Generation Z: The new face of car ownership – buying young and prioritizing price

Side view portrait of a happy young man sitting inside a car

Is Generation Z more car-oriented than previous generations? The nation’s newest generation of consumers appears to be very serious about their cars, according to a trend found in a recent poll.

76% of Gen Z respondents to a survey of 4,000 American adults, divided equally by generation, said they bought their first car before turning 21. This is significantly higher than the 56% of millennial respondents who made the same purchase.

54% of Gen Zers stated that price is the most important consideration when they begin their car search. Other major considerations when looking for a new car include fuel efficiency (42%), longevity and reliability (36%), safety rating (29%) and comfort (28%).

Compared to previous generations (Gen X: 53% and baby boomers: 37%), two-thirds of Gen Z respondents stated they feel more secure about their knowledge of how cars are priced.

The survey, which was commissioned by Cars.com, revealed that 62% of respondents either pre-ordered or purchased their current car from a dealer. In general, 81% of respondents said that it’s important to handle, feel, and test drive a car before making a purchase.

Moreover, compared to tech-focused millennials who favour online shopping (16%), four out of five Gen Zers stated they prefer to buy their cars in person rather than online (9%).

“What we’re especially keen on is how Gen Z is going to shape the vehicle purchasing landscape,” says Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief, Cars.com.

“What’s most interesting is how Gen Z is bucking the trend set forth by millennials when it comes to car shopping. Though arguably the most tech-savvy generation, we’re seeing this younger generation care more about talking to people in person when it comes to buying a big purchase like a car — valuing the role local car dealerships have in that last mile of car buying — and taking more time to research what they want before making a major decision.”

According to OnePoll’s findings, Gen Z consumers are also delaying their purchases by up to four weeks, with 64% of them researching cars before making a decision. It’s interesting to note that 55% of Gen Z buyers bought used cars, whereas 55% of Millennial buyers bought new cars.

Respondents stated that they prefer to use car-shopping solutions that include history reports (52%), complete cost transparency (47%) and vehicle pricing history (44%), since these make things easier for them.

Research showed a number of financial differences between Gen Z and other generations when car shopping, as well. Similar to 60% of Gen Xers, over half of Gen Z (57%) feels at ease with $400 monthly auto payments; however, millennials (48%) were the least at ease with these amounts.

Although Gen Z is confident in their spending capacity, they acknowledged that some of their major pain points when purchasing a car are not getting a fair price (22%) and the financing and approval procedure (16%).
When buying a car, the majority of Gen Zers will first consult friends and family (60%) and then car dealer websites and salespeople (55%). In contrast to their Millennial counterparts, who prioritise visiting vehicle dealer websites and speaking with salespeople (63%) and friends and family (51%), this group places equal emphasis on the importance of online auto expert review articles, websites, or apps (36%), which unites all age groups.

The most common ways to evaluate a car’s capabilities were found to be doing a first test drive (78%), asking a more informed friend or family member to look at it (56%), or looking beneath the hood (42%).

Compared to their Gen X parents (41%), more over half (54%) of Gen Zers would think about purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) in the future because of the long-term financial advantages (52%). Additional factors cited include their environmental impact (54%) and not needing to pay for gas (52%).

“For years, we joked about younger generations seemingly prioritizing their personal satisfaction over practicality,” adds Newman.

“Now, we’re seeing a blend of both — Gen Z wants to afford a vehicle that’s not going to leave them feeling desperate with their budget, but is willing to do the work to make sure it fits their lifestyle.”

Top 13 most important car shopping factors for Gen Z

Price – 54%
Fuel efficiency – 42%
Longevity and reliability – 36%
Safety rating – 29%
Comfort – 28%
The brand/manufacturer – 19%
Family/friend recommendations – 15%
The colour – 13%
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto – 10%
The dealership/platform I bought the vehicle from – 9%
Cargo space – 9%
Ease of access getting in and out – 7%
Blind spot monitoring – 7%

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