Midlife Crisis Cars: Men Want Black & Sporty, Women Want Red & Practical

February 4, 2015

You see it all the time: middle-aged men (and occasionally, women) driving sleek, sexy sports cars or brawny motorcycles. The disconnect between the drivers' midlife gravitas and the vehicles' juvenile showiness can be jarring.

Exactly why people feel compelled to buy cars like these when they reach middle age is a complicated issue. Some seem like they're compensating for shortcomings, others appear as if they're trying to recapture a bit of their youth with cash from their mature, six-figure salaries.  

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Exactly what they buy is a bit easier to answer, though -- thanks in part to a survey of 1,005 U.S. adults carried out by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of CarMax. Here are some of the study's findings:

  • Overall, 25 percent of survey respondents said that they were likely to purchase "a car associated with a midlife crisis". 
  • There were significant differences between male and female respondents. While 30 percent of men said that they were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to buy a midlife crisis vehicle, only 21 percent of women said the same.
  • Though we often think of red sports cars as the classic midlife ride, when survey participants were asked about the color of their hypothetical vehicle, red wasn't at the top of the list. In fact, 20 percent said that they'd choose black, and 19 percent opted for silver or gray. Blue and red tied, with each getting 17 percent of the vote. Yellow brought up the rear, at just two percent.
  • As with the purchase decision itself, men and women also had different ideas about what constituted a great, youthful color. Among men, 24 percent said that they'd opt for a black ride, while 21 percent of women chose red.
  • Men and women were divided on the types of vehicles they preferred, too. The top choice among men was the sports car, which got 24 percent of the male vote. Women's favorite was the SUV, with 19 percent. 
  • Location played a role in the survey as well. In the South, over 30 percent of respondents said that they were likely to buy a midlife crisis car. A few states over, though, Midwesterners were the least likely to pony up, with only 18 percent admitting to the potential purchase. (Interestingly, among Midwesterners who said they would buy a midlife crisis ride, the most popular vehicle was the handy, practical SUV, making the Midwest the only region where utility vehicles proved more popular on the survey than sports cars.)
  • American cars are king with midlife crisis sufferers: the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang were the makes and models most frequently mentioned by respondents, .

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For additional details, click on the infographic above. 

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