Are Millennials Ditching Cars For Alternative Transportation?


Car manufacturers are under a lot of stress because it seems that the largest generation today – the millennials – are massively seeking alternative transportation. What used to be one of the primary goals for young baby boomers (buying a car) no longer looks as appealing to the millennials. While previous generations used to buy cars as a ticket into adulthood, millennials are massively accepting the concept of commuting, cycling, and services like Uber. Instead of spending the first paycheck on a shiny new car, millennials opt to invest that money into traveling or student loans.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons why car sales are declining in the last decade, as well as what the future may hold when it comes to millennials.

Staying Connected

One of the main reasons that seem to be behind why so many millennials are seeking alternative transportation is that they want to stay connected. With the rise of smartphones and social platforms came the decline in vehicle travel. Public transit not only allows them to stay connected all the time but it also often gets them faster to their destination, as public transit has advanced a lot in the past 30 years.

In fact, millennials are the first generation that doesn’t default to a single type of alternative transportation. Of all the generation, they are the most likely to assess the situation and decide how they’ll travel in a certain setting.

The Influence of Housing Costs

Another big reason why millennials aren’t buying so many cars is that they simply don’t have the money to do so. Housing costs today are significantly higher than those three decades ago, which is why this generation sometimes simply can’t afford a car. This isn’t to say that the millennials are poorer than the previous generations, it’s simply that they prioritize housing over investing in an expensive form of transportation like a car.

Today, there are many cheaper options to choose from for millennials when it comes to transportation.

Millennials are Going Green

Our planet has never been more polluted than it is today and a big part of this comes from motor vehicles. Millennials are the first generation that massively admits that something needs to be done if we’re to save the planet and they are looking to lead by example. While it’s a fact that cars today are generally producing less CO2 than before, this is diminished by the fact that the population is rapidly increasing.

Most millennials will gladly reconsider their habits, whether it’s saving energy, using less plastic, or cycle instead of driving. It’s also much easier for them to look up bicycles online than to enter a complicated procedure of buying a car.

A Different Look at “Ownership”

Owning a house and a car used to be one of the ultimate goals for people at a certain age. Owning music records, books, and everything similar has significantly changed with the arrival of the internet. Millennials are reading e-books, they’re using all sorts of platforms for music streaming, and they’re less likely to buy a car. There’s no status to be gained by owning anything these days, which is a complete opposite of where the world was a couple of decades ago. The internet has enabled everyone to stay connected at all times and that’s what people are being focused on these days. What cars were for previous generations – smartphones are for millennials.

A Sharing Generation

While baby boomers preferred the single experience, millennials are turning towards sharing experiences with their friends and families. Why would they buy a car (the cost of which averages around 30,000$) and have it sit in a garage 95% of their time when there are services like Zipcar that enable car sharing? With more people owning the car, it’s cheaper and people get to use it when they really need it.

The sharing factor goes beyond vehicles, as more and more millennials are also opting to live in shared apartments. While these practices may sound a bit hippie rather than revolutionary, it’s only coming to life because technology has made it so easy today. I’ve no doubts that the same thing would’ve occurred during the 60’s if they had the internet as we know of it now.

Alternative Transportation Is Still Evolving

It’s worth noting that there’s a resurgence in car purchases in the last few years when compared to the period 10 years ago. This is why so many experts are still unsure about the future of the car industry, as the rapid advancement of technology and alternative transportation can change things within a heartbeat.

For now, though, it’s safe to say that millennials are at least way more cautious when buying a car and they only do it when they really need it. While previous generations took pride in car ownership, millennials only look at it as means of mobility – and there’s a lot of alternatives to compete with. Cycling is cheaper, doesn’t pollute the planet, and it can help them stay fit. Public transit allows them to look at their smartphones all the time.

One thing is sure – whether the decline of car purchases will continue or not entirely depends on millennials and the way they perceive the world.

Cate Palmer

Cate Palmer


Cate is designer by day and writer by night. Her fields of expertise could be summed up in design, environment, and lifestyle-related topics. Her interests are, on the other hand, wide and ever-evolving. To see what Cate is up to next, check out her on Twitter.

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