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Cheapest cars to run 2024

When it comes to total cost of ownership, cut-price entry-level models aren’t always the best. So what are the cheapest cars to run in the UK today?

​When you’re looking for a new car on a tight budget, chances are you’ll be focusing on the windscreen sticker prices for an array of city cars, superminis or small SUVs. You’ll probably also be looking at the latest PCP finance deals in the hope of saving some more money, but are you also considering the long game? Which models really are the cheapest cars to run over the long term?

The cost of owning any car isn’t just about the amount of money you need to find up front, you’ll need to consider how much you’re likely to spend on fuel, maintenance, road tax and insurance over your whole ownership period. It’s also worth remembering that you’ll get a chunk of money back when it’s time to sell. Taking all of these factors into consideration produces a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) figure - a number that’s easy to work out after you’ve owned a car, but predicting a TCO figure before you buy is a bit of a dark art.

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That’s why we’ve teamed up with the experts at car data firm CAP HPI, and with the benefit of their expertise and algorithms, we’ve come up with predictions for the cheapest new cars to run that are on sale right now. CAP is the industry leader for new and used car valuations, and its figures are widely used by manufacturers to calculate new car finance costs based on depreciation.

Top 10 cheapest cars to run

Without further ado, here are the brand new cars that cost the motoring equivalent of next to nothing to run, in reverse order…

10. MG3

  • Model: MG3 1.5 VTi-TECH Excite 5dr
  • Total cost over three years/ 30,000 miles: £13,931.75
  • Monthly: £386.99
  • Per mile: 46.44p
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It may be one of the older cars that you can still buy brand new, but the MG3 is also one of the cheapest with a starting price of under £15,000. A facelift in 2018 has helped to keep this little supermini looking pretty sharp, and choosing one of the brighter paint colours only helps it to stand out. It’s pretty spacious on the inside, too, and there’s a reasonable amount of tech fitted as standard, including Apple CarPlay connectivity.

Unfortunately, MG’s last-place finish out of 32 brands in our Driver Power manufacturer rankings was a major disappointment, but the MG3’s standard seven-year/80,000-mile warranty should still go some way towards your overall peace of mind. The sole 1.5-litre petrol engine claims a fuel economy figure of up to 43.3mpg, so it shouldn’t prove too thirsty. The Excite trim also sits in insurance group 7, so your premiums shouldn't be too alarming, either.

9. Citroen C4 X

  • Model: C4 X 1.2 PureTech You! 5dr
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £13,792.86
  • Monthly: £383.14  
  • Per mile: 45.98p
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If you’re searching for a spacious and comfortable family car, the good news is that you don’t need to fork out the big bucks. The Citroen C4 X is quite an unconventional looker, but it offers plenty of room for a family of five and their luggage. It’s easily the most spacious car on this list.

Being a Citroen, it rides exceptionally well for a car of its class and price, too. While there is the option of an all-electric e-C4 X, the petrol-powered version in entry-level You! trim is currently the cheapest model to run overall.

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While the 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine may seem rather undersized for a pseudo-SUV, it produces 129bhp and 230Nm of torque, and we felt that this provided adequate power during our extensive testing. There’s a reasonable amount of kit on offer with the basic You! trim, too, including a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights.

8. Citroen C3 Aircross

  • Model: C3 Aircross 1.2 PureTech You! 5dr
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £13,608.61
  • Monthly: £378.02 
  • Per mile: 45.36p

Gone are the days when buying an SUV pretty much meant owning a money-pit. The Citroen C3 Aircross is a small SUV with a small engine and equally small running costs, but it still manages to offer an impressive level of practicality. Much like the C4 X above, the C3 Aircross prioritises comfort over sportiness, so don’t expect many driving thrills. However, if what you need is a reasonably refined and spacious family car, this is one of the better options for a limited budget.

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It’s important to note that the C3 Aircross resides in insurance groups 14-17, so while it might not be completely out of reach for inexperienced drivers, this could drive up their expenses by a notable amount. If this isn’t a problem for you, though, all other costs should prove minimal for a car of this size.

7. Fiat Panda

  • Model: Panda 1.0 Mild Hybrid Cross (Touchscreen/5 seat)
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £13,109.67
  • Monthly: £364.16
  • Per mile: 43.7p
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The current Fiat Panda has been with us for over a decade and, while other rivals have been and gone, buyers continue to be attracted to the Panda’s relative simplicity. Much like its predecessors, this little Fiat is purposely designed to provide no-frills motoring on a budget, and it does this very well. Of course, taking this approach means it feels very dated when compared to city car rivals such as the Hyundai i10, but there are still a few creature comforts such as a DAB radio and air-conditioning.

The Panda’s mild hybrid 1.0-litre engine is the range mainstay, delivering 69bhp and a 0-62mph time of 13.9 seconds, putting out 111g/km of CO2. Insurance should also be cheap with standard versions of the Panda rated as insurance group six. 

