Motorists hit by spring cleaning bill of over £1.9 billion

Article date: 18 March 2010

The harshest winter weather conditions since 1978/79 have left the UK’s motorists with an additional spring cleaning bill in excess of £1.9 billion.* RAC Insurance claims data shows a rise in the new phenomena of "slip and runs" highlighting a costly trend as pot-hole ruined tyres, extreme amounts of de-icer and repeat carwash visits have all added up too, according to RAC Insurance’s "Cost of Cold" survey.**

Nearly half (46%) of motorists surveyed had spent more on car maintenance this winter than last, on average £115 more. Combined with a 30% increase in RAC Insurance motor claims during the most severe weather conditions – particularly low impact shunts and collisions – and increasing calls from policyholders who’d returned to their parked vehicles to find someone had skidded into them and slid off leaving no details, this winter has been miserable for motorists.

The most common winter costs for motorists, according to the Cost of Cold survey, were:

  1. Extra de-icer/screenwash (Halfords reported selling enough screenwash to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in just a couple of weeks, while sales of de-icer, wiper blades and car batteries were also up***).
  2. Using more fuel (this was the number one cost for younger less experienced drivers).
  3. Increased visits to a car wash: a quarter of motorists went three times more than usual a month.
  4. Using public transport in place of their car.
  5. Replacing a tyre/wheel due to pothole damage, one in 10 surveyed.
  6. Buying a flask, torch and/or blanket to keep in the car, nearly twice as many younger drivers stocked up to prepare, as for many 2010 was their first experience of severe winter motoring.
  7. Bad-weather related repair bills.

RAC Insurance’s analysis shows a quirky link relating the colour of a car to the cost. Blue cars proved the most costly winter motor and orange the least, with white cars requiring the most trips to the car wash and silver cars hardest hit by garage bills for bad weather repairs. Yellow car drivers were twice as likely to be prepared for snow and invested in a shovel.

Only 3% of motorists surveyed claimed to have saved money during the big freeze even though over half tried to reduce their costs by walking or cycling, using more public transport, sharing journeys with friends and family and working from home.

In response to the cold conditions of 2010 one in 10 motorists surveyed revealed they were making spring plans to upgrade their vehicle but only 5% were considering an additional service on their motor.

Mark Godfrey, head of RAC Insurance, commented: “It’s been an expensive beginning to 2010 particularly for inexperienced, young drivers who our survey showed were more likely to have needed repairs, purchased emergency winter car kit and found it challenging to drive economically in bad weather.

“Spring is not the time to shun essential car maintenance. Just as people are readying for a good spring clean of their homes, it’s time to check over the car too. Well-maintained vehicles are less likely to be involved in an accident and after the winter we’ve just been through it’s more important than ever to ensure your car is ready for the road.”

RAC spring cleaning tips:

  • Motorists who’ve skidded into a kerb or bumped another car should get their car checked out. Even with a minor bump there’s a chance that the vehicle’s geometry might have been affected and this could lead to a drift in the steering.
  • Older vehicles are especially vulnerable to rust, which is made worse by grit and salt, particularly on the wheel arches. Some modern car washes wash the area underneath the vehicle which can help prevent corrosion in this difficult to reach area.

New RAC Insurance policyholders can benefit from a discount of up to 30% when buying breakdown cover and existing members who take out insurance with RAC also receive a free cover up-grade worth over £30, which includes a courtesy car, child car seat and physiotherapy cover and an excess refund and retention of your no claims discount if hit by an uninsured driver. For more details visit or call 0800 051 4868.


RAC Press office contact:
Lucy Haughey on 01603 688891 or 07800 690149, Vicki Burn on 01603 684224 or 07800 692909 

Notes to editors:

* According to the Cost of Cold survey results - the average costs increased by £115 for the 46% of car owners (an equivilent of 16.89 million drivers) who spent more this winter than last winter on car maintenance. The total number of full license holders in the UK is 36.72 million according to the DVLA (16,890,000 x £115 = £1,942,350,000 – the cost of the cold to British motorists).

** ICM Research conducted an omnibus survey with 2,044 respondents on behalf of RAC Insurance, 3 March 2010.

*** According to Halfords’ own reports.  

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 satisfaction by J D Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the last four years and the top-named service organisation in the July 2009 and January 2010 UK Customer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service.

RAC Insurance has also been awarded the Best Overall Vehicle Insurance Provider 2009/10 by

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.  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


Back to top