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Gen Z and millennials have complex relationships with their cars

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Two fun young women in sunglasses driving in a car in town laughing and smiling as they socialise together, view through open side window
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Six in 10 Gen Zers and millennials have a complicated relationship … with their cars.

A recent survey of 1,000 Gen Z and 1,000 millennial car owners or lessees found that 59 percent are not sure whether they want to continue driving or replace their current vehicle.

People stop driving their car and get a new one when the upkeep surpasses their budget (39%), there are too many strange sounds or smells (38%), too many parts have to be replaced (37%) and too much of it is being held together by tape (37%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kelley Blue Book Service Advisor, the survey also found it takes an average of eight warning lights for people to schedule vehicle maintenance.

Seventy-nine percent said they’ll do their own research about what their vehicle needs before seeing the mechanic, and 66% will look things up after their visit and return with a better sense of what their vehicle needs.

But although drivers seem proactive when it comes to their vehicle’s upkeep, they may not always be forward-looking when buying one. Six in 10 regret buying a car before inflation began in 2021. The loss of purchasing power, along with rising gas prices, have caused 42% to seek a better-paying job or side gig to help pay for vehicle upkeep, and 40% to turn to DIY for some of their vehicle maintenance.

“In this unpredictable economic landscape, it’s important to maximize your vehicle’s value. Not only will you extend its life and save money by not delaying upkeep, but you’ll also be more likely to sell it for a better price,” said a spokesperson for Kelley Blue Book Service Advisor. “Additionally, researching what kinds of repairs your next car may need before buying it can help save time and money in the future.”

To this point, women were more likely than men to do research ahead of their maintenance visit (88% vs. 72%) as well as after (73% vs. 59%). That may be why women were more likely to feel they have accurate information about the fair market price for repairs and maintenance (76% vs. 64%).

Overall, though, six in 10 (62%) feel they owned their first vehicle for too long. Fifty-seven percent said maintaining it seemed cheaper than getting a new one, and 43% couldn’t find a newer version of the same model.

Some saw their first car as a learning opportunity, noting they now know better to get a vehicle that does not use too much gas (32%), properly test drive one before buying (31%), do more research ahead of acquiring or maintaining it (31%) and not getting one solely based on aesthetics or popularity (31%).

However, 27% tend to disregard and continue driving with broken speakers or a radio, with 26% ignoring dull wipers, excessive emissions, low tire pressure light, oil change or scratches on their vehicle’s body or windshield.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) said they’re OK with their car not being up to par as long as it passes a state-licensed safety test.

On average, it takes five breakdowns for Gen Zers and millennials to buy a new car.

Sixty-nine percent are currently considering getting a new vehicle, but 23% of those respondents are not looking forward to it.

What would be the most difficult part of purchasing a new vehicle? Half (50%) said they’re used to driving or maintaining their current car, 48% dread the amount of paperwork involved and 46% can’t find one they like for their budget.

“Having a one-stop resource to make sure you’re getting a fair price for vehicle maintenance and being able to anticipate repairs based on what vehicles like yours have gotten done, along with a supportive online community, can help you make better choices for your current and future vehicles,” the spokesperson added.


  • When the upkeep is more expensive than my budget allows - 39%
  • When there are too many strange sounds or odors - 38%
  • When too many parts have to be replaced - 37%
  • When too much of it is being held together by tape - 37%
  • When it no longer matches my lifestyle - 31%
  • When there’s smoke coming out of it - 29%

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