The return of the one car family?

Article date: 17 November 2009

  • Cost of motoring is down year-on-year, although cash-strapped drivers feel no benefit

The cost of motoring for Britain’s 30 million drivers has fallen 5% (£123) in 2009 to £2,219, according to RAC’s annual Cost of Motoring Index¹. Despite this small reduction, an RAC poll revealed that eight out of 10 cash-strapped motorists still believe that the cost of running their car has risen². And in response nearly half of those surveyed (45%) have been making significant changes to their motoring lifestyle over the last year, such as reducing their car ownership and moving towards a one car household.

The drop in the cost of motoring has been driven primarily by the price of fuel. While the price of petrol and diesel has fluctuated over the last twelve months, costs have fallen overall by 10% to £1,184 per year. Diesel in particular has become much cheaper, with prices falling 14%.

The Cost of Motoring (CoM) Index focuses on the day to day running costs that have a tangible impact on motorists’ pockets. This includes road tax, fuel, insurance, maintenance and breakdown cover. For the first time the 2009 Index also calculates the annual running costs for used cars,³ which is £2,744, 24% (£525) higher than for new vehicles.

Changes in motoring lifestyles 

The return of the one car family
45% of motorists surveyed have made changes to their car ownership habits in 2009 and of these, a fifth have returned to running just one car. This group are saving on average £229 per month on the running costs of a used car according to the CoM Index. 

In addition to these new one car households, 28% of motorists stated that they’re using their car less and 6% admitted downsizing their vehicle for a smaller model. Unsurprisingly the need to save money was cited as the most common reason for making a change. And motorists are embracing these changes, with two-thirds claiming they won’t revert back once the economy improves.

Commenting on this year’s findings, RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said: "It's been a tough year for motorists, and while it's good news that the costs of running a car have slightly dropped in the past 12 months, it probably won't feel like it at a time when the family budget is being squeezed from all sides. So despite the drop, the overriding desire for drivers is to cut back where they can.

"We're seeing motorists really question how they use their cars. The trend towards the one car family shows how people are prepared to make fundemental lifestyle changes for the benefit of themselves, their families and their pockets. But such change for a lot of drivers is still merely an aspiration, with practical difficulties caused by work and family needs or a lack of alternatives, such as inadequate public transport, stopping them in their tyre tracks."

Women more likely to downsize than men
Women are twice as likely to have downsized their vehicle in the last 12 months compared to men. According to the CoM Index, a motorist can save £769 a year by downsizing from a large saloon to a small car. Small cars (eg Vauxhall Corsa) are £235 (11%) cheaper than the average to run. By contrast, large saloons (eg Peugeot 407) and MPVs (eg Ford Galaxy) are £534 (24%) and £635 (29%) more expensive to run than the average.

Women drivers have also quickly re-evaluated the role of a car in their lives, nine out of 10 have found positive benefits in using their car less and 73% said the changes they’ve made will be permanent.

Avoiding going into the red is more important than going green
Only 28% of motorists cited environmental benefits as an incentive for change. Saving money was rated the top benefit, although 35% of those motorists who have made changes appreciated their actions had an environmental impact too. The CoM Index revealed that owners of used cars pay £29 (25%) more in road tax, proving that owning a newer and greener car can help reduce motoring costs.

Trapped motorists
One in four (26%) motorists surveyed said they couldn’t afford to downsize or reduce the number of vehicles they own, with a further 8% unable to sell their current vehicle in order to fund a change. This group of motorists are effectively trapped, unable either to raise the money, secure a loan or sell their car outright to buy a smaller vehicle. Only 6% of those surveyed, who’d made changes by downsizing their car, mentioned the scrappage scheme as the reason for their change.

According to the CoM Index, maintenance costs are £421 (115%) higher on average for used cars, further compounding the problem for this group. Most used vehicles, between three to six years old, require significant investment in new tyres too, which can account for up to 40% of annual maintenance costs.

A further 34% of motorists polled considered reducing their car use in 2009, but didn’t; deeming public transport a considerable barrier (21%), as well as not wishing to sacrifice the freedom their car provides (41%), and recognising that they would be unable to fulfil family requirements if they did (23%).

Drivers who can’t make changes to their motoring lifestyle should try and maintain their vehicle to the best of their ability. RAC recommend motorists check their tyre pressure regularly, quickly rectifying any small defects on their car, keep the service history up to date and regularly wash and wax, which will all help maintain both the value and sense of pride in a vehicle during a tough economic time.

-ends-

Download RAC's Cost of Motoring Index (PDF 3,480 KB) (Link no longer active)

For more information, interviews or case studies please contact:

Adrian Tink
RAC Press Office
Telephone: 01603 681 922
E-mail: adrian.tink@aviva.co.uk

John Franklin
RAC Press Office
Telephone: 01603 680 795
E-mail: john.s.franklin@aviva.co.uk

Dave Chambers
Hill & Knowlton
Telephone: 0207 413 3155
E-mail: david.chambers@hillandknowlton.com 

Nick Woods
Hill & Knowlton
Telephone: 0207 413 3515
E-mail: nick.woods@hillandknowlton.com

Notes to editors:

Cost of  Motoring running cost comparison 2008 – 2009

 

2008

2009

Fuel

£1,322

£1,184

Insurance

£385

£409

Maintenance

£381

£366

Vehicle Excise Duty

£118

£114

RAC membership

£136

£146

Total

£2,342

£2,219

¹ Research on the Cost of Motoring Index was conducted by CAP Motor Research, Innovation Motorconsult and Aviva. The data was analysed and compiled by Go-Motoring, who also consulted What Car, Drive the Deal, UK Car Discount and petrolprices.com for research figures.

²  Opinion Matters surveyed 1,193 motorists in September 2009 to ask them about their car ownership and usage habits in 2009.

³ Running costs for new and used cars in 2009 are as follows:

 

Used

New

Fuel

£1,196

£1,184

Insurance

£472

£409

Maintenance

£787

£366

Vehicle Excise Duty

£143

£114

RAC membership

£146

£146

Total

£2,744

£2,219

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists.  Whether it's roadside assistance, insurance, vehicle inspections and checks, legal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer service by J D Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the last three years and the top named service organisation in the July 2009 UK Customer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Aviva UK Insurance (formerly Norwich Union Insurance). Aviva is the UK's largest insurer with a market share of around 15%.

RAC is part of Aviva, the world's fifth largest insurance group which operates in 28 countries.

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at www.rac.co.uk/press-centre/

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