SANTA MONICA, California — Car shopping by Millennials on Edmunds.com has increased as the U.S. economy has picked up, according to Edmunds Chief Economist Lacey Plache.
Economic trends indicate that the recovery has favored the Baby Boomers, with that generation, born from 1946-'64, experiencing the lowest rate of unemployment and accounting for the most car sales, while Millennials were hit hard by the downturn and are still in rebound mode.
But even though Edmunds and Polk data show that new-car sales to Millennials — the 18-to-34 year-olds — are almost 25 percent below pre-recession levels, sales to that age group are on the upswing.
"We believe the economic tide is finally turning for Millennials," said Plache. "We've seen a 6 percent increase in the share of these shoppers on Edmunds.com, overall."
There are two key reasons for this: according to government statistics, there was a significant increase in the number of new jobs among the Millennial generation in 2014, allowing them to purchase vehicles; and there was a dramatic spike in the number of new households established by this age group last year, indicating a need for transportation.
When it comes to choosing a new vehicle, the data shows that Millennials favor comfort, performance and tech features. They also make up the largest single age group of shoppers (28 percent) who prefer leasing to buying.
The younger car shoppers also tend to be the smartest. They make up the largest share of "bargain shoppers" (34 percent) and "value shoppers" (26 percent) on Edmunds.com, according to Plache, based on data from Google Analytics.
As previously reported by Edmunds, "tech-savvy Millennials are becoming a more educated and self-sufficient group of car buyers due to their prolific use of mobile devices."
In fact, the latest data show that Millennials make up 55 percent of Edmunds Mobile users, compared to about 10 percent of Baby Boomers. And they're not just browsing but using those devices for critical car-shopping activities, such as reading vehicle reviews (41 percent of all shoppers), locating vehicles for sale (34 percent) and researching prices (33 percent).
So the best way for auto dealers to attract these savvy Millennial shoppers, says Plache, is to offer plenty of "bang for the buck."
Edmunds says: As more Millennials get into car-buying mode, automakers are responding with greater in-car connectivity and a wider selection of value-priced models.