Car commuters vs rail commuters - who pays more?


Financial Guidance

Rail commuters saw yet another above-inflation increase in ticket prices this year, while petrol and diesel prices are on the rise once again.

So we did some research into the overall cost of commuting - and found that people who take the car to work are paying significantly more than those who take the train, even if they share the journey.

We looked at eight key commuter routes across the UK, and compared the cost of an annual rail season ticket with the cost of owning and commuting by car.

Across all eight routes, the average train season ticket costs £2,440 a year, which works out at roughly 16p per mile.

But a typical Ford Focus driver would pay just under £4,800 a year, or 31p a mile - including fuel, tax, insurance, car loan payments and maintenance costs.

The more fuel-efficient Citroen C2 would bring this down to £3,745.60 a year, or 24p a mile - but this is still around 50% more expensive than commuting by train.

And if you're the owner of a more powerful car, such as a BMW 5 series, you could be paying around 50p per mile - more than three times the cost of travelling by train.


Citroen C2

annual cost

Ford Focus

annual cost

BMW 5 series

annual cost


annual cost

Chelmsford to London





Preston to Manchester





Durham to Newcastle





Bournemouth to Southampton





Derby to Birmingham





Swansea to Cardiff





Edinburgh to Glasgow





Weston-Super-Mare to Bristol










Even car-poolers still pay more than rail travellers

Of the three cars we compared, only the fuel-efficient Citroen C2 came out cheaper than travelling by train - and only if you share with three other people. It then works out at roughly 15p per mile.

But not many people have that option. And if you drive a Ford Focus, which is a fairly efficient car by most standards, you'd still pay around 19p per mile when sharing with three other people.

If you want to keep your car, you're better off driving to work

If, like many rail commuters, you keep a car for the weekend, you may be spending much more than necessary, thanks to the unavoidable costs of taxing, insuring and maintaining a car.

We found that owners of fuel-efficient cars like the Citroen C2 could be almost £700 a year better off by driving instead of catching the train, while Ford Focus drivers could save around £100. But if you own a fuel-hungry car like the BMW 5 series, you are still around £600 a year better off taking the train.

Of course, you'd be significantly better off by getting rid of your car altogether - but for some people, that's just not an option.

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