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Why are there millions of dodgy cars on Australian roads?

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Drive a banger that needs some TLC? You're not alone.

According to a new Finder survey, 35% of drivers – equivalent to 6.3 million Australians – have had to put off repairing their car in the past year due to money concerns.

One in four Australians have avoided having their car serviced because they couldn't afford it. 13% have let body damage go unrepaired.

Bald tyres (9%) and damaged windscreens (5%) round out the top four defects being put off due to affordability issues.

Women (42%) are more likely than men (28%) to have let their vehicle fall into disrepair due to financial reasons.

The true cost of owning a car

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, says cost of living pressures are forcing Aussies to de-prioritise car maintenance.

It's not surprising. Cars are most Australians' second biggest expense after housing.

Finder estimates that the total upfront cost of owning a car is $252 per week. This is based on car loan repayments, rego and car insurance premiums.

The latter has gone up by 10.6% in the past 12 months and 20% in under 4 years, according to Finder research.

The average comprehensive car insurance policy now costs approximately $1,550 per year.

Running costs, which includes fuel, servicing and roadside assistance, is also likely to set you back $130 per week.

This brings the total cost of owning a car to $382, meaning the average earner is spending 20% of their income on their car.

The cost of putting off repairs

Putting off repairs is risky though.

"Cars becoming unsafe to drive can put you and other road users at risk," says Cooke.

Australia already falls below the OECD median when it comes to road fatalities.

According to the Australian Government's International Road Safety comparison, the country ranks 20th out of the 36 nations for road deaths.

Unsafe cars

Driving is also more dangerous if you own a car with a low safety rating.

Research by Monash University shows that you are ten times more likely to be killed or seriously injured driving the worst rated vehicle, than in the safest vehicle.

You can find out how your car is rated with the Used Car Safety Ratings.

The rules on roadworthiness also vary between states.

"NSW requires an annual check for all vehicles over five years old, whereas many other states only require a safety check when selling a vehicle or renewing a registration." says Cooke.

"Some states including SA don't even have roadworthiness requirements for selling cars."

Insurance costs

You risk voiding your car insurance too if you let your car become unroadworthy. This can include failing (or forgetting) to pay your rego.

A car service costs between $160 to $500 depending on where you live, every six months or 10,000km – whichever comes first.

Don't get ripped off by your car insurer. Check out our cheap car insurance guide. Find a better deal.

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