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It’s a popular sentiment among Gen Xers and Baby Boomers: “Millennials hate cars.” Well, that might be a bit of an oversimplification of a generation’s relationship with cars. In fact, many aging would-be car buyers would love a set of wheels. However, economic and practical factors keep some younger buyers from buying cars like previous generations. 

Pull up to any Cars & Coffee on a lazy Sunday morning. You’ll find millennials chatting aside Subaru WRX STis, Ford Mustangs, and 20-year-old BMW coupes. However, car shows and clubs aren’t indicative of the generation’s preferences. As a whole, millennials are buying fewer cars than previous generations. But that doesn’t mean those drivers born between 1981 and 1996 have a loathing for cars. 

Tragically, millennials who would be in a position to start shopping for their dream cars don’t have the same access as previous generations. For instance, the cost of vehicle ownership has increased exponentially over the last 20 years, from initial purchase price to interest rates and car insurance. As such, you won’t see quite as many younger buyers in their favorite cars as you might see Baby Boomers in Chevrolet Corvettes and Porsche 911s. 

A group of millennial car owners hangs out at San Clemente Cars & Coffee.
A group of millennial car owners hangs out at Cars & Coffee in San Clemente, CA | Erik Sherman, MotorBiscuit

According to Forbes, financial reasons are a significant factor why drivers of a certain age are opting out of vehicle ownership. “With buying a home and raising a family being more expensive than ever, owning and maintaining a car is an easy area to cut costs for the younger generation,” said insurance expert Adam Johnson. 

In 2022, millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generational demographic in the U.S., per Statista. Moreover, a greater number of millennials live in metropolitan areas than previous generations. Consequently, paired with the higher cost of vehicle ownership and environmental concerns, many city-bound people born after 1981 are more likely to use mobility alternatives like public transit, ridesharing, and bicycles.

Many would-be millennial car shoppers are buying fewer cars, cheaper rides, and opting for other mobility solutions. However, it doesn’t mean the entire generation is thumbing its nose at vehicle ownership. It’s indicative of a different market.