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How high are auto maintenance and repair costs in the UK?
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How high are auto maintenance and repair costs in the UK?

22/02/2022

How much should you expect to spend every year on keeping your car in smooth running order? A 2020 study by Kwik Fit found that the average UK driver spends around £1,300 every year on auto maintenance and repair. That includes petrol, trips to the car wash, but crucially — repairs and breakdown recovery.

Ranked by cost, you won't be surprised that petrol is the biggest line item in the budget. But maintenance and repairs come in a close second.

Here’s the monthly average breakdown:

  • Petrol: £67.00 
  • Maintenance and repairs: £30.00 
  • Breakdown cover: £7.00 
  • Car wash: £4.00 

Those figures don’t tell the whole story. Unexpected repairs and breakdowns can cost a mint. Numbers from WarrantyWise suggest the average bill for an unexpected repair is north of £600, and the more expensive the car brand, the higher the cost. 

To help avoid getting saddled with a shock car repair bill, it's worth looking at what you can do to keep your car in top condition and avoid unpleasant surprises. 

Avoid the false economy 

Close to 10 per cent of drivers try and save on car maintenance by putting off regular cleaning or delaying routine servicing. Experts agree that waiting until repairs are absolutely necessary is a ‘false economy’ that often costs drivers more in the long run. 

To avoid unexpected repairs and breakdowns, the best way to ensure your car is operating efficiently is to regularly maintain it. If you don’t, you run the risk of paying a bigger bill if problems go undetected and lead to major repairs.   

But there are effective ways to keep visits to the mechanics to a minimum. Here are five proper ways to trim the cost of auto maintenance and repairs. 

1. Drive carefully 

Getting more life out of your car’s moving parts is often as simple as taking it easy behind the wheel. 

The transmission, brakes, clutch and tyres will all last you longer if learn to relax a bit and be sensible when you’re on the move.  

Follow these simple techniques and your car will repay you with fewer trips to the mechanic: 

Brake gradually: Pay attention to what’s happening further up the road and brake gradually as the situation demands. Gradual versus ‘sudden’ braking will keep your discs and brake pads from wearing out before their normal lifespan expires. If you hammer the brakes on a regular basis it creates more friction and brakes down their component materials faster. 

Don’t ride the clutch: Don’t keep your foot pressed down on the clutch pedal after you switch gears. Doing that means the clutch isn’t fully re-engaged, which could cause the plates to slip on the gearbox shaft. Over time that will cause significant and expensive damage to your transmission. 

Steer clear of speed bumps and potholes: Your vehicles undercarriage, exhaust, and tyres can all be damaged by flying over potholes and speed bumps. The end result can be a painfully expensive repair bill — all of which could be avoided by taking it slow over speed bumps avoiding potholes entirely 

2. Don’t put off scheduled service visits 

At risk of repeating ourselves, most car makers suggest that you bring your car in for a full end-to-end service every 12 months or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. 

While the fear of an unexpected repair bill can make people fearful about taking their car in for a checkup, in the end it can lead to a bigger repair bill when you’re hit with a failed MOT inspection down the road. In fact, the Royal Automobile Club found that close to 60 per cent of drivers who hadn't been in for regular service paid between £500 and £1,000 in order to pass the MOT. 

3. Keep it clean 

Keeping your car and undercarriage free from dirt and dust can help keep grit out of moving parts and stop slow-but-steady damage to the vehicle's exterior. Kwik Fit’s study of repair costs also found that UK drivers spend an average of £60 every year taking their car in to the car wash. While that might not seem like a lot of money, over the course of a car’s normal lifespan (circa eight years) you could cut close to £800 from your maintenance costs by cleaning the car at home. 

4. Go electric 

Electric vehicles are increasing in popularity and repair costs are part of the attraction. Along with being more sustainable, e-cars are rightly hailed for being cheaper to maintain. Their motors contain fewer moving parts. And perhaps most importantly, charging an electric vehicle is significantly cheaper than filling a tank with diesel or petrol. 

The latest industry research shows that electric cars are about 25 per cent cheaper to maintain than cars with a traditional petrol-fired internal combustion engine. On average, that equates to savings of about £300 annually. 

5. Do your own upkeep 

If you’re willing to sit through a few YouTube videos and learn how to handle basic car maintenance, you can save a lot of money every year by avoiding leaving your car in a service bay for a mechanic to do the work instead. 

When you take your car in to a garage, you’re paying for both parts and labour. In many cases, a bit of shopping around will locate the same parts for less than what the mechanic is going to charge you for them. Learning how to do things like change spark plugs and do oil changes can save you hundreds of pounds every year. 

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