Travel costs: Where is the most expensive place to drive in England and Wales?


In an ideal world, the respective prices in owning and operating a car would be the same wherever you go. After all, the quality of fuel, or even the vehicle itself, doesn’t change. However, the economy doesn’t work like that and, as a result, where you live in the UK can have an impact on how much these things cost.

So, just how much can where you live influence your various transport costs? Using figures from Expatistan’s cost of living index, along with a few other sources, we can get an average idea of how much things actually cost.

The price of a car

Items can change in value depending on where you buy them and this is no less true for the automotive industry. After all, if even something small like your weekly shopping costs a little more or less, a more sizeable investment like a car will have a noticeable difference.


The price of a new car can vary depending on where you live.

Surprisingly, despite being the area most people associate with higher expenses, London is not the worst place to buy a car. The living index uses a Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 150 CV (or a car equivalent to this), finding the average price of a car, purchased new and with no optional extras, in 6 different cities:

  1. Sheffield: £17,171
  2. Manchester: £17,369
  3. London: £18,663
  4. Birmingham: £19,608
  5. Cardiff: £20,708
  6. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: £21,254

If you compare the price of this vehicle in Sheffield and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, you’re paying £4,083 more for the same vehicle. Given that it’s less than 3 hours, or around 130 miles, driving by road, many potential buyers might now be considering factoring in the cost of a commute into their car budget.

Fuel costs

The price of petrol or diesel also changes depending on where you are. Again, these are average values and you will find that, even in a given town or city, different stores and stations will very in price.

The price for 1 litre of fuel (or just under a quarter of a gallon) by city is:

  • Cardiff: £1.08
  • Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: £1.09
  • Manchester: £1.10
  • London: £1.14
  • Birmingham & Sheffield: £1.15

When it comes to travel costs, where you refuel can make a big difference.

But how does this translate to an actual car? Let’s use the Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI as an example again. This has a typical tank size of 50 litres. A full tank in Cardiff would cost you £54, compared to £57.5 in Birmingham or Sheffield. The difference isn’t much at first glance, but it does mean you’re spending an extra £3.50 per tank, which can add up if you’re a very frequent driver. Of course, there are other factors to consider, such as how fuel efficient you are (car tyres with a low rolling resistance can help, for instance) and the overall condition of your vehicle.

Considering the commute

When it comes to travelling to work, a personal car is still the most predominant mode of transport. In 2011, cars and vans account for 54.5% of commutes, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Furthermore, the average daily commute in the UK is around 57 minutes, according to figures from 2015, with over 3.7 million people driving for two hours or more every weekday.

Yet the alternatives to driving are not always better. The cost of living index looks at two examples. First, there is the monthly cost of public transport, which breaks down as:

  • Cardiff: £45
  • Sheffield: £48
  • Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Birmingham: £54
  • Manchester: £56
  • London: £136

As you can see, public transport varies greatly depending on where you live, with a £91 gap between Cardiff and London. If you already have a car for other purposes, it might seem more financially beneficial (although there are always other factors to consider, such as rush hour traffic) to keep driving.


When it comes to travel costs, a car might still be cheaper than using taxis or public transport on a daily basis.

Likewise, there’s also the option of getting a taxi. Based on a typical 5 mile trip, this could cost:

  • Cardiff: £8
  • Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Birmingham: £11
  • London: £13
  • Manchester: £15
  • Sheffield: £16

Taxis, of course, are more expensive than driving your own car by their very nature, as there are additional service charges on top of the regular costs (such as fuel) that you would pay yourself.

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