Potholes in UK roads are causing more than headaches for motorists. More than 13 million drivers have reported pothole damage to their cars in the past two years. Many people believe the numerous potholes have reached epidemic proportions.

The RAC, a UK company providing roadside assistance and other motoring services, has compiled a report about their calls from distressed drivers reporting breakdowns. They compared the calls resulting from pothole damage to other breakdown causes as well as following the changes in pothole damage frequency. 

Their report has shown that the UK drivers contend with a plague of potholes. How bad is the problem? The Local Government Association states that it would take fourteen years to address the backlog of potholes on UK roads. (1) The RAC report showed that the calls reporting a breakdown due to pothole car damage has increased 125% from 2006 to 2016. (2)

A dramatic increase occurred from 2007 to 2009 in the number of pothole related damage compared to other types of breakdown calls to RAC. The quarterly high during this period was 1.6% in March 2009. A particularly harsh winter was a contributing factor to the increased calls in 2009. (2) This is a significant increase from the June 2006 rate of 0.4%. (2) In 2016, the rate of pothole breakdowns raised to 0.9%.

It is not that the local councils are not fixing potholes. Councils fix an average of one pothole every 15 seconds according to Local Government Association's transport spokesman Peter Box. (3) Peter Box said that councils cannot catch up and repair all the potholes with the current amount of funding they receive. (3)


Potholes most often originate in winter conditions. In freezing temperatures, moisture that has seeped into cracks in the road freezes. The ice expands and adds to the damage of the already compromised road surface and the structure underneath. (4) The resulting hole gets larger under the weight of passing vehicles. A harsh winter with repeated wet-dry periods and freezing and thawing cycles are likely to generate more potholes for motorists than usual. (4) In order to be classified as a pothole, the hole must be 40mm deep, which is about the size of two 20p coins. (1)


Hitting a pothole can wreak havoc on a car. The tyres and wheel alignment commonly sustain damage from potholes. The jolt can cause cracked alloys and physical damage to the tyre in the form of cracks or bulges. (4)

In addition to direct damage from the impact of hitting the pothole, the driver may get into an accident from losing control, oversteering, or sudden braking as a result from hitting the pothole. This causes the car to be at risk for more damage.


Motorists are not on their own to combat potholes and pay out-of-pocket for car damage from potholes. Drivers who have had their vehicles damaged by hitting a pothole can submit a claim to receive money for damages.

The first thing a motorist needs to do is check for damages when it’s safe to pull over and inspect the tyres and any other parts that may have sustained damage. (5) Drivers may not be able to visually identify damage but may notice changes in how the car handles such as not centreing or added vibrations.

If possible, make a note about the size and exact location of the pothole that caused the damage. Take a photo with a common object in the photo to give the viewer a sense of scale. (5) The driver should report the existence of the pothole to the local council so that they can take steps to repair the road and prevent other drivers having their cars damaged. The motorist should contact the council as soon as possible even if the driver does not wish to file a claim for the cost of repairs. Also, take a photo of any visible damage to the car.

A claim filed has to be for damage caused by hitting the pothole and not for existing problems. (1) If the car already had an issue but the pothole made it worse, the driver still may be able to file a claim for part of the repair costs. If possible, have the mechanic verify that the damage to the car was caused by hitting a pothole. (1)

Take note about the incident. Include the names and contact information from any witnesses who saw you hit the pothole. Make sure to date the notes since notes that are taken immediately after an incident have more legal authority than notes at a later time. When the repairs are completed, make sure that you keep a copy of the bill and that the bill is dated and carefully itemised. (1)

Because it is the government’s responsibility to maintain safe roadways, the motorist has grounds to file a claim for the cost of repairs. The motorist may receive all or part of the cost of repairs. However, in some cases, the claim is denied.

To file a claim, the motorist may need to fill out a form that is mailed to them after reporting the pothole. If the person does not mention any form, the motorist may want to ask about the availability of a pothole damage claim form. In many cases, completing and mailing the form along with your evidence is enough to satisfy the requirements. Moneysavingexpert.com has suggested taking one more step to ensure a successful claim by downloading their free claim letter, printing it, and sending it with the completed claim form.

If the simple claim process was unsuccessful or the driver is not satisfied with the amount of money that was offered, the motorist can file for a full claim. However, this process is not easy. In order to begin, the driver must start by checking how frequently the council is inspecting the roads to see if they have been negligent. You may email the authority responsible for maintaining that road and ask for the inspection log and its policy on road inspection and repairs. (1)

After reviewing the information provided by the council, you can determine if the council’s policy for inspecting and repairing roads is sufficient according to the national guidelines and if the inspection and repair log seem to follow the council’s policy. If the council’s policy is not up to the national guidelines or the log doesn’t show timely inspections and repairs according to the policy, the motorist has a possible argument for negligence of the council on which to base a full claim.


1 Marcel and Rebecca. "Pothole Claims: How to Claim for Pothole Damage". MoneySavingExpert.com. N. p., 2016. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.

2 Finnerty, Joe. "Pothole Damage To UK Cars Doubles In A Decade". Auto Express. N. p., 2016. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.

3 "13 Million Drivers Cars Damaged By Potholes In The Past Two Years". Mail Online. N. p., 2016. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.

4 "The Problem of Potholes | RAC | RAC Drive". Rac.co.uk. N. p., 2016. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.

5 "What To Do If You Hit A Pothole". theaa.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Dec. 2016.