Cars for less than the price of the train

Millions of UK workers commute by train, but could it be cheaper to buy a car instead?...

Peugeot 5008, Seat Leon, Range Rover Evoque, train

A total of 1.7 billion rail journeys were made in 2017-2018; that's 4.7 million train journeys every day. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that overcrowding is common, particularly in big cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and London. So could it be more beneficial – and cheaper – to travel by car instead?

In the autumn of 2017, the latest period for which figures are available, Britain’s most overcrowded train was the 04:22 service from Glasgow Central to Manchester Airport. The four-car service had a carrying capacity of 191 passengers, but at times it exceeded that allowance by a staggering 111%, with a total of 403 passengers struggling for space on the packed train at peak times.

Today, a ticket on that same service will cost you £33 each way, or £85 return. Added up over the course of a year, that’s £20,400 spent on train tickets. Fortunately, season tickets exist for just such commutes, and a season ticket for this service lowers that annual price to £12,568, or £1047 per month. And for that budget, you could drive a brand new car instead.

Cars for less than the price of the train

Over the next few pages, we've gathered together three leasing and PCP deals that all cost a lot less per month to run than you would spend on the train, and we name three used cars that you can buy outright for the price of a season ticket.

As our recent PCP deals have shown, choosing finance for your next car could allow you to run something you wouldn't normally be able to afford. So if you're tired of overcrowded train travel and fancy a car instead, read on.

New car leasing deals for the price of the train

Personal contract hire, or simply personal leasing, is one way of financing your new car. Essentially, you're renting your car from the dealer or broker, with an agreed limit of typically between 8000 and 10,000 miles per year.

Unlike personal contract purchase (PCP) deals, there's no option to buy the car at the end of your lease period, but since the deposits are low (all the cars mentioned here require a deposit of typically either three or six months' worth of rental value), you'll be able to lease something that you might otherwise struggle to afford. Our monthly budget of £1047 would make this challenge too easy, so let's halve it to £500 instead, leaving you the extra to spend on insurance, servicing and fuel.

Here's our pick of three personal leasing deals, all taken from What Car? Leasing.

Range Rover Evoque D150 2WD

Range Rover Evoque 2.0 D150 2WD

The deal £315 per month, with a deposit of £1894 Duration Four years (48 months) Mileage limit 8000 miles per year

The latest Evoque is our favourite family SUV, dethroning the excellent Volvo XC40. The Evoque is well equipped, even in entry-level form, offers a great driving position and will hold its value well. It's also great to drive, and this diesel version has plenty of pulling power.

BMW 3 Series driving

The deal £372 per month, with a deposit of £2232 Duration Four years (48 months) Mileage limit 8000 miles per year

For many, the 3 Series is still the default choice in the executive saloon market, and it's easy to see why. The latest version offers fun handling, a strong yet efficient range of engines and one of the best infotainment systems you'll find in any car. It's spacious for your family, too.

Read our full BMW 3 Series review, or see our 3 Series leasing deals

Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo Match 5dr

Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI Match 5dr

The deal £258 per month, with a deposit of £1550 Duration Three years (36 months) Mileage limit 8000 miles per year

Ask 10 people to name a family car and chances are most of them will mention the Volkswagen Golf. It's consistently among the most popular new cars sold in the UK, and with good reason: with such a wide range of engines and versions on offer, from frugal petrols through to diesels and even electric versions, there's a model to suit everyone. It's also brilliant to drive and competitively priced.

Read our full Volkswagen Golf review, or see our Golf leasing deals

If personal leasing doesn't appeal to you, then you might be more tempted by PCP deals. On the next page we've collected three of the best for commuters.

Next: more new cars for the price of the train >

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