Millennials Not Buying Cars

I used to think this was a sign of the end times, with kids these days not wanting to drive like normal, independently minded people. But then someone pointed out to me the government has systematically destroyed the value of drivers’ licenses for young people, and by the time they are old enough for the licenses to matter, they are off to college where the need to drive is less, then once out of college, they don’t have jobs to make payments on new cars anyway, and are often buried under mountains of student debt. So perhaps Ford and the other companies need to get together and tell the auto insurers, who pushed a lot of this nanny state crap, that the gig is going to be up for both of them if they don’t do something to restore the market. Perhaps making it easier for young people to drive, as it was when I was younger, is the key to fixing this problem, rather than dumb corporations trying to slick up their marketing, and wondering why it’s not working.

33 thoughts on “Millennials Not Buying Cars”

  1. This is a problem why, exactly? So some kids don’t want/need cars — big deal. If they have an alternate way around it, good for them. The fewer dollars we throw at Iran and Venezuela the better.

    I am confident that Ford will still find some customers here and there.

    1. I’m less concerned if it’s real choice involved. More concerned if it’s the government destroying the value of the proposition for younger people. Automobiles are a means of independence, and if the government, by making it harder for young people to get licenses, and then regulating the fun out of driving until they are off to college, they are crushing what’s been part of the independent American spirit for most of the last century. Maybe the net effect of that will be nothing to worry about, or maybe you get a generation who is quite happy to vote away more of their freedom and independence.

      1. As a millenial with a car, I can say that this isn’t really a problem for me. It’s the high cost! Insurance is $70+ per month, gas is $50-100, yearly re-registration is $200-400, and that’s not even getting into the upfront cost or semi-random maintenance costs. I’ve got my car paid off and it still bleeds me out of $150-200 every month, even in months when it mostly sits there.

        What kinds of things are you referring to when you say “the government destroy[s] the value of the proposition for younger people”? Regulations on manufacturers? Speed limits? Harder driving tests? (mine was too easy, really)

        1. Time place restrictions on driving. Not being allowed to have passengers. Requiring so many hours of permitted driving before being able to get a license.

          And where are you living that it costs 200-400 bucks to register a car? Dear God. It’s like 36 bucks here.

          1. Georgia has an ad valorum tax on vehicle registration which is paid on or before your birthday. This “birthday” tax can be from $30-$500 depending on the age of the car. My three 10+ year old import cars cost about $30 each. No way in heck am I eager to buy a new vehicle.

          2. Honestly, the restrictions on those driving on a permit, at least in PA, are largely a joke. Between the time I got my permit and when I got my license I certainly got more than the required 50 hours of driving, but none of it was logged in the retarded little book they hand out.

            Realistically speaking, at least in PA, the DLCs will issue a license to anyone who has had their permit for at least 6 months, has a signed form declaring the minor has had at least 65 hours of time behind the wheel, and can pass the road test.

            Once you have the junior license, you can carry up to one other minor passenger when unsupervised, unless they’re also members of your household (so you can play taxi driver for younger siblings). After six months accident-free this goes up to three non-family minors.

            There’s also the “Cinderella” clause: those under 18 aren’t allowed to drive after 23:00. I’m probably biased, but this seems like a fairly good idea to me, especially considering that my first car got totaled at around 22:30 on a Sunday night when I was 17 (drunk driver made a left turn out of the bar’s parking lot and into my passenger B post).

            In effect, it may be a pain, but I don’t think the restrictions on driving are all that bad, and they’re certainly not a large part of the reason for the declining number of people of my generation who drive.

          3. Try having multiple vehicles. 3 cars, 2 bikes 9all paid off long ago) and that $80 inspection and $40 registration tax really starts to piss you off.

  2. I think another problem is cost and ease of repair. It used to be a kid work hard after school or during the summer and save up enough to buy a beater car that he could fix up and have something worth driving around. Now, if the kid can find a job, he is looking at saving up close to $10,000. There are so many problems on modern cars that can not be easily fixed in the family garage/driveway that it is not economical to buy cheaper. And, the ones that are easily repairable are now going for that much or more.

    1. This is very true for me. My car’s engine is a big hermetically sealed block. I’ve tried once or twice to teach myself a little about car repair but I can’t even get the engine cover off. It’s like trying to learn computer repair with an Apple product!

    2. “I think another problem is cost and ease of repair.”


      Cars are enormously more complex and expensive than they were even 20 years ago, much less 50 years ago. It’s like the difference between the original AK47 and all those funky new variants they’re coming out with now that unnecessarily complicate, and just generally fuck up, the genius of the original design.

      Add to this that due largely to government-imposed “safety” and “fuel efficiency” standards, as well as artificially high labor costs (due to UAW among others), cars cost far more than they ought to.

      Other government idiocy, like “cash for clunkers” FURTHER skew this, and make it more difficult to purchase a decent used car for a reasonable price. It’s been several years and it seems that used car prices STILL haven’t stabilized to previous price points. The price for which you could buy a decent used car 5 years ago now will generally get you one that’s 2-5 years older which has 30-75k more miles on it.

