Will we ever buy cars again?

Recent sales figures show that the car market is undergoing a change, probably the most significant since the introduction of the second new registration point or even the introduction of low deposit, final value PCP finance schemes.

It would appear that the bi-annual rush to be one of the first to drive a car off the forecourt with the latest registration letter/number has lost its glamour. Car sales are becoming less hiatal and more even across the year but for the few exceptions of Summer holidays and Christmas where time and money is assigned elsewhere.

But what is driving (excuse the pun) the change?

The biggest influencer seems to be the method of purchase, with most cars now being leased or rented rather than owned. The impact of the asset value residing with the lease company or manufacturer is that prices are plummeting, making cars more affordable and allowing purchase decisions to come easier.

Looking around the web today, you can drive away in a £32k Audi A4 estate from as little as £660 deposit and £220/month – which you hand back in just two years’ time. Another example is a £40k Landrover Discovery Sport – currently less than £300/month with around £1,500 deposit.

The other pointer that suggests lease is the way forward is the rise in the number of companies now able to supply you a car. The old second-hand forecourts are closing and a new breed of online lease hire companies is popping up – offering deals on behalf of the major car retailers or offering ‘hook prices’ and then touting the business back to the fleet sales teams in the main dealers. Either way, the options available to drivers are increasing – almost daily.

So, will we ever buy cars again?

It’s a good question and only time will tell. There will always be those that can either afford to or prefer to own the asset, but the current direction of travel would suggest housing and motors will go the same way and we will become a nation of renters rather than owners.

The personal lease phenomenon is still in its infancy (business leasing has been around for some time) and the terms being offered are incredibly short – as noted above just 2 years – and so it does beg the question of what will happen to all these cars when they are returned to the lease company or manufacturer with two years’ wear and tear and 20k miles on the clock?

Maybe the dealerships that currently sell the new cars will become the second-hand forecourts of the future, selling more affordable cars that have taken the hit and now represent good value. With many now offering PCP deals on vehicles up to 7 years old it feels like this may be the ultimate outcome.

One thing’s for sure – being able to buy online and the choice that offers means you can get the car you want at the price you want. And all without suffering the common 80’s sales negotiation dance of ‘talking to the sales manager’ like some well-rehearsed mime act behind a huge, carefully placed window!