Interview: Dave Timmis on 22 years of Leasing.com
Since Leasing.com was launched as ContractHireAndLeasing in the year 2000, a lot has changed. And as the world has changed, we’ve changed with it.
We started in a bedroom office, moved to a handful of people working in a barn and now, 22 years later, operate out of a purpose-built office in Cheshire. We’ve helped millions of consumers secure a great deal on a new car and won a few awards along the way.
As we reach our 22nd birthday, our drive to help the UK switch from car ownership to usership continues to accelerate. We’re proud to call ourselves, and indeed be known as, THE car leasing comparison site. Leasing.com is widely recognised as the benchmark for the industry and the go-to place for consumers.
To celebrate two decades in business, we asked Founder CEO Dave Timmis to take us on a stroll down memory lane to find out just how we ended up here and what has gone into devising, developing and maintaining the UK’s biggest and most popular car leasing comparison website.
Having been involved in print sales and advertising, I noticed that car leasing companies and consumers were getting frustrated with traditional offline advertising – by the time their deals had gone to print they had inevitably expired, prices had changed, or the stock was gone.
As the year 2000 was still the early days of household internet, we identified a gap in the market which could allow leasing companies to update deals in real time and ensure customers had the timeliest offers.
Websites were incredibly basic back then (and so was the office, see below) and there weren’t many consumers online, but it struck me as a great idea to be able to bring together all of the best car leasing offers in the market and put them on one website for people to compare.
As more and more businesses and consumers started to put an emphasis in online, the site quickly the go-to place for motorists eager to find the latest deals on their perfect car.
Growth during uncertain times
Q: Having been in the industry at ground zero, how big has leasing become over the years?
A: When we launched in 2000, we had around 300 offers advertised from around 30 companies. Word quickly spread around the industry and the site grew from there. We quickly gained an enviable reputation within the industry and attracted a sizeable audience of in-market consumers looking to lease cars and vans. We now have the widest selection of deals from the widest range of advertising partners, with our focus not only on the quality of the offers but on the quality of these partners too. We introduced our strict Advertising Code of Conduct about 7 years ago.
Fast forward to now and we count brokers, dealers, OEMs and funders as partners.
As leasing has become more and more popular, the make-up of advertisers has also changed. We launched what is now Leasing.com in October 2000. ContractHireAndLeasing.com begun with just brokers. After a couple of years we started to get advertising enquiries from franchised car dealers because they knew the site delivered great results. Fast forward to now and we count brokers, dealers, OEMs and funders as partners. As the trend from ownership to usership continues to gain momentum, it’s little surprise – leasing is consistently growing.
Before the pandemic hit, the Finance & Leasing Association statistic showed leasing accounted for 12% of the consumer new car finance market. But this is only the beginning – as the market settles over the coming years this will only grow further. The leasing sector is growing even in an uncertain market.
Q: What are the biggest industry changes you’ve witnessed in the 22 years since Leasing.com launched?
When we initially launched, painfully slow dial-up connections on desktop computers made internet advertising a bit of a slog. That changed as broadband became more prevalent and faster, Now, with today’s constantly connected lifestyle consumers go online as a first port of call whether it’s to research a new car, read the latest news or actively look for a great deal.
We are helping drive the switch from combustion to electric power.
Now we’re on the cusp of another big change, but this time it’s around the vehicles themselves. The sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles could be banned as early as 2030. We’re already seeing that leasing, with its simplicity and low initial payments is an easy, low-risk way that people can make the switch to an EV, all the while not having to worry about a car’s future value as technology improves ever further. We are helping drive the switch from combustion to electric power.
Q: How has the pandemic and current economic climate changed the business?
A: The last two to three years has been unprecedented when it comes to external challenges, with a combination of factors creating a perfect storm within the automotive and car finance sector. When the pandemic hit, we knew we had to act not only to protect our own staff, but to sure up enquiry levels and increase our product offering to guarantee the continued success of the business.
It says a lot that our business grew more than 15% in 2021 and 18% in 2022.
I’m really proud to say the team have pulled out all the stops over the last two years, with our partnerships and advertising partners drastically diversifying and a number of on-site innovations improving the experience for consumers too. While challenges remain in the current climate, it says a lot that our business grew more than 15% in 2021 and 18% in 2022 – when the new car market is at a 30-year low.
Q: Have the recent price increases affected the business at all?
Stock shortages has no doubt had an effect on the new car market, but as ever leasing continues to be the most cost-effective option. While it’s true that monthly rates are higher on like-for-like models than before, compared to other forms of finance like PCP, monthly prices and total costs remain lower pretty much across the board.
A recent study we carried out found that on average, leasing customers save up to 35% over the length of a finance agreement compared to PCP. When you consider most people don’t pay that final balloon payment to “buy” the car at the end, why would you not lease?
Enquiry levels are proving the appetite from consumers is still there despite the current economic climate.