      Also, there’s the fact that most cars built in the last 20-30 years have been getting harder and harder to repair; it isn’t even JUST the complexity of the parts, but the density. If you look at a model A you can practically climb in the engine compartment and close it behind you; with most recent cars you can barely reach most parts without taking half the damned thing apart.

      1. “Cars are enormously more complex and expensive than they were even 20 years ago, much less 50 years ago.”

        I am going to sharply disagree with the first part of that statement. The cars of 50 years ago, certainly. The cars of 20 (or 30) years ago, no way.

        I am 41 years old (born in 1970); I learned to drive in a 1977 Buick Electra 225 with a 350 Buick V8 and a Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor controlled by a rat’s nest of vacuum hoses and solenoids and valves, and later a 1978 Chevy El Camino with a 3-ish liter V6/2-barrel carburetor and a 3-speed on the floor. Both were maintenance nightmares. If one of those 100+ rubber hoses developed a hairline crack and started to leak, it was impossible to diagnose.

        My first car was a 1982 Firebird powered by an anemic 2.8-liter V6 with a 2-barrel carburetor, again controlled by a rat’s nest of vacuum hoses and solenoids, and again a nightmare to work on.

        My grandmother’s late-70s Chevy Nova required you to remove the front wheels and IIRC various panels even to change the spark plugs.

        I now drive a 2004 Acura TL with a 3.2-liter V6 and a 6-speed manual (totally awesome car BTW); it is FAR easier for me as an amateur to diagnose and work on than the late-70s/early-80s cars were. Heck, if something breaks, the computer TELLS you what’s wrong, and practically tells you how to fix it. Before the Acura, I drove a ’97 Buick Park Avenue Ultra with the L67 supercharged V-6 that was also very easy to work on (and also OBD-II), and before that a 1987 Toyota Camry that was one of the first generation of truly easy-to-maintain cars. You could literally change the plugs on its 2-liter DOHC engine in less than 5 minutes.

        Cars also go a lot longer before they have serious problems than they used to. My ’82 Firebird was a dog by the time it hit 100,000 miles, but my Acura now has 125K and still runs like new. My Buick developed a stuck lifter at 212K that I’m going to fix before I sell it, and fixing it will be waaaaay easier than fixing that stuck lifter on the ’77 Buick that I learned to drive on. My Camry went 230K before my wife got in a fender-bender with it and the insurance company decided to total it, so I sold it to a family who wanted to fix it up for their teenager. It’s probably still going.

  3. 16-18 year old high school kids aren’t getting part time jobs. Of my friends with kids that age, very few of those kids have after school jobs.

    The job is what drives the need to have a car and what brings in the money to pay for at least part of the cost.

    1. It’s mostly not worth it for companies to hire kids anymore, what with the increase in the minimum wage and all the bureaucracy surrounding hiring (workers’ comp, health insurance, etc). How many 17 year-olds have you met whose labor was worth more than 7 bucks an hour? Not many, I’d wager. My labor certainly wasn’t that valuable when I was 17.

      1. Alot of traditional jobs that teenagers once had, grocery store clerks, fast food jockey’s, summer landscaping, bagel shop, donut shop, etc etc, have been replaced with adults or immigrants who are willing/have to do it. A few years ago, one county in Northern NJ was concerned about the lack of job availability for teens/students because of this. From an employer pov, I can dig it…you don’t have to deal with bull$hit, nor have your employment office be a revolving door.

        1. There’s a seashore community where we used to rent a house for the summer in the early ’90s. My kids would get jobs there and work all summer. Most kids did. Ten years or so later the Chamber of Commerce had to bus kids in from the mainland to fill the slots. The summer family kids didn’t want to work for a reasonable wage. Today they depend heavily on foreign kids for summer help (some immigrants, some not) because even the American kids from the less affluent areas of the mainland won’t do the jobs. Anyone who is blaming immigrants, or anyone, for “pushing” American kids out of jobs has been receiving (or creating) a massive snow job.

      2. Mine wasn’t worth minimum wage at 16, but I got a job under a great man. I went from minimum wage to $10/hour in 2 years. The late 90’s that was decent money for a high school kid. Looking back it was more valuable because I learned to work. My boss was tough, I had to do the job I was hired to do, but if that was squared away he never hesitated to teach me to do something else. I had fun at work because I was learning and doing neat things.

        Thats why kids need to work. Thats why we need a low minimum wage, otherwise we take the bottom rung out of the employment ladder. I wasn’t worth $7/hour, but I was worth $5.

        God called my old boss home early this summer. I miss him and we’re all a little worse off because hes not here anymore.

  4. This article only has meaning in area’s with heavy Zipcar presence. In some area’s, like NYC, there isn’t any place to even put your car, so Zipcar takes off. But then again, unlike many places in the USA, some area’s in NYC are only place I can think of where you don’t need a car.

    But some commentator’s are correct, the lack of affordable cars, and easily maintainable and repairable are a thing of history…..

  5. On the whole, driving is something I do, but could give up if I needed to.

    Generally speaking, cars are expensive. They cost a lot to buy, they cost a lot to maintain, they cost a lot to fuel, and they cost a lot to insure.

