Is it time for Londoners to stop owning cars?

Country Life's Rosie Paterson loved the freedom her first car offered her, and clung on to it even when moving to London. But when she waved goodbye, she ended up wondering if she'd really needed it after all.

My first car was a dinky, bright blue Peugeot 107. It felt like the doors were going to fall off if you drove any faster than 63 miles per hour, but I loved the freedom it offered me.

During our time together, Marni — as she was quickly christened — got me to my A-Levels on time (just), survived the 21st birthday party season (if you told me now to sleep in the back of a car the size of a suitcase, I’d probably hit you) and, some years later, made it to a wedding in Northumberland and back, with one of the wing mirrors held on by duct tape.

She no longer belongs to me. In a mysterious turn of events, my name was wiped from the insurance. She’s been in the care (this word is up for debate) of my two younger brothers ever since.

Her loss was a blow (quite literally — on one of our last outings I failed to check my blind spot and reversed straight into my parents car.) But if living in London for the last six years has taught me anything, it’s that cars are a luxury, not a necessity.

Companies are cottoning onto the fact that ownership is declining: a 2018 study, commissioned by the Department of Transport found that the number of teenagers holding a driving licence had declined my almost 40% in 20 years. Uber is still a city staple, despite recent legal troubles, Audi now run an ‘on demand’ service and, late last year, Jaguar Land Rover sped onto the scene with a new app and website, The Out — or THE OUT, as they have style it in their marketing, clearly suggesting that it’s something to shout about.

So, without further ado, here are my reasons why every Londoner should go car-less.

The average car spends around 90% of its life stationary. Not stationary as in stuck in a traffic jam; stationary as in parked. Not in use. Off.

Own a car in London and you are likely funding a very big statue. I now manoeuvre myself around London on a bike, or public transport. Uber if it’s raining, which seems to be quite a lot at the moment. For the brief time I did have Marni in London, I became lazy and started driving to the (very accessible) supermarket and to dinner parties.

If you rent a car, you get to try out different models and tailor them to your needs

Variety is the spice of life. The times I actually need a car are when I’m trying to get home to Devon, with a group of friends (one recently joked that I’ve never picked her up in the same car twice). I love The Out: on my most recent trip I made it safely down the A303 in a seven-seater Land Rover Discovery Sport.

The Ranger Roger Evoque, Velar and Sport are also available, as well as the hybrid Sport and Jaguar I-Pace (the car which bowled over Country Life’s Editor, Mark Hedges). Babysitting? They’ll pop in a car seat for free. There’s bike racks for keen cyclists and snow chains for cold-weather enthusiasts.

The Jaguar I-PACE. ‘If I had £65,000, I’d buy one today. It really is that good,’ was the verdict of Mark Hedges. High praise.

A fully-serviced rental car is more reliable than whatever is currently sitting idly in your driveway

The Discovery Sport delivered directly to my flat (The Out cover zones 1-5, Heathrow and Gatwick Airports) was a 2019 model. Unsurprisingly, it was in pristine condition and the wing mirrors were still attached by normal methods. When I turned it on for the first time, I sat waiting for (what I thought was) a picture of tropical leaves on the rear-view mirror to disappear. Only to realise that the mirror was in fact a screen, projecting images from a camera on the car’s rear. At that point in time… the hedge. Car technology has apparently come on leaps and bounds: I used to be surprised that Marni had a remote-control locking key fob (well, she did until a brother dropped the car key into the sea and we had to use the manual back-up one).

It’s more affordable to rent than own

In 2018, the average Londoner put £595 towards car running and maintenance costs. Since then, the government have introduced the ULEZ charge, to help reduce air pollution, so it’s now likely more. The Out charges around £300 if you’re after a Range Rover for the weekend, but less than half that for a Discovery Sport — which, frankly, is the sort of price you might pay for a ‘normal’ car rental from one of the big agencies. There’s no extra cost for journeying into mainland Europe and full comprehensive insurance and breakdown cover is included, as well as the congestion charge.
A weekend’s hire with The Out starts at £148, for a Land Rover Discovery Sport — see www.theout.com for more details.