Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

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Dealers, Get Ready: Generation Z Leans Toward Used Cars

Generation Z is no longer a group that’s toddling around in diapers or goofing off on the playground monkey bars. As more GenZers become teenagers and young adults, they’re making their presence known – especially when making purchases such as new versus used cars.

Like Millennials, Generation Z has its own distinctive characteristics, and many of them are pointing toward the direction of utter pragmatism and frugality. As a result, car makers and automobile dealerships are gearing up for a generation of people who are just as satisfied to test out pre-owned vehicles as they are to buy something right off the assembly line. In fact, even Generation Z-ers with the means to buy new may tend to opt for used cars and everything else.

What attributes suggest that car dealerships ought to do a little research on the Generation Z cohort before making Millennial assumptions? Check out the following facts about GenZ and their collective behaviors and trends.

  1. They Are the First Generation That Uses Smart Phones for Everything

Sure, Millennials like their social media, but they don’t have quite the penchant for doing everything online via their phones the way GenZers do. Generation Z constantly logs more hours on their hand-held devices than their Millennial counterparts, and they’re not just creating hashtags, checking out memes, or ordering Siri around.

Generation Z has learned to use the smartphone as an extension of their brains. Thus, they check out everything, right down to the nitty-gritty. Any car dealer should recognize that when a 20-year-old comes into the lot, she’s unlikely to be window shopping. Chances are stronger that she’s done a ton of research on vehicles, and she has some ideas in mind. She might have even compared several of the dealer’s used cars on their website. This makes Generation Z a horde of savvy shoppers who have a deep thirst for knowledge and a desire not to be surprised by anything.

  1. They Are Watching Far Less TV Than Generations Past

Shockingly, while Generation Z is hooked to smartphones and seems to be tethered non-stop, they’ve eschewed formal TV watching. Rather than turning toward television programming, they’re picking and choosing videos on YouTube and Vimeo. When they want to watch a show, they simply download it from Netflix or Amazon Prime, sometimes binge-watching entire seasons in a night or weekend.

What this means is they are less likely to be swayed by traditional television advertising that tries to entice viewers to purchase new cars. Not only are they quick to remove ads whenever possible, but they have learned how to completely ignore any type of intrusive advertising. Therefore, they aren’t as swayed by the swag and trappings of the newest generation of Dodge, Ford, or Toyota.

  1. They Are Incredibly Realistic

Talk to any Generation Z member for even a few minutes and you’ll notice how serious they seem. Even younger preteens and teens have a more realistic outlook than you might expect. Is it any wonder, really? Not only are they bombarded by scary news 24/7, but they’ve been brought up in a world fraught by political tensions since they were old enough to walk.

This has left them a bit cynical, but not closed-off completely. What they want to hear is the truth at all costs, because they can handle it. (Cue the Jack Nicholson moment…) They’re not concerned that a used car is going to cost them a certain amount of money. They just want you to tell them exactly what that amount of money IS. Don’t expect them to jump up and down at a good deal, either. GenZers will probably just smile in an adult way and take the keys from your hand.

  1. They Have an Entrepreneurial Mindset, But Practicality, Too

The next generation of entrepreneurs have come, but they don’t expect to make millions before their 30th birthdays the way we saw with Millennials. Kids in Generation Z know they have to work to earn their rewards, and they’re willing to put sweat and tears into climbing the corporate ladder.

In other words, these folks know the value of two dimes rubbing together, so they don’t want to spend too much. When they see that a used car that’s last year’s model has low mileage and is $5,000 or less than the newer version, they innately see the deal. Sure, they’ll be a year behind in the vehicle they drive, but to save a few bucks, they’re willing to make the sacrifice.

  1. They Enjoy Technology

Not only do Generation Z members like their technology, but they lean into it at all times. They can go “off the grid” to a private space when needed, but they like to have the comforts of tech at their fingertips.

This poses an interesting conundrum, especially when considering how far back they’ll be willing to go when looking at used cars. Generally speaking, Generation Z will likely aim for used cars with decent technology unless they are completely strapped for cash (or are looking for a hands-on “fixer upper” with old-school appeal.) After all, when you’re accustomed to having the Internet when you want it, you’re hesitant to want to tool around the neighborhood with a radio that can only play AM and FM stations.

The Evolution of Generation Z Is Happening Now

Of course, Generation Z hasn’t quite solidified itself yet, especially when it comes to car-buying and related habits. As more GenZers begin to get their licenses (which they are doing at older ages than teens did in the 1990s), they will start to give dealerships and manufacturers more data to consider.

In the meantime, it’s essential to realize that they offer a whole new way for everyone to think about buying and selling cars at the dealership level. It’s a good idea to get on the cutting edge of this learning curve now before they all turn 16, 17, and older, rather than finding out too late that your dealerships don’t know their target market.