Millennials More Likely to Lease Vehicles than Older Americans, Reports

Analysis Finds that Younger Generation Increasingly Turns to Leasing to Get More Car for Their Dollar

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — July 21, 2015 — Millennial car buyers opt to lease their vehicles at a higher rate than the overall car buying population, according to a new analysis from car-buying platform The finding suggests that millennials are more willing than older adults to sacrifice the long-term financial benefits of car ownership to get into bigger or more luxurious vehicles that are typically more affordable through leasing.

According to Edmunds' analysis of car registration data provided by Polk, leasing has accounted for 28.9 percent of all new car purchases by Millennials (age 18-34) in 2015. The percentage exceeds the industry-wide lease penetration rate of 26.7 percent, and reflects a 46 percent increase in leasing by Millennials over the last five years. By comparison, the share of leasing among all car shoppers has increased 41.7 percent during that period.

"Most Millennials understand and accept that they're on a tight budget and that they need to stick to it," said Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell. "But it doesn't mean that their financial constraints limit them only to the most basic vehicles to get from Point A to Point B. If they see a chance to get into a nicer car while staying within their budget, they're likely to explore that opportunity. In most cases, leasing opens the door to the bells and whistles that they couldn't otherwise afford."

There is a dramatic difference between what Millennial shoppers can afford when they choose to lease compared to when they choose to buy. According to a survey of Millennials conducted in June by Edmunds and Morpace Inc., a global market research firm with a large practice in the automotive sector, a majority of respondents (57 percent) said that they are willing to put no more than $2,999 down on a new car purchase, and a similar majority (54.9 percent) said that they are willing to pay no more than $299 per month. By inputting those budgets into Edmunds' "How Much Car Can I Afford?" Calculator, shoppers who choose to finance their purchase are generally limited to vehicles priced at under $20,000. On the other hand, shoppers who are willing to lease can apply the same upfront and monthly budget toward a vehicle priced as high as $35,000.

Other takeaways from Edmunds' analysis of Millennial leasing behaviors include:

  • Leasing is especially popular among Millennials living in some Midwest cities. In the most dramatic example, Edmunds found that Millennials in the Grand Rapids, Michigan market are 33 percent more likely to lease their new car purchase than the city's general car shopping population. Other top-50 markets where Millennials are more likely to lease are Minneapolis-St. Paul (30.5 percent more likely) and Milwaukee (26.4 percent more likely).

  • Lease Penetration by Market
    (Jan-Apr 2015)
    Rank Market Millennials All Buyers Millennials vs. All Buyers
    1 Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo 50.0% 37.7% +32.9%
    2 Minneapolis-St. Paul 39.0% 29.9% +30.5%
    3 Milwaukee 41.0% 32.4% +26.4%
    4 Portland, OR 20.9% 16.8% +24.8%
    5 Salt Lake City 26.8% 21.9% +22.2%
    6 Sacramento 21.4% 17.7% +21.2%
    7 Indianapolis 38.4% 32.1% +19.7%
    8 Charlotte 22.1% 18.6% +18.9%
    9 Seattle-Tacoma 21.8% 18.4% +18.6%
    10 Columbus, OH 37.5% 31.8% +18.2%

  • Millennials tend to gravitate toward leasing certain brands compared to the overall car buying population. Edmunds found that Millennials who acquire a new Ram truck, for example, are 30 percent more likely to lease it than the general population. Other top brands that Millennials are more likely to lease include GMC (26.1 percent more likely) and Lexus (23.9 percent more likely).

  • Lease Penetration by Brand
    (Jan-Apr 2015)
    Rank Market Millennials All Buyers Millennials vs. All Buyers
    1 Ram 16.7% 12.8% +30.5%
    2 GMC 36.2% 28.7% +26.1%
    3 Lexus 65.5% 52.9% +23.9%
    4 Jaguar 70.5% 57.8% +21.8%
    5 Cadillac 43.9% 36.4% +20.5%
    6 Buick 35.9% 29.8% +20.4%
    7 Subaru 16.4% 13.7% +19.9%
    8 Scion 30.3% 25.4% +19.2%
    9 Mini 27.8% 23.6% +17.8%
    10 Acura 53.8% 46.0% +17.0%

  • The Millennial leasing rate outpaces that of the total population in every one of Edmunds' 24 vehicle segments except for one: compact cars. An estimated 25.5 percent of all new compact cars registered by Millennials this year were leased, compared to 26.2 percent of new compact cars registered by the general population.

With more shoppers opting to lease than ever before, it's critical that they understand all of the elements of the deal. provides step-by-step guidance for securing a great lease deal at

Car-shopping website serves nearly 18 million visitors each month. With Price Promise®, shoppers can get an instant, upfront price for cars and trucks currently for sale at 10,000 dealer franchises across the U.S. Shoppers can browse not only dealer inventory, but also vehicle reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories on both Edmunds' wired site and on its acclaimed mobile apps. Regarded as one of the best places to work in Southern California, was also named one of "The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Automotive" by Fast Company. Edmunds welcomes all car-shopping questions at our Help Center and on Twitter and Facebook. The company is based in Santa Monica, Calif. and has a satellite office in downtown Detroit, Mich., but you can find Edmunds from anywhere on YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and Flipboard.

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