6. Kia Picanto

  • Model: Picanto 1.0 1 5dr (4 seats)
  • Total cost over three years/ 30,000 miles: £12,521.18
  • Monthly: £347.81
  • Per mile: 41.74p
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The Picanto is Kia’s smallest car, but it still feels well made inside, with a spacious cabin featuring an abundance of premium-feeling materials. It’s also very comfortable and refined for such a small car, and fun to drive. As a final bonus, every model in the Kia range is sold with a brilliant seven-year warranty.

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If you want the lowest running costs, though, you will have to compromise on performance – the derivative we’re looking at here uses the entry-level 1.0-litre engine, which produces just 66bhp. On the plus side, this engine only produces 109g/km of CO2 and can achieve up to 58.9mpg, which makes for low fuel bills and keeps the first year of vehicle excise duty pegged at £185.

5. Citroen C3

  • Model: C3 1.2 PureTech You 5dr
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £12,490.52
  • Monthly: £346.96
  • Per mile: 41.64p

The C3 might be a supermini, yet it beats many city cars to the punch on running costs. Not only that, but the Citroen is a strong contender in the B-segment, marking itself out with a greater focus on comfort rather than sharp handling.

It’s roomy, stylish, and efficient, with the 82bhp 1.2-litre engine returning up to 53.4mpg. The motor has to be worked hard for brisk progress, but it’s potent enough for us to have no qualms about swerving the more expensive and less economical 109bhp turbocharged version. 

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The spec is simple, as you’d expect, but will tick all the right boxes for most buyers, offering electric front windows, air-conditioning, cruise control and a DAB digital radio with Bluetooth connectivity. 

4. Hyundai i10

  • Model: i10 1.0 Advance 5dr Auto
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £12,346.66
  • Monthly: £342.96
  • Per mile: 41.16p
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The i10 is based on the same platform as Kia’s Picanto, sharing the same 1.0-litre, 66bhp engine, but features slightly sportier and more aggressive exterior styling.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as funky inside, with a pretty plain interior design and layout. Again, though, it’s very well made, and spacious. The latest i10 also has a longer wheelbase than the car it replaced, which helps to improve the ride and handling. There are better-driving or handling city cars in this dwindling class, but you’ll have to pay more to buy and run them. 

The Hyundai has everything stacked in its favour when it comes to reducing its TCO figure and at 41.16p per-mile this is a very affordable car. Fuel economy stands at 54.3mpg and CO2 figures of 119g/km. If you choose Advance trim with the automatic gearbox, the i10 sits in insurance group 3, meaning it shouldn’t break the bank when it comes to getting insurance.

3. Toyota Aygo X

  • Model: Aygo X 1.0 VVT-i Pure 5dr
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £12,248.97
  • Monthly: £340.25
  • Per mile: 40.83p
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The Aygo X is Toyota’s intriguing way of staying involved in the shrinking city car class, with the Japanese firm turning its smallest car into a micro-SUV. With its distinctive looks, surprising practicality and decent levels of equipment, the Aygo X makes a decent if slightly unusual purchase if you’re looking at this end of the market.

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Fuel economy of up to 58.85mpg will help keep fuel bills down, while CO2 emissions of 110g/km put it in a £185 tax band. The Aygo X should also be pretty cheap to insure, with the entry-level Pure trim model sitting in insurance group 5.

2. Dacia Sandero

  • Model: Sandero 1.0 Tce Bi-fuel Essential 5dr
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £12,169.12
  • Monthly: £338.03
  • Per mile: 40.65p

The Dacia Sandero is officially one of the cheapest cars to buy in the UK, so it’s only fitting that it costs less to own than almost all of its rivals, too.

When it launched, the original Sandero was Britain’s cheapest car to buy outright, and by some margin, but it was much more basic back then. It’s since grown up, thanks to a close relationship with the current Renault Clio. Also, the famously simple Access trim, with its lack of body-coloured bumpers, a radio or air-conditioning is no longer part of the Sandero range.

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Regardless, the Dacia is still an excellent-value car, especially considering its now more-refined nature, with improved ride comfort and a relaxed setup making it a decent car both in town and on the motorway. Interior quality is much improved in comparison to the previous generation of Sandero, with softer touch materials and a generous level of standard kit.

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The cheapest Sandero to run is the unusual Bi-fuel model. This has a factory-fitted LPG system which can save you plenty on petrol costs. The only problem is that LPG pumps are becoming a rarer sight in the UK, so this is important to consider. Most will probably opt for a standard petrol model with slightly higher costs. 

1. Citroen Ami

  • Model: Ami 6.3kW 2dr Auto
  • Total cost over three years/30,000 miles: £11,794.21
  • Monthly: £327.62
  • Per mile: 39.31p

The Citroen Ami could be seen as something of an imposter here as it’s technically not a car at all - it’s legally classed as a quadricycle. But it still has four wheels, a steering wheel and an enclosed space with seating for two people. The Ami can also be run for as little as 39.31p per-mile. This adds up to a running cost of just under £4,000 per 10,000 miles.

