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Budget autumn 2017 – What did it mean for motorists?

Once upon a time, it was relatively easy to concisely state what a given budget meant for motorists.

It was usually a fairly routine business to summarise the effects on the typical family of say an extra £0.02p tax on a gallon of petrol plus an increase in the vehicle excise duty or as it’s more commonly known, the “road tax”. Those days though are now long gone and you’d almost need an economics degree to try and work out just what a given budget’s measures will mean for the typical motorist today!

The autumn 2017 budget is a good example. It requires a little explanation and thinking about but here is a concise summary of the main points.

Diesel car drivers

From April 2018, purchasers of a new diesel car that does not meet the new laboratory and real road emission test standards, are going to be paying more in road tax. Basically, your vehicle will go up a band.

Similarly, again from 2018, the company car diesel tax will go up for vehicles that fail to meet defined emission standards. That will apply whether the vehicle is new or used.

The basic message coming out of these changes is clear. Whatever the government may have said previously, the change in policy towards encouraging polluting diesels off the road is now moving into full swing.

Fuel duty

Drivers of conventionally powered petrol cars will no doubt be delighted with the news that the chancellor has continued the fuel duty freeze.

That is now the seventh year in a row that the duty has not been increased. That’s something which would have been unthinkable even a decade or so ago.

Supporting new electric cars

The government has announced that from next year, employees recharging their vehicles through their company’s recharge points will no longer be considered to be receiving a chargeable benefit in kind. Again, this is good news for early-adopter electric car drivers and a significant departure from government and HMRC tendencies of recent decades to increase the scope of benefit in kind calculations rather than reduce it.

The government has also announced increases in the sums it is investing nationwide in the development of a national electric recharge infrastructure.

Driverless cars

While it is true that there is still some scepticism over just how quickly the number of driverless vehicles will greatly increase, it is clear that the government itself is perhaps more bullish.

The minister concerned has stated publically that he expects to see driverless cars on the UK roads, albeit perhaps in extended trial mode, by 2021.


It’s perhaps fair to say that there is nothing immediately revolutionary in the budget or its impact on things such as drivers and car insurance.

What it does appear to be is a further statement of intent along three main thrust axes:

  • to “dis-incentivise” drivers from purchasing or using diesels that fail to meet emission standards;
  • to try and boost the proliferation of electric vehicles;
  • to move, perhaps more rapidly than some might have imagined, towards a driverless car society.

The first two objectives may well receive widespread support. The third may be rather more conceptual and intangible at this stage but it is by no means impossible that there will some significant consumer resistance to the take up of this new technology as it becomes available.

Time will tell.

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