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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?

Words By Darren Moss

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Cars for the price of the train

A total of 1.7 billion rail journeys were made in 2015-16 – 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 2014 the commuter train line between Reading and London's Paddington station was named as one of the most crowded in the UK. The five-carriage service exceeded its maximum passenger capacity by 164% on some days, meaning hundreds of extra passengers were squeezed onto an already overcrowded train.

Using today's prices, that same journey from Reading to London Paddington will cost you Β£23.60 one way, or Β£46 return. Added up over the course of one year, that's Β£11,040 spent on train travel. Fortunately, getting a season ticket for 12 months brings that down to a more palatable Β£4308 – or Β£359 per month.

So is it feasible to buy a car for that money instead? Over the next few pages, we've gathered together three leasing and PCP deals that all cost 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 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 mileage 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. Remember, the monthly budget we're working with here is Β£359.

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

Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 Ecomotive SE

The deal Β£234.83 per month, with a deposit of Β£1408 Duration three years (35 months) Mileage limit 8,000 miles per year

The Seat Ateca is our favourite small SUV, and despite having been on sale for less than a year, it beat the Nissan Qashqai to claim our Small SUV of the Year title at the 2017 What Car? Awards. This 1.4-litre petrol version is perfect whether you're in town or on the motorway, while SE trim gets you 17in alloys, rear parking sensors and an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system.

Read our full Seat Ateca review

View this Seat Ateca leasing deal


Skoda Superb 1.4 TSI 150 SE

The deal Β£239 per month, with a deposit of Β£1474 Duration three years (36 months) Mileage limit 8000 miles per year

The Superb is one of our favourite executive cruisers, and is perfectly suited to life on the motorway commute. It's also incredibly spacious, comes with lots of kit and, with this 1.4-litre petrol engine, suprisingly cheap to run. Throw in a high-quality interior and a low price tag, and it's easy to see why we recommend the Superb.

Read our full Skoda Superb review

View this Skoda Superb deal


Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI SE

The deal Β£234 per month, with a deposit of Β£1404 Duration three years (36 months) Mileage limit 8000 miles per year

Another What Car? Award winner, this time for our favourite family car – a category in which the A3 triumphed over brilliant rivals including the Seat Leon and Vauxhall Astra. We love the A3's beautifully finished interior, and the 1.4-litre petrol engine you get as part of this deal is smooth and efficient, and it's able to shut down two of its four cylinders on the motorway to save fuel.

Read our full Audi A3 review

Find a great Audi A3 deal

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.

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