Millennials Suck At Buying New Cars

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Millennials! The youths. Such a silly bunch, with their Instagram Stories about artisanal bacon. According to a recent report, they are so accustomed to monthly subscription costs, is that they look at buying a car the same way. Sounds good in theory, but not the best practice.

Automotive News reports that millennials are the fastest growing segment of car buyers, and will represent 40 percent of new car market by 2020. Given the population age distribution that doesn’t sound all too surprising, but automakers, dealerships, and other “industry disrupters” (ugh) are looking to cash in on millennial buying power.

According to Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting with LMC Automotive, millennials are more likely to focus on monthly payments rather than total vehicle cost. These buying habits are mostly due to the fact that millennials are a subscription-based culture where most of their repeat costs are just a part of their monthly expenses, like rent and Spotify and Netflix.


Therefore, many millennial car shoppers get fixated on just the payment and convenience of the purchase rather than the big picture of the overall cost.


Once such company wants to make it easier for millennials to find a car that meets their budget.

From the story:

AutoGravity, a financial technology company whose leasing and financing mobile app and web platform enables consumers to arrange their transaction with a dealership and lender, is working on a solution that would enable customers to search by monthly payment and vehicle type. Customers could search for an SUV at a maximum payment of $300 per month, for example.


This sounds great—except it’s a lazy and stupid way to buy a car. This scenario is ripe for people either paying too much or putting themselves in a situation where the focus on low payments means they are taking a loan term that us too long and risks putting them underwater.

Let’s break it down. Suppose you did set a limit of $300 a month and had a downpayment of $3,000. The app identifies that you can get a brand new Honda CR-V EX for that payment. That’s great! A CR-V is a modest purchase and is the perfect crossover for millennial types.


Here is the problem: a 2017 Honda CR-V EX AWD has an MSRP of $28,935. With $3,000 down that reduces the balance to $25,935 in order to hit that $300 payment, assuming an average new car interest rate, of three percent you would have to finance that Honda for eight years. While Hondas are certainly reliable, getting a 96-month loan in order to “afford” it probably isn’t the best idea.

By prioritizing convenience over diligence you just paid thousands more for a purchase than you should have. Let’s hope this habit doesn’t translate into buying a home or renting an apartment.


Clearly, not all millennials approach car buying this way. These statistics are based on new-car buyers while a large chunk of millennial car shoppers understand that pre-owned models will often give them a better overall value for their dollar.

However, as this subscription based culture proliferates even further, it’s important to remember that buying a car despite some advancements in online car shopping is not like getting a Netflix account.


There are several really important numbers that go into a loan calculation, specifically the sale price of the car, the down payment, the interest rate and the term. Almost every single piece of that equation can be manipulated to hit a monthly payment. It’s up to you to follow the numbers to see if the math works out in your favor.