Turns Out, Millennials Still Like Owning Cars

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Why you should care

Many assume Gen Yers would happily forgo driving, but that isn't the case. And there's plenty they should know before hitting the road.

Owning a car may sound as simple as inserting the keys and driving off the lot, but that’s not always the case. An August 2019 study found 1.3 million more Generation Y consumers had outstanding auto loans in 2019 than they did in 2018.

This could be a sign that the “young people like ride-shares better than ownership” talking point may be little more than a myth. In fact, one working paper published in March 2019 by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that …

Millennials actually display higher usage of cars than baby boomers in terms of vehicular miles traveled.

It also found that preference for vehicular ownership is negligible across generations.

But when you hit the road, you may not be totally prepared for everything ownership entails. Take Bridget Bell, a 32-year-old college instructor in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who wasn’t always diligent about getting the oil checked on her Jeep Cherokee. When the vehicle started making weird noises and something seemed off, she eventually went to a mechanic, who informed her that her oil should be checked every 6,000 miles or four months. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing.

Another trick Bell has learned is that while it’s wonderful to blast your favorite tunes, you need to turn down the volume sometimes. “Being able to hear what the car is doing, and what are normal sounds and what aren’t, is important,” she said.

Automotive educator Chaya M. Milchtein, founder of Mechanic Shop Femme, believes regular oil changes are key for your car’s longevity. “Not only does getting an oil change mean you’re maintaining your car, but in most cases it will also help you catch safety problems before their failure.” Milchtein recommends getting your car inspected every six months at a minimum. Make sure you get a multipoint inspection that includes tires, brakes, suspension, fluids, filters, hoses and belts. 

Milchtein’s other major advice on making sure your wheels are road-ready is to find a quality mechanic and be loyal to them, rather than choosing a new one for each service. “Half the battle of fixing your car is finding someone you trust to assist you. You want a mechanic whom you will build a relationship with who will explain to you in easy-to-understand words what’s needed and will help you prioritize,” she said.

Milchtein said that one common mistake new car owners make is they “don’t listen to their car, putting off simple repairs like brake pad replacement because they are worried about taking it into the shop. By the time it can’t be ignored any longer, the cost of repairs has skyrocketed.”

If you’re looking to save money on car-related expenses, Milchtein recommends making sure your tires are properly inflated and using 87 grade fuel unless your car requires premium. The automotive educator also recommends drivers make sure their insurance is up to date, and that they understand what their insurer does and does not cover.

For example, some insurance policies offer value-added coverage, such as coverage for emergency assistance or rental car reimbursement if their car needs repairs. These extra coverages can give you peace of mind. If, say, you’re about to take a long road trip, adding emergency roadside assistance coverage can ensure that a breakdown won’t drain your vacation fund. In addition, some policies may also offer features such as accident forgiveness, where a driver won’t be penalized if they get into a first accident after five years of accident-free driving. It’s important to read the fine print, ask questions and, of course, make sure that your insurance card is with you while you’re driving your car.

Driving a car may not be as easy as the proverbial riding a bike, but basic maintenance and checkups can go a long way toward making sure you get plenty of use out of your wheels.

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