Skip to content
Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
4 APRIL 2023
5 min read
Share article

The UK's driving habits

It’s not uncommon for us to pick up bad driving habits throughout the years. From running the tank low on fuel to late braking, we're all guilty of something. However, what many drivers fail to realise is that some of these habits could be causing damage to your car.

We set out to discover which bad driving habits UK motorists are most guilty of and whether they are aware of the damages these can cause. We also looked into just how much drivers could be set to pay in order to fix some of the potential issues caused.

The driving habits ruining your car

Our research shows the most common bad habit among UK motorists is not cleaning the car exterior regularly, with 30% of drivers admitting to this. This is followed by resting your hand on the gear stick (24%), hitting potholes and speed bumps at speed (18%) and regularly running the tank low on fuel (17%).

The table below reveals the top 10 bad driving habits in the UK:

1. Not cleaning the exterior regularly

The most common bad driving habit in the UK is ​not cleaning the car  exterior often enough – even though 44% of respondents know it could be causing damage.

Generally, i​​t’s a good idea to give your car a good clean at least once every two weeks to stave off corrosion and avoid rust damage to the undercarriage, which can cause mechanical issues in the long run.

Dirty cars also limit visibility on the road; for example, an unwashed windshield can be very difficult to see clearly out of, especially in rain, or dense fog.

2.​ Resting your hand on the gear stick

Driving with your hand resting on the gear stick can put unnecessary pressure on the selector fork, which can cost on average £116.64 to replace.

Almost 1 in 4 drivers are guilty of this habit, with just under half (49%) unaware of the damage it could cause.

​3. Hitting potholes and speed bumps

Almost one in five (​18%) UK motorists admit to hitting potholes and speed bumps, despite more than three-quarters of drivers being aware of the damage these can cause – which includes ​​buckled wheels, tyre lumps, and cracked alloys, as well as messing with the tracking and wheel balancing.

Naturally, the purpose of a speed bump is to make you slow down, and driving over one without reducing your speed can cause damage to the front, rear, and underside of the car, as well as the exhaust system.

4. Running the tank low on fuel regularly

The price of fuel has fluctuated a lot over the past few years, so it’s not surprising that many of us have let our fuel tanks run low. 7.1 million UK drivers admit that they do this regularly, despite 64% admitting that they know the risks involved.

​An empty tank means that there's no way to lubricate the fuel pump which can cause damage, and a replacement pump typically sets drivers back an average of ​£500.

5. Slamming the car doors shut

​Half of drivers in the UK (50%) know that slamming their car doors shut can be damaging, but 6 million drivers admit to still doing it on a regular basis. Whether it’s a bad habit you’ve picked up over the years or you’re worried that doing it softly might not close it securely, it’s definitely worth being more gentle.

The harder you slam the door, the more likely it is that the paint will start rubbing off the edges of the door. If it gets to the point that the metal becomes exposed, it’ll be even more difficult to touch up the paintwork.

On top of that, slamming closed a door will make the rubber gasket around the inside of the door wear out much faster. If it tears or thins out, air can seep into the vehicle’s interior, making the inside of the car noisier when you drive.

The true cost of bad driving habits

You may be keen to break some of these bad habits now that you know the damage they could be doing to your car. But just how much money could you avoid spending by eliminating them?

The table below shows the average cost to repair the damage caused by some of the UK’s most common bad driving habits.

Bad habit Cost to repair damage caused
Not cleaning the exterior regularly Repair car body: £353.47
​​Resting your hand on the gear stick ​Replacing selector fork: £116.64
​Hitting potholes and speed bumps

​Replacing tyres: £292.27
Repair alloy wheels: £80 to £135
Repairing exhaust: £105.77

​Running the tank low on fuel regularly ​​​Replacing fuel pump: £500
​Slamming the car doors shut

​Repair of car body: £353.47

(This will vary depending on the bodywork you need doing)

​Shifting gears to reduce speed

Replacing clutch: £568.65

Repairing/replacing driveshaft: £250 - £2,000 

​Riding the clutch Replacing clutch: £568.65
​Not using antifreeze / engine coolant in winter months Repairing head gasket: £585.18
​Late braking (and thus slamming on the brakes to stop in time) ​Repairing brakes: £316.89

Expert car care tips from a mechanic

With our survey revealing the damaging habits UK drivers could benefit from breaking free of, we reached out to qualified mechanic, Ron Podrasky, for extra guidance on some best practices when it comes to keeping your car in good shape.

​“One of the worst driving habits is aggressively breaking to a stop when driving fast. This can cause excessive brake wear and it glazes the rotors which make the brakes less effective. Not using the transmission to slow the vehicle down also increases brake component wear.

“I would advise drivers to carry out manufacturer-recommended maintenance at the intervals suggested to keep their vehicles in the best condition possible. Wash and, if possible, wax the exterior to keep the paint intact. And always act on strange noises or odd performance by getting the vehicle checked over by a mechanic.” 

Methodology & Sources

The survey data was collected from 2,014 UK Drivers (17+) between 06.02.2023 - 09.02.2023.

The average cost to fix each bad habit was calculated using the following sources:

Car suspension
Exhaust system
Wheel alloys
Selector fork
Head gasket
Fuel pump
Car body

It’s important to be aware of any potential bad driving habits you’ve picked up, and the impact these may have, to ensure that you aren’t unknowingly causing damage to your car.

If you do end up having to book your car in for a repair, you may wonder if it’s worth doing this through your car insurance. If the cost of repairs isn’t much more than your excess, it might be better to pay for the damage yourself and preserve your no-claims discount, as making a claim can often increase to cost of your car insurance premium.