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Bad roads damaging one in five cars

Press release: 24/08/2012

  • Since 2010 more than 54,000 compensation claims have been made to councils for vehicle damage caused by neglected roads and potholes

  • Councils paid out a total of £4.8 million in compensation to motorists over the past two years for the damage

  • One in eight (13%) drivers have suffered car damage as a result of poor road surfaces since 2010

  • Three quarters (76%) of drivers believe road surfaces are now in a worse state than they were five years ago

Drivers whose vehicles have been damaged by neglected and potholed roads have lodged thousands of compensation claims against councils in the past two years.

According to Britannia Rescue, 54,436 claims have been made against councils in little more than two years for everything from potholes ruining wheel rims to punctured tyres and damaged suspension.

The data shows that local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland paid out a total of £4.8 million in compensation for pothole or other road damage between 2010-11 and 2011-12. One of the country's largest local authorities, Surrey County Council, topped the list with pay-outs amounting to more than £630,000 since 2010.

The combination of a wet summer and a cold winter has particularly harmed road surfaces with potholes forming after water seeps down below the road surface and freezes, loosening the asphalt. This then thaws, and rain as well as passing traffic exacerbates the damage.

The problem is that road maintenance in the UK is severely under-funded with just £17 [1] spent per driver on maintaining road surfaces and fixing potholes - a mere 11% [2] of the annual road tax bill.

According to the data, the average repair bill is £132, with some claims as high as £3,000. At the same time the average cost of repairing a pothole is around £50 [3], meaning the amount paid out by councils in compensation could have been used to repair more than 96,000 potholes.

Among all drivers, one in eight (13%) have suffered car damage as a result of poor road surfaces in the past two years. The most common damage includes punctured or damaged tyres, (45%), problems with suspension (40%), wheel rim damage (26%) and steering damage (12%). Over 1.1 million drivers [4] have broken down as a result of neglected roads, and one in 10 (10%) drivers have swerved to avoid a pothole and nearly had an accident.

Among all motorists, three quarters (76%) believe road surfaces are now in a worse state than they were five years ago with 49% saying they are much worse.

Peter Horton, Britannia Rescue Managing Director, said: "The past two harsh winters caused significant damage to the UK's roads, which has not been fully repaired yet. Cuts in road maintenance funding mean that local authorities face very difficult choices on the roads they prioritise for repair. Motorists should protect themselves by keeping an eye out for potholes and keeping speeds down – particularly in wet weather when holes may be filled by rain."

Worst 10 areas for damage to cars (ranked by compensation paid out since 2010)


Local Area District

£ money paid out by councils to compensate drivers for damage to cars as a result of poorly maintained roads (2010-2012)

Number of compensation claims made by drivers over the past two years as a result of poorly maintained roads


Surrey County Council




Barnsley Borough Council




Nottinghamshire County Council




Kent County Council




Lincolnshire County Council




Worcestershire County Council




Essex County Council




Hertfordshire County Council




Lancashire County Council




East Sussex County Council



*According to Barnsley Borough Council the £241,202 settled in the year 2011, which is not related to the number of claims in the year, but claims dating back to the 2 bad winters 2008 and 2009, as well as the floods in 2007. This is a skewed figure when compared to the 2009 and 2008 years settlements of £39,999.90 and 13,194.36 respectively.

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  1. There are 434 UK councils and they spend an average of £1,475,916 on maintaining road surfaces and fixing potholes. 434 x 1,475,916 divided by 36,700,000 drivers = £17.40 per driver a year.

  2. According to the DVLA road tax raises £5.7 billion (£5,700,000,000, including licence fees and taxes) annually but only £640,547,544 of this is reinvested in maintaining road surfaces and fixing damaged roads (potholes). This equates to 11%.

  3. The cost of repairing a single pothole costs in the region of £50 to repair, according to councils.

  4. There are 36,700,000 drivers in the UK. According to ICM, 3% have suffered a car breakdown as a result of driving on a potholed or poorly maintained road. This equates to 1,101,000 drivers.

About Britannia Rescue and LV=

Britannia Rescue issued Freedom of Information requests to 434 UK city, district, borough and county councils. Of these 143 responded with at least one piece of data. 291 are either yet to respond, said that they didn't keep the data, or that they were not responsible for road maintenance in their area. The FOI request asked: How much has been spent by your council area on maintaining road surfaces and potholes in 2010 and 2011; How much was your budget in 2010, 2011, 2012 for maintaining roads; Whether your budget for maintaining roads is at an emergency level for 2012, How many claims for compensation were lodged by drivers as a result of damage to their car due to the poor state of the roads in 2010 and 2011, The total cost your council area has paid out to drivers in compensation due to the poor state of the roads in 2010 and 2011.

Additional research conducted among 4,037 GB adults aged 18+ was conducted in July 2012 by ICM. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at
Britannia Rescue is the UK's fourth largest road rescue organisation and is part of the LV= group of companies. Britannia Rescue‘s network has over 3,000 breakdown professionals nationwide and average response time is under 40 minutes.

LV= employs 5,500 people and serves over five million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK's largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.