Almost 50,000 drivers made claims against councils across Britain for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes in the last financial year, new figures shows. But only 23% of claims were successful.

The 200 (out of a total of 207) local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales which responded to Freedom of Information requests from the RAC Foundation, dealt with 48,664 compensation claims in the 2013/14 financial year.

This is the equivalent of roughly one claim being submitted every 11 minutes day and night 365 days a year and an increase on the 2012/13 figure of 46,139 claims, according to the RAC Foundation.

The average payout for a successful claim in 2013/14 was £286, down from £357 the year before. The total value of successful claims was £3.2 million, the transport policy and research organisation says.

But councils refused the majority of claims, agreeing to pay out in less than a quarter (23%) of cases. See MoneySavingExpert.com's Pothole Claims guide for how to claim for damage caused by potholes.

Car damaged by potholes? 'Force councils to cough up'

Steve Nowottny, consumer and features editor at MoneySavingExpert, says: "These figures unfortunately show just how difficult it can be to hack your way through council red tape and successfully claim for pothole damage.

"With three out of four claims being rejected – and just £3.2m paid out, a fraction of the total estimated damage caused – many drivers will feel the odds are firmly stacked against them.

"If a council fails to properly maintain the road and a pothole damages your car, it should make it as straightforward as possible to claim for repairs. In practice, it can require Freedom of Information requests and months of perseverance. Yet if you do it right it is possible to prove local authorities are responsible and force them to cough up.

"Our current campaign aims to make all drivers aware of their rights and our new guide clearly explains the process step-by-step, with free template letters to help with the tricky bits."

Martin Lewis
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'Councils not given enough to keep roads up to scratch'

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, says: "Many drivers will be put off by the time involved in claiming against a council, and many councils do their best to deter claimants coming forward.

"But the fundamental problem lies not at the doors of our town halls but with central government. Despite occasional one-off grants related to periods of harsh weather, they are simply not giving councils enough money to keep their road networks up to scratch.

"In England, local authorities themselves estimate the maintenance backlog to be about £12 billion yet over the past five years spending on all roads across England and Wales has dropped 22% in real terms."

However a Department for Transport spokeswoman says: "Good local roads are vital for our transport network and it is for local councils to maintain them properly – this Government has provided over £4.7bn since 2010, an increase of £1bn compared to the previous parliament.

"As part of our long term economic plan, we will also spend a further £6 billion between 2015 to 2021 providing councils the certainty they require to plan how they will keep their roads well maintained."

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