Young persons guide to running a car

A car is a big purchase and probably one of the most expensive things you’ll buy as a young adult. This guide looks at the key costs involved in running a car to help you with your purchasing decision.

It categorises the standing charges, which are the costs of keeping the vehicle ready for road use, and the running costs, which are the day to day costs associated with keeping a car on the road.

Standing Charges:

Car tax

The amount of tax you pay for an older car depends on the engine size, in newer cars it’s based on the CO2 emissions. The lower the engine size or emissions, the lower the car tax. Car tax can be paid annually upfront, in six month intervals or by monthly direct debit, although it does work out cheaper to pay upfront.

From 01 October 2014 changes to the car tax system were introduced including the abolishment of the paper tax disc.  You still have to pay tax but you will no longer receive a disc.  Read more about this and other changes here This is a legal requirement for running a car on the road. 


This can cost young drivers more than the purchase price of a car. Insurance is grouped 1 to 50 with 1 being the cheapest so buying a vehicle in a low insurance group can help towards keeping costs down.  A vehicles insurance group is determined by a number of factors including impact performance, theft prevention and ease of repairing. This is a legal requirement for anyone driving a vehicle on the road and is essential before taxing your car.


This is an annual test for all cars over three years old to make sure the car is safe, roadworthy and meets legal requirements.  During the test certain parts of the vehicle are checked and tested including the tyres, wheels, brakes and lights.  The MOT is not the same as a service therefore it doesn’t check the general mechanical condition.  It doesn’t check the engine, clutch or gearbox.  A valid MOT is a legal requirement for all vehicles on the road.

Running Costs:


An essential running cost for all vehicles, it is also the least popular expense with most car owners. How much you spend on fuel depends on whether you go for a petrol or diesel engine. Historically, diesel engines have been more efficient than petrol. By burning fuel in a more efficient way, less is used per mile. However, petrol engines are catching up in that respect. At the pumps, diesel is more expensive than petrol.


Caring for your car by getting it serviced each year and maintaining it in between can help save you money. Problems are more likely to be caught early and therefore cost less to fix.

Your car will come with a service manual which will tell you how often the vehicle needs servicing and most cars also have a warning light which appears on the dashboard when a service is required. It is recommended you go by the manufacturers recommendations as to what needs checking, most will tell you what parts need looking at and changing and if it’s by a certain number of miles or a number of months.

Carrying out your own basic car maintenance can help to identify any problems early so they can be fixed before they become a bigger more expensive problem. *Note: basic car maintenance is not an alternative to having a service carried out by a professional in line with your manufacturer’s recommendations.

Tyres - check your tyres are inflated correctly in accordance with the manufacturer’s handbook. The tread depth must be above the legal minimum of 1.6 mm throughout a continuous strip in the centre three quarters of the tread, and around the entire tyre circumference.

Check all lights weekly including indicators, brake and fog lights and ensure they are clean.

Ensure the battery connections are secure, clean and free of corrosion. Any corrosion build up will show itself as white furring on the terminals and should be cleaned off. Be careful not to let any corrosion come into contact with your skin.

Check the coolant level regularly. For safety, only do this when the engine is cold. Ensuring antifreeze is used within the coolant not only protects the coolant from freezing, but also prevents the build - up of corrosion within the cooling system.

The fluid reservoir is checked when your car is serviced, but also check it yourself once a month. Top it up with hydraulic fluid as approved by the manufacture in the handbook.

Check your cars dipstick levels at least every two weeks and before long journeys to avoid the engine seizing up. The oil filter will need changing at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals.

Always replace your wiper blades before they become too worn and replace them at least once a year.

Check your screen wash on a regular basis. It’s useful to keep this in the car just in case you run out while on a journey.Repair a chipped screen as soon as possible before it becomes cracked, a cracked screen will need to be replaced.

Breakdown cover. The chances are most drivers have experienced at least one breakdown so it is worthwhile to have some kind of cover. Make sure you check what’s included in each level of cover and choose the one that best meets your needs.

The Read Motor Group have a range of vehicles suitable for young drivers. If you need any further advise on purchasing a car please contact us at Grimsby, Lincoln or Kings Lynn.