Study: Car Buyers Are Changing (and Dealers Need to Adapt)

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Watch for millennials to take the wheel in the car-buying experience.

A new survey commissioned by Edmunds found that the days of younger drivers hesitating to dive into buying a car are long gone. And that notion that haggling over a car is the province of men? Not any more. Now 61 percent of men and women ranging in age from 18 to 34 feel “well-informed” during car buying, and more than 70 percent of men and women in that age group feel confident when they negotiate and buy cars, according to Edmunds.

“The world where millennials grew up was very different from that of older generations. For many, both parents worked and financial decisions were made equally, which is reflected in their different attitudes about gender roles in car shopping,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analytics at Edmunds. “Millennials are poised to become the predominate consumption group in the automotive industry, making it key that automakers, dealers and marketers understand how their perceptions are changing the way consumers approach car buying.”

“I think for dealers, this might mean a slight change in hiring and training of staff to meet the needs of Millennial shoppers,” said Edmunds Senior Editor Matt Jones, speaking to MoneyTalksNews. “Some dealerships are hiring younger sales staff, and pulling them from places like Best Buy, Apple stores and restaurants.”

That means car buyers may well find younger, tech-savvy salespeople instead of veteran auto sellers in showrooms. For a car buyer that means the days of auto salespeople who have what Jones referred to as “bad habits” — presumably high-pressure tactics that don’t resonate with younger buyers — are fading away.

Generational gender shift

That’s underscored by the data released by Edmunds. Some of the most telling:

  • Equal car-buying savvy: The majority of baby boomer women 67 percent, said they are equal or better than men at car buying. But just under half of men in that age group, 48 percent, agreed. Among millennials, Edmunds found that 64 percent of women and 54 percent of men agreed that women are as good or better than men at car buying.
  • Younger men are more confident in women’s buying abilities: Men ages 18 to 34 were more apt to “believe that women are equally or more logical than men during the car shopping process” than older men. “There was a 15 percentage point gap in gender opinion for millennials (59 percent of men versus 74 percent of women), compared to a 27-point gap among Generation Xers (52 percent of men versus 79 percent of women).”

  • Equal self-assurance between genders: “Millennial men and women feel nearly equal levels of self-assurance and empowerment during the car shopping process, with a gap of only 1 percent and 2 percent respectively between the genders. This gap widens within the older generations, to 8 percent for Gen Xers and 14 percent for boomers.”
  • Younger men trust women to close the deal: “When it comes time to close the deal and purchase the vehicle, millennial men are more confident in women than men in older generations. Sixty percent of millennial men say that women are stronger negotiators versus 50 percent of Gen X men and 49 percent of boomer men.”
  • Car buying experience wish lists vary between genders: “Even as the gap between genders is getting smaller by generation, there are still nuanced differences that drive home the need for personalized car shopping experiences. Across the entire population, while more women feel assured that they made the right purchase than men (80 percent of women versus 75 percent of men), 30 percent of female respondents stated that they didn’t know where to start the car shopping process, compared to just 18 percent of men. Additionally, 67 percent of all women wish there was a faster, more efficient way to shop for a car, compared to 57 percent of all men.”

The data was culled from a study of 3,000 U.S. adults ages 18 to 65 commissioned by Edmunds and conducted by the research firm Hypothesis.

What’s your experience and confidence level when it comes to buying cars? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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