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4.0 The necessity of motoring

 

People drive because they have to - take children to school, go to work, for shopping or to visit friends and relatives. But the high cost of fuel is making them scrutinise every journey they take to make sure it is necessary and more importantly affordable.

So what are drivers doing about the increased costs? Are they driving less? What areas are they cutting back on to keep bills manageable? And how are these strains impacting on different sections of the motoring population?

One of the most interesting revelations within the research is that while people are happy to car share when children are young, they revert back to solitary trips once they are no longer required to act as 'mum and dad's taxi'. This is supported by the fact only 16% of drivers participated in car sharing with colleagues in 2011.

4.1 Unavoidable journeys

A third of drivers still believe 'most people in cars could use public transport instead' - which has been constant for the last four years. But equally, almost four in five would find it 'very difficult to adjust my lifestyle to being without a car' - again a consistent view over the last few years.

Similarly in terms of using their own cars less, this would be very difficult for 86%, 69% and 80% of drivers in rural, urban and suburban locations. This car dependence is also reflected in the fact that 65% of urban car drivers believe motoring will become a luxury activity for them if prices continue to escalate against just 56% of suburban and rural drivers.

Using cars less

 

     % believe they could use their car less  
Urban      43%
Rural      21%
Suburbs      34%

4.2 Rural versus urban drivers

Urban drivers have options that are just not open to those living in rural areas, and this is a key gripe that rural drivers have against the Government. Policies do not appear to take into account the differing transport issues faced by people in their own locality. The Government wants people to drive less, but cuts to budgets both on a local and national level may impact upon the availability of subsidised public transport for both young and old people. There seems to be a distinct lack of joined up thinking.

According to The Commission for Rural Communities' State of the Countryside 2010 report 96% of households in urban areas have an hourly or better bus service within 13 minutes walk compared with 50% in rural areas. Furthermore 77% of those eligible in urban areas have benefited from concessionary fares compared with 53% in rural ones8. This again suggests rural drivers have fewer public transport options so do not bother to apply for concessionary fares.

 

The Report on Motoring this year looked at exactly what journeys drivers would find difficult or impossible to make without a car. It reveals:

More than half of motorists who use their car to transport children to school and other activities could only do this by car. 60% of rural drivers could not make these journeys without their car compared to 39% of urban drivers.

The urban/rural split is even more noticeable when it comes to other family commitments such as visiting or transporting elderly relatives.

Overall 65% could only do this by car, but 80% of rural drivers have no other option, against 66% of suburban drivers and 44% of urban drivers.

Drivers living in rural areas are also more reliant on their cars for shopping and commuting.

  • 72% of drivers living in a rural area are dependent on a car for shopping compared to 39% living in an urban area.
  • 69% of drivers living in a rural area are dependent on a car for work compared to 30% living in an urban area.

Worryingly if the cost of fuel continues to rise, increasing numbers of drivers feel they will have to stop undertaking these journeys leaving many of them feeling increasingly isolated as they are unable to visit friends and family and maintain their social life - 39% of drivers say they could only maintain their current social life using their car. For rural motorists, this figure rises to 56%.

There is also an economic impact as local retailers and leisure venues such as gyms and restaurants suffer from loss of trade. In extreme cases, motorists may be forced to give up their jobs and look for more local work as the cost of petrol or diesel makes the commute unaffordable.

  • One in five motorists say the main barrier to using public transport is that it takes too long.
  • A third cite the lack of flexibility in when and where it can take you.
  • For 30% of rural drivers, the nearest bus stop or train station is too far away to be convenient - against only 7% of suburban and 3% of urban drivers.

But again, economics come into play. A separate RAC survey recently showed 93% of drivers think the current price of fuel is unacceptable and some three quarters had already had to re-evaluate how regularly they drove9

"The really big losers at present are young people.
Yes, public transport is being cut back for all, but another cost-cutting measure is the removal of many concessionary fares for youngsters - it's a simple cost saving measure but amounts to a significantly increased charge for young people to use public transport."

David Leibling
Transport and Motoring Consultant

4.3 Saving money

Combining journeys is not the only thing drivers have done over the last year to keep their costs down. Almost two in five have changed their driving style to become more fuel efficient and reduce costs. Breaking this down, 42% of rural drivers, 39% of suburban ones and 31% of urban ones changed their habits, perhaps reflecting the decreasing level of mileage each group drives, as documented earlier.

  • 21% of drivers waited longer between services to save money.
  • 11% serviced or repaired their car themselves.
  • 12% bought a smaller vehicle over the last year.
  • 6% reduced the number of cars in their household.
  • 3% sold their car and opted to use other modes of transport.

