Breaking Down the Millennial Automotive Customer Persona

By Jazel Auto Marketing

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Millennials are one of the biggest and most valuable audiences for dealers right now, but they’re also a generation defined by their disruption. That makes them a particularly challenging generation to sell cars to. We get that. With this post, we’re trying to make understanding Millennial car shoppers just a little easier.

Sometimes, to do that, what we love best is a good old-fashioned example. Here are Millennials explained – by breaking down your “Gen Y” Car Shopper Persona:

Pictured: Our run-of-the-mill Millennial car shopper.

Age: 32

General consensus puts “Millennials” as are those born between 1980 and 1994, meaning their ages range from about 24 to around 38. The average Millennial car shopper is likely to be in the older ends of the age range, though the whole segment is coming into its own for car buying.


Education: College Graduate

Millennials are the most educated generation of young adults, and even though they’re paying for it with mountains of student debt, it makes a difference in how they shop.

Namely, they research. In fact, Millennials spend over 17 hours researching their vehicle before they make the actual purchase.

More than any generation before them, Millennials want to know all the details before they make a purchase. 71% of Millennials say they need to be aware of all possible vehicle choices before they make their decision. Millennials are comfortable with research, and not afraid to embark on hours of Googling.


Marital Status: Engaged

Millennial automotive shoppers are likely to be settling down, either married, engaged, or cohabitating with a long-term partner.

Interestingly, a recent study found that Millennials are actually driving down the divorce rate. This is heavily due to the fact that Millennials are delaying marriage until after they’ve graduated college and developed their careers.

It’s this highly-educated, likely dual-income Millennial household that dealers can really profit from – if they’re offering the right experience.  


Digital Device Habits:

  • Phone: Samsung Galaxy 8+
  • Work: Desktop Mac
  • Home: MacBook Air laptop
  • Often switches between phone and desktop/laptop while at work.

Millennials are incredibly comfortable with multiple devices. Studies show that Millennials switch between an average of three screens a day. They grew up at the beginning of the Information age, and they can switch seamlessly between devices in the course of accomplishing a task.

Here’s a revealing statistic:  Less than 2% of Millennials watching TV changed the channel during commercials. Don’t jump to any conclusions about Millennials being particularly commercial-obsessed. They hate commercials just as much (if not more so) than other generations. Millennials are simply conditioned to switch devices instead of channels.

Why waste time changing the channel to try and find something else entertaining to watch, when you can just pull up Instagram or Youtube? Why risk missing the first few minutes of a program? Millennials don’t bother with these inconveniences. They simply go straight for their device.

There’s a hint about marketing there. Millennials can switch between devices without any problem, so they expect those online experiences to switch over with them.

Remember, this multi-device lifestyle revolves not around their desktop or laptops, but their smartphones. As crazy as it may seem, 87% of Millennials have their phone by their side every second of every day. Mobile use is one of the features which distinguishes this generation. If they can do it on their mobile phone, they will.

That translates to automotive shopping – 48% of mobile-first auto consumers are Millennials.


Social Media Habits:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Youtube

Millennials love them some social media. Facebook was huge when they were in college, and they have enormous wide-spread social networks to learn from and hear about.

All dealers know the power of word of mouth. I don’t think we need to argue that positive word of mouth is essential. Social media and word of mouth are one and the same for Millennials. Here’s the statistic: 43.5% of Millennials said they use social media to spread the word about products or service.

84% say user-generated content has some influence on what they buy, and they’re 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs or social media. Whether they’re reading reviews, looking at a friend’s photos of their new car, or watching a Youtuber’s walk-through of the car, user-created content is a solid source of likely unbiased information, and that’s incredibly valuable to Millennials.   


TV and Media Habits:

  • How I Met Your Mother
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Netflix, Hulu, Amazon
  • College football

Millennials are similar in some ways to any other American audience – they like their sports, and they have strong team loyalties. But they’re also a clever audience (remember their higher education rates), and they like entertainment that engages them on an intellectual level and marketing that doesn’t try to trick them.

Millennial media consumption habits are not like those of their parents. Interestingly, Millennials might not even use traditional television – instead relying on subscription services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu for the shows they want to watch.

Remember what their media consumption says about marketing. Millennials think that the Internet is four times more helpful during vehicle research than TV. An essential piece of effectively reaching Millennials with car marketing is selecting and investing in the channels that they prefer to use for car shopping.


Automotive Lifestyle:

  • Listens to tech and comedy podcasts while commuting to work.
  • Enjoys road trips, frequently goes to the lake in summer and snowboarding during the winter.
  • Long trips to visit family for holidays.
  • Uses smartphone to navigate while driving.

Millennials are active and enthusiastic drivers. Despite all the agonizing over whether Millennials would give up driving in favor of Uber and Lyft, they’ve proven to be good drivers. Millennials drive 72% more than Baby Boomers and 18% more than Gen X.

This may be in part to growing commute times. As housing prices in cities rise and Boomers keep holding onto their property, Millennials are opting to live further outside city limits, exchanging long commutes for affordable housing prices. Dealers can capitalized on these career commuters and help them find the right vehicles for their route.

Beyond commutes, there’s still a lot of opportunities for connecting with Millennials in your dealership marketing.


Car Shopping Priorities: Convenience

Our millennial car buyer is a busy guy. Between all the demands on his attention – from average “adulting” to the myriad entertainments of modern life, this generation of car shoppers doesn’t want to spend time on things that don’t matter to them. Basically, Millennials want to do everything more easily – including buy their cars.  

One of central complaints about the car shopping process that Millennials bring up is time. In fact, 80% of Millennials said that buying or leasing a new car should take less time.

That distaste for wasting time extends to the specifics of their on-the-lot experiences. A full 23% of Millennials won’t wait longer than 10 minutes for a test drive. On top of that, 22% of Millennial said that 20 minutes is too long to complete paperwork in the finance office.

Did you know that 61% of customers say they feel significantly more empowered as a customer now than they did five years ago? Millennials are the generation leading that charge.


Want all the details on Millennial car shoppers and exactly how to market to them? Check out the recording of our webinar: All Your Questions About Millennial Car Shoppers – Answered.