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Millennials Don’t Care about Cars the Way Their Parents Did

Posted in Posts, and Syllabus Schedule

A new report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group shows that Americans continue to drive less, especially young Americans. There has been a driving boom in America since 1964 wherein the amount of miles driven has increased every year. But after the 2004 peak the number of miles driven has been decreasing and vehicle ownership has also been decreasing since its 2006 peak. In addition to America’s becoming more urban and the option of public transport and companies like Zipcar in these urban centers, young Americans are also less concerned with cars than their parents. Many Gen Yers  are more concerned with owning a cell phone than a car and less 15% of Gen Y would classify themselves as car enthusiasts, whereas about 30% of baby boomers would. Young people would rather be on their smartphones while in a car than driving. Perhaps the long American love affair with the automobile is finally burning out.


  1. gradyb13

    Couldn’t this be because of the recession, not because younger people like cars less than they used to? I know that in doing financial planning for next year, the expense of a car was massive. I still love cars, and will likely have one in a couple years, but right now my thoughts are more on financial feasibility.
    I will say, however, that I would be hard pressed to give up my phone to have a car. But to me that signifies how important phones are to us now – not how unimportant cars are.

    May 15, 2013
    • oliver

      More and more young people are opting to get their licenses later or to forgo getting them altogether.

      This site has some University of Michigan statistics on licensing by age 1983 compared to 2010, which I feel is a fairly strong indication that young-uns aren’t too excited about driving.

      There is undoubtedly a financial component, but American’s aren’t that much poorer since 1983. It is changing generational preferences that I feel carries the most weight.

      May 15, 2013
  2. clara

    I think it’s also because of technology progress which has changed the way we communicate and socialize. In the past, you need to drive to job interviews, events and shops to buy stuff. Nowadays, everything can be done online, like Skyping and online orders.

    May 15, 2013
  3. I think the income component is huge, because while as a nation we’re not much poorer, the distribution of income is tilted towards the top 1% (the threshold of which is far above what full professors earn). Young people can’t afford cars.

    At the same time, we can reasonably expect incomes to rise with work experience; once you have a job, transitioning to car ownership becomes more likely. At that point getting a license becomes sensible if not necessary. Why rush things, if you can delay until insurance becomes cheaper and you can afford a decent used car?

    The opposite end of the spectrum also matters: as the baby boomers age, they will often stop driving due to vision and other impairments. But what we might look at is the number of cars per household or cars per person aged 25-70. In particular, I suspect few Americans above age 70 buy a new vehicle; few below age 25 can afford a new vehicle. Such data would provide an additional metric on car ownership.

    May 16, 2013

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