When it comes to car finance, a standardised approach doesn’t always work. Every motorist is different, which is why lenders offer a variety of models, including personal contract purchase (PCP) and hire purchase (HP). Both are hugely popular in the UK and used to finance everything from budget-friendly hatchbacks to luxury EVs.

Each option offers unique benefits, so how do you decide which is right for you? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about PCP vs HP, including how they work and the key differences between the two financing options.

Understanding the difference between HP and PCP

Let’s start with a breakdown of each financing option:

Personal contract purchase (PCP)

In a PCP agreement, the goal isn’t to own the car outright. Instead, you effectively rent it for a set period, typically two to four years. Your monthly payments cover the car’s depreciation over this period, as well as interest.

At the end of a PCP agreement, you have three choices:

  1. Return the car
  2. Trade in the car for a new model
  3. Make a balloon payment to buy the car outright. Balloon payments are lump sums agreed on at the start of your contract and calculated using the guaranteed minimum future value (GMFV) of the car.

Hire purchase (HP)

Hire purchase is a more straightforward financing model and puts you on a direct path to ownership. The total cost of the car, minus any deposit paid upfront, is spread over fixed monthly payments. Once you make the final payment, the car is yours to keep. There’s no need for a balloon payment at the end of the contract and you don’t have the option to return the vehicle. If ownership is your end goal, HP is a great option.

PCP vs HP: how the two compare

Now you know more about how each auto finance model works, let’s take a look at how they shape up against each other.


PCP offers flexibility but stops short of ownership unless you’re willing to make a balloon payment. As mentioned earlier, you can choose to return the car at the end of the agreement. This makes PCP an attractive option for motorists who love to upgrade to a new model every few years.

The option to own is an important difference between HP and PCP. Once the final payment is made on a HP agreement you become the legal owner of the vehicle. This makes HP ideal for motorists with long-term ownership goals.

Monthly payments

Affordable monthly payments are one of the top benefits of PCP. They’re generally lower than HP payments as you’re covering the car’s depreciation, not its full value.

Monthly payments are higher for HP agreements as you’re paying off the entire cost of the car, plus interest.

Balloon payment

The need for a balloon payment at the end of a PCP agreement can catch some motorists off guard.

In comparison, monthly payments made on HP agreements are designed to cover the full cost of the car which means you won’t be hit with a lump sum at the end of your contract.

Mileage limits

PCP agreements often come with mileage restrictions, with additional charges incurred for exceeding your cap. This can make PCP limiting for high-mileage motorists.

With HP, you’re free to drive as much as you like without worrying about mileage restrictions or penalties. For many motorists, this freedom makes the PCP vs HP decision easy.

Customisation options

Since you’re essentially leasing the car in a PCP agreement, there may be restrictions on customisations.

HP gives you the freedom to modify your vehicle. Whether it’s a custom paint job, tinted windows, tech upgrades or seating configuration, this is a big difference between HP and PCP.

The bottom line on PCP vs HP

Ultimately, there’s no hard and fast answer when it comes to the PCP vs HP debate. What’s best for you depends on your individual preferences, financial situation and driving habits. PCP offers flexibility, affordability and options at the end of your contract, while HP prioritises ownership. Be sure to factor in your long-term plans when deciding and consider how each option aligns with your personal goals.

Need a hand deciding which is option is right for you? At My Car Credit, we pride ourselves on offering friendly, personalised support to British motorists. This includes helping you understand the difference between HP and PCP. As well as PCP and HP, our team can get you up to speed on other popular car finance options, including conditional sale and personal contract hire (PCH).

Get in touch with a team member on 01246 458 810 to find out more or email us at enquiries@mycarcredit.co.uk.

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Representative Example

Borrowing £7,500 at a representative APR of 13.9%, annual interest rate (fixed) 13.87%, 47 monthly payments of £201.38 followed by 1 payment of £211.38 (incl. estimated £10 option to purchase fee), a deposit of £0.00, total cost of credit is £2,176.24, total amount payable is £9,676.24.

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