The notion that women are “damsels in distress” and that men are the confident decision-makers has been a persistent car-shopping stereotype. But new research from Edmunds.com, the leading car information and shopping network, reveals that these antiquated generalizations don’t reflect the attitudes and behaviors of today’s car shopper, and are becoming more archaic as millennials begin to make up a bigger portion of car buyers. The revelation is one of many important findings from Edmunds’ Car Shopping and Gender Report, released today.
According to the study of 3,000 U.S. adults ages 18-65 commissioned by Edmunds and conducted by the research firm Hypothesis, more than 70 percent of both men and women feel self-assured during the car buying and negotiating process. However, when broken out by generation, Edmunds found that millennial men and women are more alike in their feelings towards car shopping than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. For example, when asked if they believe if women are equal or better than men at car shopping, 64 percent of millennial women and 54 percent of millennial men agreed. When baby boomers were asked the same question, 67 percent of women agreed while only 48 percent of men did, resulting in an opinion gap nearly twice as large.
“The world where millennials grew up was very different than that of older generations. For many, both parents worked and financial decisions were made equally, which is reflected in their different attitudes about gender roles in car shopping,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analytics at Edmunds. “Millennials are poised to become the predominate consumption group in the automotive industry, making it key that automakers, dealers and marketers understand how their perceptions are changing the way consumers approach car buying.”
Other noteworthy differences between millennials and older generations include:
- Millennial men are more likely than older men to believe that women are equally or more logical than men during the car shopping process. There was a 15 percentage point gap in gender opinion for millennials (59 percent of men vs. 74 percent of women), compared to a 27-point gap among Generation Xers (52 percent of men vs. 79 percent of women).
- Millennial men and women feel nearly equal levels of self-assurance and empowerment during the car shopping process, with a gap of only one percent and two percent respectively between the genders. This gap widens within the older generations, to eight percent for Gen Xers and 14 percent for boomers.
- When it comes time to close the deal and purchase the vehicle, millennial men are more confident in women than men in older generations. Sixty percent of millennial men say that women are stronger negotiators versus 50 percent of Gen X men and 49 percent of boomer men.
Even as the gap between genders is getting smaller by generation, there are still nuanced differences that drive home the need for personalized car shopping experiences. Across the entire population, while more women feel assured that they made the right purchase than men (80 percent of women vs. 75 percent of men), 30 percent of female respondents stated that they didn’t know where to start the car shopping process, compared to just 18 percent of men. Additionally, 67 percent of all women wish there was a faster, more efficient way to shop for a car, compared to 57 percent of all men.
“Gender inequality has been in our society for a very long time,” said Lacey Plache, chief economist at Edmunds. “Shifting gender roles have been a main catalyst for lowering gender inequality, but this change is still in motion and the differences aren’t fully dissolved yet. As this continues to decrease on a societal level we’ll see its impact manifested in major industries like automotive, but until gender inequality is completely gone, the old fashion notion that men control the garage will still linger.”
The survey also showed differences within each gender based on the needs of individual shoppers during the different stages of their process. For example, a millennial female who is a luxury buyer has a different set of needs than a Gen X non-luxury buyer. This finding is supported by Edmunds’ site engagement data, which reveals that men and women both engage in similar shopping activities, such as new inventory search and dealership research.
“With amount of consumer data available to us, we’re no longer forced to look at shoppers under the lens of these over-generalized stereotypes,” said Michelle Shotts, senior director of customer insights at Edmunds. “As more research continues to debunk these outdated assumptions, there is no excuse why automakers, dealers and marketers can’t begin to engage with car shoppers on a highly personalized, individual level.”
To see the full report and additional information about the survey, visit Edmunds’ Industry Center.