Death of the handbrake

Electronic parking brake

  • Just 37% of new cars are fitted with manual parking brake
  • CarGurus research reveals just over a third of new cars have traditional handbrake
  • Only two mainstream manufacturers offer manually-operated parking brake on entire model range
  • Premium makers such as Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover have ditched handbrakes in favour of electronic systems

The traditional handbrake is reaching the end of the road as car manufacturers ditch it in favour of electronic parking brakes, according to research by CarGurus.

The online automotive marketplace created by TripAdvisor founder, Langley Steinert, found just 37% of new cars on sale in the UK today come with a manually-operated handbrake.

Only two mainstream manufacturers, Dacia and Suzuki, have a standard handbrake on every model in the range with the majority of car makers only offering the part on sportier cars or cheaper superminis.

Many premium car makers have phased out the part completely and replaced it with an electronic parking brake, while some use a foot-operated parking brake.

The CarGurus investigation found that Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes and Porsche no longer have any models on sale fitted with a traditional handbrake.

What does the handbrake do?

Both the traditional manually-operated parking brake and electronic parking brake serve the same purpose of keeping the vehicle stationary.

How the electronic parking brake works

An electronic parking brake is operated via a switch that replaces the traditional mechanical lever. This switch activates a pair of small motors which engage the rear brakes, making a whirring noise as they do so.

The benefits

Considered a luxury feature, the electronic parking brake requires less physical effort, holds the car more securely and doesn’t need adjusting like the traditional lever. Most electronic handbrakes disengage automatically when you pull away plus they often offer an automatic hill-hold assist function, which is an additional safety benefit. The switch helps de-clutter cabins by taking up less interior space than a chunky lever on the centre console.

Manually-operated parking brake

The lever-operated handbrake might seem much more basic in comparison to its electronic equivalent, but for some drivers it is precisely this simplicity that is at the core of its appeal. Others meanwhile simply enjoy the mechanical interaction it offers, and at the very least a manual handbrake should evoke memories of learning how to successfully perform a hill start.

Speaking about the research, Chris Knapman, editor at CarGurus UK said: “It’s official, the death of the handbrake is coming as manufacturers switch to electronic parking brakes in huge numbers.

“Within the next few years we expect the number of cars on sale with traditional handbrakes to decline further, likely only to be found on a select number of niche models. Of course, the benefits can’t be ignored, but as the latest technology trickles through manufacturer line-ups, many new drivers might never experience one of the most familiar of automotive features. The temptation to attempt flamboyant handbrake turns is soon to be a thing of the past too!”

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