Why the expense of modern motoring isn’t so expensive

My dad is always going on about the cars he bought in his ‘youth’ costing a tenner – twenty quid at most; and how it was so much cheaper to drive back then compared to ‘modern times. But I’ve been thinking about this, and it simply wasnt.

Yes, in 1968 petrol was much cheaper. In fact, it cost the equivalent of 22p a gallon. A gallon; not a litre, as opposed to the average today which is at least £5.50 a gallon. But you can’t just look at fuel costs…

A good graduate salary in 1968 might have been around £1,100 – a year. Today, a graduate can hope / expect to earn around £23,000 a year.

So does that mean motoring was cheaper then, or now?

If a graduate salary today in 2018 is £23,000 and petrol is £5.50 a gallon then the equivalent day rates would be £3.01 and £63.01 roughly speaking. So a gallon of fuel in 1968 would set you back 7.3% of your daily wage. Today it would cost 8.7%.

So my Dad was right, driving today is more expensive.


Given the difference in fuel economy between then and now, that has to be considered too. A typical car back then might average 23mpg, nowadays it’s not uncommon to get double that or even more. Let’s say 45mpg to be on the safe side.

So if you spent 7.3% of your daily pay in 1968 you could travel 23 miles. Today, you would get 15 miles (65%) further.

If your daily commute is a 40 mile round trip, in 1968 you would have spent almost 13% of your day’s pay on fuel. Today, you would spend less than 8%

So there you have it… things weren’t always better in the past. We complain about the cost of fuel but, in truth, it’s never been cheaper.


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