Car leasing: Personal contract hire vs subscription

Is leasing the best way to drive the latest electric car models? We give an overview of personal contract hire, also known as PCH, and share how subscriptions are changing access to electric vehicles.

Leasing used to be the only way to have a car and keep some flexibility. When you lease, you can drive the newest model for a few years, then choose a new car. 

But electric car  leasing also means negotiations with a dealer, lots of paperwork, and a large non-refundable deposit – not to mention countless restrictions on the way you can drive.

Onto subscriptions make those complicated processes and long waits obsolete. Discover an increasingly popular way to get into your next electric car: no more waiting at the dealership, no more endless signing, and, most importantly, no deposit - simply sign up, choose your next electric vehicle and get it delivered to your doorstep.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of how Personal Contract Hire works, discuss how subscriptions are a more convenient approach to accessing an electric car, and how the two methods compare on key points.


  • Personal contract hire used to be the only way to access new cars without having to take full ownership.
  • PCH allows you to drive new cars, but you’re committed to one car for at least a year - and things like insurance, maintenance, and charging aren’t included.
  • A subscription is an increasingly popular way to access all the latest electric car models. Simply register with Onto and you’ll be able to reserve your first car - and switch to a different model as soon as the next month.
  • With an Onto subscription, fully comprehensive insurance, maintenance, and free public charging options are all included in your monthly subscription fee.

What is personal contract hire?

Personal contract hire is the traditional way to finance a car lease. With PCH, you pay an initial deposit and make monthly payments, but unlike PCP, you do not have the option to purchase the car at the end of your lease.

The PCH process usually involves:

  • An initial non-refundable deposit - usually three to six months of your monthly payments.
  • Monthly payments - be aware these do not cover insurance, servicing or charging.
  • Long-term commitment - at least one year, but up to four.
  • Strict mileage limits - sometimes as low as 5000 miles per year, equivalent of less than 450 miles per month, with fines applied at the end of the contract  for every excess mile. 

PCH has traditionally been the only way you could drive new cars without the commitment of full ownership. It allows you to lease one car, then switch to a newer model at the end of your lease. 

But during the lease, you don’t have any real flexibility. You’re locked in to the car you chose when you agreed to the lease - having a convertible for the summer then something more practical for the school year is out of the question.

PCH comes with a lot of restrictions, from mileage limits to penalty fees for early termination, and a lot of responsibilities. You usually need to secure your own insurance cover, and you’re on the hook for any maintenance costs - often through a limited number of approved providers.

Woman in driving seat of an Audi e-tron, with man sitting in passenger seat

What is an electric car subscription with Onto?

Onto is a simple, convenient way for people across the UK to make the switch to electric. In fact, nine out of 10 of our customers are new to EVs when they sign up.

Your all-inclusive electric car subscription with Onto starts with a few easy steps:

  • Sign up - go to our website and register.
  • Book your car - choose from dozens of the latest electric car models available in your area.
  • Pay your monthly subscription fee - easy for budgeting since everything is included.
  • Enjoy your electric car - or choose a different one for next month!

We take care of everything you need to get on the road safely and securely. Fully comprehensive insurance and maintenance are included, and we’ve even included free charging at several nation-wide public charging networks. 

We also give you a monthly allowance of 750 miles. If you think you might go over, unlike PCH agreements, we make it easy to top up your monthly mileage allowance. You can easily add 250, 500, 750, or even 1,000 extra miles in a few clicks. 

And if you have unused miles at the end of the month? No worries - they’ll stay in your account for up to 12 months and you’ll be able to use them another month.

Personal contract hire or subscription, simplified

Get the key facts about personal contract hire and subscriptions at a glance with our chart:

Personal contract hireSubscription with Onto
Deposit3 - 6 months’ monthly paymentsNone
Sign-upUsually in person at a dealer or with a broker, extensive paperworkEasy to complete through the Onto website or app, with all data stored digitally and securely
Contract1 - 4 years, with penalties for ending earlyMonthly, with the option to cancel each month
FlexibilityDrive the same car for the duration of your leaseStick to one favourite car or choose another one each month - it’s up to you!
Mileage allowanceCan be less than 450 miles a month, with fines applied at the end of the contract for every excess mile750 miles per month, with the option of purchasing an additional 250, 500, 750, or 1,000 miles in our app
MaintenanceNot includedIncluded with your Onto subscription
InsuranceNot includedFully comprehensive, included with your Onto subscription
ChargingNot includedFree charging at several nationwide public charging networks

Related articles

  • Are car leases all inclusive?: What does a car lease include? Learn how leasing leaves arranging most aspects of driving to you, while subscriptions with Onto offer you an all-inclusive experience.
  • How long can you lease a car?: Is there a limit to the number of months you can lease a car? Is it possible to lease a car from month to month? We explain some of the limitations of lease terms and how subscriptions offer a more convenient alternative.
  • Leasing a car online - Your options: Learn more about the traditional process, and how a subscription with Onto offers a much simpler and more convenient way of accessing an EV.

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