Gen Z Wants to Buy Cars Most — but Buys Them Least

Young consumers are the likeliest to be saving up to buy a car, but that rarely translates to them being able to afford a new vehicle.

By the Numbers

The April edition of the PYMNTS Intelligence “New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report” series, “Why 60% of Gen Z’s Live Paycheck to Paycheck,” drew on responses from a survey of more than 3,400 U.S. consumers in March to understand different generations’ financial lifestyles and priorities.

Share of consumers who have incurred in each expense by generation

The results revealed that 11% of Gen Z consumers cited buying a car as their top financial goal — a greater share than any other generation. Yet supplemental research from the report showed that most consumers in this generation do not incur expenses related to cars or other vehicles each year, suggesting that these car-buying hopefuls may have a way to go.

Specifically, the survey revealed that only 42% of Gen Z consumers incurred expenses related to cars or other vehicles in the previous year, versus 57% of millennials, 64% of Generation X consumers and 65% of baby boomers and seniors.

The Data in Context

The discrepancy suggests that while many Gen Z individuals aim to buy cars, a substantial portion are not yet financially engaged in vehicle ownership or maintenance, indicating a potential gap between their financial goals and their current economic reality.

When young shoppers do buy cars, they expect a Click-and-Mortar™ experience, where they start the buying journey online and complete it on-site, as Rebecca Lindland, senior director of industry data and insights at, told PYMNTS in May.

“We recently did a study, and the majority of younger people actually want to complete their purchase of a vehicle in person at the dealership, which was a bit of a surprise for us,” Lindland said at the time. “But we think that part of it is that you still want that chance to touch and feel and test drive your vehicle. … Younger consumers in particular still want to have that experience of going into the dealership, looking the person in the eye — that feeling of authenticity.”

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