4 key reasons why car ownership is declining in the UK

22nd Aug, 2019

Between the 1960s and 1980s, owning a car was seen as a vital milestone in adult life. Ownership was prized so highly that Margaret Thatcher is rumoured to have said that ‘any man who doesn’t own a car by 26 years of age can count himself a failure’. True or not, it goes some way to illustrate the attitudes of the time.

Fast forward to today, and those attitudes are undergoing some serious changes. According to some official estimates, 2034 is when car ownership will hit its peak in the UK, before beginning a steady decline. Now, it’s true that for many people right now, especially those in the countryside, not owning a car is unthinkable. However, more and more people are finding that they can manage life perfectly well once they’ve made the decision to scrap their car – especially with some key factors that have come become increasingly relevant in recent years. Here, we take a look at some of the major ones, which may go some way to explaining why car ownership is on the decline.

Ride sharing apps and self driving cars

They’re both separate points really, but since they’re so closely related, we’ll talk about them in one section. While taxis have been around for decades, Uber is seriously changing the game. It now only takes something as simple as the touch of a button to bring your driver to you, personally identifying him and his vehicle. You can even track its progress, which is a welcome change for anyone who’s been stood in the rain waiting for a taxi which never appears to show up. With this sort of convenience becoming increasingly commonplace today, it’s easy to see why rising numbers of people wouldn’t bother with all the hassle that comes of buying and maintaining their own car.

Recently, this has also been going one step further with the introduction of self-driving cars, a technology that’s rapidly developing with more pace than ever. General Motors are already looking at testing their self driving cars in the famously built-up area of New York. If the two systems merge, it could potentially create self-driving taxis that can be summoned almost instantly – bridging the gap between personal and public transport, and possibly making personal driving skills almost completely obsolete.

So how will car companies cope with the change? No fear there – they’re already looking at evolving. So dawns the concept of TaaS, otherwise known as Transportation as a Service. Instead of ownership or leasing a car, global companies like Volvo are already looking at systems where you ‘subscribe’ to a car from them, much as you do with Netflix or the gym. Ford is planning on doing broadly the same thing, and both companies are developing their own fledgeling programs.

Young people’s attitudes and circumstances

Young people is one significant demographic which is steadily falling out of love with cars, with some estimates pegging this decline at as much as 40% in the last two decades. Part of this is due to living situations, with a rise in the number of lower-paid and less secure jobs available, which many young people find themselves with no option but to take. Alongside this, there’s also a decline in homeownership, and rising university attendance means that more people are moving to cities, where they have easy access to public transport and shorter distances to travel.

According to some experts, there’s also the higher cost of driving to contend with, with rising tax and petrol prices playing their own part. These trends and behaviours may well be already ingrained in the UK economy and wider society, meaning that they’re likely to continue over the course of a lifetime. In the words of one expert, it’s difficult to envision a return to car ownership like the one witnessed between the 1960s and 1980s.

Digital convenience means fewer car journeys are necessary

While you used to need a car to get about to do some of the most basic errands, such as popping to the bank or doing some shopping, today this is less of an issue. Instead, today you can knock off an increasing number of items on your to-do list from the comfort of your own home in front of your computer screen. Supermarkets like Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco will deliver straight to your door, and newer organisations like Ocado actually use that as the basis of their whole business model. If you’re purchasing things online, Amazon’s mission to use drones means that again, they’ll do all the travelling for you.

The digitised nature of the modern world means that even socialising has changed. For better or worse, more people are socialising with friends online or via their mobile. This means that people are doing fewer journeys to go and see their friends (although not stopping them entirely) – another contributing factor to the overall decline in car usage.

Environmental concerns and changing government stance

The rising global emergency is gaining more proponents than ever, as evidenced by huge movements like Extinction Rebellion and similar environmental initiatives. Alongside this enthusiasm from the public, official restrictions are getting tighter, with the EU commission imposing ever tighter restrictions on emissions. The Euro 6 regulations, for example. are aimed at limiting the amount of harmful emissions from cars. London’s ULEZ is one demonstration of the UK’s commitment to the growing crisis, and it may be part of the reason why there’s been a 25% fall in the share of car journeys made since 1990.

Other cities are following suit, and in fact, Oxford will be the first British city to ban all petrol and diesel cars and vans. First, it’s banning cars from their central streets by 2020, and will expand this ban to the entire urban centre a decade later. The UK will ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040. Paris, meanwhile, is taking it one step further by banning all non-electric cars by 2030, and is already announcing car-free days.

Of course, a fair chunk of what we’ve been discussing is speculative. While these are all relevant enterprises and social trends right now, who really knows what the future holds? One thing is certain though – whether you plan to buy a new car in future or not, you can always rely on us for one surefire way to get rid of yours! It couldn’t be simpler to scrap your car with us here at Scrap Car Network – just enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our homepage, and we’ll give you an instant online quote!