Are young drivers changing the car market?

New research by Auto Trader claims that 42% of car buyers aged 17-24 are open to buying either a new car or a used car for their next purchase.

They research online and when they do finally visit a dealer, they want to buy quickly and easily. They also view the car buying process as boring and complicated — not exciting or interesting.

Auto Trader car buyer

48% of all younger consumers aged 17-24 intend to buy a car on their first visit to a dealership, the second highest percentage (38%) are those aged 25-34 years, according to Auto Trader’s Annual Buying Report.

Auto Trader surveyed over 2,000 consumers for its Annual Buying Report and found that spending time online is key for Millennials when researching which car to buy, as only 9% of them claim to visit a retailer to browse models. What’s more, over a third of all car buyers discount visiting a dealership as part of their research to choose which car to buy next.

This is a marked change from drivers of my generation and those older than me, many of whom considered multiple trips to browse the cars on display at dealerships as a normal and enjoyable part of buying a car.

These findings probably won’t surprise you. But looking beneath the surface suggests to me that these changes are indicative of a wider shift away from owning a car and towards using a car. Back in the day, there was no prouder moment for many a young man (or woman) than picking up the keys of their first car.

Buying a new car was a special event — but Nick King, Auto Trader Insight Director, says this view is changing:

“We know there is now no real difference between a new and a used car buyer anymore – there are just car buyers. This is particularly true of the 17-24 year olds, the biggest demographic of car buyers to consider new or used with 42% of them open to either.

This generation is used to next-day delivery, and getting everything they want immediately, and it’s why 48% of millennials expect to walk in to a dealership and buy there and then.“

It seems that many car buyers don’t visit a showroom until they’re ready to buy a car. 81% of those questioned said that they were able to complete a purchase on the same day. The biggest reason given for sales not completing was that the car wasn’t ready to drive away.

Nick King went on to emphasise that this should be a wake-up call for car dealers, who may need to change the way they operate:

“So there are opportunities for retailers to win here by blending the on and offline retail experience into one seamless process that is enjoyable, quick and easy. Millennials are the most impatient for this to happen as they are the most tech savvy, so there is a huge opportunity for the industry to grab.”

I have to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of visiting car dealers. I would be prepared to buy a new car unseen, but I’d never do this with a secondhand car. There are still far too many clues about the car’s previous ownership, maintenance history and general condition that are only visible with a careful inspection.

Having said that, I always do plenty of research online before hitting the dealers.

What’s your view? Leave a comment below and let me know.

If you’re about to buy a used car and would like some essential tips and advice on what to look for, then check out our car buying guide.

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