The true cost of becoming an owner-operator

Commercial Motor
May 2, 2023 has calculated it costs the average owner-operator a maximum of £34,048 to set themselves up as a single vehicle business running a 44-tonne artic.

This figure is based on cost estimates for one individual to obtain the correct licensing, skills and financial standing in order to become an owner driver running just one 44-tonne artic, without a trailer, in today's economic climate.

The first thing you need is an HGV drivers' licence. Presuming you don't have one already, you are looking at between £1,000 and £1,500 for training and the test.

And don't forget your Driver CPC training, which is anything from £35 to £120 per day on a public course, and you need to complete five days to meet the 35 hours required in total. So that's another £175 to £600 you have to fork out.

So now you can drive a vehicle, there's the small matter of getting your hands on one: the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that a three-month lease for a 44-tonne artic is £7,710.

Now you have a truck you can drive, you have to get the O-licence to ensure you can do business. An application for any type of O-licence, be it restricted, standard national, or standard international, is £257. But that is before you take into account the licence issue fee of £401 (which has to be renewed every five years at £401 a time). And if you want the OTC to issue an interim licence in that time it will cost you £68, and a major change to an O-licence would be £257.

Got all of that? Right, don't forget insurance (the RHA estimates insurance for six months costs £1,928), money for services and repairs (approximately £787 would just about cover any outlay in the first eight weeks, the RHA says) and overheads (such as running an operating centre, which could set you back £1,824 for the first eight weeks, again courtesy of the RHA).

This is before you take into account the haulier's big cost: fuel. The figures the RHA estimates for running a 44-tonne artic are: gross mileage of 71,500 miles per year, or 1,375 miles per week. Therefore, the first eight weeks of operation, using a rate of 58.9 pence per mile is £5,557. It is worth noting at this point that the RHA uses the eight-week estimate as this gives an indication of how much money you will have to pay out before you start to receive money from your customers, assuming 60-day payment terms.

Finally, remember to leave some money in the bank. A holder of a standard national licence or standard international licence must prove they have £7,850 in the bank for each vehicle on that licence. If you want to run an additional vehicle, you must have proof of a further £4,350 per vehicle. A restricted O-licence holder must prove access to £3,100 for the first vehicle and £1,700 for every additional vehicle.

When you add all this together (see table), CM estimates you need £28,400 to cover your initial set-up costs and keep you trading before the money starts coming through on eight-week (or 60-day) invoice terms.

And finally, don't forget wages. If you wish to pay yourself a wage, the RHA estimates that an average HGV driver would earn - over an eight-week period - £5,634, before tax. This gives you a grand total of £34,034 so you can be on the road and working before the money flows in!


Running costs





8 weeks


O-Licence acquisition

6 months in advance



6 months in advance



3 months lease in advance



50% for 8 weeks



1,375 miles per week for 8 weeks at 58.9 ppm









Source: RHA


HGV licence acquisition



Test and training


Driver CPC





O-licence financial standing



Standard national licence or standard international licence







About the Author


Commercial Motor is the online presence for Commercial Motor magazine, the world’s oldest magazine dedicated to the commercial vehicle industry.

Share this article

Vehicle Type