Millennials Use Car Rentals as Extended Test-Drives | Edmunds

Millennials Use Car Rentals as Extended Test-Drives


Just the Facts:
  • Younger drivers are eager to own cars, according to a new study by Enterprise Holdings.
  • The study found that car shoppers of the millennial generation often use rental cars to check out the latest models and features.
  • Of those surveyed, 88 percent say renting a car influenced their perception of a particular make and model, and 28 percent were motivated to begin shopping.

ST. LOUIS — Younger drivers are eager to own cars and, according to a new study by Enterprise Holdings, they use rental cars to check out the latest models and features.

The study revealed that 88 percent of drivers of the millennial generation, the 25-34 year olds, reported that a positive experience with a rental car influenced their perception of a particular make or model. That contrasts to just 71 percent of all age groups surveyed.

And younger drivers aren't leaving vehicle selection to serendipity. Fully 53 percent say they chose a rental car specifically based on their desire to test out a new model, with 28 percent reporting that the rental-car experience motivated them to begin shopping for a new car.

As might be expected, the millennials are very interested in automotive technology. The majority of those surveyed — 68 percent — say their first exposure to the latest electronic features was in cars they had rented.

These findings suggest that one way to reach younger buyers is through vehicle rentals, an important point to make for Enterprise Holdings, owner of such brands as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car.

"Millennial respondents were particularly influenced by the rental experience, indicating that car rental is one of the best ways to introduce an automotive brand to the next generation of new car buyers," said Kurt Kohler, senior vice president of acquisition and remarketing for Enterprise Holdings, in a statement.

The study also found that, contrary to popular belief, millennials are just as interested in car ownership as drivers in other age groups. Of those surveyed, 79 percent rated owning a car "extremely important."

Still, according to many reports, they aren't buying at the same rate as older drivers, creating the perception that millennials don't care about owning cars. As noted by Edmunds Chief Economist Lacey Plache, even though "from 2007 to 2011, the share of sales to car buyers aged 18 to 34 fell nearly 30 percent," an indication that the economic downturn hit this age group especially hard, "improving employment conditions helped spur growth in new car purchases by these buyers in 2012."

Plache said that while the labor market for millennials did slow a bit in 2013, their car-buying patterns over the last two years "lend support to the theory that their weaker car-buying compared to previous generations stems from economic constraints rather than from a preference to not drive."

Clearly, this generation of consumers will buy cars when they can afford them. And their preference for trying out vehicles and features through the rental experience may provide a unique channel for reaching them.

Edmunds says: Renting cars to try them out before buying is a good practice for shoppers of all ages.

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