Press Release

Car rental – a sustainable alternative to vehicle ownership

Release Date: 

A major survey of UK customers has concluded that using car rental can help people own fewer cars and adopt more sustainable travel habits.

The latest car rental customer survey, conducted by transport research body TRL on behalf of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), provides a fascinating insight into the travel habits and motivation of car rental customers. It found that rental is used by a diverse range of people for a wide variety of purposes.

Highlights from the research include:

  • Rental customers have more sustainable travel habits than the average licence holder
  • Car rental trips are often linked with other forms of transport
  • Rental cars are used more efficiently than private cars
  • Car rental enables a large number of drivers to avoid owning a car or to own fewer cars

Responding to the publication of the report, Transport Minister Andrew Jones said, “Pay as you go car use has grown sharply in recent years as young people delay buying a vehicle, and this report shows the important role rental plays.

“Car hire gives people extra choice for getting around and it can help make travelling healthier, more sustainable and accessible to all.

“We want to help to reduce congestion and emissions and these figures show that car rental customers help deliver that ambition as they tend to walk, cycle and use public transport more often.”

One of the headline figures from the survey revealed that nearly three-quarters of rentals were of a small or medium car and separate operator data indicates that, on average, rental vehicles emit 22% less g/km CO2 than the average UK car.

Elsewhere, 31% of non-business users reported that their household does not usually have a car (compared to 25% of all British households). This figure was even higher for London (58%) and other major cities (44%). In the last 12 months, 14% of non-business users had sold or disposed of a vehicle which had not been replaced, and 23% said that the availability of rental had made it less likely that they would buy another vehicle in the next few years. This effect of discouraging future vehicle ownership was reported from both rural and urban areas of the UK.

The BVRLA believes that the findings support its call for car rental to be given greater consideration by policymakers. BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney said, “The affordability, accessibility and flexibility of car rental and car clubs are enabling an increasing number of people to adopt a more sustainable approach to their transport needs. This is particularly evident in urban areas, where the cost and hassle associated with running a car is encouraging many city-dwellers to re-think their attitude to car ownership.”

On average, rental customers walk, cycle and make more frequent use of public transport than the average British driving licence holder. Of the survey respondents, 23% agreed that they would consider sharing a car rather than owning one, while 24% agreed that they tried to limit their car use for the sake of the environment. Furthermore, more than 70% of rentals involved two or more people travelling in the vehicle, with an average occupancy of 2.2 people, which is higher than the national average of 1.6.

The report also revealed that a third of rentals involved collection of a rental car from an airport, with a further 5% being collected from a train station or port. For about a quarter of rentals, respondents said that they used the rental car to help them link up with trains, planes or ferries as part of a longer journey. In terms of getting to or from a rental branch, for 74% of rentals, customers reported using a non-car mode.

The Car Rental Customer Survey 2015 can be downloaded from the BVRLA website.

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Notes to Editors

TRL, the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory, is an internationally recognised centre of excellence providing world-class research, consultancy, testing and certification for all forms of transport. This report is based on the responses of 1,691 UK residents who made a personal rental in the UK, from one of six major car rental companies.

To put these findings in context, the BVRLA commissioned a different survey in December 2015, which found that around 7.8 million people (15% of the adult population) made a personal car rental in the UK that year. Separate operator data provided by BVRLA members suggests that there are around 10.9 million personal and corporate car rental transactions in the UK each year.