Small Cars On a Budget: Types, Models and Costs To Consider

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

Household budgets are being squeezed on all fronts. Food and utilities are becoming more expensive, and the cost of motoring overall is on the increase, with fuel duty seemingly constantly rising and car insurance premiums on an ever-upward spiral. All of this is happening while wages are at their lowest growth for around ten years.


It’s not surprising then that many people and families are looking to downsizing their motoring needs. Getting a smaller vehicle may be the easiest way to reduce your spendings especially if you choose an affordable type and model. Read on to find out what you should consider before buying a small car.


Vehicle types vs running costs

Surprisingly, there is actually a huge range of cars from the low-end range out there, and quality of build and range of equipment, but there are also some less than obvious entries in the small car market. Small cars have a number of advantages that you might not usually associate with larger cars.

Across the board, smaller cars benefit from cheaper consumable parts, so you’ll find a big impact when buying new car tyres, or having an oil and filter change.
When considering small cars, the choice really comes down to either petrol and diesel or electric vehicles.


Fossil-fuelled small cars

If your preference is to remain with fossil-fuelled – petrol or diesel – vehicles, then you have a wide choice. Almost all manufacturers produce small, ‘urban’ cars which are generally noted for their frugal use of fuel and low running costs. Typical examples could be the Skoda Citigo or the Citroen C1 and and with basic models available for less than £6,000, they are generally available to most pockets and budgets.

Both cars run on a three-cylinder petrol engine and efficiency on both is excellent. The entry level Citigo returns just under 63 mpg and generates 105g/km of CO2. There is also a Citigo “Greentech” model available which increases these figures to 69 mpg and 95 g/km of CO2.  The Citroen returns similar figures – as it uses a similar Toyota engine – and both models have the option of a turbocharger for only a little more money, which delivers a great deal more oomph.


Electric cars

Many governments are already talking about the phasing out of fossil-fuelled road vehicles, and that has prompted almost every manufacturer to include fully electric vehicles (EV’s) within their range. The technology is well understood and has lower production costs than petrol or diesel vehicles.

Electric vehicles in the UK also benefit from the government sponsored Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) in which the purchase of a fully electric – and to a lesser extent, hybrid models too – is offset by a government grant. This grant was substantial when electric vehicles were not so common, but is being gradually reduced as they become more widespread.

Issues with electric vehicles

In terms of the cheapest EV’s around, the Renault Zoe and the Nissan Leaf top the charts but this is an area of high interest and models from Peugeot, Smart and Kia becoming significant in this expanding market. The Renault and Nissan both cost significantly more than smaller petrol cars and currently retail for between £14,000 and £20,000 but become more viable once the PiCG has been deducted. They also benefit from lower insurance and road tax costs, and therefore they become comparable with petrol and diesel models.

But electric vehicles still suffer from battery efficiency and may not be the best choice for everyone. Typically, a small electric vehicle will have a range of only a little over 100 miles before needing a charge and may take as long as 3-4 hours to fully recharge. That fact has left many car buyers unsure as to the practicability of EV’s and whether it is worth waiting for the technology to improve before committing.


Budget motoring: winners and losers

The small, quality car market is only going to expand as rising fuel, insurance and running costs clash with a relative reduction in wages in real terms and people seek to lower their expenditure. Technology will also make the expanding EV market more attractive to those seeking cheaper motoring and it is this sector which will, long term, offer the best value for money when considering a small quality car.

At the moment, small petrol cars such as the Skoda Citigo, the Citroen C1 and the Toyota Aygo all cost well under £10,000, and with low tax and insurance, they become the obvious choice for those who want budget motoring. This will change as EV’s become not only more widespread and their purchase price drops, but at the moment, even with the PiCG, it will be some time before they are a comparable price.

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