Ranked: the Most Car-Friendly Cities in the UK

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

Have you ever wondered - while sat in traffic, dreaming of an existence in some rural idyll - if life would be easier if you upped sticks and moved to a different city?

We have. So we dispatched an army of minions to gather data from 12 of the UK’s largest cities and across a range of categories - from fuel prices to parking, average speeds to road safety, and insurance to repair costs.

We then crunched through the data, ranking each city in turn, and finally got an overall winner - the most car-friendly city in the UK. It’s a result that might surprise you!

Read on to find out why Glasgow left all the other cities behind.

Fill ‘er up! Which city has the cheapest fuel?

First, and because it’s the cost we motorists deal with most regularly, we used data from the WhatGas.com website to analyse the prices charged by eight petrol stations across each city for diesel, petrol and LPG. Taking the average, we then awarded 12 points to the city with the cheapest fuel, while a miserly one point goes to the city with the most expensive fuel.

fuel-prices-uk

Belfast was the most expensive overall with an average price of 103.24p per litre, although it also recorded a whopping 122.9p for diesel – the highest of all the cities we looked at.

Runners up were Birmingham and Sheffield, the latter being perfect for diesel-lovers as it not only had the cheapest diesel overall, but was one of only three cities to charge less for derv than unleaded. Petrolheads should move to Cardiff, where the green stuff is sold for more than 8p a litre less than diesel.

And the award for the cheapest overall? Congratulations, Glasgow, your cheap petrol and LPG helped you to an average price of just 93.2p/litre and the full 12 points.

Paying a premium: which city offers the cheapest car insurance?

With our car fully fuelled, we’re not going anywhere without insurance.
Because premiums are personal and calculated on risk, we created a fictional character called John.

uk-cheapest-car-insurance-2

He’s a 41-year old married man with a respectable job as an architect and two children under the age of 16, all living in a two-car household in the city centre. He drives a Ford Fiesta ST-Line valued at £13,000, and we asked Confused.com to quote for a year’s comprehensive cover in each city.

We hope John is sitting down when he reads this, because the cost of insurance in our most expensive city is nearly double that of the cheapest!

Edinburgh is the place to be, with comprehensive cover for John coming in at just over £787, followed closely by Bristol (£802.26) and Leicester (£857.92).

Liverpool takes the bottom spot with an incredible £1,411.20 for John’s little Fiesta, with Birmingham and Sheffield coming in soon after. Wow.

Pay and dismay: which city has the cheapest parking?

So, with a tank full of gas and an expensive insurance policy in our pocket, we’re finally off to the races. But when we get there, we’ll need somewhere to park.

Our minions used Parkopedia to collate the costs of parking in each of our cities across a variety of venues, and then calculated the average hourly rate.

parking-costs-uk

It’ll perhaps surprise no-one to learn that Londoners pay the most for parking with an average of £8.50 an hour, with even on-street parking costing nearly £5.

It pays to leave your car on the street in Belfast, Sheffield and Leicester, each with on-street rates of just a pound, although Birmingham takes first place overall with an average cost of £1.50 an hour once you factor in private car parks.

Jam-busting: which city has the freest-flowing traffic?

Of course, all of this is for nought if we can’t actually get anywhere, so we analysed traffic flows across each city both in and out of rush hour using Google Maps.

Regardless of whether we drove east-to-west or north-to-south, London would be consistently the worst city for traffic, with an average speed of just 11.34 mph. In fact, no matter the time of day or route we chose, it could take anything up to three hours to cross the city – a bike would definitely be faster!

city-speed-uk

The second slowest was Edinburgh with an average speed of just 13.54 mph, with the Scottish city also suffering from heavy congestion in the morning when the speed dropped to a painful 8 mph.

For some decent speed you should head for Leeds, which takes the top spot in our rankings with an average speed of 24.23 mph. Leeds drivers clearly eat their Weetabix in the morning, as they also managed the highest peak at 8am of nearly 33 mph, while fourth-placed Manchester recorded the slowest speeds on our fictional morning commute of just 1.25 mph. Ouch.

Beep-beep! Which city has the safest roads?

We also wanted to establish our chances of having an accident while sat in all this traffic, so we analysed government data on road accidents in each city to create a figure for the number of accidents per 1,000 inhabitants.

uk-road-safety

Safest of all was Manchester, with Mancunians suffering just one accident per 1,000 inhabitants, although they also achieved the highest proportion of fatalities at 1.7%.

Belfast was the most accident-prone per capita with 4.6 accidents per 1,000 people, although strangely the Northern Irish capital also had the lowest proportion of serious and fatal accidents, with 95.1% of all incidents being rated as ‘slight’.

Not surprisingly, London recorded the highest number of accidents overall with 13,186 in one year, as well as the most fatalities at 52, placing them one spot in front of Belfast in our chart.

Service! Which city has the lowest maintenance bills?

Finally, we crunched the numbers from ClickMechanic on the typical cost of servicing a humble Ford Fiesta in each of our twelve cities, and averaged the figures across both independent garages and franchised dealers.

uk-car-repair-costs

Here, Belfast rules the roost, with a full service costing just £165.50 at an independent, or £239 at a dealer.

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leicester all follow close behind, each with costs of £174 and £254.50 at independent and franchised dealers respectively.

London is the most expensive city for routine maintenance, and by some margin, with independent garages typically charging around £220.50 for a service, while a dealer will ask an eye-watering £337.50.

The most car-friendly city

After weighing up all of the factors and awarding points out of 12 for each category, which city is the most car-friendly?

uk-car-friendly-city-ranking-score

Well, London finds itself languishing at the bottom of the chart, having scored particularly badly for its high cost of parking, fuel and servicing, only to back that up with a poor safety record and near-glacial traffic speeds.

Liverpudlians can stop sniggering, as their mediocre accident rate and middling servicing costs couldn’t save them from their sky-high insurance bills and expensive fuel, so they come second-to-last.
Runner-up Leeds, meanwhile, can rightly feel proud of their decent safety record combined with excellent traffic flows.

And the top spot? That goes to Glasgow – cheap fuel, inexpensive servicing, reasonably-priced insurance and impressive traffic speeds all point to a city on the move.

Of course, we're not about to suggest we all become honorary Glaswegians, but with life in many cities feeling like automotive purgatory, it's certainly a lot closer to motoring nirvana as far as costs and traffic flows are concerned.

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