Drivers have spent £25.6 billion less on vehicle expenses since the start of lockdown in March 2020.

The revelation comes from new research1 from Direct Line Motor Insurance.

Restrictions and changes to working patterns have reduced owners’ usage of their vehicles. They have spent £670 less annually than they would normally, or £56 a month. This equates to a combined total of £2.1 billion reduction in vehicle related costs every month across the UK.

Conversely, the research has also found that the pandemic has led to an uplift in vehicle ownership. In fact, 1.4 million people have purchased a car for the first time since Covid-19 restrictions came into force last year. Apart from the traditional new driver take up, the public are looking for ways to travel which don’t involve public transport.

Get out what you put in

Even with more people owning cars, the number of miles driven has reduced substantially. With 13.9 million drivers having reduced the number of miles driven compared to the number cited on their insurance policy. Individually drivers are making 2.3 fewer journeys each week, equating to 88 million jointly. This reduction in journeys means fuel has been the biggest saving for motorists during the pandemic. Each driver has spent around £20 per month less on fuel, amounting to a staggering £780.6 million collectively across the country.

Regionally, those living in the North West are spending considerably less on petrol during lockdown. Motorists in the region are putting £43 less fuel in their cars now per month than before Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in March 2020. This is followed by those in the East of England (£28.50) and Wales (£24.70).


Table one: Monthly fuel costs for car owners pre and post Covid-19 restrictions (March 2020)

Region Average monthly fuel spend, pre Covid-19 (March 2020) Average monthly fuel spend, post Covid-19 (March 2020) Saving
North West £91.80 £48.80 £43.00 (47%)
East of England £73.50 £45.00 £28.50 (39%)
Wales £64.90 £40.20 £24.70 (38%)
West Midlands £77.90 £56.70 £21.20 (27%)
Yorkshire and Humberside £69.10 £49.80 £19.30 (28%)
South West £66.10 £47.40 £18.70 (28%)
Scotland £67.10 £48.50 £18.60 (28%)
East Midlands £79.00 £63.00 £16.00 (20%)
North East £84.90 £70.20 £14.70 (17%)
South East £80.10 £65.50 £14.60 (18%)
London £94.90 £83.90 £11.00 (12%)
Great Britain total £77.60 £57.20 £20.40 (26%)

Source: Direct Line Motor Insurance 2021

Tip top topping up

Further to this, car owners are now spending less when it comes to areas of vehicle upkeep. Expenditure on maintenance, such as MOTs and servicing, is now £13.70 lower a month than before March 2020, and repairs are £9.90 lower than before. Interestingly, despite fewer people traveling into towns and city centres for work or pleasure, the cost of parking has increased by an average of 50p.

However, motorists do need to remember that although they are driving much less, they need to continue maintaining their vehicle. It seems many are not conducting the same level of car checks they would do normally, with 6.3 million motorists carrying out fewer checks on tyre pressures than pre-pandemic. One in six (17%) are not checking screen wash as frequently, while oil levels (13%), lights, electrics and brakes (all 12%), also seem to have fallen down the priority list.

With the roadmap to the end of restrictions, there is some concern that motorists will hit the road in potentially dangerous vehicles. Unused vehicles can deteriorate in many ways, hence the need for a good check-up, from tyre pressures to fluid levels. There are also many vehicles with expired MoTs that need to be tested, long with annual professional servicing.


Table two: Monthly vehicle maintenance costs pre and post March 2020

Motoring expense Cost pre Covid-19 (March 2020) Cost post Covid-19 (March 2020) Saving
Fuel £77.60 £57.20   £20.40
Maintenance (e.g., MOT, serving, car washing) £74.70 £61.00   £13.70
Repairs £56.90 £47.00   £9.90
Parking £23.80 £24.30 +£0.50

Source: Direct Line Motor Insurance 2021

The road ahead

In response to the unexpected changes people have had to make adjustments to driving habits. After a campaign earlier in the pandemic, a number of insurance companies have offered cash back on annual insurance policies in lieu of low mileage undertaken.  Direct Line Motor Insurance offers customers Mileage MoneyBack, enabling motorists the option to claim a refund for any unused miles on their policy.

Lorraine Price, head of motor insurance at Direct Line, says: “Lockdown has undoubtedly changed the relationship many of us have with our cars. With more people working from home and not being able to leave the house unless for an essential journey, vehicles aren’t moving as much as they used to. While it’s great to see many being able to save some money during these difficult times, it is important to remember to carry out simple checks to ensure cars operate safely when you do need them.

“Life changes were made so abruptly last year that people weren’t able to factor reduction in mileage into policies early on in the year. We want to support our customers in any way we can, that’s why we want to make sure that if customers drive less, they also pay a little less.”

1       Research commissioned with Opinium between 19th and 21st January 2021 among 2,000 UK adults.