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Consumer Research


Jo Rigby: Over 50's car purchasing habits

Jo Rigby: Over 50's car purchasing habits

The average age of a new car buyer is 46 years old.  Amongst the over 50’s a staggering 43 per cent have bought a new car in the past two years, compared to 26 per cent of 18 – 34 year olds.

It’s fair to say that the over 50’s a hugely important audience for car manufacturers.  We devoted a fair chunk of our UFO research to this category and this week we’re sharing some of those findings.

We asked our 1,700 respondents how often they changed their car.  Around 6 per cent claimed to buy a new car every one to two years.

A further 44 per cent bought a new car every three to four years, and 46 per cent upgraded every five or more years. 

When asked about what prompted an upgrade, 41 per cent said it was because the car was becoming unreliable, 31 per cent because the car was no longer economical to run and 18 per cent had been tempted by a special offer.

Sometimes it was just because they fancied a change, 14 per cent claimed that it was done on a whim. 

We introduced the Live Wires to you last week, so let’s look at some of their attitudes towards car purchasing.  A quarter of Live Wires avoid buying cars that are seen as ‘old person’s car’.

Style and image is everything to this group and they responded really well to advertising from car manufacturing that had a youthful appeal.

Compare this with the more traditional group we call Bittersweet Have It All’s, only 11 per cent were looking for a stylish car.

Almost half of our Live Wires are looking for a car which expresses their personality.  This really challenges the myth that older people are only concerned with safety features when choosing their cars.

Innovation is important to our Live Wires, with 45 per cent looking for the latest gadgets and gizmos when selecting their next model. 

And car manufacturers shouldn’t be complacent when marketing to this group, as only 20 per cent of them agree that they tend to buy the same car brand each time. 

We discovered that the Live Wires are incredibly influential when it comes to cars.

Over a quarter had been asked for advice and guidance from their children and grandchildren when it came to buying cars.

A whopping 25 per cent had helped out financially to buy their child or grandchild a car. 

So even if the car brand has set it’s sights on targeting a younger driver it should consider that the older driver may have quite a bit of sway in the decision making process.

To add a bit of colour to our research we found ten UFO respondents who were at the start of the new car buying process.

We asked them to keep a diary of this journey, showing us what sources of information they had used to help them make their minds up.

The diaries came back over a period of about three to six months, reflecting the car buying cycle.

We were pretty surprised with the contents of these diaries….every one of them was bursting at the seams with print-outs from the internet!

These car buyers, aged from 55 to 70 were acting just like ‘young’ consumers when it came to car buying.

The focus had moved away from the dealership and onto car review websites, online peer reviews and car manufacturing websites.

The respondents were clearly spending hours doing online research and being quite selective about which dealerships they then visited.

The diaries also suggested that convenience wasn’t the only reason behind this shift to online.  The diaries were peppered with anecdotes about poor customer service from car salesman.

Our respondents wrote of being ignored or patronised by dealership salesman because they were older.

As we’ve found in so many aspects of UFO, this generation of 50+ consumers won’t put up with bad service and will always vote with their wallets!

OMD Insight have produced a booklet which describes all of our U.F.O. segments in detail.

Comment or feedback? Please contact

Jo Rigby is the Head of OMD Insight
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