Driving By Generation: Most Popular First Cars Baby Boomers vs Millennials

Driving By Generation: Most Popular First Cars Baby Boomers vs Millennials

Last Updated October 4, 2016
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You never forget your first set of wheels, even if you don’t always get to choose what it is. Find out what the most popular choices were for baby boomers compared to millennials.

You never forget your first set of wheels, even if you don’t always get to choose what it is. It’s a fact that millennials are enjoying more help from their folks in purchasing a new car than any other generation, but they’re also facing steeper car prices and a struggling economy while doing it.

That means that even though the hard number of dollars spent on a millennial’s ride will nearly always outstrip the purchase price their baby-boomer parents spent, in today’s dollars, mom and dad actually made out pretty well.

[click the infographic below]

Buying First Car Infographic

The Good Old Days

For one thing, when the boomers were having at it, everyone wanted a car. The sheer level of demand was a challenge for automakers to keep up with. Combine that with cheap gas, and you’ve got a formula for the sporty and luxurious vehicles many first-time drivers had the pleasure of purchasing.

In such an environment, automakers could afford to build lots of different models. Up until the late 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon for a manufacturer to produce multiple sports cars, an entry-level and a premium luxury model. These days, that just doesn’t happen.

A New Generation

Think back a few years to the early 2000s. Fuel prices were dismal, but much like today, young people were not flocking to buy new cars. The rising price of a new car has impacted what’s available.

These days the average first-time driver is saddling up in something other than a Mustang or Camaro. You’d have had a hard time finding a baby boomer driving a minivan as their first car, but for millennials, sliding doors and lots of room is hard to beat.

Boomers didn’t have the benefit of the SUV’s introduction in their time, either, and that is one definite advantage millennials can boast about. As an affordable, rugged first car, the Chevy Trailblazer holds the title of most gnarly against just about anything on the list – unless you count the Aztec’s pop-out tent as a huge win.

What the small-car options today’s youth have to pick from might lack in sex appeal, they make up for in practicality. The Golf has made Car & Driver’s 10 Best list more times than any Trans Am ever will, thanks to its livable nature and fly-by-night sportiness.

What begins as a simple comparison actually yields some interesting insights when you consider where the car industry has come since the time boomers were buying first cars. Did they get hooked up? Probably so, but the prospect of owning a classic Mustang isn’t out of reach yet – you’ll save up for one much quicker driving a Golf!

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Driving By Generation: Most Popular First Cars Baby Boomers vs Millennials

The car industry is quite simply in a different place today. More specifically, it was already in a different place in the early 2000s than it was during the time baby boomers were purchasing their first cars.