As the U.S. economy continues to recover, domestic car sales for 2014 are projected to come close to an all-time high. But while the auto sales have picked up, especially for luxury brands, older customers are driving much of the growth. Last year, the average American car buyer was almost 52 years old.
Some car brands are especially dependent on older buyers. While Land Rover’s average customer was just under 48 years old last year — the youngest average age among car brands reviewed — buyers of luxury brand Lincoln were the oldest in the nation, with an average age of 61 years. Based on a recent report from global information company IHS Automotive, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the cars with the oldest buyers.
Car purchases have clearly shifted to older Americans in recent years. Unlike previous generations, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 years old are now the most likely to buy a new car, according to a recent study released by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Still, this alone does not mean younger Americans are not driving. In his recent report for IHS Automotive, automotive analyst Tom Libby, wrote that these figures “are based on the ages of the people who register the vehicles, and they are not always the same as the principal drivers.”
Cost is a primary reason why American car buyers tend to be older. Libby explained that, to lower average buyer age, carmakers “need to have a portfolio that includes products that make [car ownership] feasible for the millennial.”
However, Karl Brauer, senior director of insights at vehicle information provider Kelley Blue Book (KBB), noted that price limits choices for older buyers as well. Elderly people often live on a fixed income, or will soon. But while many older car buyers try to limit costs, seven of the 10 most popular car makes among older Americans were luxury brands. According to Brauer, “Luxury appeals to people who have more money to spend and who want to treat themselves.” Older people are more likely to fit this description because they often have a lifetime’s worth of savings and may look to make to make an indulgent purchase.
Brand image can also affect the average age of a make’s customers. “Once you get labelled as [a brand] associated with the older buyer, you’re really in a bind with younger buyers,” KBB’s Libby said. For example, Buick, Lincoln, and Cadillac, “have a reputation of being driven by older buyers.” Similarly, Brauer told 24/7 Wall St. “no manufacturer wants to be known as the old persons’ car brand.”
Loyalty is often also often plays a role for older consumers. “Generally speaking, domestic brands and older buyers go together,” Brauer said. Older customers may fondly recall a time when American auto manufacturers were thriving. Younger buyers, conversely, have less attachment to car makes and utilize the internet to make more informed purchase decisions.
To identify the carmakers with the oldest buyers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the average age of car buyers of 44 carmakers from “Land Rover and Dodge Appeal to the Young Automotive Buyer,” a recent report from IHS Automotive. U.S. sales data was provided by Kelley Blue Book, and additional financial figures came from the carmakers’ press releases.
These are the cars with the oldest buyers.