2012 Toyota Prius c

Is Gen Y abandoning the car, or simply can't afford to drive?

A decline in driving for those between 16-34 years old (Gen Y), as well as an across-the-board decline in car ownership and driving, may show a long range market trend away from car ownership and towards livable walkable cities, or may simply be due to the recession and tight budgets.

It's been noticed by marketers that "Gen Y," the 80 million Americans currently between 16-34 years of age, are driving a lot less than their predecessors. This trend has been going on for some time, but recently garnered big attention due to a Reuters article which looked at the federal government's National Household Travel Survey, which showed a rapid decline in the annual vehicle-miles-traveled for people aged 16-34. Does this foretell the ending of a major part of the American lifestyle, car ownership and car dependency? Or is it simply a temporary condition due to the current financial woes in the U.S.?

The key factoids, reported by Reuters, are that between 2001 and 2009, the last year for which the Travel Survey data is available, vehicle-miles traveled by people aged 16-34 dropped 23 percent from 10,300 to 7,900. Between that factoid, and the rise of bicycling and public transit use, as well as increased cell phone and social media use, led to a conclusion the consumer trend for Gen Y is the abandonment of cars.


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It's also telling that Gen Y (ages 18-25) in adults has the highest rate of unemployment and has through most of the recession. I think that has a lot more to do with any of this than anything else. More than half of the jobs lost during 2009 were to those under 30 and many are currently underemployed or still unemployed.