How do UK car costs compare with the rest of the world?

It feels as if UK drivers pay over the odds, but how do our motoring costs compare with the rest of the world?

Global cost of driving

With fuel prices and insurance bills rising, running costs are no longer just an inconvenience when buying a new car. Economy, insurance groups and residual values now matter to some buyers as much as performance, handling and cabin space.

And there is good reason for this. A new Volkswagen Golf 1.4 in the UK costs around £19,000, while average insurance prices hover at about £715. Add a yearly fuel bill of £1,154, and anyone on a budget will feel the pinch. But do we have it that bad? Auto Express teamed up with finance expert CarFinance247 to investigate the cost of motoring globally, and see how much UK drivers pay in comparison.

Cheapest cars to insure

While the numbers make it look as if we are forking out more than in most other countries, it’s worth noting salaries in other parts of the world aren’t as high. It means often we may actually pay proportionately less for new cars, fuel or insurance. 

United Kingdom

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): £19,000Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded £1.09; diesel £1.10Average cost of insurance: £715GDP per capita: $41,324 (£31,261)


Volkswagen Passat - front panning

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): 20,675 Euros (£17,662)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded 1.28 Euros (£1.09); diesel 1.02 Euros (£0.98)Average cost of insurance: 1,400 Euros (£1,197)GDP per capita: $47,268 (£35,757)

Access to unrestricted stretches of motorway may partly explain why insurance premiums in Germany are so high. The five best-selling cars in the country all come from domestic makers like Volkswagen and Mercedes, with the Golf topping the charts – it accounts for nearly three times as many sales as the Passat, in second place. Meanwhile, the annual fuel bill for German drivers is estimated at £1,097.


Lada XRay Cross

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): 1,246,488 Roubles (£14,743)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded 37.15 Roubles (£0.44); diesel 35.56 Roubles (£0.42)Average cost of insurance: 3,432-4,188 Roubles (£40-£50)GDP per capita: $24,451 (£18,496) 

With the amount of ludicrous dash cam videos emerging from Russia, an average insurance price of £40 seems rather low. But as the cheapest car from big-selling Lada starts at 300,000 Roubles (£3,546), the low premiums begin to make sense. Insurance was optional in the country until 2003. Russia is also known for its vast access to natural gas; many drivers have converted their cars to LPG to save. Not that fuel prices were high anyway.

United States

Ford F-150 - front tracking grey

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): $20,175 (£15,271)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded: $0.43 (£0.33); diesel $0.49 (£0.38)Average cost of insurance: $907 (£695)GDP per capita: $55,836 (£42,266)

Cars cost on average less in the US than they do here, despite their size. While the UK’s best seller is the tiny Ford Fiesta, the most popular models in the US are large pick-ups and heavy SUVs like the Ford F-Series and the Chevrolet Silverado. Average second-hand prices for a 2010 F-Series are the equivalent of £14,800, while fuel and insurance are cheaper, too.


Ford Explorer

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): 227,376 Bolivar (£17,476)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded 5.99 Bolivar (£0.46); diesel 5.99 Bolivar (£0.46)Average cost of insurance: 2,550 Bolivar (£196)GDP per capita: $14,414 (£10,911)

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Even after new president Nicolas Maduro hiked them by 6,000 per cent, fuel prices in Venezuela are still among the cheapest in the world. The South American country sits on top of the planet’s largest oil reserves, and cheap fuel has been a way of life there for years. When the government tried to increase fuel prices in the past, in 1989, the public broke into deadly riots in protest.


Ford Ka hatch 2011

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): 95,670 Real (£22,341)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded 3.68 Real (£0.89); diesel 3.10 Real (£0.75)Average cost of insurance: 3,824 Real (£929)GDP per capita: $15,359 (£11,618)

Brazil is famous for running many of its cars on sugarcane-ethanol, but its average fuel bill is still £735. Drivers don’t have to buy car insurance, but curiously, those who opt for it pay more than those in South Africa and the UK. Most Brazilians live in big cities where small cars like the Hyundai HB20 and the Ford Ka are best sellers. 

South Africa

Volkswagen Polo - front

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): 306,000 Rand (£16,491)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded 12.37 Rand (£0.71); diesel 10.05 Rand (£0.58)Average cost of insurance: 4,576 Rand (£263)GDP per capita: $13,165 (£9,961)

The first-time pass rate for driving tests in South Africa is just 39 per cent, but the country has no legal requirement to buy car insurance. As the roads are filled with insured and uninsured drivers, it’s surprising that motorists there still pay just a fraction for cover compared with UK drivers. Owners there are said to spend around £577 a year on fuel, with the Volkswagen Polo the country’s best seller last year.

United Arab Emirates

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): 80,594 AED (£16,571)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded 1.58 AED (£0.33); diesel 1.61 AED (£0.34) Average cost of insurance: 1,980 AED (£412)GDP per capita: $70,237 (£53,082) 

With plenty of oil in its reserves, the UAE is paradise for motorists looking to run their cars cheaply. Fuel costs are estimated at just £372 – handy, as the UAE’s top-selling cars are thirsty 4x4s, including the likes of the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser, as well as the Nissan Patrol. Insurance is almost half of what UK motorists pay, too.


Tata Nano

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf or equivalent): 755,000 Rupees (£8,644)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded 62.63 Rupees (£0.73); diesel 47.95 Rupees (£0.55)Average cost of insurance: 19,215 Rupees (£220)GDP per capita: $6,088 (£4,605)

While a new hatch can be yours for £8,644 in India, most drivers among the 1.3 billion population prefer to buy smaller cars made for their market. Tata, the Indian giant that owns Jaguar Land Rover, sells its new Nano from 199,000 Rupees, or £2,175. But car ownership still hasn’t reached its full potential in India. In 2015, the country’s best-selling car was the Maruti Suzuki Alto, but only 249,507 found homes; Ford sold 133,434 Fiestas here last year despite the population difference.


Honda N-Box

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): 2,620,000 ¥ (£19,793)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded: 131.20 ¥ (£0.99); diesel 110.50 ¥ (£0.83)Average cost of insurance: 27,840 ¥ (£210)GDP per capita: $37.321 (£28,233)

Japan has one of the world’s hardest driving tests, meaning a population of careful and considerate drivers. This could explain why insurance costs there are roughly a quarter of what UK motorists pay. Japan is also a big fan of small ‘kei’ cars like the Honda N-Box, which is the market’s second best seller. Such small cars mean stronger fuel economy, and Japanese drivers are said to spend £871 a year on fuel.


Mazda 3 Sport Black - front tracking 2

Average cost of new car (Volkswagen Golf 1.4): AUS $25,000 (£14,787)Fuel cost per litre: Unleaded: AUS $1.20 (£0.71); diesel AUS $1.21 (£0.72)Average cost of insurance: AUS $1,142 (£675)GDP per capita: $45,514 (£34,430)

Although Australia is over 30 times the size of the UK, it has only half as many cars. The average yearly fuel bill sets motorists back £656 and insurance premiums are also cheaper than they are in the UK. While other large countries like the US embrace big pick-ups and SUVs to go with the vast open spaces, the best-selling car in Australia is the Toyota Corolla, with the Mazda 3 firmly in second place. On average, a second-hand 2010 Toyota Corolla will cost just £7,000.

Do you think UK drivers pay the most in the world? Let us know below...

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