Will COVID Finally Get Millennials to Buy Cars?

Image: Simon Migaj/Pexels

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer

Millennials have been the least likely to buy cars of any generation — in fact, before the COVID-19 pandemic, they were about 29 percent less likely than those in Gen X to purchase a car.

But the pandemic has made car ownership of “COVID cars” more desirable, according to a new survey from global consultancy EY. 

  • The survey found that 1/3 of people without cars planned to buy one in the next six months, and 45% of those respondents were Millennials. 

Why This Matters: The 2008 financial crisis left Millennials with less income to purchase single-occupancy vehicles which coincided with their more sustainable purchasing habits relative to other generations. And now, a new crisis is forcing this generation to rethink the balance of public health, convenience, and affordability. 

As public transit faces a ridership crisis, lawmakers must think quickly about how to ensure that transit can be a safe alternative while incentivizing those who insist on driving to purchase electric and hybrid vehicles. 

Long-term Effects: Because of COVID fears and social distancing standards, people are opting to rely on ridesharing and public transport much less than before the pandemic. Instead, people are turning to personal cars, motorcycles, bikes, e-bikes, and scooters to meet their transportation needs. Young consumers are even pushing carmakers to offer a subscription-based car model

This trend, if sustained, could help make vehicle emissions goals around the world more difficult to meet.

  •  The British government banned the sale of new internal combustion engine cars in 2035, which the majority of drivers supported. 
  • Norway has pledged to have all passenger cars, light commercial vehicles, and urban buses to be zero-emission in the next five years. 
  • In the United States, the state of California also banned selling new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. 

However, this shift towards car ownership may not last long — in urban areas, rising delays and congestion may force some to go back to public transportation to travel faster once the pandemic is over. Time will tell. 


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