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The Cost of Owning a Car in the UK

If you live in the UK, two things are a given.

You will start following more football than you ever have in your life.

And you will need to own a car if you live outside a big city.

All the more if you have a family or if you plan on travelling anywhere in the UK. Because while London is really well connected within itself, others areas are not so much. How transport is structured here is that most often you will get either a train or a bus to the centre of every town or village, but beyond that, you’re on your own. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a bus to connect you from the town centre to where you need to go, or you’ll have to get a taxi. And that can get really expensive.

Or if you want to go to school like in our case and school is 2 miles away- taxis are expensive and walking with young children everyday is a challenge

Bottom line - you need a car!

When it comes to buying a car in the UK you have two options:

  • You buy a new car.

  • Or you buy a pre-owned car

But before you get to that, ideally you should know what type of car you’d like to buy. There will be some brands that you are already familiar with from whichever country you’re coming from and others that you haven’t heard of. So you’ll have to do some research. Google or YouTube best sedans for families in UK or best hatchbacks. Whatever you want as your starting point.

Another point that’s important when deciding what car you want to go with, is to work out whether you want to buy the car outright or opt for financing in which case you’ll pay in instalments. It’s important you figure this out now because if you moving to the UK from a different country, it’s likely you don’t have a 3yr credit history, which is something you’ll need to buy a car with financing with most dealerships.

There are certain brands that offer cars to expats so you need to figure which those are if you plan on opting for finance. What we discovered when we were looking was BMW, Skoda and Volkswagen were accommodating but I suggest you check at your end too.

Buying a new car

When it comes to buying a new car, you can either buy a car directly from the brand’s dealership, or you can check one of the dealerships that have multiple brands.

If you have no idea where to start, head over to Autotrader and visit the New Cars section. See what’s available.

Car Model

Car Cost

Vauxhall Corsa

from £15,485

Ford Fiesta

from £16,385

VW Golf

from £20,280

Mercedes Benz A-Class

from £23,085

Ford Puma

from £20,415

VW Polo

from £15,010

Kia Sportage

from £21,560

Toyota Yaris

from £16,184

BMW 3 Series

from £29,990

Nissan Qashqai

from £22,875

Buying a pre-owned car

If you’re looking for a pre-owned car instead, you’re in luck because the pre-owned market in the UK is very robust. You have a ton of options and the cars are often in pretty good shape.

You can either opt to buy a pre-owned car from an owner or from a dealership. We chose to buy our pre-owned car from a dealership because of one crucial point. In case you buy from an owner, the owner is not obligated to share the car’s accident history with you, which is not the case with a dealership. Since we didn’t know too much about the car scene here when we moved here and considering we wanted to buy our car on finance, we opted for a BMW dealership.

Again, you can buy it from a brand dealership or from a dealership that sells multiple brands. To check prices, you can check Autotrader again which share car listings from both owners and brands.

Here are some of the prices of popular pre-owned cars in the UK.

Car Model

Car Cost

Suzuki SX4


SEAT Alhambra


Renault Scenic


Ford Fusion


Ford S-Max


Fiat Punto


Toyota Auris


Fiat Grande Punto


Toyota Prius


Hyundai ix20



But is that the only cost involved? Of course not. The most important thing people forget when buying a car is that it’s not just the cost of the car, there are other costs you have to factor in as well.

One of them is insurance.

If you are to have your car out on the road, you absolutely need to have car insurance, without which it is illegal for you to drive. Even if it is from the dealership to your house.

The challenge you might face when it comes to insurance is that you might have to pay a higher rate of insurance than people from the UK because you would be charged the outrageous expensive rates that overseas drivers or expats get quoted.

A real life saver here is this brand called Marshmallow which focuses on providing insurance to expats at more reasonable rates than the others.

The founders realised that their friend who was an expat was being quoted huge amounts for UK car insurance. Which is basically what gave them the idea to start Marshamallow so that other expats didn’t have to go through a similar experience.

The absolutely brilliant part about using Marshmallow is they accept proof for claim-free driving in any country, also called No Claims Discount/Bonus. And they accept proof from any insurer, no translation needed. They also count ALL the years you've been driving (most will just count the years you've been driving in the UK).

Both these things can have big discounts attached for expats and migrants. They also cover licences from most countries for up to 12 months.”.When you move to the UK, most insurers don’t accept No Claims Discount from other countries which means you’re at a huge disadvantage.

But because Marshmallow does, it could save you around £230 a year on car insurance and it obviously helps that the they’re an award winning brand. Don’t want to take my word, check out the thousands of reviews on Trustpilot then. And with my discount code, you can save £50 directly at checkout.

Use the COUPON CODE: AbsolutelyAshika50 to get this discount.

With Marshmallow, you can also add breakdown cover to your policy which provides you with roadside assistance if your car breaks down somewhere. And you can add a courtesy car to your cover too, meaning you can get a temporary car while yours is being fixed. And you get the option of spreading out your insurance into monthly payments instalments which can save you quite a bit when you’ve just moved to the UK and bought a car and don’t want too many big spends.

Road Tax

The next thing you’ll need before being able to drive is road tax and again, it’s illegal to drive without road tax.

The rate for most cars is £180 and there’s a £10 annual discount for alternatively fuelled vehicles so they pay £170. If your car costs more than £40,000, you’ll pay £570 a year.


Next you need an MOT. An MOT is basically a Ministry of Transport test and you’ll need to get one done once every 12 months once your car is more than 3 years old. Cars have to pass an MOT by law before they're considered roadworthy, and it usually costs between £50 & £60 – however, there may be more charges if the car shows any issues.

During your MOT, your car will be checked for any minor or major faults that could impact the safety and running of your car in the following areas:

  • Exhaust, fumes and emissions

  • Tyres & wheels

  • Seat belts

  • Steering & suspension

  • Lamps & reflectors

  • Electrical equipment

  • Brakes

New cars don’t need an MOT for their first three years.

When it comes to pre-owned cars, if you buy one from a dealership, they would have taken care of the MOT for you. But if you're buying from a private seller, you should check its current status and when it requires a new one. You can't drive a car on the road if the MOT has expired.

The average annual cost for MOT, service and repairs for a car was £613.


I’m not going to cover the cost of fuel as that keeps changing but the Average distance travelled per year per petrol car was 6,300 miles and the Average annual cost of fuel for a petrol car was £1,171.

In the case of diesel, Average distance travelled per year per car was 9,400 miles and the Average annual cost of fuel for a car was £1,661.

Cost of owning different cars:

Now you want to know how much it would cost you to own a different car, it’s simple, check this website - you can enter the model of the car to get an idea.

Now apart from this, there is a whole different set of costs involved when it comes to learning how to drive in the UK. You’re probably thinking you don’t need to learn to drive if you’ve been driving in another country. Now I can’t comment on other countries because some countries allow you to convert your driving license to a UK license.

But if you come from India like I do, you can drive for only 1 year with your Indian license after which you need a UK license and you’ve gotta take a test.

To take the test, you need to take driving classes in the UK and those don’t come cheap or easy.

If you want to know more about this, watch this video.

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