EVERY DRIVER knows it doesn’t take long for the showroom shine of a new car to fall victim to pigeons, and for the bills to start rolling in. A survey by the Money Advice Service found that more than half of motorists underestimated the cost of running a car, and a third had to make cuts in their other spending to pay for insurance, fuel and servicing.
For many buyers the largest cost is fuel: even the average driver travelling 8,000 miles a year is likely to spend at least £1,200 at the pump. But strict emissions regulations have brought about a wave of eco-friendly cars that could slash that bill.
Efficient engines, hybrid technology and ever more attractive electric cars are tempting motorists with low running costs that can more than offset what is often a higher purchase price.
And now there’s another incentive. New government policies aimed at the most polluting cars are being introduced from next year. Company car drivers will be hit with sharp rises in the rate of tax, which is based on carbon dioxide. The average new car emits 128.3g/km of CO2, putting it in a band in which company-car tax of 18% of the vehicle’s list price is payable. Next year that will rise to 20%. A car emitting 75g/km CO2 or less will be charged at only 9%.
Buying more eco-friendly cars is also likely to pay off as the government tries to make spending cuts of £25bn. Fuel duty — unchanged since March 2011 — is likely to be a prime target.
Drivers of the most economical cars are well placed to avoid penalties, especially if they comply with the latest emissions standard known as Euro 6. Diesel cars that don’t will have to pay £10 a day to enter London from 2020. From January 1 all new cars sold must comply with Euro 6.
The cars here offer some of the lowest fuel costs on the market. They could save thousands over the car’s lifetime, though that may still not justify buying one in favour of a cheaper alternative. The extra cost of, say, buying a plug-in hybrid could wipe out fuel savings for low-mileage users. Electric cars’ limited range may make them unsuitable, despite the cheap charging costs (an average of 2p per mile).
Be aware that the fuel economy figures are from the official EU tests, which tend to overstate mpg, though they are still the best way of comparing vehicles.
Now discover the 25 best eco-cars by category, below: