• Oct 4, 2010
Every automaker strives to entice younger buyers into its fold, yet more new crossovers and large sedans tend to make their way to market than anything in which the young among us might be interested. What's up with that? Well, it could have something to do with the fact that people under 50 years old just don't buy many new vehicles.
JD Power and Associates studied age as it corresponds to new vehicle purchases, and the results of a survey of 41,000 new vehicle buyers showed that 62 percent of all new cars and trucks sold were delivered to the AARP crowd. Alarmingly, this statistic has spiked up dramatically from 39 percent back in 2001. Our parents and grandparents are also picking up hybrids faster than their children, as 73 percent of all battery-assisted vehicle sales are picked up by those over 50. On the other side of the spectrum, those 35 and younger account for just 12.7 percent of all new vehicle purchases, down from 24.4 percent in 2001.

There are two major reasons the 50-and-up club accounts for such a high total of vehicle sales, lead by the fact that baby boomers, the largest demographic in America, are growing old. But AARP director Mark Bradbury adds that people over 50 have the "ability to spend on higher-ticket items during harsh economic times. Younger adults are moving back home to ease basic financial burdens, such as housing and food." It sure is hard to buy a new car when you're back living with Mom and Dad, but hey, maybe they'll let you borrow theirs.

[Source: Brand Week | Image: crazycupcakes, CC2.0]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 48 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Is this surprising?

      I just took a quick lesson in real median household income, as measured from 1965 til today. The results were a bit of a shock:

      By 1970 the median American household income was equivalent to about $42,000 of today's dollars. Today, the national median average is close to $45,000.

      1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 (w/o options): $3720 in 1970 ($20,300 today.)
      2011 Mustang GT:$27385

      Even more telling was the cost of entry level cars compared.

      1970 Ford Maverick: $1975 in 1970 (~$10,900 today)
      2010 Ford Fiesta: $13,320 base price.

      Cars today are safer, more efficient and more reliable - but these aren't the sort of emotional hooks that get young people to part with more cash than they likely have on hand (or to get loans at high interest rates.) There is little escapism in a Prius or even a Fiesta. They are closer to appliances than the cars of 3 decades ago were. Yet young people still have the same desires, same interests for freedom, meeting with friends etc.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Besides an aversion to debt I believe where younger folks live is a major factor when purchasing a car. I'm 32 and my commute is 10 miles round trip in stop and go traffic in northern VA. To me it just doesn't make sense to drop 20-40k on something you spend inching down the road or leaving in a commuter lot all day. That's why I'm sticking with my used 96 Camaro I've had the past 12 years until our family outgrows it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        JZeke,

        I think you hit the nail on the head. Cars are very expensive compared to 30 or 40 years ago, yet incomes have not risen that much in real dollars. What the CPI data do not reveal is that today, many more household incomes are dependent on two workers than in the past, with the result that many more families need two cars. Today transportation costs must compete with, internet service, very expensive cable/satellite TV, cell phones, day care, etc. It would be very interesting to see what has happened with insurance cost, but I am guessing this has seen above average inflation as well. Throw in a big dose of unemployment and recession, and it should surprise no one that young people have a hard time affording new cars.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Cool info, thanks for posting. The increase in cost is definitely a factor but I wonder how much less spendable income younger people have today as compared to back then. Today people are spending a lot of money on cellphones and media players and laptops and plasma TVs and cellphone bills and cable TV bills, etc when 30 years ago they had none of these expenses. If you got rid of all that you'd have a lot more money left over to afford a decent new car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "than anything in which the young among us might be interested"

      I think you mean anything in which the young among us can afford.

      Early 30s, married, two kids on the way, mortgage, college payments, etc, etc, etc... What the wife and I can afford that are practical are used cars. I'm not singing the blues here, we love our cars. In fact, i'm not keen on buying new cars at all.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I sympathize. My first child is due this month, but I am in my early 40's. I have trouble justifying a new car for my use even though I drive 30K miles a year. I am driving a 96 Civic with over a quarter million miles and the wife has the newer car. I guess after owning about 100 cars and bikes over the years, it is time to settle down a bit! Good luck to you!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Of course, we should be ENCOURAGING those under 30 without a stable job to go out and buy a new car - just like we encouraged those with no income to buy a house with no money down. That's just the American Way...

      /sarcasm
      • 4 Years Ago
      Couple points: I'm 31 years old and I've never owned a new car. I'm married and have 4 kids and I make 50k a year. My wife stays home with our kids as we agreed it would be better for them than having to spend time in daycare/babysitters.

      With a mortgage, utilities, insurance, food, gas, medical expenses and enough left over to do anything with my family there is NO way I could afford a brand new car. Just for fun I was looking at a new Ford Flex AWD Limited with the Eco boost V6. It came out to be around 52 grand and with no down payment, an unrealistic 3% APR loan and a six year term, the payment is $853 a month!!!!! And the insurance would sure as hell be a lot more than it is for my paid off 2002 Ford Windstar.

      The second reason I haven't bought a brand new car is because I find it incredibly stupid to do unless you're financially well off enough to pay for it outright and can "afford" the luxury of being the first one to drive it. Right now, on autotrader, there is a used 2010 Ford Flex AWD Limited with the Eco boost V6 with eighteen thousand miles on the clock for $37,000. Using the same payment calculations, I would end up paying $607 a month. Which is still WAY too much for me to even think about paying right now, but it's a hell of a lot better than $853.

      For me to own a brand new car, one of three things is going to have to happen; 1) I become independantly wealthy, 2) Either car prices come down, or American incomes increase or 3) Cars stop losing over 25% of their value in less than a year. Frankly, I'm hoping for option 1, but none of them are very likely to happen any time soon.

      my $.02
      • 4 Years Ago
      Naw, This can't be so. You would think the young loudmouths who post here with opinions out wahzoo, had some economic clout.

      Dear auto manufacturer: Listen to these clowns and you will all soon be out of business.
        • 4 Years Ago
        To add with the job I have I can easily afford a new car but, my job isn't as "stable" as it was 5-10 years ago. Educated, hardworking doesn't matter when you're low on the seniority pool. On-top of that I own a 02 Impala and my 06' Magnum is almost paid off plus they both run great. Why do I need to buy another car?

        Everyone I know my age (that has good jobs), aren't going out buying new cars because they don't want to rack up debt that's all. Can't blame my us for being a fiscally responsible...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Now looking at the study I think they grouped too many people in the "young" age group. Financially speaking I think the difference between "young" and "middle-aged" split starts somewhere around 26-28.

        26 and lower -- Young
        27 to 45 -- Middle-Aged
        46 and Up -- Senior

        At 23 years old fresh out of college people close to my age range (20-25 y/o) are worried about completely different things than someone (30-35 y/o).
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Gruv

        "it is out of my price range, but I still want one"

        Yup. You will get yourself a nice....... USED CTS-V Wagon.. not a new one. See? The article makes total sense!

        It's more about money in the bank rather than the choices out there. There are so many excellent new cars out there these days, it is one of the best times to be a new car shopper.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I am in my 20s and among my friends I'm the car guy. They all come to me with questions before they buy. I tell them all the same thing: buy used. We just watched our parents lose their homes. Frugality is big with the college educated members of my generation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The "jobs" comment is spot-on.

        The headline for this story may as well be "50-year olds 30% more likely to have stable employment". Of course they're more likely to buy more new cars; they're not the ones subject to >10% unemployment and a ceiling of Boomers who cannot or will not retire.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm so far over 50 that from here it looks young. But in spite of current events, things are not so much different now than when I was young. I went into active military service at 17½ got released at 22 to the reserves and came home to a 15% local unemployment rate. A major local steel fabricator employer had just gone out of business and a thousand local people lost their jobs. Getting and keeping a job was just as tough then as now. Minimum wage then was $1.25 an hour, guys who had been making good money at $ 8-10 dollars were happy to be getting $3 or $4. My first civilian job paid $1.30 an hour. I was offered a $1.35 to go to work in an oil field as a general hand.

