Millennials Are Buying Cheaper Cars

In a complete surprise to absolutely nobody, the so-called millennial generation (people aged 22 to 37) are buying less expensive cars than people more advanced in their age. According to a study by QuoteWizard, the cars most popular with the younger generation cost an average of $5,000 less than the most popular cars among drivers in general.

The study tells us that the ten most popular cars among millennials are:

  1. Honda Accord — $23,720
  2. Nissan Altima — $23,900
  3. Honda Civic — $19,450
  4. Toyota Camry — $23,945
  5. Hyundai Sonata — $22,500
  6. Chevrolet Impala — $28,020
  7. Ford F-150 — $28,155
  8. Toyota Corolla — $18,700
  9. Ford Focus — $17,950
  10. Jeep Grand Cherokee — $31,945

This list turns the typical "10 most popular" lists on its head. Trucks and SUVs tend to dominate lists like these, yet there is only one of each among these top ten picks. You do have to expect the Ford F-150 to be on the list somewhere, being the most popular vehicle in America. Otherwise, surprisingly, while small to mid-size sedans are "dead" to the general public, younger people are flocking to them in droves.

There are multiple reasons for this — besides just the younger generation rebelling against their elders, or the horribly worn out "millennials ruin everything" trope. Of course, the main reason millennials prefer cheaper cars is that they simply have less money to spend. Between crushing student loans and a lack of the high-paying jobs that the degree was supposed to get them, they can’t afford to go drop $40,000 on a well-equipped Ford Mustang.

But it’s not just about the money. The popular Chevrolet Equinox, for example, starts at $23,800, which is very much in the price range of millennial picks. Another big piece of the puzzle is location, location, location. Many millennials prefer living in big cities to the suburbs. Public transportation is plentiful. Though it may not be cheap, it’s still far less expensive than owning a car in the city — not to mention the cost of parking it, in many cases. Some say millennials don’t care about cars, but I would ask: why would you care, if you weren’t driving one anyway? For some, any old jalopy will work for those occasional trips out of the city. For others, no car at all is perfectly fine.

Then there are those who find decently paying work in the city, but sky-high rent prices them out of living there. A one-bedroom apartment in Boston can easily cost $4,000 or more a month, while I’m paying a fraction of that price these days in southern New Hampshire. People have to work where they can find the work, and live where they can afford to live. The end result is a long distance between home and work, a distance that they must travel every day.

Those who choose to drive want a solid, reliable, fuel-efficient car for the vast number of miles they must cover. It’s somewhat surprising that the Toyota Prius, or any hybrid, for that matter, doesn’t make the top 10 list, particularly since millennials are far more adept with technology than those of us old enough to have had trouble programming our VCRs. Perhaps hybrids are still suffering from the perception that the added technology will make them more expensive to maintain and repair, which isn’t true. Just ask our Tyler Hoover about the most dreaded Prius repair, a dead hybrid battery, and how he fixed it with enough money left over to pimp his ride.

Others — those who don’t want to spend hours and hours sitting in traffic — will simply drive to public transportation and take that instead. This brings us back to the same situation of not driving far, therefore not really caring about what they drive for that short of a time. Either way, these so-called "super commuters" spend more than 90 minutes each way commuting to work. I was one of these for the two years I worked in Boston and lived in the suburbs. My car at the time, an ex-cop Ford Crown Victoria, got a rather miserable 20 miles per gallon — but I was only driving a few miles to the local commuter rail lot and then wasting my time on the train. Even as a car enthusiast, I didn’t care about commuting, since I drove so little during the work week.

Already, there are more millennials of legal voting age than there are Generation Xers or Baby Boomers. What will happen to the automotive market in the future because of them? Will we see a resurgence of popularity in the small, fuel-efficient (or probably electric) sedan? Will today’s manufacturers of crossovers and SUVs end up trying desperately to shed their image of being cars for "the olds," like Cadillac and Lincoln have tried so hard to do in recent years? What do you think?

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