And enquiry levels are proving the appetite from consumers is still there despite the current economic climate. It’s fair to say that the leasing sector will continue to grow – even in an uncertain market. Leasing actually makes more sense than ever in such uncertain times, because it gives you complete certainty with your motoring costs.
Q: Two decades is a long time in internet years and you’ve seen it all. What do you put the success of the site down to?
Hard work, significant investment in our team, marketing, the website, and of course having the right idea. The internet advertising industry has grown phenomenally since we launched in 2000 as businesses realised its unprecedented power to reach and target specific audiences.
Relaunching as Leasing.com in 2019 was ultimately about ensuring that getting a new car is as simple as possible. When you think of leasing, just think of Leasing.com, THE car leasing comparison site. What could be simpler than that?
Q: Aside from the pandemic, what has been the toughest challenge the company has faced over the course of 20 years?
Historically, there is a misconception in the dealer and broker marketplace that we are a competitor. Many dealers saw us as a price to match and beat rather than as a tool to help them access a wide audience. We do not lease cars, we do not provide finance, we are here to help dealers and brokers lease cars.
Once our advertising partners understand that, we tend to have a customer for life. Some of our current partners have been with us from the very early days, but we are continuing to grow new relationships too. In fact we now work directly hand-in-hand with several manufacturers.
We uniquely aggregate the widest range of offers from the widest range of companies including brokers, dealers , manufacturers and funders.
There’s a fabulous case study from Volvo UK illustrating just how effective leasing.com is for both consumers and advertising partners with a 51% conversion rate from enquiry to vehicle delivered! The consumer gets a great deal on the car they want and our partners sell the cars! Everyone is happy.
Things have certainly changed from the early days when we were just a marketplace for brokers – we are also now the go-to site for the car brands themselves. We uniquely aggregate the widest range of offers from the widest range of companies including brokers, dealers , manufacturers and funders.
There really is no point looking anywhere else as a consumer and as a leasing provider most consumers will be looking on leasing.com anyway so you might as well join the party!
Three years since relaunching as Leasing.com
Q: What has the relaunch as Leasing.com brought to the table?
Firstly, a brand name to be proud of that’s easy to remember. A triple A premium domain like ours gives immediate credibility, is synonymous within the industry, and reinforces our position as the original and market-leading site in our space.
Our website has always been straightforward and highly satisfying to use, but by introducing new user-friendly options such as sort-by-price, total lease cost and our own Leasing.com value rating it has enabled users to easily find the right deal for them, at the best price, from the widest range of advertising partners.
The whole process of ordering your car can now be completed online – as demonstrated by that Volvo case study. I’ve ordered several vehicles myself through Leasing.com, and it really is a slick process. No lengthy waits. All done online.
Q: What are some of the ways you promote the brand?
We invest significantly in marketing to ensure we reach the largest audience we can. Our current mix includes TV, radio, national billboards, a vast partner network, social media and so on. A complete marketing mix, in other words!
We are proud to currently support our local football team, Macclesfield FC, at the Leasing.com stadium.
We’ve had several notable sponsorships over the years. We are proud to currently support our local football team, Macclesfield FC, at the Leasing.com stadium. It’s been a great way to give something back to our local community, while also bolstering recognition of our brand on a national level.
Both these projects were a great way of introducing the new Leasing.com brand and raising awareness to the public at large. We’ve also pioneered innovative on-road advertising in partnership with DrivenMedia, which saw our vibrant 'Say goodbye to buying' campaign advertised on trucks going up and down the country on some of the busiest motorways.
Q: Where does Leasing.com go from here?
A: Our plan is to continue to provide what our users expect; the first stop for finding the best lease deals on the market. With millions of deals available every month from the widest range of approved brokers, dealers, manufacturers and funders, it’s safe to say we’ve got that one covered.
Collectively, our partners have access to ALL funder rates in the market. Nobody else does that. We also have lots of exclusive deals – deals that are just not available elsewhere.
But we’re always working hard to refine our website and ensure our offering is as fresh and new as the deals we promote. Take our new Find your dream car tool as an example. This new feature simplifies the process of selecting a vehicle, and guides consumers towards their dream vehicle.
Our advertising partnerships are increasing in number too, and that’s something we plan to grow further. You’ll now find Leasing.com’s deals advertised on sites including AutoExpress, CarBuyer and Top Gear. The aim is to diversify our audience for our advertising partners, while also satisfying the growing demand for car leasing.
You’ll also find our partnerships now expand beyond our traditional advertisers too. We want to offer our consumers a complete package when they visit Leasing.com. That’s why you’ll now find several services on our site, from the likes of Motorway and Confused.com.
Whether you want to compare insurance prices for your new lease car, sell your existing vehicle, book and MoT or even install a home charger for your new EV, you’ll find all you need on our Services page.
Over the last 22 years we’ve helped more than a million people find their ideal car leasing deal. That’s why we’re the car leasing experts. Who knows, within the next 20 years we could have helped 20 million people.