Most Drivers Don’t Care About Their Car’s Emissions

A questionnaire conduced by UK short-term car lease company has shown that 80 per cent of drivers do not care about the emissions of their cars.

Currently in the UK, Vehicle Excise Duty – commonly called ‘car tax’ – is a yearly payment all car owners must pay. The amount paid is related to the tailpipe emissions of the vehicle being driven. Drive the worst possible car you can that emits over 255g of CO2 per kilometre and you will pay £1065 in the first year and £490 each subsequent year. The amount paid gets lower as the vehicle emissions improve.

In the UK, drivers of the Renault ZOE pay nothing in Vehicle Excise Duty.

In the UK, drivers of the Renault ZOE pay nothing in Vehicle Excise Duty.

This tiered system is designed to push buyers towards cars that emit less CO2 – ideally to cars which emit less than 100g per kilometre that pay nothing. But does this work in reality? When asked 1250 drivers if they would change their current car if it meant a cheaper tax disc 8 out of 10 drivers said no.

Not that this statistic really matters as nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of those asked didn’t know that vehicle excise duty was related to their car’s emissions at all.

“Despite recent falls in the price of petrol, most road users have simply given up caring about the cost of motoring – both in cash and environmental terms,” said Jonathan Ratcliffe, Fleet Manager at He goes on to say: “There’s no current campaign on green motoring. Drivers should be able to make informed choices. Instead they have no idea how the system works.”

Drivers were asked if they would switch to an electric car if it meant paying no vehicle excise duty at all – which is the current situations. Only 36 per cent of people said yes.

With the UK government pledging £500 million into the promotion of electric cars in the UK, this questionnaire raises the question of how best to market these cars to people. If it holds true that drivers in general are just absorbing the price of emission-linked vehicle excise duty into their life without knowing what it is or how to reduce it, how do we get more people to make the switch?

In Norway their system of sales tax is linked to the emissions in a similar, but possibly more understandable way. Buy an electric car with no tail-pipe emissions in Norway and pay nothing in sales tax. But if one was to consider a car with very bad emissions, expect to pay up to 100% in sales tax. Maybe this is a system we need to adopt in the UK?

Did you know that vehicle excise duty relates to car emissions? Was this cost a factor when it came to choosing your car? What other ways can we use to get more people to switch if it is true that this cost isn’t a factor? US readers, would paying a higher fee year on year cause you to look for a lower emissions car? Let us know below.


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  • Wonder if more/less drivers would say “yes” if asked u2026nn”Would you switch to an electric car if it meant paying just ~1/5 of your current fuel bill?” u2013 which is also the current situation based on per mile, or per month rate.

    • Mark Chatterley

      Interesting. I wonder if ‘savings’ as an abstract will have a better reaction than ‘savings’ as a specific item. The above seems to suggest that people just absorb petrol and tax costs and any ‘savings’ through the Gov reducing the rate are not saved or re-allocated.

  • PWJ Bishop

    If the British Govt. taxed the purchase of cars in the way you suggest, this would result in the same destruction of our prestige marques as occurred in France after WW2.

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