Cheap gas won’t boost car purchases by millennials

Car ownership among the under-30 demographic is down and fewer 18-year-olds are obtaining driver licenses – trends that have framed the millennial generation as being uninterested in driving.

Obvious factors – the traditionally high cost of fuel, soaring insurance costs, high student-loan debt and poor job prospects for the young – have played a role, but some analysts believe the group’s lack of interest in cars and driving runs deeper.

As Pew Center and other research have shown, layers of factors beyond economics veer millennials from cars. They choose to work, play and sleep within an easy walk or public-transportation commute. They socialize more online, eliminating the need for regular car rides to visit friends and family. They value other things – most notably, the technology at their finger tips – over the joy of driving cars. Younger millennials (16 to 18 years old) face onerous restrictions on driver’s licenses that didn’t exist for previous generations.

But now, with gas prices in a sharp downward spiral, word on the street is that more millennials will be induced to start buying cars.

That’s not how the Trends Research Institute sees it.

The high price of gas over the last several years is only a modest factor. As long as they’re uninspired by the look, feel and usefulness of modern-day automobiles, they won’t be motivated to buy them. The question isn’t whether they need a car; the real question is whether lower gas prices will make them want a car. Not likely. 

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