For years now, automakers have been trying to capture the all-important Millennials market, but they’ve been having a much harder time than in previous generations. Credit this group of 18 to 34 year olds coming of age during one of the worst recessions in history, being up to their ears in student loan debt, and the price of new cars being higher than ever before (even when adjusted for inflation) as all reasons why they’re resistant to the idea of paying an average $33,560 for a new car. It’s also the reason why the median age for car buyers is now around 52 years old.
But contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean that Millennials don’t want cars. With automotive safety and engineering standards higher than ever before, the used car market is flooded with cheap, reliable late-model vehicles that offer solid transportation for thousands less than a new car. And with that in mind, what Millennials are buying used could potentially be invaluable market research for automakers, right?
Well, not exactly. After studying the buying patterns of Millennials on the used car market between January and June 2015, Edmunds.com came up with a list of the 10 most popular used cars for buyers between 18 and 34, and to put it mildly, it’s all over the place. In fact, we would’ve had a hard time coming up with a more disparate list of cars. From the forgotten to the unexpected, here are the 10 most popular used cars on the market for Millennials.
1. Dodge Magnum
Sold between 2005 and 2008, the Magnum was by no means a bad car, but it never quite caught on with car buyers. A stand-alone wagon model was rare in any era, but the Magnum stuck out like a sore thumb in the still SUV-crazy 2000s. The best of the breed was the SRT8 model, with its 425 horsepower 6.1 liter Hemi V8 taking the wagon from zero to 60 in around five seconds. With fewer than 5,000 SRT8s built, it’s the rarest version of an already rare car, as Dodge sold less than 170,000 Magnums total. We don’t know how many SRT8s changed hands this year, but 27.6% of all Magnums sold went to the 18-34 set.
2. Chrysler Pacifica
No, not the new minivan; like the Magnum, the old Pacifica wasn’t quite understood in its time. Released for 2004, Chrysler jointly developed the Pacifica with parent company Daimler-Benz, which also got the Mercedes M-Class out of the deal. Company analysts believed that the car would be the first big hit in the nascent crossover market. Unfortunately for Chrysler, the Pacifica was about 10 years too early. Today, because of their upscale interiors and low prices, they’re a great used value, and 27.3% of them are going to Millennials.
3. Subaru WRX
With its blend of practicality, reliability, and serious performance, the Subaru WRX is one of the most well-rounded cars in the world. Even new, the WRX is a bargain (the 2011 model, seen here, stared at $26,220) and with a large fanbase, there’s plenty of them on the used market. Car and Driver pegged the ’11 WRX’s zero to 60 time at 4.7 seconds – not bad for a rally-inspired grocery getter. Unsurprisingly, Millennials searching for a used performance car they can daily drive love the WRX, snapping up 26.4% of them sold this year.
4. Chevrolet TrailBlazer
Not to be confused with the Ford Bronco-fighting K5 Blazer, the standalone TrailBlazer debuted in 2002 to replace the aging S-10-based model. It was Chevy’s midsize SUV for the rest of the decade, and as such, there’s still a ton of them around. Six years after TrailBlazer production ended, Millennials have bought 25.9% of the SUVs left on the used market, though there’s no word on now many of them were the go-fast SS model (seen above).
5. Volkswagen Golf R32
Like the WRX, the Volkswagen Golf R32 puts up performance numbers that seem to betray its everyday practicality. Take away the aggressive body kit, the alloy wheels, 237 horsepower V6 and the Haldex all-wheel drive system, and you’ve still got one hell of a versatile daily driver. With early models (like the 2004 seen above) already becoming collectible, Golf R32s are a bona-fide future classic. No one knows this better than the generation that grew up with them, and 25.7% of the used R32s sold this year have gone to 18-34 year olds.
6. Pontiac Aztek
In the 10 years since General Motors put the Pontiac Aztek out of its misery, it’s begun to find its share of apologists. Debuting in 2000 as an ’01 model, its horrendous styling and indifferent build quality made it one of the most high-profile failures to come out of Detroit since the Edsel. But thanks to a star turn in Breaking Bad, the Aztek has become something of an anti-fashion icon, and if you can get past the rattles and squeaks of about a dozen different plastics, it’s a fairly versatile people mover. While their parents couldn’t find much to love about the Aztek, Millennials like them just fine, with 25.5% of them finding new homes with buyers younger than 35.
7. Nissan GT-R
The Nissan hasn’t changed much since it debut in 2007. Instead, Nissan has been constantly tweaking and revising the car year by year, making sure it remains one of the best driver’s cars in the world. And while most young gearheads could only dream about forking over the $100,000-150,000 needed for a new GT-R, the bottom end of the market is starting to become much more accessible (read: under $60,000). For a generation raised on Gran Turismo, the allure of the GT-R is too much to pass up. This year, 25.4% of Nissan’s used supercars have gone to well-heeled Millennials.
8. Saturn Outlook
if you don’t remember the Saturn Outlook, that’s okay, not many people knew it was around to begin with. Only available from 2007-’10, the Outlook was a cousin of the venerable Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia. Unfortunately for Saturn, the writing was already on the wall by the time its midsize SUV debuted, and sluggish sales didn’t exactly help the company keep the lights on. Due to its orphan car status, Outlooks are a bargain on the used car market, and 25.3% of them were snapped up by Millennials this year.
9. Dodge Durango
Launched in 1997, the Dodge Durango was one of the most rugged SUVs on the market. Based on the Dodge Dakota through 2009, the second generation model (seen here) was the last midsize body-on-frame SUV built in the U.S., making them popular with off-roaders. Despite rust being something to watch out for, late-model Durangos are strong sellers on the used market, and 24.8% of them found a new home with someone under 35 this year.
10. Lexus IS-F
When it was launched in 2000, Lexus’s IS was meant to take the BMW 3 Series head on. In performance IS-F trim, it became Japan’s answer to the M3, with its 5.0 liter V8 good for 416 horsepower, the IS-F made the zero to 60 sprint in 4.2 seconds on the way to an electronically-limited top speed of 172 miles per hour. Today, a well-kept first-generation IS-F can be had for well under $30,000, making them a great performance bargain. They’re starting to catch on too, as 24.7% of them went to Millennials.
So if this list has taught us anything about Millennials’ taste in cars, it’s that they like reliability, versatility, performance, and bargains – just like everyone else. What’s interesting, though, is the orphan (Saturn), supercar (GT-R), and wagon (Magnum) that made the list, shows that contrary to conventional wisdom, the state of the automotive world is just as strong and interesting with younger buyers as it’s ever been.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS
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