Majority of London’s motorists consider trading in cars for motorbikes to reduce costs

Green ULEZ zone sign in London

We conducted research that indicates a potential transformation in transportation choices within London in light of the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The financial implications of ULEZ have seen 57% of London’s motorists express a willingness to transition from cars to motorcycles as a cost-effective alternative.

This research follows on from our previous ULEZ studies in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023.

Economic advantages of biking in a ULEZ

In the wake of the expansion to London’s ULEZ, the strictest Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in the country, residents in areas of limited public transport like Bromley and Croydon, face a daily driving charge of £12.50. Motorbikes, largely exempt from this fee, could be a compelling financial choice. 

Most motorbikes not only have lower upfront costs compared to used small cars but also have the potential of greater annual savings, especially those 125cc bikes that are typical city commuters.

In a comprehensive cost analysis for operating a city-appropriate car, in this case, a second-hand Toyota Aygo, the total is approximately £18,735 to commute five days a week. This includes driving test fees, initial expenditures, and average running costs.

In contrast, a comparable setup for a motorbike, factoring in driving test expenses, initial outlays and running costs, amounts to just £5,220. This reflects an average saving of £13,515.

Infographic on the annual commuting costs for weekday motorists

Most motorcycles comply with ULEZ standards, positioning them as the sole personal transport mode that avoids both the daily ULEZ and Congestion Charge in central and greater London.

Factors fuelling the attractiveness of motorcycles in London

Numerous factors contribute to the rising appeal of motorcycles across London. While alternatives such as buses, trains, tubes, taxis, and ride-shares are available, they may not be practical or cost-effective for everyone. In 2023, there was an average rise of 5.9% for bus, tube, rail, and tram fares in the capital.

Public transportation also lacks flexibility the further from the city centre you are and taxi fares can quickly add up. Ride-shares, though environmentally friendly, hinge on finding compatible schedules with others.

Double decker and motorbikes travel through London's rush hour

Motorbikes emerge as an attractive option, offering exemption from ULEZ charges and convenient parking. They provide a fuel-efficient, eco-friendly, and cost-effective transportation solution for urban commuters. Urban areas are seeing a rise in moped delivery services, likely due to the various financial aspects to consider when owning a car.

The sense of community and freedom associated with motorcycling might also contribute to the attractiveness of motorcycles across the capital. Alongside financial savings, it also offers a beneficial impact on lifestyle and wellbeing. Our research revealed that 78% of bikers would likely recommend motorcycling to friends, colleagues, or family members dealing with mental health issues.

Could the capital’s motorcycle ownership increase?

Motorbike parked outside Bar Italia in Soho, London

Though it remains to be seen if these shifting perceptions will lead to an increase in London’s 123,500 registered bikes, the most recent UK-wide data may signal that licensing is on the rise. On-road motorcycle licence tests conducted in the UK between April 2022 and March 2023, compared to the period between April 2019 and March 2020, saw a 14% increase.

Whether London will experience a rise in motorcycles in the near future remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the benefits of riding in the capital – such as painless parking, cheaper outlay and running costs, and daily charge exemptions – create a compelling case to make the switch from four wheels to two in this new ULEZ era.

Find out your motorcycle insurance costs

As a specialist motorbike insurance broker with a legacy dating back to 1990, we are a premier provider of motorbike insurance. Over the years, we have emerged as a leading motorcycle broker in the UK, committed to delivering comprehensive and tailored coverage to riders across the nation.

Call 0330 123 1028 for a swift no-hassle quote or book a callback at a time that suits you.

Notes: Data on the cost of running a car and bike were sourced from Carplus, Checkatrade, Fuel-Economy, Cinch, GaragesNearMe, Q-Park & Honda.

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August 8, 2023