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Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) and Hire Purchase (HP) are two types of car finance agreement.

When you buy a car on finance, you’re basically borrowing money from a finance lender. You’ll pay a deposit at the start, and then pay back your debt (plus interest) in monthly instalments until your contract finishes.

The amount you pay, and your options at the end of your contract, vary depending on the type of finance agreement you choose. Here, we’ll talk you through the differences so you have a better idea of which one suits you.

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HP explained
PCP explained
HP and PCP compared: the key areas
Choosing HP or PCP for you

What is Hire Purchase (HP)?

Hire Purchase (HP) is a way of paying for a car in instalments while you use it.

Rather than paying everything up front, you’ll pay a deposit and agree to a set monthly repayment and interest rate.
If you choose a HP contract, the total amount you borrow will be divided into equal monthly payments. HP contracts tend to last three or four years, so you’d make 36 to 48 payments towards the total cost of your car.

At the end of the contract, you’ll have paid off the amount you borrowed in full and own the car.

The amount you pay each month depends on the size of the deposit and the length of your contract, plus any interest charged and purchase or contract fees.

Larger deposits and longer contracts tend to result in lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest over time, so could end up paying more for the car in the end.

The amount of interest charged is usually presented as the annual percentage rate (APR). APR is the annual percentage rate of charge. This takes into account the interest paid on a loan, plus any other charges like an arrangement fee. It’s commonly used to compare credit and loan offers.

Sometimes finance lenders or dealers run a deal in which you pay 0% APR for part or all of the contract – this will be at the discretion of the lender, and may depend on your credit rating among other factors. Always check the small print before you sign.

Learn more about HP.
Jaguar I Pace available on finance

What is PCP?

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) is similar to Hire Purchase in that you borrow money and pay back in monthly instalments.

As with HP, you make an up-front deposit at the start and make monthly payments after.

Unlike HP, however, you don’t pay off the full value of the car in instalments. Instead, you pay off the amount the finance lender predicts the car will lose in value over the length of the contract, minus your deposit. This is called the minimum guaranteed future value (MGFV).

So say you get a car worth £30,000 and it’s projected that in three years, the car will be worth £22,000. You’ll pay back the £8,000 difference over your three-year contract, in 36 instalments.

The MGFV will vary between cars, trim levels and engine sizes. You’ll pay monthly for the duration of your contract, usually for 24 to 48 months. The MGFV can also be affected by the length of your contract and the car’s mileage at the end of the contract. The higher the mileage, and the older the car, the less valuable it will be at the end of the contract and so the more you’ll have to pay each month.

Another major difference between PCP and HP is that a large percentage of your debt is left to the end of the loan. It usually means you pay smaller amounts each month (when compared to HP) until the end of the contract, when you pay off the remaining amount in a ‘balloon payment’ before you own the car.

Unlike HP, you also have the option to return the car at the end of the contract. And if your car is worth more than the MFGV (for example you’ve kept it in great condition and it’s low mileage) then you can use the difference between your final payment and its true market value as a deposit on another PCP contract car.

Learn more about PCP.

Other deposits and fees may be required

Both HP and PCP contracts require a deposit upfront towards the cost of the car. This is deducted from your overall repayment.

You may also have to pay another deposit to secure the car in dealer stock. This may be refunded or deducted from your loan once the contract is confirmed.

You may also have to pay contract and arrangements fees, so make sure you’ve check with the finance lender and budgeted for any additional costs.

Comparing PCP and HP

Let's compare the key areas in these two finance agreements:
Overall cost of the contract
Mileage allowance
Car maintenance
Owning the car
Hyundai Kona Electric available on finance

Cost and contract fees

Hire Purchase repayments can be high compared to PCP, but they don’t change. So, provided you keep up to date, you know how much you’re paying and for how long.

You’ll normally pay around 10% of the car’s value for a deposit, and an interest rate of between 4% and 8%.

PCP contracts are built around the minimum guaranteed future value (MGFV) of a car. This is how much the car is projected to be worth at the end of the contract and can vary. This amount may be reduced if you go over the agreed mileage or the car is not in fair condition at the end of the agreement. Monthly PCP payments tend to be lower than HP, but you’ll have to budget for the final balloon payment if you want to keep the car.

Both PCP and HP deals charge interest. The interest rate you pay will depend on a number of factors, including the car you’re paying for, the length of your contract and your credit rating. Sometimes, 0% interest deals are available but you normally have to pay a higher deposit to secure them.

Mileage allowance

Hire Purchase contracts don’t tend to include mileage limits, as you’re buying the car in instalments.

Under a PCP contract, you’re technically borrowing the car from the finance lender until you pay the balloon payment and buy it off them. As such, the lender will agree a mileage allowance with you – this is a set number of mile you can do a month, or over the span of the contract.

The more mileage you do, the less the car will be worth at the end of the contract, so lower mileage contracts tends to be cheaper.

Just note that if you exceed your mileage allowance, you’ll have to pay an excess mileage fee which can prove quite expensive. As always, explore your options before you commit.

Car maintenance

Hire Purchase contracts don’t tend to include fines for wear and tear. As with mileage allowance, you’re buying the car in instalments so the car will belong to you at the end. If it’s in a bad state, that’s your problem.

And just like with mileage in a PCP deal, as you’re borrowing the car from the finance lender, so they’ll insist you take good care of their property.

The minimum guaranteed future value (MGFV) is partly based on your returning it with a full manufacturer service history, so proper maintenance and servicing is essential. Some contracts specify you can only get your car serviced by their dealer service network, so check the fine print and ask the provider if this is the case.

If you return the car at the end of your PCP contract, you may have to pay to cover any damages that aren’t classed as fair wear and tear.

Do I own the car?

Under a Hire Purchase agreement, you’re paying off the car in instalments and will own it at the end of the contract.
Under a PCP agreement, you can choose to buy the car with a final balloon payment, return it, or trade it in against another car.

If you want to buy the car, Hire Purchase agreements can work out cheaper overall but this depends on the cost of the car, the interest rates you’ll pay and other factors so shop around to find a deal that suits your budget.

Remember: you do not own the car until the end of a HP or PCP agreement, so if you’re unable to keep up with payments the finance company may repossess the car.
Vauxhall Grandland X available on finance

Should I get a car on PCP or HP?

There’s something to be said for both.

PCP contracts usually offer low monthly payments, and can come with lower interest rates and manufacturer discounts. They’re also a good option for those who aren’t sure they want to own and keep a car.

HP contracts can prove a more affordable way of buying a car than PCP overall, so if you’re certain you want to buy then this could be the choice for you.

We’ve covered some of the main differences between the two, but you can learn more about both Hire Purchase and Personal Contract Purchase contracts on Auto Trader, and compare finance deals with us too.

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