The CarGurus Manual Handbrake Report

by Chris Knapman

Exclusive research by CarGurus can reveal that the number of new cars on sale in the UK with a traditional manual handbrake continues to decline, with only 9% of models available to buy new in 2023 equipped with this once-standard feature.

Over the past 12 months there's been a further fall in the number of new cars still available with a manual handbrake, with an additional 21 manual handbrake-equipped models coming off sale. The decline is accentuated as manufacturers continue to expand the number of models they offer while at the same time cutting back on those with manual handbrakes. In 2022 Abarth was the only manufacturer to offer a manual handbrake across its (admittedly small) range of cars. In 2023 that ceased to be the case thanks to the arrival of the Abarth 500e electric hot hatch. This means that there are now no mainstream manufacturers offering a manual handbrake across their whole range of vehicles.

The CarGurus Manual Handbrake Report

Car manual handbrake with hand

Background to the Manual Handbrake Report

CarGurus UK has been monitoring the prevalence of the traditional manual handbrake in new car price lists since 2018. In the first iteration of our Manual Handbrake Report, the once-standard feature was already on the decline, and featured in just 37% of new cars. While several car-markers including BMW, Hyundai and Renault continued to offer manual handbrakes on many of their cars, others such as Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes had already moved the entirety of their product offerings to electronic parking brakes.

By 2019 the number of new cars available with a manual handbrake had fallen to 30%, and a year after that it was down to 24%, with newer versions of cars including the BMW 1 Series and Peugeot 208 making the switch to electronic parking brakes. Over a two-year period from 2019 to 2021, the number of new BMWs offered with a manual handbrake fell from 14 to 3.

Fast forward to 2021 and less than a fifth (17%) of new cars featured manual handbrakes, with the sharp drop partly attributable to Mitsubishi’s withdrawal from the UK market, which in itself removed four models. Added to that was the introduction of new versions of popular cars including the Vauxhall Corsa and Seat Leon which now came with electronic parking brakes, and the increasing number of electric cars on sale, all of which come with electronic parking brakes.

Last year, CarGurus UK’s study into the availability of manual handbrakes in the new car market revealed that only 13% of models were available with this feature. Vehicles with manual handbrakes to have fallen from sales lists included the Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 city cars, the Nisan Micra supermini and the BMW X1 crossover.

Which brings us to the latest iteration of our Manual Handbrake Report, and the news that only 9% of new cars are available with this once ubiquitous feature. Cars that in 2023 ceased to be available with manual handbrakes included the Hyundai i30 and Kona Electric, the Renault Clio, and the Toyota Proace Verso.

Among the brands still to offer a manual handbrake on selected models are Audi (A1 Sportback), Dacia (Duster and Sandero), Jeep (Wrangler), Kia (Picanto and Stonic), Seat (Ibiza and Arona), and Vauxhall (Crossland).

Number of New Cars with Manual Handbrakes By Brand

CarGurus UK Manual handbrake 2023 data table vs total

What are the Benefits of a Manual Handbrake?

Although manual handbrakes are becoming increasingly rare, they are still preferred by some drivers for their simplicity and mechanical feel. Technologically simple they might be, but the manual handbrake does have some benefits, including:

  • Typically lower repair costs if it goes wrong
  • A more tactile feel
  • More control of the car once mastered

Nissan Qashqi Electronic parking brake

What are the Benefits of an Electronic Parking Brake?

Once considered a luxury feature, the electronic parking brake is increasingly becoming the norm. It has several benefits over a manual handbrake, including:

  • It requires less physical effort to operate (most will disengage automatically when you pull away, and engage automatically when you switch off the car)
  • It doesn’t need adjusting over time like a traditional manual handbrake
  • It enables a hill hold function to stop the car from rolling backwards when conducting a hill start
  • It helps to declutter a car’s interior because it takes up less space than a manual handbrake

Number of New Cars with Manual Handbrakes vs Total New Models On Sale

CG UK manual handbrake vs all cars 2023

What’s Does the Future Hold for the Manual Handbrake?

Our research over the past six years suggests that the days of the manual handbrake are numbered. Within the coming years we predict a continued decline in cars available to buy new with this once-standard feature. The manual handbrake's demise is likely to be accelerated with the growth in electric vehicles being offered, all of which use electronic parking brakes. With the impending 2035 ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars we can expect that date to mark the end of the traditional manual handbrake.

That said, while the manual handbrake may soon be a thing of the past in brand-new cars, its demise might see some buyers dip into the used car market for some automotive nostalgia.

Every New Car Model Available With a Manual Handbrake

Abarth: 595, 695
Audi: A1 Sportback
Citroën: C3, C3 Aircross, Ami
Dacia: Duster, Sandero
Fiat: 500, 500C, Fiat Tipo Cross, Panda, Panda Cross
Ford: Puma, New Puma ST, Mustang, Tourneo Custom
Hyundai: i10, i20, i20N, i30N, Bayon, i20N line
Jeep: Wrangler
Kia: Picanto, Stonic
Mazda: Mazda 2, Mazda MX-5, MX5-RF
MINI: MINI Convertible
Renault: Traffic Passenger
Seat: Ibiza, Arona
Škoda: Fabia, Scala, Kamiq
SsangYong: Tivoli, Musso
Suzuki: Ignis, Swift, Swift Sport, S-Cross, Vitara
Toyota: Aygo, Toyota GR Yaris, Hilux, GR86
Vauxhall: Crossland
Volkswagen: Up, Polo, Polo GTI, T-Cross, Taigo


What does a handbrake do?
Both the traditional manually-operated handbrake and electronic parking brake serve the same purpose of keeping the vehicle stationary, either when parked or waiting in traffic.

How does a manually-operated handbrake work?
A lever-operated manual handbrake might seem much more basic in comparison to its electronic equivalent, but the principle of how it works is the same in that it clamps the brakes on a car’s rear axle to prevent the wheels from moving. This is achieved via a piston within the brake caliper that pushes a brake pad on to the brake disc (or drum). In a car with a manual handbrake the piston is operated via a physical cable that runs from the rear brakes to the handbrake lever. As the brake pads wear and the handbrake cable stretches, a manual parking brake might need to be adjusted to maintain its full effectiveness.

How does an electronic parking brake work?
With an electronic parking brake the piston that clamps the brake disc is operated via a switch that replaces the traditional mechanical lever. This switch electronically activates (no cables required) a pair of small motors which causes the rear brake pads to move and either clamp or release the brakes. Due to the way it works, an electronic parking brake self adjusts and so requires less maintenance, but it is potentially more expensive to repair in the event it goes wrong.

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Having previously written for The Daily Telegraph, What Car?, Auto Express and others, Chris Knapman now oversees the editorial content at CarGurus, covering buying guides and advice, car reviews, motoring news and more.

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