Young Car Buyers See Vehicle as Reflection of Their Identity

Despite popular sentiment that consumers 25 years old and younger are really not interested in buying a vehicle, this group of consumers has represented a steadily increasing proportion of total retail automotive sales since 2009, and those young drivers who purchase a new vehicle are enthusiastic about ownership, according to a recently released report from J.D. Power. Young car buyers

"There is a lot of discussion today about many young consumers not having the resources, interest or even passion to own a new vehicle," said Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media & marketing at J.D. Power. "However, this age group really is passionate about vehicle ownership, their driving experience and the image associated with the vehicle they buy. Not only do they enjoy driving, but they also see their vehicle as a reflection of their identity. They want to personalize their vehicle with options and features, and tend to view it as an extension of their personality."


  • Image and Personalization: Among young vehicle drivers who purchase a new vehicle 33% say they "completely agree" that they like their vehicle to stand out from the crowd, while just 20% of new-​vehicle drivers across all age groups say the same. Additionally, 27% of young drivers say they "completely agree" they want to equip their vehicle with options and features to personalize it, compared with 20% of all new-​vehicle drivers. Nearly twice as many drivers 25 years and younger say they "completely agree" that others can tell a lot about them by their vehicle, compared with all new-​vehicle drivers (19% vs. 10%, respectively).
  • Joy of Driving: These young drivers have a passion for driving. Nearly one-​fourth (22%) of young drivers say they "completely agree" they like to drive on challenging roadways with hills and curves, and 41% indicate they prefer a vehicle with responsive handling and powerful acceleration vs. the industry averages (13% and 36%, respectively).
  • Pride of Ownership: Young drivers take pride in ownership, with 29% indicating they wash and wax their vehicle themselves, compared with the industry average of 24%.
  • According to PIN: 
    • Young new-​vehicle buyers are responsible for more than 6% of all new-​vehicle acquisitions.
    • The average lease penetration among young buyers has increased to 23% in 2013 from a low of 13% in 2009.
    • The average finance term for young vehicle buyers was 68 months in 2013, roughly 3 months longer than the industry average.  Longer terms are an effective tool to allow young buyers achieve affordable monthly payments despite higher transaction prices.

According to Walker, these attitudes and sentiments of young drivers about their vehicles have increased by an average of 6 percentage points in 2014 since 2009, reinforcing the fact that young drivers really do have an interest in new vehicles and are emotionally connected to the vehicle they purchase.


Renters aren't just picking any car off the lot when they arrive at a rental facility. They are choosing vehicles they want to be seen driving. A total of 57% of 25–34 year olds agreed that choice of a rental car make and model says a lot about them … their style, personality and values, according to new study by Enterprise Holdings.  Forty-​six percent of men and 48% of women agreed.

Twenty eight percent of Millennial respondents were motivated to buy a new car based on a positive rental experience.  The rental experience has a particularly strong impact on women, as one in four (27%) female respondents under age 45 reported that renting a car prompted them to start shopping for a new car.  Likewise, African Americans were motivated by renting a car, with 34% reporting that a rental experience triggered the decision to look for a new car to buy. In the general population, one in five reported that a rental experience led them to start the car-​shopping process.

To learn more about young car buyers, check out the AudienceSCAN report available on the Research Store at ad​-ology​.com.

[Source:  "2014 U.S. Automotive Media and Marketing Report-​Winter."  J.D. Power.  24 Jan. 2014.  Web.  6 Feb. 2014; Survey conducted by Enterprise Holdings.  5 Feb. 2014.  Web.  6 Feb. 2014.]