Potholes on roads are leaving motorists with an annual bill of £1.2 billion for suspension, steering and wheel repairs – a rise of 16% in just 12 months, according to Halfords Autocentres.
Figures from Halfords Autocentres claim more than 8.9 million vehicles have suffered steering or suspension damage as a result of potholes over the past year.
Potholes reported to councils have increased by 18% over the past 12 months according to motoring and cycling websites monitoring this issue and estimates from the Asphalt Industry Alliance suggest that the UK’s roads are pitted with as many as 2 million potholes.
Rory Carlin from Halfords Autocentres said: "The surface of our roads is deteriorating to the point where drivers are now likely to encounter a potentially damaging pothole during most journeys - with rain-filled holes being harder to see and avoid.
"In a new car a small pothole can damage wheels, tyres and shock absorbers but with large numbers of drivers keeping their cars for longer and cutting back on routine maintenance older, less well maintained cars are even more vulnerable."
Average repair bill for damage to vehicles cause by potholes is estimated at £140, and insurance companies attribute as many as one in five mechanical vehicle failures to pothole-related damage.
Halfords Autocentres’ figures reveal that some regions had far higher incidences of pothole damage than others - with drivers on the south coast collectively being hit hardest with an £85 million repair bill, closely followed by motorists in Kent and the East Midlands who pay around £78 million and £75 million respectively.
The Government and local authorities are now spending almost £1 billion a year on highway maintenance but, despite repairing more than 2.2 million potholes a year, experts believe that fixing the backlog could take more than 10 years.
Carlin added: "Cutting back on maintenance is a false economy because it increases the risk of damage to a vehicle going unnoticed as well as the likely repair costs to rectify it.
“If you hit a pothole it is always worth getting an expert opinion – even if there are no immediate after-effects such as unexplained noises or wheel damage."