America's youth-driven obsession with cars goes way back to well before rebels were without causes. And it has transmogrified over the years from muscle cars to vans to the import-craze that has fueled franchises like Hot Import Nights and the rise of "drifting" in the U.S. But a new survey suggests the engine could be stalling out.
A study by Washington, D.C.-based KRC Research -- commissioned by car-rental company Zipcar -- says half of all 18- to-34-year-old drivers are driving less, and nearly two-thirds would drive less if alternative transportation options were available.
KRC Research, which conducted the survey of licensed drivers last month, found that 45% of Millennials said they had "consciously made an effort to reduce how much they drive," and 64% said they would drive less if alternative options including public transportation, car sharing or carpooling were available in their area.
Cost of ownership was the biggest reason respondents gave for wanting to give up wheels. Eighty percent of the Millennial respondents said ownership is unattractive because of car payments, gas, parking and maintenance.
The study -- based on a pool of 1,025 adults age 18 and over, of which 966 were licensed drivers -- said social media are responsible for less driving by 18- to-34-year-olds because they are visiting friends virtually. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they choose to spend time online in social networks with friends instead of driving to see them, versus 46% for 35- to-44-year-olds, 34% for 45- to-55-year-olds, and 18% for 55-year-olds and older.
The study also found that Millennials are more likely than other age group to be influenced in their driving habits by environmental concerns around global warming and pollution. Forty-five percent of respondents said as much versus 39% of 35- to-44-year-olds and 37% of 45- to-54-year-olds. The study found that paradoxically, 42% of over-55-year-olds said they would drive less to protect the environment.
The study found other hurdles for new car ownership by Gen Y. About 37% of 18- to-29-year-olds have been unemployed or underemployed lately -- the highest share of that age group with that status in three decades. Only 58% pay bills on time each month, 70% of them are not building up their savings, and nearly half are digging themselves into a credit hole, starting with a $23,000 post-college student debt. Only 61% said they were covered by any kind of health plan.