Do millennials have us motoring to a sharing economy?

Posted On July 12, 2017

How important is your car? Most of us would say, “very.” We are a nation that loves the freedom of private automobiles.

It may surprise you, then, to hear that 30 percent of millennials who responded in a Goldman Sachs survey had no plans to buy a car. Another 25 percent said that while a car was important, buying one was not a priority.

This particular section of the survey appears to have focused on Goldman Sachs interns, so we can assume many of them were in New York, where having a car is not a priority for many, many residents.

But it isn’t the only study showing millennials holding off on big-ticket items like a car or a home. Goldman Sach’s data, drawn from many different sources, also mirrors what we’ve known for a while about millennial home-buying – a higher percentage of them are staying at home or renting than previous generations.

Goldman Sachs sees all this as a sign that millennials are leading us all toward a sharing economy, where consumers have access to products without actually having to own them. Airbnb is a now-common example – instead of paying for a hotel room, you’re paying for a “home” for the night, week or whatever the length of your stay.

How does it work for cars? We all know about Uber and Lyft, where private drivers essentially serve the same function as taxis. But there are also car-sharing apps that allow you to drive on your own. One is Turo, which allows people to rent out their personal vehicles. Another is ZipCar (Slogan: “It’s like owning a car, without the sucky parts”), which allows customers to use a card or an app to rent cars on their own by the day or even the hour.

“Twenty-five years from now, car sharing will be the norm, and car ownership and anomaly,” economist Jeremy Riffkin told Goldman Sachs.

It’s easy to see the advantages in a major city. You don’t have to pay for parking or insurance for a private vehicle that you won’t often use – public transit being much easier to get around on – but if you want to take a weekend trip to the beach of the mountains, a car is just a click away on an app.

Most of this country is not metropolitan, however. Will car-sharing ever be prevalent, or even feasible on a large scale, in rural areas? Even many mid-size cities don’t have much in the way of public transportation other than buses. Are Americans in these towns going to want to hail a car every time they need to go to work, or the store?

Riffkin’s prediction may be a bit hyperbolic, but the greater point holds: Millennials like to travel light. They are looking for less expensive, more efficient ways to get things done. If you can give them a way to rent or share to save them from buying, and can put it in an app at their fingertips, they’re listening. And many of these solutions are becoming popular with the rest of us, as well.


Categories: Automotive, Generation Y / Millennials, Product Design