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There’s a slight caveat, however, as very few Ami owners will end up doing as many as 10,000 miles a year. This is because the French quadricycle is a vehicle that has been built specifically for those who clock up lower mileages in built-up urban environments. With a lack of creature comforts, a range of only 46 miles and a top speed of 28mph, it wouldn’t be suitable for longer trips and those cost savings demand real compromises. 

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It’s propelled by an 8bhp motor, fed by a 5.5kWh battery pack that takes four hours to charge. The Ami is under 2.5 metres long, has a turning circle of 7.2 metres and weighs less than half a tonne. It offers truly back-to-basics motoring, with a low TCO to match at just 39.31p per-mile.

That headline TCO figure is driven by the fact that the Ami costs just £8,495 on the road at the time of writing – a little more than we’d hoped, but far less than the UK’s cheapest actual car. Thanks to its electric powertrain and zero vehicle excise duty, the Ami can provide low-cost motoring on lower mileages.

Case study: living with An Ami

“Could you live with an Ami?” Well, the Fowler family did for a while and it could well have a place in your family fleet. “If you’re just going to be popping to work or to the shops and you live somewhere where the 28mph top speed isn’t going to cause you problems with queues of traffic behind you, then the Ami could well be the perfect solution. I reckon you’d end up using it more than you first thought – if only because it’s so much fun to be in.

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You’ll have to be prepared to be stared at lots and answer lots of questions, but that’s part of the appeal; it’s a car that creates interest, as it did with my kids – all young drivers – and all of them loved the Ami.

Sure, the tiny Citroen has its limitations, its top speed being one of them. As its position as Britain’s cheapest car to own suggests, it’s built to a price, but Citroen’s designers have played to those strengths, having fun with the design inside, too. While it’s easy to drive, the ride is a bit firm and you hear every stone popping up off the road surface. But it’ll put a smile on your face and won’t cost you much to own. Which is why I love it so much.”

Cheapest cars to run

Here’s the final list of the cheapest cars to run in full. Click the links to read the full in-depth reviews on each car…

  1. Citroen Ami
  2. Dacia Sandero
  3. Toyota Aygo X
  4. Hyundai i10
  5. Citroen C3
  6. Kia Picanto
  7. Fiat Panda
  8. Citroen C3 Aircross
  9. Citroen C4 X
  10. MG3

How to cut your car fuel costs

CAP’s Total Cost of Ownership figures are based on the manufacturer’s official fuel economy figures, but what if you could do even better? Follow our tips on cutting fuel costs and you could spend even less on Britain’s cheapest cars to run than we’ve listed above.

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Don’t buy your fuel at a motorway service station

Buying fuel at motorway service stations is a bit like buying a burger inside the stadium at a concert - you’ll pay a lot more for the privilege. 

Find the cheapest petrol station in your area

Use a website or app to find the cheapest petrol or diesel prices in your area - some cars with connected services even have this feature built in. In some cases you’ll be able to save around 35p per litre just by peeling off the motorway and filling up at a nearby fuel station, saving around £20 per fill depending on the size of your car’s tank.

Use a fuel loyalty card (including Tesco Clubcard and Nectar)

When you do need to fill up, make sure you subscribe to any loyalty schemes that can net you discounts just for filling up. Most major chains run them, and supermarket forecourts mean you can enjoy benefits such as your Tesco Clubcard or Nectar card both in the shop and while filling up.

Drive smoothly

Driving smoothly can help save fuel, because petrol and diesel cars use more energy when accelerating hard, and the more often you brake, the more often you’ll need to pick up speed again. To avoid this, build speed gradually and try to anticipate traffic and junctions so you keep rolling as much as possible.

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Plan your journeys

Plan your journeys to make the most of fast and flowing roads (which tend to be better for fuel economy), rather than simply taking the most direct route through traffic black spots or villages, where you’re likely to slow to a crawl and have to change speed more often.

Reduce weight

Manufacturers tirelessly strip as much weight out of cars as possible to reduce CO2 emissions and boost fuel-efficiency, so don’t undo all their good work by leaving the boot full of sports gear and burning more fuel than necessary.

Maintain your car

Ensuring tyres are correctly inflated, the engine oil is changed and air filters are replaced are all key to making sure a car runs at its best. Driving with underinflated tyres in particular will mean you visit the forecourt far more often than anticipated.

Climate control

Air conditioning and climate control are wonderful things, both for keeping a car cool in summer and demisting windows in winter, but they also take lots of energy to run. If the weather permits, turn it off as often as possible, or run it in ‘Eco’ mode if your car has one.

What's the cheapest car to run that you've ever owned? Let us know in the comments...

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Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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