British car buying

Costs and charges to be aware of when owning a motor vehicle

Purchasing a new car is always an exciting time. Whether you have an eye for value, personal image, safety or economy, there’s a lot more to buying a new motor than just picking the one that looks nice. Obviously, this is a given as well — no one wants to drive an ‘ugly-looking’ car. Nevertheless, with an increasing number of costs and charges emerging on today’s roads, making a well-informed decision before agreeing to a sale is key.

Obviously, there’s the usual suspects (insurance and fuel) but what about the less well-known charges? New Skoda dealers, Lookers, have provided the following guide to help you what to look out for when owing a car.

Low emission areas

New rules have been introduced in London that as of the 8th of April next year, motorists will face tighter exhaust emission standards (ULEZ standards) when driving in certain parts of the capital. This simply means your vehicle must meet these standards or face paying a daily charge to travel within that area in order to help improve air quality – one of the most significant issues affecting the health of those living and working in London. If your car, van, or motorbike doesn’t meet the standard, you will have to fork out £12.50 per day when you travel in this area.

The ULEZ charge will be a replacement of the T-Charge (introduced in 2017) and will operate 24/7; the affected area is expected to expand by 2021. Nearly all petrol vehicles that have been produced since 2005 already meet the ULEZ standards, but it’s certainly worth checking if yours does if you want to avoid any unexpected future fines.  Introducing this standard is anticipated by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to make London have one of the toughest emission standards in the world.


Though it’s true that won’t be applicable to everyone (Blue Badge are exempt to many), it’s certainly worth being wary of toll roads before you commence your journey. Here is a list of the UK’s toll roads and bridges and how much they cost (all costs depend on your choice of vehicle):

  • M6: £2 – £11.50
  • Dartford Crossing: Free – £6
  • Severn Bridges M4 and M4 Westbound: £5.60 – £16.70
  • Bridges and tunnels on A roads: Free – £8
  • Mersey Tunnels – Queensway and Kingsway: £1 – £7.20
  • Humber Bridge: Free – £12
  • Tyne Tunnels: Free – £3.40
  • Tamar Bridge: Free – £16.40
  • Dunham Bridge: Free – £1
  • Cleddau Bridge: 35p – £1.50
  • Itchen Bridge: Free – £25

There are also certain instances on minor roads that may cost to cross.

Congestion charge zones*

Congestion charges commonly exist in city centres that are plagued with heavy traffic. In London for example, the Congestion Charge is £11.50 per day if you aren’t registered with Auto Pay. This cost is in play between 07:00 and 18:00 Monday to Friday.  When you add in the ULEZ charge, this can be quite costly!

Further north, the cathedral city of Durham is another locality to put its own road user charge zone into play. This was the first of its kind in the UK and, although it’s not quite as extreme as its London equivalent, road users in the North East city must pay £2 if they are travelling in certain zones between 10:00 and 16:00 Monday to Saturday. It’s important to pay this as failure to do so by 18:00 on the day you use the road may result in a £50 penalty charge notice.

However, not all cities have been successful in replicating the systems seen in London and Durham. Manchester and Edinburgh are among the locations that proposed congestion charges, only to see the public reject such methods.

Road tax

Road tax (or car tax as it’s often known), can burn quite a hefty hole in your pocket depending on your choice of car. You’ll pay a higher rate depending on your vehicle’s CO2 emissions. If your mobile doesn’t meet the Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standard for nitrogen oxide emissions, then you’ll pay a higher rate for your diesel car.

There are also four bands that your vehicle may fall into:

  • Classic Car Road Tax (vehicles over 40 years old)
  • Cars registered before 2001
  • Cars registered between 2001 and 2017
  • Cars registered after April 2017

It’s also worth noting that although older cars can cost less to buy outright, taxing them can cost considerably higher, so it’s definitely worth to check before you go on to make your purchase.

There’s no denying that cars can be costly but they are a necessity that the majority of us could not do without. With the likes of carpooling and public transport also being an option, be sure you choose a car that is best-suited to your needs and weigh up all the charges you may be faced with.

*figures collated in August 2018