Gen Z Frustrated By Vehicle-Buying Experience

It’s no surprise that tech-savvy Gen Z vehicle shoppers spend more time researching their prospective purchase. But they also find the process more difficult than older generations.

That’s according to the CDK Global study that surveyed over 300 dealers and 1,100 car buyers of all generations who made a purchase in 2021.

Participants included a mix of gender, ethnicity, household income, region and geographic areas, with 13% identifying as Gen Z (between the ages of 18 and 25), most of whom (56%) were buying their first car.

The goal of the survey was to understand what can become a friction point along the car-buying journey and what dealers can do to improve the process, with a specific look at the issues unique to Gen Z.



With Gen Z most interested in understanding all their options (81%) compared to millennials (73%), Gen X (60%) and baby boomers (45%), the need for education—both online and from a knowledgeable representative at the dealership—proves to be critical, according to the study.

Gen Z found it more difficult to buy a car online (22%) than any other generation. Waiting on a salesperson ranked near the top of their list of friction points at the dealership, and 45% ranked it as the most frustrating part of buying a car.

Notably, Gen Z shoppers are the least likely to recommend their dealership experience to a friend, with a net promoter score of just 32 compared to 49 for millennials and 53 for baby boomers.

Younger shoppers are more likely to buy luxury brands than any other generation, with 39% buying a luxury car versus 29% of millennials, 27% of Gen Xers and just 12% of boomers. They also choose European imports more than any other group. 

There should be no assumption that a younger shopper entering a luxury shop isn’t willing or able to complete a deal. For Gen Z it was waiting on a salesperson that ranked near the top of their list of friction points at the dealership, and 45% of them ranked it as the most frustrating part of buying a car. This was second only to additional fees.

There are a lot of assumptions made about Gen Z and the need for instant gratification, from simple online purchase experiences to real-time social media engagement, says Joe Tautges, chief operating officer, CDK Global.

“Buying a car is much more complex than buying a smartphone. Consumers are presented with seemingly endless options like trim levels, stand-alone features, accessories, service packages, financing and insurance,” Tautges said in a release. “In today’s world of simple and convenient shopping experiences, we not only have to make cars easier to buy, but we also have to meet consumers where they are based on their unique needs.”

By implementing more seamless processes at the dealership, sales departments can work more efficiently and spend more quality time with their customers explaining products and processes in greater detail, he adds.

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