Who has two thumbs and isn't buying a new car (at least right now)? This Guy!
The post title was the first thing I thought when I saw an article on Edmunds aboutwho isn't buying new cars. Especially since the answer, evidently, is, young adults age 18 to 34, a group that I am a member of, at least for the next couple years.
The Atlantic had a similar article a few months back that attributed it mainly to urban flights, claiming that the youth of America are moving to cities and taking public transportation.
I'm not so sure this is true - my gut instinct is that I don't actually know anyone in my age group who doesn't own a car, even those who live in urban areas. Of course, most of this subset is my coworkers, who work with me in an area that isn't particularly public-transportation friendly. I'm sure that there are some young hipsters who are carless, but I'm not sure there are enough of them to have a major impact on new car sales.
I'm more likely to suspect that a lot of people in my age group are either buying used cars, inheriting cars from family members and keeping them, or keeping their current cars longer.
Part of it is that cars are lasting longer. I remember growing up in the 80's, when a car making it to 100k was kind of a big deal. Now, it's pretty commonplace. I also think that a lot of the people who are actually passionate about cars are gravitating towards used cars, where they can get much nicer or more interesting vehicles for the price of a new one. Lots of people are also happier to take a used car and modify it.
And I do think that for a lot of young people, the car has become an appliance. If it works, there isn't much reason to replace it. And with cars lasting longer, it works longer.
But maybe part of it is that there just isn't much out there that young people want to buy. I probably can't project my own preferences to the majority of car buyers, although I suspect that there are some Jalopnik readers who would agree. I drive a 2006 Ford Ranger, and while I've pondered replacing it for the last couple years, I can't really bring myself to do so. Part of this is that I'm a notorious cheapskate who prefers to log onto my online banking and stare at the numbers rather than actually spend money. But part of it is that there really isn't anything that I really want. It's been the most reliable vehicle I've owned so far (knock on wood). It does what I need it to do, which is mostly get me to work and to haul stuff from the occasional auction or to the occasional flea market. It looks pretty good. Sure, I'd love to have leather seats and a stereo with actual MP3 player compatibility instead of a tape deck. But I think I'd rather have $30k more in the bank. I don't know what I would replace it with - nobody really makes a small pickup anymore - I'm pretty much limited to a Nissan Frontier or GM's ancient Colorado/Canyon. I don't want a full size truck - I like the slightly better gas milage, easier maneuverability (I work in the city, and suck at parking), and lower price of a compact truck.
So maybe part of the problem isn't credit, or people moving to cities, but rather that car companies aren't making anything that young people actually want to buy. Figuring out what that is and making it is going to do much more than offering small cars in colors with names like "Denim" (which Chevy is doing, according to the Atlantic article).