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 Treehugger.com
. "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
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."