Putting the Brakes on the Handbrake

Why the traditional handbrake’s days are numbered.

Old School Car Handbrake

Sit yourself in most of our hire vans and a number of our rental cars and you’ll find the traditional handbrake present and correct. But every year, as we replace models, the number of hire vehicles we hold with traditional handbrakes is reducing, whilst electronic parking brakes are fast becoming the norm.

Of the 32 mainstream car marques you’ll find on UK roads, how many of them would you guess still used traditional handbrakes across their full range? You might be surprised to know the answer is just two: Dacia and Suzuki.

In fact only 30% of new car models introduced in 2019 have employed the traditional handbrake, with every other model opting for the electronic parking brake. Some of the prestige brands – Jaguar, Lexus, Porsche – have done away with manual options entirely.

It’s hard not to see the rationale for the change. In exchange for losing the ability to pull handbrake turns in car parks, you gain:

  • Help with hill starts
  • More space in the central console (usually so you get room for another cup holder)
  • A brake you can’t accidentally leave partially on whilst driving around wondering why the car feels so sluggish; and
  • A brake that disengages itself so you keep your hands free

Electronic Parking Brake

The changing face of the car

If you’re the sort of driver who loves having a mechanical rather than an electronic connection with a car, it’s easy to feel a pang of nostalgia for the loss of such items. A traditional handbrake gives you feedback that an electronic brake never will.

And yet, in time, the traditional handbrake will be something to explain to wide-eyed younger drivers in the same way you might talk about manual chokes and wind down windows.
So next time you sit in one of our rental vehicles, if you find a manual handbrake nestling next to you, spare a moment to reflect on the fact that it could be the last one you’ll use.

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