Results from BuyaCar.co.uk revealed that one in five motorists do not care about taking complete ownership of their car.
The motor retail specialist asked almost 1,000 motorists on their attitudes to car ownership.
Although a majority of drivers overall do still prefer to own their car outright, more than 50% of middle-aged drivers say they have become more comfortable with never owning their car, compared with five years ago.
People in their mid-40s to mid-50s are most likely to sign up for pay-monthly short-term deals, then walk away at the end of the finance term.
It suggests that this is the age group for whom regularly swapping their car for a newer model, with the latest technology and performance features, is most important.
In contrast, almost five out of six younger drivers insist that owning their car outright is best, despite belonging to the generation that has grown up with digital music, video streaming and soaring house prices that make renting more common than buying.
BuyaCar.co.uk managing director Austin Collins said: “This is one of the biggest changes we have ever seen in the car market, but it makes perfect sense because consumers are always looking for the best experience with the minimum of hassle.
“Fixed term contract finance or leasing deals make life simple by offering predictable costs and a hassle-free upgrade to the latest models.
“Low interest rates and other incentives have helped to make what is effectively ‘renting’ your car as affordable as owning it, in many cases. And the more experience people have had with that way of funding a car, the more comfortable they have become with regarding a car as more of a personal service than a possession.
"Of course, ownership is still important to a majority of drivers but the trend certainly seems to be toward seeing a car as a service, just like many other aspects of our day-to-day lives.
“We also believe that this trend may be accelerated in the future by other issues affecting the market, such as uncertainty over the regulatory pressures on diesel engines or even the impact of Brexit on the future values of used cars.
“If drivers are concerned about the car they own losing more of its value under circumstances beyond their control, it makes sense to opt for something like the fixed costs of a PCP finance guarantee where there are no future surprises or disappointments.
“It will be interesting to see how many drivers in the future choose to make the final payment in a Personal Contract Purchase deal to actually own their car, or whether the number of people simply switching into a new deal and a new car continues to increase.”