How to Sell Cars to Millennials: Car Buying Habits and What to Expect

By Canada Drives Newsroom | Dealer Services

Over the last few years, some experts predicted an automotive industry collapse of epic proportions due to millennials. This generation (that reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century) grew up differently – immersed in technology, seeking higher education, earning above-average incomes, yet preferring experiences over possessions.

Today, we know that millennials still want cars. 

A special report on millennials found that 80% of millennials plan to purchase a car in the next five years. And while Gen Xers change their vehicles roughly every ten years, millennials have a more pragmatic view of car ownership and are likely to replace their cars more often.

Car Ownership: What Millennials Value 

The millennial generation – those born in the eighties, nineties, and early 2000s – have a different perspective on car ownership and the buying process. Their world views heavily influence their vehicle-shopping tendencies. 

  • Environmentally responsible car ownership is a major influencer. Deloitte research indicates a majority of millennials expect to drive an alternative-fuel vehicle within five years and are willing to pay more for it. Their car remains parked for short-distance commutes, opting instead for cycling, walking, or public transportation. Vehicle use is limited but still necessary. 
  • Their purchases are personal. Research has found that one-third of millennials want a car that stands out, and 48% want a car that reflects their personality. What that means is different to each buyer but certainly infers that the fleet of silver Corollas on the lot isn’t their top choice. 
  • They want instant gratification. Among the top influences in car purchases is, simply, availability. Millennials aren’t willing to wait for their vehicle. Unlike Gen Xers who are usually happy to wait for a special order, this youthful generation will keep looking until someone has the model they’ve selected.
  • Millennials are tech-savvy. Big surprise there. The base model isn’t going to suffice. This generation wants cars that are connected and well-equipped with advanced tech. In AutoTrader’s Next Generation Car Buyer Study, more than 70% of younger millennials say infotainment features are “must-haves” when shopping for a vehicle.

How to Convert Millennial Leads

When you receive a sales lead from someone in the 18- to 37-year-old demographic, the typical sales techniques aren’t going to cut the mustard. They’re smarter than that, and they won’t give you a second chance. It’s the highly polished, convenient, and trustworthy dealer that will succeed.

1. Flawless Web Presence

Before they ever visit your bricks-and-mortar store, millennials spend roughly 17.6 hours researching vehicles in your online showroom. With that much time spent on your dealer website, it’s the sleek, authoritative, informative, and easy-to-navigate sites that convert millennials best. What’s the conversion rate? It speaks for itself when you consider that 48% of 17- to 24-year-olds intend to buy a car on their first visit to a dealership. 

2. Embrace Social Media

While less time than the Gen Xer’s 32 hours, millennials spend 27 hours per week using social media. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook are huge opportunities to engage younger car shoppers with targeted ads. 

Social media shouldn’t be thought of exclusively as a lead generator, but as a tool to bring them one step further in the funnel. A social media post has the power to move a car browser to a shopper, and so on. 

3. Establish Trust 

More than any other demographic, this generation wants a transparent buying experience and high-quality customer service. Online reviews and third-party ratings sites influence 82% of millennials. Over 50% of said generation are influenced by friends and family during the purchase process, according to the Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study.

There’s no use hiding the purchase price or requiring an appointment to review wants and needs. Cut to the chase with honest, transparent communication and you’ll reap the rewards. 

4. Emphasize High-Tech

Three-quarters of millennials are searching for either a four-door sedan or wagon, or a SUV/CUV. Fun, versatile, stylish models are the most desirable. Keeping a wide range of these models in stock can capture the millennial purchaser when they’re ready to buy. 

Among these models, trim levels with high-tech infotainment and ADAS technologies are highly sought after. You’ll find millennials drift toward the upper trims. And when they do, the product advisor needs to know the technology inside and out. 

5. Go Mobile

Not mobile devices. Hit the road to win the sale. Millennials are multi-taskers and always on the go. You’d do well to meet them where it’s most convenient for them to perform a walkaround, test drive, and even complete the paperwork. 

Let’s face it: there aren’t many dealerships rushing to bring a test drive to the customer. If you’re the first to get mobile and meet the car shopper, your odds of closing the sale are in your favour.

What to Expect When Selling to Millennials

When you’re selling cars to millennials, you won’t be met with the same objections as older generations. You can expect:

  • Blazing-fast responses. Since smartphones are in their hands 24/7, you can expect nearly immediate responses to text messages and emails and, yes, even phone calls. 
  • A well-educated buyer. After nearly 18 hours of online research, there’s a good chance the buyer will know aspects of the vehicle more thoroughly than you. 
  • Less focus on price. Millennials have done their research and are already convinced of value. Nearly half will plunk down their deposit on the first visit. 
  • Commitment to a trustworthy experience. If you’ve handled yourself with integrity and have proven trustworthy, you should be confident in a positive response when you ask for the sale. 

Whether your automotive marketing is directed at baby boomers, Gen Xers, or millennials, you’ll find valuable resources from Canada Drives. With excellent subprime lead flow, we’ll make converting millennial shoppers into buyers easier than you thought it could be.




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