Is car ownership really on the decline in the UK?

Is car ownership really on the decline in the UK?

We’ve been around for almost 50 years here at Intack Self Drive, so we’ve seen plenty of automotive trends come and go. We’ve even spearheaded some - for example, by offering a handy flexi hire service alongside our daily car hire and weekly hire services. But while automotive trends come and go, there’s a significant new one on the horizon - the decline in car ownership entirely. This has actually been in the offing for a few years now, so let’s take a look at the factors behind it - and what role the recent turbulent year has had to play.

Why is car ownership on the decline?

Margaret Thatcher is supposed to have said that any man who didn’t own a car by the time he was 26 could count himself a failure. Now, we can’t vouch for whether or not that rumour is true here at Intack Self Drive, but it certainly does tell us a bit about the attitudes of the time. For decades, cars have been more than just personal transport - they’ve been a status symbol, a beacon of freedom and inde­pen­dence, enabling younger generations to properly fly the nest.

But now, all that seems to be changing. In the early 1990s, about 48% of 17 to 20 year-olds had a driving licence. 20 years later, by 2010 that had dropped to 29%, and it looks like that trend is set to continue. That’s down to a range of different factors - here are some of the biggest.

1. Cost

Part of it, of course, comes down to money - as it so often does! According to travel and leisure company AAA, the cost of car ownership is higher than it’s ever been. It’s particularly high for long car owners, who not only have to contend with the same maintenance and repairs and tax that the rest of us do, but notably higher insurance costs too. 

2. Practicality

There’s also the fact for many younger generations, car ownership simply isn’t as practical as it once was. Simple errands like sorting out personal finances at the bank, ordering a parcel, or even doing your grocery shopping can now all be done online - all tasks that might have previously required a car. 

That might make the rising costs not quite as worth it as they once were, especially since car owners in urban environments also have to consider things like finding parking spaces - both temporary ones for when they’re out, and permanent ones for when they’re home.

3. Envi­ron­mental concerns

New Clean Air Zones being rolled out across major cities like London and Manchester also might be playing a part, with younger generations even more climate-conscious than older drivers. 

Clean Air Zones are designed to discourage the use of older and more polluting cars by levying a charge for their usage within certain boundaries, inten­ti­onally making them less economical to own and encouraging the switch to newer and cleaner vehicles. The trouble is, those kinds of brand new cars still might be well out of reach for many drivers, and certainly electric cars are still far too expensive for many drivers. Therefore, many have decided it makes more financial sense just not to own a car at all. 

Bucking the trend

As you’ve already no doubt observed, all these observations are most relevant to drivers in big cities, which have better public transport systems and other alternatives for getting around. However, life without a car is far more difficult for people in rural areas, where personal transport might be their only means for getting everyday tasks done. While advances in technology are useful for many aspects of everyday life, there are still some jobs it can’t do, like get the kids to school. So while car ownership may be on the decline in bigger cities, those declines are under­stan­dably progressing a lot more slowly in rural areas.

Now, there’s one major recent factor that we have to take into account - it starts with a C, and ends with an ovid-19. First off, there’s obviously an increased nervousness around using public transport, which has led to a rise in car usage. For the first time since 2002, fewer than half of drivers (43%) say that they’d reduce car usage even if bus and train systems were improved - down from 57% in 2019. 

It’s not quite that simple though - the new prevalence of working from home means that lots of people up and down the country might be starting to realise that their cars aren’t as crucial to their daily lives as they once thought, so this might end up contributing to longer-term downward trends.­ 

So with car ownership set to decline further, for those moments in life when a four-wheeled mode of transport is absolutely necessary, you might find daily car hire or weekly car hire to be a far more economical and cost-effective way of doing things.

And that’s where we come in here at Intack Self Drive. Whether you’re a private or business customer, you can always count on us to provide the best prices around on daily and weekly vehicle hire - and what’s more, our Flexi Hire service guarantees you the very best prices on longer term hires. If you’ve got any questions or need anything clarified, our friendly team is only a phone call away - feel free to give us a ring on 01254 57811! 

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