NEW YORK — Among all age groups surveyed, car shoppers in the Millennial generation are the ones most likely to buy a vehicle in the next 12 months, according to a new study from Bankrate.com.
The online financial services company surveyed more than 5,000 consumers about their anticipated expenditures in the coming year and found that 24 percent of Millennials plan to buy a car, considerably outpacing those in other age groups.
Millennials were born from the early 1980s to around 2000, according to researchers. They are sometimes known as Generation Y.
Mike Cetera, personal loans and credit analyst for Bankrate.com, told Edmunds that the increase in purchasing by the Millennial generation is likely due to overall improvements in the U.S. economy.
"During the economic downturn, Millennials were having trouble finding jobs and were not able to spend like their parents did," he said. "Our survey data paints a picture that this age group is coming into its own and is finally in a position to spend some money."
This may be surprising, since a few years ago a number of studies showed younger consumers preferred not to drive at all and were decidedly reluctant to purchase a vehicle.
For example, a report from the University of Michigan in 2011 found that a lower percentage of young people held a driver's license at that time, compared to those in 1983 — 22 percent vs. 33 percent — a trend not found among other age groups.
And a 2013 study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group reported a significant downward trend in vehicle use by Millennials, noting that younger consumers were relying more heavily on public transportation, bicycling and walking. That trend, researchers predicted, would end a six-decade "driving boom" and would require a complete rethinking of the concept of personal mobility.
But, like the Bankrate.com survey, more recent data has indicated a growing shift in the purchasing habits of consumers in the 18-34 age group.
A 2015 study from J.D. Power noted that Millennials accounted for 27 percent of total new-car sales in the prior year, up from 18 percent in 2010, while an MTV study debunked the perception that this generation is somehow anti-car, stating: "Young people not only like cars but are passionate about them."
And data from Edmunds and Polk published last year showed a sharp increase in car shopping by Millennials on Edmunds.com, another clear indication that younger consumers are likely to have a significant effect on vehicle sales in the near future.
Edmunds says: It seems that reports of the demise of automobile ownership among the Millennial generation were greatly exaggerated. Get ready for them to crowd showrooms.