Despite the optimism of many industry analysts, there continues to be pretty clear evidence that Millennials are shunning car ownership. The latest report from the Frontier Group called “Millennials in Motion: Changing travel habits of young people and the implications for public policy” shows that for a variety of reasons, Generation Y just isn’t that into cars.
For the past few years analysts have blamed the economy for the growing number of carless 20-somethings who live and work in urban areas. More public transit options, car sharing services, and the rise of telecommuting have all made it much easier for a person to live a fully and happy life without committing to car ownership. As a result public transit use has hit record highs, and the number of young adults with driver licenses and the average Vehicle Miles Traveled continues to fall.
But why do so many Millennials shy away from buying a car? Well despite an “economic recovery”, many young people just don’t want to pay the high costs associated with car ownership. Some studies say that even owning a used car costs an average of $10,000 a year in fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs. With many urban areas already congested with too much traffic, many Millennials would rather ride a bike or take a bus to work than spend 45 minutes listening to the same DJs and the same music every day to and from work.
Many young people want to live in walkable, close-knit communities where the grocery or the bar is just a few blocks away. This is facilitated by the widespread adoption of smartphones and apps that allow people to live a carless lifestyle while sacrificing little in the way of convenience. As people become used to this lifestyle, the chances of them buying cars later in life is less and less. That said, it seems many Millennials do still favor the same kind of SUVs they were raised in as children, so not all is lost for the auto industry.
One thing that isn’t motivating Millennials to ditch cars? The environment. It’s not that young people don’t care about the planet, it’s just not their primary reason for ditching the automobile…and to me that’s a really good thing. Let’s be real here; saving the planet is great and all, but most people aren’t willing to sacrifice all that much in the name of an imperceptible environmental benefit. The color green is a much more effective motivator when it comes in money form, know what I mean?
For my wife and I, owning a single car makes more financial sense as I work from home, meaning most days I just don’t need a car. And when I do? I drop the wife off at work and take the car for myself for the day. Since we live in a city, the drive is short (if aggravating), though the addition of a dedicated busway will soon give her the option of taking faster public transit to work. I have no intentions of getting another car until the Tesla Model III debuts, and only if my budget can afford it.
I know a lot of other people my age who have never owned a car, and have no intention of ever owning one.
The times, they are a-channnngin’….and this time for the better it would seem.