Trends: Fewer Teens Buying Cars, Younger Motorists Driving Less

July 30, 2010
U.S. lawmakers to get tougher on teen drivers

U.S. lawmakers to get tougher on teen drivers

It's the peak of summer-job season. And while in the past savings from teens' summer jobs used to often go towards buying a first used car, today it's more likely to go be used for a smartphone, and young drivers are more likely to share the family car—a safer option, anyway—or stay out of the driver's seat altogether.

Either in an indication about how few paying entry-level jobs we have today, or in an indication that teens simply aren't placing their priorities on cars anymore, the used-car market for teenagers has dramatically shrunk over the past several years. According to CNW Research it's fallen from 7.5 million to 4.2 million in just five years; and overall, just 10.9 percent of all used cars go to teens today, versus 17.4 five years ago.

Employment is attributed as one of the major reasons for the difference. Teen unemployment, in terms of those who have worked part- or full-time in the past year, is more than double that of 2005.

And while driving used to be the single most important symbol of independence for teens, many 16- or 17-years olds don't seem to mind forgoing the license restrictions some states put on young drivers and simply wait until 18.

Illinois, for instance, noticed that—as the state's population of teens increased—the number of 16-year-olds with licenses dropped significantly from 2006 to 2009. Admittedly, the state had phased in a tougher graduated licensing system during that time.

But with fewer teens getting their licenses at 16, when fatality rates are particularly high, there are simply more 16-year-olds staying alive.

Then of course there's the question of whether Gen Y drivers, and especially Millenials and those under 30, are eschewing the automotive lifestyle altogether.

All this while, as we reported a few months ago, the number of older drivers is expanding, but they're getting safer.

As Advertising Age reported, the share of miles traveled by those age 21 to 30 fell during a time when the proportion of people in that age group has risen. Overall, since 1995, the decline in miles driven by those age 21 to 30 is a shocking 7.7 percent.

Some experts say that it's a product of the Internet era and e-commerce; others point to attitudes toward the environment. Whatever the case, it's a trend on which marketers are no doubt keeping a close watch.

[USA Today]

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