Money Advice Service

Buying and running a car is a major expense – for many people second only to the cost of their home. So before deciding to buy one, spend a little time thinking about if you really need it and alternative ways of getting around. Here you can discover some points to consider plus links to useful websites.

Do you need a car?

Find out the facts

When thinking about whether you need a car, make sure you know how much different types of cars cost to run.

To find out these costs, try using our Car costs calculator.

Owning a car is a major expense – it costs UK motorists an average of £3,500 a year to run their cars after purchase (Source:

So if you’re thinking of buying your first car, or replacing an old one, it makes sense to think carefully about whether you really need it.

People living in rural areas with poor public transport often have little or no alternative to using a car.

But for some of us, it might be more to do with the convenience of jumping into the car however short the journey, or simply habit.

The charity Sustrans maintains four out of five short journeys were made by foot, bike or public transport instead of by car, drivers could save £279 a year in running costs – £8.5 billion for all UK drivers.

Alternatives to using a car


The RAC says around three million cars in the UK are used less than once a week.

A third of these cars are virtually new – a year or two old at most.

According to Sustrans four out of 10 short car journeys are under two miles – a easily cycled distance

Cycling is also one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your daily routine, plus it saves you money and is environmentally friendly.

If you’re put off by steep hills on your route, why not test-ride an electric bike? Starting at around £500, most have a range of 20–25 miles and all of them offer you both speed and fitness benefits.

Find out more about the benefits of cycling at The Cycle to Work Alliance, British Cycling and the NHS Choices Live Well website.

Car share

If commuting to work is your main reason for owning a car, it might be worth looking at sharing your journey with a colleague.

Many large employers run car share schemes.

If you normally drive your children to school and it’s unsafe for them to walk, you could arrange to share the school run with other parents.

This can also help with parking problems near schools.

Find out more about car sharing in your area at and BlaBlaCar.

Car clubs

These are in effect pay-as-you-go cars you can rent by the hour or day.

You have the convenience of a car when you need it without having to pay for car tax (commonly known as road tax), servicing and car insurance.

Find out more about car clubs at Carplus.

Public transport

Public transport is likely to be cheaper than a car for commuting or short local journeys.

When comparing costs, remember with a car you need to allow for running costs over the year as well as fuel. So it’s well worth considering buying a weekly or monthly season ticket for bus, train, tube or tram instead.

For longer distances by train or bus, you can make big savings by booking saver tickets in advance.

Find out more about your public transport options at websites such as:


Motorbikes and scooters cost considerably less to run than a car. For example, 125cc bikes and scooters will do more than 100 miles per gallon, which means a 20-mile daily work commute could cost as little as £5 a week in petrol.

Electric scooters are particularly cheap to run – as little as 1p a day. However, their range is limited to 40 miles or less.


If your journey is only a mile or two, why not walk instead?

Not only does it cost you nothing but it also cuts down on pollution and congestion. A walk of just one mile can also burn off 100 calories.

Find out more about walking at the Living Streets website, or WalkIt.

Work from home

Many companies now offer flexible working, so it might be worth speaking to your employer to find out whether it’s possible – even if for just one day a week.

Your next step

If you just can’t manage without a car, find out how you can cut down on car and travel costs.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.