Study: What's Driving Generational Purchasing Preferences?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
study what s driving generational purchasing preferences

Despite some disparaging typecasting to the contrary, Millennials do know how to drive and aren’t a population of unmitigated phone-addicted car haters.

People under forty even have purchasing preferences associated with automotive ownership. However, some stereotypes ring especially true when compared to their nearest generational counterpart: Generation X.

Autolist recently conducted a representative survey of the two age-groups during the final quarter of 2016. Based on feedback from 3,383 vehicle owners nationwide, the study highlights key differences between the groups and shows why many automakers are scrambling to diversify their companies to better prepare themselves for the changing consumer winds.

Xers tend to be slightly more practical, conservative, and hold onto their vehicles longer. Millennials are, on average, more interested in newer cars and technology and less interested in price, brand loyalty, or longevity. Roughly two-thirds said they couldn’t see owning a car for more than seven years, while over 41 percent of Generation X was fine with with the concept.

When asked about the primary factors in considering their next vehicle, Millennials turned out to be five percent more likely to be concerned about the environmental impacts associated with car ownership — an issue that their older peers minimize through the longer-term ownership of more economical cars.

As for who is buying what, there’s plenty of overlap between groups. The Toyota Camry and Corolla were both extremely popular with both demographics. However, the most popular car for Millennials turned out to be the Honda Civic, while the Accord was most favored by Xers. Generation X also has a penchant for minivans — the Chrysler Town and Country and Honda Odyssey both made it into their top ten.

Younger buyers also had a slightly stronger preference for American iron. The Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus ranked high on their list, while Cadillac’s CTS was the luxury sedan of choice. Gen X went with the yuppie-friendly BMW 3 Series.

In the world of trucks, Ford’s F-150 remains is a big hit with nearly everyone, but surveyed Millennials actually like the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 slightly more. The Ford Mustang maintains its universal appeal for those interested in a more lively drive.

Join the conversation
4 of 177 comments
  • OldManPants OldManPants on Jan 25, 2017

    That steering wheel is giving her arthritis.

  • PentastarPride PentastarPride on Jan 25, 2017

    I prefer less features in my car, not more. I like "average", just add leather and a sunroof. I do care about reliability, which is why I don't think I will touch much of anything out there right now...Turbo this, start-stop that, nine-gazillion speed this...I have a feeling that the timeframe for cradle-to-grave for the average 2017-ish car will be about five years, when it used to be 10-20. Long-term ownership is my goal. I still have at least eight years to go on my '13 200. Quite frankly, I'm considering keeping it longer. It may not be fast nor is it cutting edge, but it has been a really great car. I like my car. My wife likes a new car every 3-5 years, but she pays for that (yes, we made an agreement for it to be that way). Brand loyalty? I am picky. I've only owned Mopar, hence my screen name. There are cars I might have considered from other brands (Ford, GM, Mercedes, Honda) but I have never considered a Toyota/Lexus or Volkswagen/Audi, for instance. As for everything else, it seems as if I'm everything that the archetypical millennial is not.

  • El scotto Having really bad SATO flashbacks. Someone from Alamo would stop by the SATO office and stuff some display rack with 10$ off at Alamo! coupons. Off on another mission for Truth, Justice, and the American Way of Life! Well OK, I was off to talk to some tech reps. Riding the shuttle bus to Alamo I inwardly prayed please, oh please may there be a Neon and not a damn Sebring! Neons were by and far one of the best cheap rental cars.
  • Inside Looking Out Another reason to switch to Tesla. And do not forget that there are two Fords. Ford Blue will die with UAW and ecoboost and Ford E will live on.
  • The Oracle Here in the mountains of WNC these willbe all over the place.
  • The Oracle A proper clunker from a bygone era.
  • Zerofoo I'm pretty sure driving this thing in any respectable town is considered probable cause.