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Is it cheaper to run a motorbike or a car?

Typically, it's cheaper to run a motorbike than a car. However, multiple factors influence the cost of running both types of vehicle. Insurance costs will depend on the vehicle model and driver history. Other factors determining what you'll pay include road tax, maintenance and repairs. Meanwhile, fuel costs vary depending on whether your vehicle is petrol or diesel, how you drive and whether you're doing more motorway or inner-city journeys.

Daniel Hutson From the Motor team
minute read


When it comes to fuel economy, both bikes and cars vary hugely in mpg (miles per gallon). According to mpg tracking site Fuelly, a humble 125cc Honda CBF125 has an average mpg of 93.2, while the formidable Harley Davidson Fat Boy achieves just 38.3mpg.

Car-wise, the family favourite Ford Focus averages a not-very-thrifty 27.7mpg, while the dinky VW Up! achieves an average 39.7mpg.  

Whether your vehicle is petrol or diesel, how you drive and whether you’re doing more motorway or inner-city journeys all play a role in determining the real figure. But there are fuel-guzzlers and cheap runners in both the car and bike categories.

What’s cheaper? A draw – it all depends on your model and how you drive it.

What’s cheaper? Motorbikes take the lead


As of April 2017, car tax costs are based on C02 emissions, with zero-carbon cars (electric, for example) costing £0, and anything above that costing at least £140 after the first year. Standard diesel cars are automatically more expensive, being charged at a band higher than their petrol counterparts with the same C02 emissions.  

Motorbike tax is based on engine size. If your engine is less than 150cc then you’ll pay £19 a year to ride it on the roads. The most you’d pay is £82 for a bike with an engine of 600cc or more.

What’s cheaper? Motorbikes will typically cost less, unless you opt for zero-carbon.

Maintenance and repairs

Servicing, MOTs, and the inevitable cost of repairs all need to be factored in too. 

There’s a maximum MOT charge set by the government of £54.85 for cars and £29.65 for standard motorcycles. Garages might offer deals on these costs, making them more affordable, but these are the highest prices you’ll pay. 

When it comes to servicing, many garages offer a flat rate. According to Money Advice Service, the average cost of a basic car service is £125, which you can expect to pay once a year (or more often, according to how many miles you clock up).   

What’s cheaper? Motorbikes will typically cost less, unless you opt for zero-carbon.

Service costs for a motorbike range from around £150 upwards, with some high-end bikes costing over £400 for a major service.

When it comes to repairs, how much you’ll pay is partly down to luck and the age and condition of your vehicle. In general, the fancier your car or bike is, the more expensive it will be to repair. With a premium model, the cost of parts is likely to be higher, and it can also take longer to dismantle and diagnose, resulting in higher labour costs.

What’s cheaper? Motorbikes have the edge when it comes to MOTs, but cars are cheaper to service. When it comes to repairs, it really depends on your model and its condition…

So which is cheaper - cars or motorbikes?

While technically it can be cheaper to run a motorbike than a car, it’s like anything in life – if you’re an enthusiast, you’re not going to settle for average. And if you love your bike and live to ride it, you’ll probably be happy to spend a little extra on looking after it. 

Whether you’re a two-wheel or four-wheel fan, there’s one thing you can do to save money – make sure you Compare the Market.

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