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Millennials and Cars: Clearing Up the Misconception

New research uncovers Millennials' true feelings about car maintenance

A popular media story says that Millennials don’t like cars. The story goes that Millennials’ transportation needs are being answered by mass transit, Uber, or borrowing their mom’s minivan. In fact, some pundits go so far as to say Millennials “hate” cars.

But is this true?


Do Millennials love, hate or have some other view about cars and driving? To uncover the answer, The Center for Generational Kinetics conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 Americans, aged 18 to 65, who own cars or are the primary driver of a car. The study was regionally representative and included Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers. In short, the study is a snapshot of the Americans with the greatest direct exposure to cars.

The findings were surprising and relevant for every generation.

The key finding: contrary to popular conversation, Millennials don’t have a negative attitude toward cars and driving. However—and here is the twist—they do lack confidence in all things automotive. Millennials also desire convenience and transparency, and depend on technology in their vehicles.

The bottom line finding is that Millennials do have a very different consumer experience and expectations than older generations—which everyone from the auto industry to your neighborhood retailer needs to know about. Understanding these differences is critical as Millennials are now the fastest growing generation of car buyers and the largest generation in the U.S. since Baby Boomers.

When it comes to automotive service, the study found Millennials look for convenience in online shopping. This is core for Gen X and Boomers, too, who are increasingly comfortable about making complex purchases—including tires—online. But every generation wants to buy from a brand they trust, whether purchasing through their smartphone, tablet or laptop—but, hopefully, none of those while driving!

Let’s dive into the data and explore the most important insights from the national study.

Car Confidence Varies by Generation

The study found that confidence about car maintenance varied significantly by generation. In fact, Millennials’ lack of confidence in basic car maintenance tasks stood out starkly from older generations. Case in point: Millennials are TWICE as likely to lack confidence in their ability to refill windshield wiper fluid, or check oil level and tire pressure when compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Here is where it gets interesting.

Millennials might lack confidence, but they actually do think about car maintenance. In fact, Millennials think about their car’s maintenance more frequently than ANY other generation; 25% of them think about it at least once per week. This behavior could reflect their lack of car-care confidence. When you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, you could end up worrying way more than necessary.

But where do Millennials go when they need quick answers about car care and maintenance? It’s not just to their dad. The study found that Millennials are more than twice as likely as any other generation to turn to online sources like YouTube for guidance about car care and maintenance.

Convenience is King (and Queen)

America loves to shop online, but what drives that purchasing behavior? Digital coupons? Ratings and reviews? Nope.

Americans shop online for one major reason: convenience. Not having to travel—the definition of convenience—trumps even getting a better price and easy price comparison. The study found that, across generations, consumers have a clear priority when ranking the factors that motivate them to shop online rather than in a store. Convenience was the number one answer for every generation: Boomers, 79%; Generation X, 86%; Millennials, 77%.

When it comes to car maintenance, specifically purchasing tires, would America consider buying tires online? The study revealed an interesting emerging trend. Although only 15% of Americans say they have already purchased tires online, the study found 47% of consumers say they are willing to try it. Tech-dependent Millennials lead the charge, with 54% saying they are now willing to purchase tires online. This could represent a sea change for the industry.

Trust Me On This One

What does trust have to do with online shopping for tires? Everything. Over a third of Americans (34%) feel that, currently, there isn’t a website for buying tires online that they can trust. But if there were one would Americans use it? You bet. It turns out that 65% (!) of Americans would be happy if they could shop for and buy the right tires for their car online, and then have them delivered to and installed at a tire dealer near them. Millennials would be happier about this than any other generation: Boomers, 55%;, Generation X, 66%;, Millennials, 72%.

Technology is the Answer—and the Problem

The study found that the same technology that Americans rely on to make their world easier also makes us increasingly tech dependent on solving our car problems—from directions to regular maintenance. Are Millennials more dependent on their cell phone or their car? The answer is striking: 44% of Millennials—fewer than any other generation surveyed—would give up their cell phone for a year before they would give up their car for a year! Wow. (Boomers, 58%; Generation X, 55%; Millennials, 44%.) Going even further, 14% of Millennials would give up the ability to speak before they gave up their car for a year.

One of the most interesting generational differences uncovered by the study was not about driving, but where a person goes for a map. While Boomers are the generation most likely to carry a road atlas (Boomers, 39%; Generation X, 28%; Millennials, 24%), Millennials are the generation most likely to use their phone navigation system. In fact, for Millennials, the #1 technology in their car is the phone navigation system.

Millennials may not covet a road atlas, but there is one driving experience they, more than any other generation, want: to ride in a self-driving car. (Baby Boomers, 32%; Generation X, 38%; Millennials, 46%.) So, despite being the least confident in their car-care abilities, they are the most confident about allowing technology to do the driving!

What This Means

Increasingly, every generation looks toward technology to improve their shopping and car-care experiences. For example, Goodyear is capitalizing on this fast-emerging trend by, for the first time ever, selling tires directly on The website incorporates the key findings from the national study in a way customers of every generation value: convenience, transparency, and one of America’s best-known brands, with more than 4,000 installation locations nationwide.

Whether you’re a Millennial buying tires for the first time, a Gen Xer who values efficiency, or a Baby Boomer who has bought enough tires to train a Millennial on how to buy them, has a tire for you—ready to be installed at a location in your area.

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