Down Economy Moves Car Buyers' Age Up

By Jim Mateja  on January 17, 2008

It doesn't matter how good a new car looks or how many miles per gallon it gets if you can't afford to buy it.

Evidence is clear that when given the choice between making a mortgage payment or a car payment, the house wins out. The weak U.S. economy and a housing market in the dumps kept many folks from buying a new set of wheels last year. The average age of new-vehicle buyers ended the year at 48 years old; in January 2007 it was 43.

Buyer age rose because young consumers were forced to the sidelines by having to make mortgage and credit card payments at the expense of car installments. Mortgage and credit card costs impact younger, lower-income consumers more than older, higher-income ones.

It wasn’t so much that older folks waited until December to reach for their wallets as it was that younger folks were increasingly forced to sit on their hands as the year went on, according to analysis of 2007 buying trends by CNW Marketing Research, a firm that studies why consumers buy what they do.

Another telling tale about buying age from CNW was that the average age of shoppers choosing a domestic vehicle was 49.4 years old in 2007 — older than the average 42.5-year-old buyer of Asian cars but younger than the 50.6-year-olds choosing European nameplates.

The oldest average shoppers industry-wide were looking at Ford or its Mercury and Lincoln brands, at 54.3 years. GM shoppers averaged 48 years old, while Chrysler shoppers came in at 44.

On the foreign-manufacturer front, an interesting auto rivalry also had interesting statistics: The average age of Toyota shoppers was 46.6 years old, while the average age for Honda shoppers was 51.2.

And while Buick is typically the butt of jokes about buyers who are somewhere between retired and deceased, the average age of a Buick shopper last year was 55.2 years old, considerably younger than the average 63.6-year-old Mercedes-Benz shopper.

Car Buying