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Why Millennials Just Don't Care About Cars

Internet obsession is a big reason, but it's not the only one.

By Claire_Martin Apr 4, 2012 6:46AM
Smart ForTwo photo by Smart.It's true that members of the generation known as Millennials, or "Generation Y," are more interested in going online than getting behind the wheel of a car. A new study by the Transportation Research Institute of the University of Michigan shows an inversely proportional relationship between Internet use and driver licensing rates across this demographic. But the reasons for their automobile apathy go well beyond the Web. Here are the top six.

1. They don't need cars to get around: Millennials are drawn to cities, where public transportation is plentiful and parking is a hassle. "Millennials are more likely than past generations to live in an urban community," writes Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic. "This may be part of what terrifies car makers." 

2. They don't think cars are worth the trouble: "They hate waiting in traffic and don’t love the cost of maintaining vehicles," says Neil Chambers of "They dislike the amount of land used for parking lots, roads and highways, and they loath the alternatives car companies are offering."

3. They like to share: They're drawn to the mobility and convenience of cars, but they seek out alternatives to car ownership. About 53 percent of Millennials recently surveyed by Zipcar said they would likely use a car-sharing service. "Millennials recognize the limited value of paying so much for something they use so little," says Scott Griffith, chairman and CEO of Zipcar. "They want the freedom to drive, but reject the financial burden of car ownership." 

4. They value their free time: Even in car-centric Los Angeles, college students would swap car ownership for more time to do other things. "A [UCLA] student explained that taking a bus usually increases her travel time by 60 to 90 minutes," according to Chambers' research. Nevertheless, the student and her friends still do it. "[I]t frees them up to read, study, do homework, text friends, engage social media and, well, 'just stare off into space.'"

5. They're concerned about the environment, but they're broke: According to Zipcar's study, 55 percent of Millennials surveyed have made a conscious decision to drive less. Environmental concerns, increased use of social media and the expense of vehicle ownership were their reasons. But in addition, they're not buying hybrids or electric vehicles because they can't afford the high sticker prices and the costly maintenance. Instead, they avoid driving altogether. And if they do buy a new vehicle, it's something small, inexpensive and fuel-efficient, like a Smart car.  

6. They don't really have anywhere to go: Millennials suffered during the recession, so they don't need cars for one very practical reason. According to Dale Buss, of Forbes: "Millennials have been hard-hit by unemployment since the beginning of the Great Recession and so [they] have less need or occasion to use a vehicle to get to work."
Apr 4, 2012 1:22PM
It's true, and it's depressing. I'm 20, and I'm a car guy, have been since I was a little kid. But our numbers are growing smaller every year. To me, It's sad. I was asked just today by a peer what the difference between an STI and GTI was. I have yet to meet a peer who knows what a Peugeot 908 or Audi R18 is. Yes, we gain what some call "sensibility," but at what cost? We're losing soul and heart. We're losing what it feels like to throw into second before taking a turn too fast, or what it feels like to get a perfect 2nd to 3rd change while speeding down an empty highway. We're losing what makes cars FUN. And the fact that I might grow old in world where thundering V8's and high pitched European V12's are a thing of me, that is one of the most depressing things of all.

To quote the man himself, Jeremy Clarkson: "We are an endangered species, you and I. We lovers of speed. We devotees of power, performance and noise. 'Go away,' we are told. And take your carbon fiber and your fire spitting V12's with you. There's hardly a place for us out here anymore. Not among all the commuters and congestion. Not it this growing age of safety and restraint. Where practicality trumps adrenaline. Where 'miles per gallon' is championed over 'horsepower to weight.' The evidence is everywhere. You and I are being squeezed out and pushed aside, and hunted down at every hairpin turn."
Apr 14, 2012 9:52AM
When are we going to stop letting the media saddle everyone with "Boomer, X'er, Y'er, or whatever else kind of crap made-up classification name they decide to come up with to compartmentalise everyone into their little boxes?  I, for one, am getting really tired of all this stupid nonsense.
Apr 5, 2012 6:30AM

I will be bold enough to propose that a major reason that the younger generations aren't that fascinated with vehicle ownership is the cost. Wages and benefits are pittiful and forking over a major portion of your income (if your one of the fortunate ones to just have a job) is enough to just say no. I feel badly for the young people today who do not have the disposable income to provide wads to waste on cars much less customizing and personalizing them like we did. Wages have been stagnant for more than three decades and this is perhaps the real reason. If wages were more in line with the prices of these new cars today you would likely see many more young people happy to own them. Smile

Apr 14, 2012 7:26AM
This sounds like a bunch of propaganda.  The independence of going where you want, when you want to is always preferable to public transportation.  This hooey sounds like it is written by proponents of Obama-socialist-pub-​transport funding recipients.
Apr 14, 2012 10:45AM
This has to be written by some idiot who lives in New York City and knows nothing outside her little world. In the rest of the USA we know that public transportation is not a real alternative. Many places do not even have public transportation. It is almost impossible to survive in the USA without a car.
Apr 14, 2012 6:50AM
I am a Gen Yer. This article pretty much sums up my opinions on cars (with a few exceptions).

However, the biggest reason I do not have a new car is because I believe that it is financially irresponsible to take out a loan on a depreciating asset. 

While my husband and I can absolutely and easily afford a loan on a 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX wagon, we choose to drive a 21 year old Geo Prizm that was paid for with spare change. On the outside, we may appear lazy, "anti-American", and poor. But in reality, we are going to be the secret millionaire next door laughing at our neighbors because they purchase a new car every few years and are fretting about the small amount of cash in barely existent retirement savings accounts.
Apr 14, 2012 7:46AM
As part of Gen Y, I can say some of these comments are ridiculous. We know "how to work," we just aren't afforded the opportunities. Lots of us are in college, or are fresh out of college (I'm a college grad myself), and have a very hard time finding a job, because every place wants experience over a degree.  We don't drive because we love the internet more, it's just hard to afford one.  I currently have a job, that I'm completely overqualified for, and I drive a car. But while I was in college, I simply lived close to campus and walked to class, and took a bus to work.  Who can afford a car in college, or if you can't find a job outside of it?  It has nothing to do with all the other reasons listed, and everything to do with our economy at the moment.
Apr 14, 2012 4:21AM

I don't understand the reason for the negative comments toward the Generation Y.  Each generation brings their own unique stamp on our country.  If this generation chooses internet over cars, isn't that what freedom is all about?  Believe me, public transportation is anything but lazy.  This negativity is exactly the reason for such divisiveness in our country.  Are we seriously calling people names over whether they drive cars or not?  I didn't see anything in this article, or hear from others, how those "Baby Boomers" or other generations shouldn't be driving cars.  And lots of Generation Y people do drive cars, even nice ones.  What is all the fuss about?  If you want to drive a car, drive one.  If you don't, don't.  Honestly, this nastiness is getting ridiculous.



Apr 14, 2012 1:30PM
My guess would be that as sh*tty as the job market is these days generation Y as well as all the rest just simply can't afford to be interested in cars, or anything else for that matter. It's very difficult at best to just survive on part time minimum wage jobs, IF you are lucky enough to even land one at all. So there.
Apr 4, 2012 9:52AM
In short, they are lazy


I disagree, I work with many millennials that will complete more work then anyone else I know and they except change better then previous generations and don't complain about it. On the flip side many of them do use public transportation or their bikes to go to work because they live so close to work. To me, that's smart!  Problem is the media's perception has given them a bad rap and like it or not they are in the work force.  

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