooth, a pain as it always tries to use as high a gear as possible. For example it will attempt to pull up an incline at 36 mph in 6th gear, which means I cannot keep pace with traffic ahead unless I do a manual change. This is easy to achieve via the steering wheel paddles – but why have an automatic if you have to perform manual changes?

Member
NukeThemAll says:
2 September 2013

Keith H, if this is your first auto, the simple solution to the ‘it chooses a high gear’ is to simply press harder on the accelerator – the DSG box (like all autos) will change down a gear. No need for manual intervention!

And FWIW, I have a diesel auto. I reach or exceed the published mpg figures with careful (but not unduly slow) driving. I’ve long ago concluded that manufacturer’s figures can constitute an **approximate** pecking order, but this order can be **way** wrong if your driving style is very different to the way the official figures are generated (and I’m not implying it’s anyone’s fault – you can’t help it if your commute is in heavy stop-start traffic).

Member
Best Golfer says:
12 June 2013

Regret buying a Mitsibushi Grandis due to disaster dealers service and from the Head Office and due to very high running costs. Petrol tank seem to disappear very quickly probably only 200 miles from a tank costing around £70. Road tax is well over £200 (and i was lucky that my car registration date was just a few days different from another similar car who are paying around £400). Insurance is not cheap either – around £600. Forgot about the depreciation that’s bad as well. But the worst part is Car Parts cost. Had to replace Exhaust and that cost around £400. Really really regretting buying a Mitsibushi car due to the reasons mentioned above.

Member
Steve says:
12 June 2013

Don’t be fooled by the engine size!!

I recently got rid of my 2.0l Vauxhall Insignia for a 1.4l Corsa – BIG mistake.

Fuel consumption on the 1.4l is worse than the Insignia and I see “my” Insignia every day as I sold it to a colleague – choked!!