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Downsized and driving less: UK motorists cut back

One in ten people have downsized their car to smaller engined-model to save money of running costs, according to new research from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

In a survey of some 2,000 UK motorists, drivers also revealed how they are cutting down on their car use with two thirds (65 per cent) indicating that they have changed their motoring habits in light of the recession and nearly a third (30 per cent) reporting that they only use the car for essential trips now.

Small cars like the Toyota iQ are increasingly becoming popular

Over a third of households (35 per cent) reported that they had cut to just one vehicle and only four per cent of households are currently planning to buy a second car.

Despite a reduction in use, overall the UK’s need for motor vehicles remains as strong as ever: almost half of all car owners (46 per cent) drive every day and 35 per cent of those with one car admit they still need access to a second vehicle on many occasions – most commonly for commuting or weekend trips away.

However a sizable minority - one in seven Britons - are currently using a car only once a week or less, with almost five per cent of motorists admitting to using their car less than once a month. Some of us are only using the car when public transport (13 per cent), walking (16 per cent) or cycling (6 per cent) isn’t an option.

A nation of borrowers and renters

Enterprise also found that as a result of the recession, the UK has a growing number of people actively renting or sharing cars. Nearly half (47 per cent) of non-car owning drivers said they didn’t have a car because of the costs involved. Almost six in ten (58 per cent) of drivers who don’t own a vehicle admit they still often need one. When that happens, they look to borrow one; 38 per cent borrow one from a friend or neighbour, a quarter (25 per cent) rent one by the day and seven per cent use hourly rental.

Rental is also growing among those who do own a car. Over one in five UK drivers (22 per cent) have rented a car near their home for personal use, most commonly a small saloon. For nearly half (47 per cent) the main reason for hiring a car was that their own vehicle wasn’t suitable for the trip.

Mike Nigro, UK managing director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, comments: “Soaring fuel and other running costs are forcing many people to take a long, hard look at their motoring habits – and in particular at alternative ways to meet their mobility needs without owning more than one vehicle.

“While we see some dispensing with a car completely, for many people that’s not a feasible option. Instead, many are downsizing the number of cars in their household and experimenting with alternatives: rental – either daily or hourly, public transport, cycling or walking.”

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Faye Sunderland

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