      Fortunately, I guess, world politics were in a turmoil and I got called back to active duty, still age 22, and didn't get a final discharge till I was 26.

      By then I was married, we had children, bought a home (at 7¼% 30yr.), went through a half dozen different jobs till I ended up with a permanent one. All my priorities were highly focused then. But I did get new cars ( first one was a 67 red Camaro) mainly because my used ones were shot.

      Now I own 4 vehicles, a 20 y.o. CJ, a 10 y.o old Ranger, my fun car the RX8 and my business car an E350.

      Life goes on, there are never any guarantees...divorces, deaths, world affairs etc. Where ever you are now...someone is worse off and some others are better off, and as near as I can tell it will always be that way.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Older people are the ones who already have good jobs, have been working for money all their lives, have saved and can afford stuff like this. Young people like me are stuggling just to get through with their educations because the government has us in such a financial hard spot. I have to spend time figuring out how to budget lunch, much less what new car I'm going to get. My rig is from 1991!
      • 4 Years Ago
      It will take me awhile to get bored with all the thousands of great late 90's cars out there. They are a great combination of power, safety, and reliability and their cheap as dirt.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm going to be buying my second brand new car later this month (as soon as my WRX comes in). First was my tC in 2005. So I will have bought 2 brand new cars before I'm 30... I guess that makes me part of the minority there?
      • 4 Years Ago
      And yet, those AARP commercials keep telling us we need to "keep our promises", which seems to also mean sticking it to the younger generations (e.g. new GM employees get lower salary than older employees; younger employees everywhere get little/no retirement benefits, etc.). If they have enough money to buy a $40K brand new Ford, maybe they can spare a little retirement income from their pension (earned by pulling a lever in some cases) so that a younger guy with a Master's degree can have slightly more affordable health insurance.

      Don't worry, though, we are young(-ish), and "have time to make up the difference". Maybe the Baby Boomers can toss us another education above all else lecture for free. It is no wonder that Gen. X will be the first American generation to not "have a better life than the previous generation" - they/we are paying many of the checks written by the previous generation.

      As with all generalizations, there are many exceptions, so please forgive my statements for those who feel it doesn't apply to them, someone they know, etc.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Promises? I'm 28, and I don't remember making any promises of the sort.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "...and the results of a survey of 41,000 new vehicle buyers showed..."

      41,000 people huh?

      So like 1% of the population?

      Surveys are a waste
        • 4 Years Ago
        100% of Autoblog users would agree

        *based on a survey of one Autoblog reader

        Maybe instead of sitting in a retirement home with a clipboard they could...you know...

        check registration numbers...or ask automakers for sales statistics..

        or do something not as useless as another survey
        • 4 Years Ago
        Would you prefer that they studied EVERYONE and released their findings 7 years from now?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well, if manufacturers would stop making appallingly boring cars maybe younger buyers would be interested.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't think it's that, I think it's more of the price of a new car. If you've got a job that makes $35K/yr, you're not going to go out and buy a $22K car, when you've got to pay for food, fuel, utilities and mortgage/rent.
        • 4 Years Ago
        What on earth are you talking about? How old are you?, when did you buy your first car? What cars did you actually own?

        The good old days that you are talking about, is nothing more than a figment of your imagination. Cars today are light-years better than the crap of yore. Just not as simple to work on.

        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm guessing it's more about older people having more money than younger people (on average) than it is about "boring" cars.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ CanadaCraig

        +1
        • 4 Years Ago
        @The_Zachalope

        I make $30k on the dot and I spent $16,300 on my new car. That being said, I can't see spending much more than $18k or so, without either having a huge down payment or making more money, to live somewhat comfortably.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Let me guess - and you also would want all that horsepower come for free, wouldn't you?
    • Load More Comments