What Does the Future Hold for Privately-Owned Cars?

Cars have become such a routine part of our daily lives that it’s easy to take them for granted. Whether popping to the shops or heading to a far-flung beach, we rely on our cars so much that it’s hard to imagine life without them.

Unlocking car with car key. Tight crop with part of woman’s hand. The car is out of focus in the background

But what if we no longer owned our own cars? If, instead of having your own personal car parked on your drive, you had to rely on other modes of transport instead?

While the idea of not having a car might sound crazy right now, it’s by no means a given that we’ll always have them. As the need for tough action on climate change becomes more apparent, governments around the world are taking stringent steps to hit emissions targets – and privately-owned cars could, one day, be on the chopping block.

To find out what the future holds for private car ownership, we’re taking a speculative look at the rules, legislation and rumours that could affect how we buy and own cars in the future.

Could the ‘Cars-as-a-Service’ Model End Car Ownership?

Historically, buying a car meant saving for a deposit, getting a loan and paying off the amount in lump sums until it was yours. Or, better still, walking onto a forecourt with money in the bank, and buying the car you wanted outright. But in the past decade, the majority of new and used cars have been purchased through finance, meaning that many thousands of drivers never actually own their car.

HP, PCP, PCH – these are all finance options you can use to get the car you want, when you want it. These flexible buying models have changed the way we buy cars, and many people believe that a new model, cars-as-a-service, could take things even further.

Close up of unrecognizable salesperson using touchpad in a car showroom.

Cars-as-a-service works like any other modern on-demand service. Using companies like Fair, you simply download an app, find a car you like, and let them know how long you want it for. This might sound a lot like hiring a car, because, in reality, it is, but at a price that’s more in line with what you’d pay for a standard finance deal.

There’s currently uncertainty about what exactly the future of cars and car ownership looks like (which we get into below), and in the face of this uncertainty flexible services like Fair could prove a popular option. With drivers able to select exactly how long they want a car for, and things like servicing and breakdown included in the price, the cars-as-a-service option could pave the way for an entirely new form of car ‘ownership’.

Goodbye Petrol and Diesel: The First Step Towards Ending Private Car Ownership?

In February 2020, news emerged of the government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars. Originally, the law was set to be introduced in 2040, but pressure from prominent environmental activists, including the great Sir David Attenborough, forced the government to bring the ban forward – to 2035.

Fifteen years away it may be, but what could the ban mean for private car ownership? And does it signal the first step towards the end of owning a car?

Currently, the majority of new cars sold are petrols and diesels, with a slow uptake of sales for hybrid and electric models. While it’s expected that many more people will make the switch to electric in the next decade, it’s clear that a lot of UK motorists aren’t yet ready to ditch petrol and diesel – mainly due to the cost, the current lack of charging ports and range/reliability issues associated with electric vehicles.

Smoke emission from exhaust pipe of car.

It’s not yet known what the government plans to do about the thousands of pre-owned petrol, diesel and hybrid cars following the introduction of the 2035 ban. In the coming years, we could see tax increases for these types of cars, as the government tries to persuade more people to move to electric. Such tax hikes would probably continue after the proposed ban, to the point where petrol, diesel and hybrid cars are phased out and confined to the scrapheap.

Are Electric Cars the Future of Driving?

While electric cars are regularly touted as the future of driving, some experts see them as only a short-term solution. And there could be some truth in that, given the limitations of the technology and the extra infrastructure required to power them.

Electric cars are expensive to build and require lots of raw materials. This, coupled with their range limitations and lack of charging points, continues to raise question marks about just how viable an option they are for day-to-day driving, and whether they could realistically replace petrol and diesel cars on UK roads.

Naturally, all-electric cars do have their plus points, chief of which is zero-emission driving. But while they’re certainly cleaner than petrol and diesel models, they do have plenty of pitfalls that may make them an unsuitable option for the motoring masses, including:

  • Expensive to buy
  • Limited range
  • Long charge times
  • Specialist technology means servicing and repairs can be expensive and difficult to source
  • Lack of charging points, particularly for private owners
  • Parts and materials intensive to source and build, so there’s a trade-off in terms of their eco-credentials

Given that electric cars are still relatively new, we’re sure some of the negative points above will be ironed out in the future. Whether that will be enough to persuade most drivers to buy, however, remains to be seen.

London/UK-30/07/18: two white Volkswagen Golf GTE cars charging at a charging point on a street in London. The Golf GTE is a plug-in hybrid version of the Golf hatchback

An Automated Future?

We’ve established that privately-owned cars may not be around forever, but what could replace them? Like our cars, public transport such as buses and trains have their own pros and cons, so it’s highly unlikely that drivers will give up their car to jump on the local number 6 service. But if that’s the case, how might we get from A to B in the future?

Recently, we explored future car predictions, touching on everything from flying cars to hydrogen-powered vehicles. One of the potential ‘cars of the future’ were driverless cars – and many experts, including Martin Mayfield, Professor of Engineering Design at the University of Sheffield, believe that self-driving technology could hold the key to how we use cars to get around in the future.

Writing in The Conversation, Martin had this to say about the potential for autonomous cars in the future: “The car is set to undergo a massive transformation in the coming years, as automation gradually eliminates the need for drivers, and electric and hybrid vehicles occupy a growing share of the global market. But, in a future where autonomous cars arrive on demand to take you where you need to go, there seems little point in owning one.”

Travelling around in a self-driving car might seem like a stretch for the imagination right now, but if the world is serious about curbing climate change, it’s radical change like this which may be needed. Expanding on the idea of an automated driving landscape, Martin touched on how he believes a self-driving network of cars might work:

“It’s likely that autonomous cars will operate as part of a networked system. This will enable them to avoid congestion, thus reducing pollution and minimising the time people spend on the road.”

Photo illustration of autonomous self-driving cars using artificial intelligence to drive on a highway. They are connected through a network.

It’s an interesting and bold vision, and one that completely removes the idea of owning our own cars. But is it realistic? And are self-driving cars really where the future of driving lies?

Right now, driverless cars are still something of a novelty. While some of the world’s biggest tech brands, including Google, Tesla and Uber, are all rapidly investing in the technology, lots of high-profile driverless car fails show just how far driverless cars are from becoming a feasible mode of transport for the future.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts

What do you think the future holds for private car ownership? Would you be happy to take a driverless car to work? Or perhaps you like the sound of the cars-as-a-service model? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please take a moment to fill in our quick survey to have your say.

Whatever the future holds for cars and drivers, Simoniz is here to help you take care of your car. For more information and our full product range, visit the homepage today.

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