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Is the high price of car ownership stalling the economic recovery?Back

A quick Google search shows there are just over 31 million cars on Britain’s roads. But in the last couple of years the numbers have started to decrease for the first time in over six decades.

There were an estimated 400,000 used cars which were taken out of circulation due to the government’s scrappage, scheme which otherwise probably would have been sold on.

But, in reality, most agree it’s the current cost of motoring in the UK that’s having the biggest impact. Combine record prices at the pump with soaring insurance charges and the worst recession in years, and it’s no wonder people are having to take a long hard look at whether they really need a car.

And for those who do decide they still need a motor, research by the AA has shown that nearly half of the country’s drivers are using their car less than they used to. Official figures seem to back that up by revealing that in the main we’re travelling fewer miles by car than we did previously. From people better planning their travelling to ensure they don’t drive unnecessary miles, to those ditching the car when they can and hitting the pavement or public transport, with prices so high all but the super-rich have to give some consideration to the costs involved.

But does it go further than that? Are people’s working and leisure lives seriously being affected by these rising prices? Are people having to turn down work because of the costs involved in getting there? Are family lives suffering because of the long commutes by public transport some decide to take instead of the expensive – but speedier – car journey? Are older people becoming increasingly isolated as they feel they’re imprisoned in their homes, unable to afford their own transport? Are families staying at home on a weekend rather than going out to visit family and friends, hitting the shops or taking a day trip?

And when you look at it that way it’s easy to see how the high cost of car ownership could actually be stalling the economic recovery – from the straightforward impact of people having less money in their pocket, to the more subtle effect of people spending more time at home and less time out…spending.

Cars are very often the key to personal and economic freedom. On a personal note, I know that the ability to travel by car allows me to network and meet with people around the country in a way that other forms of transport simply don’t. While I am only small cog in the much larger machine that is the UK economy, I know that this perspective must be shared by many others.

Posted by Neil Addley on 03/06/2011