Gen Y Finding New Ways to Get Around

Do you remember ‘back in the day’ to when you were 16? For many of you, it wasn’t too long ago. Turning 16 is a milestone. 16 means you can drive a car – and a car represents a right of passage into adulthood – it represents freedom, not being stuck at home, going to all the cool kid parties, being popular and getting the prettiest girl in school to like you.

Given, my champagne colored 99 Explorer didn’t get me laid and it didn’t automatically make me cool, but that’s besides the point.

Part of the American Dream

Getting a car when you turn 16 is something we’re told we’re “supposed” to do at a very young age. It follows that predertimed “American Dream” that tells you to go to school, get an education, get a job, pay your dues, climb the ladder, get your gold watch, retire, and play golf for the rest of your life.

But today, that “old school” dream is becoming just that, old school. Millennials are creating their own path, starting their own companies, becoming more economically and environmentally aware, and making decisions much earlier than our grandparents and parents did.

So what’s this have to do with cars? In a recent MSNBC article, Allison Linn cites that younger people (Generation Y) are buying significantly fewer cars – presenting a huge challenge for the automobile industry.

“A confluence of events — environmental worries, a preference for gadgets over wheels and the yearslong economic doldrums — is pushing some teens and twentysomethings to opt out of what has traditionally been considered an American rite of passage: Owning a car.”

For me, it wasn’t long before I traded that Explorer a smaller, more efficent model – and it wasn’t long before I traded that one in for something even more efficient. Today, I drive as little as possible. I go so far as to choose where I live to ensure the least amount of travel and shortest commute possible. I’ve filled up my tank three times in the last two months and it feels great.

What’s causing the shift?

So why the shift in thinking amongst millennials? The recession has a lot to do with this – cars are expensive, and for a generation who are stuggling to find work and make ends meat, buying a new car simply isn’t an option. Coupled with the increased awareness of environmental issues, and the desire of young people to live closer to where they work to avoid long commutes, and you’ve got one heck of a challenge for the car-makers of the world.

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be working in the automobile industry right about now…

While the challenge for car-makers is rising, this trend does present is a huge opportunity for mass transit. Millennials are demanding more efficient (both economical and environmental) means of transportation. Less time sitting in traffic and more time on the bus or train means more time to read, more time to relax, and more time to, in short, enjoy life.

Less time stressing, more time living

It falls into the same conversation that says if you buy a smaller house closer to your job you’ll be much happier. Imagine if you could walk to work and ditch the car payment, gas payments, and insurance every month. What would you do with the money you’d save?

How much of your life do you waste sitting in traffic, frustrated at the car in front of you? I used to spend over two hours in the car every day driving to and from work, it sucks, I feel your pain.

Above all, this is a reflection of something that is much more unanimous amongst millennials – the “less is more” mentality. It’s why we’ve seen an increased trend toward the minimalist lifestyle – the less “stuff” you have in your life, the more you can enjoy life.

Where do you see this market shifting? How have your own habits changed since buying your first car? What’s next in transit for Gen Y?