    As it stands, I don’t have the best paying job in the world, and if I really needed to cut back on expenditures, I could just use my bicycles for the majority of my transportation needs. Compared to cars, bikes are cheap, they’re cheap to buy, they’re cheap (and relatively easy) to maintain, their fuel is me (so they’re cheap to fuel), and the government doesn’t mandate that I carry an insurance policy to ride one. Also, while it’s not generally an issue where I live, they’re also easier to park.

    Also, the above applies especially to those who went and got an expensive liberal arts degree (that leads nowhere but starbucks) on credit.

    Generally speaking, “millennials” aren’t trending away from using cars strictly due to their own desire to, it’s largely that they can’t afford it. While some “evidence” may seem to suggest that they aren’t enthusiastic about vehicle ownership/use, don’t believe it; remember that many people fake being unenthusiastic about things they can’t afford to do anyway.

  6. Have to agree. It’s more economics. You used to be able to buy a decent used far $5,000. $15,000 got use a decent low mile off lease vehicle. Now, $10,000 is getting you a car with over 100,000 miles.

    Well, most vehicles I’ve owned have died around 125,000-165,000 miles. So that’s a lot to pay for a heavily used vehicles.

    I used to live in Connecticut. You were facing $200 registration. A few hundred dollars a year in municipal taxes on an 10 year old vehicle. When I bought a new truck. It was about $1,600 in taxes. (Don’t recall for sure, but I think that was for 6 months. And we’re talking a 2006 Dodge Durango. Not some luxury car.)

    Then I was paying out $2,000-$2,500 in auto insurance. That with a clean record.

    So yes that sort of stuff puts a damper on far ownership. Especially when you can’t even get a job.

    1. “You used to be able to buy a decent used far $5,000. $15,000 got use a decent low mile off lease vehicle. Now, $10,000 is getting you a car with over 100,000 miles. ”

      Can you say “Cash for Clunkers”? That’s what it did.

    2. Now, $10,000 is getting you a car with over 100,000 miles.

      Wow. Either the market in your area is totally fsck’d up, the market in my area is totally fsck’d up, or you’re not looking in the right places. That’s what we paid last year for my 2008 Saturn Astra with 40,000 miles, and that was the very first car we looked at.

  7. Younger people (actually the population as a whole is) tending to live in, or closer to cities than they did 20 years ago.

    Not owning a car is not such a strange and foreign thing. I am a city person and haven’t owned a car for 15 years and really don’t have a desire to.

  8. Since I’m in the market for a car these days, I’ll have to say that the pricing for cars just boggles me. There are plenty of new cars (admittedly not luxurious) available in the $10-15K range. My nicely appointed Smart (heated seats, glorious between November and March) carried a sticker of about $15K. Sure, they’re two-door hatchbacks or small sedans for the most part, but that’s what teens drove when I got my license. Where are these cars on the used market?

  9. I’ve live here in the ‘burbs for over 20 years and fortunately the City hasn’t gotten any closer – but Google moved-in and has ruined the ‘burbs and driven up housing costs. I haven’t been to the City in years – there’s nothing there of any interest to me. It’s full of stuck-up hipster neck-beards, and homeless beggars peeing in doorways. It stinks, the parking sucks and if you take City “rapid transit” it’s awkward and unfamiliar and you’re likely to get mugged and wind up in an strange location. Maybe the City People like it that way, but there’s no reason for me to go there.
    As far as cars go, Auto-Shop is no longer offered, hasn’t been for fifteen years or more, unless you are “lucky” enough to live in a poor School District that serves the local blue-collar industries like trucking and heavy equipment (East Bay).
    Used-to be that you could learn how cars work in HS, and even *build* one on the cheap, buy a broken one and fix it up. But Cash-for-Clunkers pretty much drove the final nail in that coffin and removed so many cars from inventory – purely out of spite and malice – that used vehicles are no longer available cheaply, nor are parts. IMO it’s part of Obama’s city-centric vision and plan of Hate the Suburbs.

    1. Didn’t a previous California governor terminate shop with extreme prejudice because everyone was going to become a knowledge worker?

      I’d also be very hesitant to extrapolate from the Bay area to the rest of the US….

  10. In related news, buggy whip makers and producers of vinyl records note that sales to the under-20 crowd are slowing.

    1. As someone who started driving after college, this is something that’s a bit of a concern for me, too. Public transportation can literally be hell to use, especially in a place like Utah where the population can’t support it properly, and it’s further undermined by stupid things like Trax and Frontrunner train systems that no one really wants to use…but it gets the dollars from the Feds, so it must be good, right?

      The funny thing is that my parents-in-law live in a tiny town in the middle of the desert, and there’s no way that a bus, or a train, or anything else, for that matter (maybe a taxi, but that would be VERY expensive) is going to go there. Thus, for people to live in such places, they *have* to have access to their own vehicles.

      Of course, the pro-city Agenda-21 types don’t want us to live on our own, making a living off of ranching or farming or mining, or supporting those who provide those services. Such things imply individual autonomy, and we can’t have that!

Comments are closed.