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Gen Z and baby boomers agree that newer isn’t always better

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Young men posing by old classic car in town.
(Photo by Bee Bonnet via Shutterstock)

Gen-Z and baby boomers may agree on more than either generation will admit. Case in point: newer isn’t always better.

A survey of 2,000 American car drivers and owners found both generations equally believe the items they own should last at least 10 years (84%).

And while seven in 10 respondents overall said they try to thrift their clothes and belongings as much as possible, 78% of those aged 18-40 try to thrift clothes and belongings in an effort to create less waste or lower their environmental impact.          

Commissioned by Ally Financial and conducted by OnePoll, the study found thriftiness goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. Eighty-two percent of people try to be as sustainable as possible by reusing and saving items as often as they can.

The average American has had their current phone for four years, their computer for five and their home for eight.

Younger consumers also tend to keep their cars for long periods of time. More than half of respondents in the 18-40 age range said vehicles should last more than seven or more years (64%).

More than half of respondents (56%) still drive their first car, and just as many (59%) said they would rather buy a used car than a new model. The preference is even stronger among 18 to 40 year-olds, with 71% opting for used over new cars.

As to why younger consumers favor a used car over a new car, most respondents in the 18–40 age group cited sustainability (63%) and ease of driving (63%) as key motivators, along with affordability (46%).

Respondents are also split over which is more eco-friendly — 32% believe newer cars with the latest emissions control technology are better for the environment. Meanwhile, 52% believe older cars are more sustainable since they use fewer resources than building new cars.

“Gen Z and millennials prioritize sustainability and that influences consumer attitudes on everything from clothes to cars,” said Gabe Garroni, Senior Vice President of Insurance, Ally Financial. “Whether younger generations are purchasing an electric vehicle, or a used car, the goal remains the same: to lessen environmental impact.”

When shopping for a car, respondents look for features like reliability (65%), affordability (63%), performance (49%), safety features (49%) and efficiency (45%).

Many respondents (42%) also said the mileage on the odometer comes into play, as well, However, this is more vital for older generations. A majority (53%) of respondents 57+ said they consider mileage on the odometer as a feature they look for when they shop for a car.

Each generation is looking for something different when it comes to shopping for a vehicle. Nearly half of younger generations want to find something more eco-friendly (47%). Meanwhile, respondents 57+ want more reliability and less maintenance (56%).    

Four in five (82%) of younger drivers also believe electric vehicles are the future — 72% aged 18–40 would consider purchasing one.    

In comparison, only 28% of drivers aged 57+ would consider ever purchasing an electrified vehicle even though the majority (51%) still see EVs as the future.

Respondents admitted electrified vehicles have a higher bar to meet before they consider getting one. That higher bar includes features like a longer range (37%), the same affordability as a gas-powered vehicle (34%) and improved safety (30%).

“No matter the car type – used, new, or EV – we recommend car buyers consider vehicle service contracts to help extend the life of their vehicle and protect their wallets from unexpected repair costs,” Garroni said. “Ask your dealer about how service contracts help cover repairs and replacement parts that fall outside the factory warranty.”

WHY BUY USED CARS?

  • It’s more affordable - 56%
  • It’s more sustainable - 52%
  • It’s easier to drive - 51%
  • It’s more comfortable to drive - 46%

WHAT DO AMERICANS LOOK FOR IN CARS?

  • Reliability - 65%
  • Affordability - 63%
  • Performance - 49%
  • Safety features - 49%

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