 

4.4 Insurance

Fuel is not the only thing pushing up the cost of motoring; insurance premiums have soared by over 40% this year, adding further pain for motorists. This has led to an estimated 4% of people driving without insurance10. A key reason for the price increase is the soaring cost of personal injury claims.

To save money 8% of motorists have named another person as their vehicle's registered main driver. This process can invalidate insurance cover and depending on circumstances can be illegal - a practice known as 'fronting'. A further 8% of drivers have reduced their level of cover in an effort to save money. The increase in premiums is likely to get worse with no sign of prices levelling out, and the anticipated effect of the European Court ruling against gender discrimination hitting price-sensitive sectors of the motoring public.

Over the last 12 months:

  • 52% of drivers switched insurers with 46% confirming this was due to financial reasons
  • 10% removed drivers from their policy with 6% confirming this was due to financial reasons
  • 8% reduced their level of cover from fully comprehensive to third party fire and theft with 5% confirming this was due to financial reasons
  • 8% named someone else as a registered driver with 4% confirming this was due to financial reasons
  • 5% cancelled their policy altogether with 2% confirming this was due to financial reasons
'Stay Insured Stay Legal'-
Cracking Down on Uninsured Drivers

In May, the Department for Transport, DVLA and Motor Insurers' Bureau combined forces to unveil a new campaign, Continuous Insurance Enforcement, aimed at tackling the issue of uninsured drivers on the roads. Under new laws that come into force in June, not only will it be illegal to drive without insurance but it will also be illegal to keep a vehicle without insurance unless declared as 'off the road' to the DVLA. To monitor and police this, the MIB will be able to track the ownership and insurance status of every vehicle in the UK.

European Court of Justice Ruling

In March, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg upheld an 'opinion' by one of its advocate generals that it was discriminatory to ask the gender of an applicant for any form of insurance. The ban comes into force in December 2012 and research from the Association of British Insurers suggests women under the age of 25 will then see their premiums rocket by as much as 25%, while premiums for men under 25 will only fall by 10%11.

4.5 Company car drivers

Company car and business drivers naturally use their cars more than private motorists, with 93% using it every or most days, against 71% of other motorists. Their cars are also younger, with an average age of 2.4 years against private cars at 5.9 years old.

Company and business drivers have different views and concerns to other motorists.

  • 22% of company car drivers are most concerned about the cost of owning and running a car compared with 33% of private car drivers.
  • 12% of company car drivers are most concerned about congestion and slower journey times compared with 5% of private car drivers.
  • 58% of company car drivers disagree with the statement 'most people in cars could use public transport' compared with 38% of private car drivers.
  • 90% of company car drivers would find it very difficult to adjust their lives to being without a car compared with 78% of private car drivers.
  • 25% of company car drivers think local journey times are becoming more predictable compared with 43% of private car drivers.

Clearly these findings reflect the importance these drivers put on their cars and the use of them for their work as well as their daily lives.

Attitudes of company car drivers versus rest of population on key issues

 

  Company car drivers Private car drivers
Believe the drink-drive limit in the UK should be dropped to from 80mg to 50mg (the equivalent of one pint of beer).    27%    24%
Agree that he maximum speed limit on Motorway should be increased to 80mph.    64%    47%
Will have to severely reduce their car usage if the price of fuel continues to rise.    38%    69%
Are confident driving in adverse weather conditions.    76%    56%

 

4.6 Future of motoring

Only a quarter of drivers would consider buying an alternatively powered vehicle such as a hybrid, electric or hydrogen car as their next car, down from 34% last year.

But why are environmental concerns so far off drivers' radars?

  • 49% said price was the biggest barrier, up from just over a third last year.
  • 30% said they would only buy an alternatively powered car if it was cheaper to run than a conventional one - up from 23% last year.

Concerns also remain about the logistics of running an electric car.

  • 36% wanted more charging points.
  • 35% would want a longer range, with 24% requiring a car to travel at least 200 miles before it needed recharging.
  • A hard core 14% would never buy such a car regardless of its price and running costs.

Clearly, cost remains the key factor for drivers. More widespread take-up of alternatively powered vehicles will therefore likely not be achieved until prices are reduced.


8. State of the Countryside 2010, http://www.defra.gov.uk/crc/documents/state-of-the-countryside-report/sotc2010/

8. 'Unacceptable' fuel prices forcing drivers out of their cars, 24 February 2011 http://www.rac.co.uk/press-centre/press-releases/

10. Uninsured drivers face new crackdown, 11 January 2011 http://www.mib.org.uk/Media+Centre/en/Press+Releases/Default.htm

11. European Court of Justice gender ban is disappointing news for UK insurance customers, 1 March 2011, http://www.abi.org.uk/Media/Releases/default.aspx

5.0 State of the roads

Appendix