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Company Car vs Company Car Allowance

Here in the UK, almost one million motorists drive a company car. Figures released by HM Customs and Revenue (HMRC) show an increase in the number of company cars on the road for the first time in 10 years, with 950,000 employees paying benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax on a company car in 2014/15, representing a 1% rise on the year before.

But while a company car is still considered a desirable job perk, many employers are now offering a company car allowance as an alternative to a company car. But what is the difference between a company car and a company car allowance and which option is right for you?

To help explain the difference between the two options, UK car leasing company Nationwide Vehicle Contracts has put together a short guide to set out the pros and cons of a company car vs a company car allowance.

What is a Company Car?

A company car is a vehicle lease hire provided by a firm for the business and private use of an employee. Company cars are usually offered to employees who need to drive as part of their job (e.g. a regional sales manager who needs to commute to different locations) or as ‘perk’ or ‘benefit’ of the job so the employee does not need to source a vehicle themselves.

If you’ve been lucky enough to be offered a company car by your employer and you are able to use it for personal transport outside of work, you will need to pay company car tax on the vehicle, also known as ‘Benefit In Kind’ (BIK). This is because your company car is considered a ‘perk’ paid for by your employer on top of your annual salary and as a result has an indirect financial benefit.

The BIK tax rate on a company car is based on a calculation based on:

  • The age of the car
  • The fuel type
  • The CO2 emissions
  • The engine size
  • The list price of the car

The amount of company car tax you’ll pay also depends on your personal income tax bracket so if you’re a 20% tax payer, you’ll pay 20% of the taxable portion of the car’s P11D value and if you’re a 40% tax payer, you’ll pay 40% on the taxable portion of the P11D value. This amount is usually deducted from your monthly pay.

You can find out more about BIK tax rates in our Company Car Tax guide. The HMRC also has a useful company car tax calculator which will work out what the eligibility for tax will be.

What are the pros and cons of a company car?

If you've been given the option of driving a company car, it's important to weigh up both the pros and cons before deciding whether this option is right for you.

Even with BIK tax rates, a company car offers lots of positive benefits including:

  • You're not personally tied into a new car finance deal
  • Most of the research, planning and housekeeping is taken care of by the employer
  • Insurance, servicing or maintenance worries are usually covered by the employer
  • There's no depreciation costs as you never own the vehicle
  • Benefit in kind (BIK) tax rates are usually a fraction of the car's final cost
  • You get to drive a brand new model every three or four years
  • Car lease agreements typically include road tax (VED rates) for the duration of the contract 

On the flip side, a company car also has lots of considerations, including:

  • Restrictions set by the employer may mean you do not get a choice of vehicle
  • Company BIK rates can be expensive for high value vehicles
  • If fuel is included as part of your package, you'll also need to pay a fuel benefit each month
  • You'll never own the car
  • If you leave your current job, the car stays with your employer

What is a company car allowance?

A company car allowance is a cash allowance added to your annual salary which allows you to buy or lease a vehicle privately. A company car allowance is becoming increasingly popular with employers as an alternative to a company car as it offers the employee of the perks of a new vehicle without the employer having the hassle of running a car fleet.

There are no set rules as to amount that your employer will pay you as a company car allowance but it is generally assumed that the cash you'll be offered will be roughly what your employer would have paid to lease the company car.

While do you not have to worry about company car tax rates with a company car allowance, as the cash alternative is paid as part of salary, it will be taxed at the normal income tax rate and the contributions from your employer will also be taxed at source, just as your salary is.

What are the pros and cons of a company car allowance?

Once again, it is important to weigh up both the pros and cons of choosing a company car allowance over a company car before deciding whether this option is right for you.

A company car allowance offers many benefits, including:

  • You can choose whatever car you want
  • If you choose to buy outright, you'll own the vehicle and can sell it in the future
  • If your annual mileage is low, you’re likely to better off financially
  • If you already own a car the cash sum may help ease other financial burdens
  • You can choose the best finance method for you

A company car allowance also has lots of considerations, including:

  • You must take the finance out in your own name
  • The company car allowance is subject to your rate of personal income tax
  • You will be responsible for paying for your own insurance, maintenance and road tax
  • High mileage (10,000+) can make private schemes expensive

Which option is right for me?

Unfortunately, there is not “one size fits all” answer when it comes to deciding whether to take a company car or company car allowance. As with most aspects of driving, this is a personal decision based on your individual circumstances such as your personal needs, financial situation and other tax liabilities. That is why it is important to research both options before making a decision either way.

As the option that saves you the most money is usually the preferred route for most people, it may be helpful to work out the most cost-effective route for you. One way to do this is to take the monthly car allowance being offered to you and deduct any tax or National Insurance contributions. You then need to add in the tax saving of not driving a company car. Compare this to the costs involved in driving a company car and think about whether the money you have left will allow you to cover your remaining motoring costs such as insurance, car tax rates for 2022/23, repairs and depreciation. Don’t forget to factor in any fuel benefit offered on your company car.

It is also important to consider your personal circumstances. For instance, if you expect to do a lot of private mileage, then you may be better off with a company car allowance rather than a company car. It also depends on whether you want the security of owning your own vehicle or whether you would prefer to drive a company car to avoid the expense of depreciation. At the end of the day, it’s all about personal choice and which factors matter the most to you.

At the end of the day, it’s all about personal choice and which factors matter the most to you.

Have a question regarding leasing a company car or company car allowance? Call Nationwide Vehicle Contracts on 0345 811 9595 to speak to one of our car leasing specialists.

Alternatively, take a look at our business leasing deals and get started with your business lease today.

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