College grads are looking to buy cars, study shows

Graduating college students are ready to wade into the car market and most plan to pay for the entire purchase without help from their parents.

That’s according to an April survey by car-shopping website CarGurus, which asked college students who expect to graduate within a year about their plans for vehicle ownership and financing. Of the 302 respondents, 168 said they planned to purchase a car.

Of those 168:

  • 57 percent said they will pay for the vehicle themselves.
  • 67 percent said they plan to purchase a used vehicle.
  • 46 percent said they expect to pay $15,000 or less for the vehicle.

“This generation of consumers is probably more practical than you would have thought,” said Marty Blue, CarGurus’ senior vice president of business development. “They are thinking about getting a car and being more fiscally responsible.”

Plans to buy a vehicle themselves will likely lead to more dealership financing, Blue added.

Because college students are tech-savvy, she said, those with budgets too tight to buy a new vehicle will likely look for used cars that are new enough to include high-tech features. With many 2- to 3-year-old vehicles coming off lease this year, buyers will have many high-tech, used options, she said.

“The good news is that tech is becoming more ubiquitous in cars,” Blue said. “Even though a lot of consumers are going to be buying a used car, they’re most likely hoping to get a car that’s not too old, so they’ll be getting these tech features.”

‘A huge market’

Despite the industry’s focus on millennial shopping habits and the sharing economy, “there’s still a huge market of millennials buying cars,” Blue said, noting that the survey respondents aren’t replacing vehicle ownership with ride sharing. Just 1 percent of those with a job after graduation said they would use a ride-sharing service to commute.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the sharing economy and millennials not needing their own cars as much,” but the survey shows that’s not the case, Blue said.

You can reach Hannah Lutz at -- Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hm_lutz

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