Imminent death of the manual handbrake

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Oct 26, 2023

Manual handbrake - c/o CarGurus

Just 9% of new cars on sale come with the once ubiquitous manual handbrake, according to an annual study.

The research by CarGurus, the fastest-growing automotive marketplace in the UK to shop, buy, and sell used vehicles, also showed that car buyers now have 61% fewer cars to choose from that come equipped with a manual handbrake compared to 2019.

The brands that offer the highest percentage of models with a manual handbrake today are Suzuki (71% – five of seven models), Abarth (66% – two of three models), Dacia (50% – two of four models), Fiat (45% – five of 11 models) and SsangYong (40% – two of five models).

Automatic handbrake - c/o CarGurus

However, no manufacturer offers manual handbrakes across its entire range, and the percentage of models on sale with a manual handbrake has dropped from 37% to 9%.

“It seems the writing’s on the wall for the fabled manual handbrake as the percentage of new cars equipped with one dips into single figures,” said Chris Knapman, CarGurus UK Editorial Director.

“This once universal feature is now largely reserved for smaller and more affordable petrol-powered cars, including the Kia Picanto and Mazda2.

“However, the reality is that there’s every chance we will see the manual handbrake become extinct on mainstream cars by the end of the decade.”

Though electronic handbrakes bring greater driver convenience with automatic operation and hill hold functions that make hill starts easier, there are a few benefits of manual handbrakes which some drivers may miss in the years to come.

In the event of requiring a repair, manual handbrakes are typically less expensive to fix than their electronic counterparts – repairing an electronic handbrake can be as much as three times the cost of a manual handbrake (£220.37 manual handbrake vs £665.98 electronic handbrake). They also have a more tactile, mechanical feel which some drivers prefer.

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