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April 19, 2021

Do you expect to be driving less than your parents once did?

Are you driving less than your parents? Is it urban living? Gas prices? Environmental concerns? Or simply the fact that you're just not that into cars? 

It does seem that young people are making more use of transit, bikes, and foot power to get around.

In 2009, 16 to 34-year-olds took 24% more bike trips than they took in 2001. They walked to their destinations 16% more often, while their passenger miles on transit jumped by 40%, according to U of T professor Richard Florida writing in this month's Atlantic.

Part of the reason for this shift is clearly financial. Many underemployed young people have decided that they either can’t afford a car or would rather spend their money on other things. Florida cites a Zipcar/KRC Research survey, which found that 80% of 18 to 34-year-olds felt the high cost of gas, parking, and maintenance made owning a car difficult.

That's not much of a surprise. If you don’t have a job to drive to, you’ll definitely be driving less and skipping the drive-thru en route to the office as well. But it's more than that.
Younger people are also using technology to substitute for driving, connecting with friends and family online, and using e-commerce in place of running to and from grocery and retail stores, Florida maintains.

"For generations of Americans, car ownership was an almost mandatory rite of passage — a symbol of freedom and independence. For more and more young people today, a car is a burden they no longer wish to carry," he maintains.

What happens, then, if a broad swath of Gen Y decides that they can simply rent when they need to, or go without cars entirely?

Is this shift permanent, the result of a hardwired lifestyle shift that will last well into adulthood, or the product of an economy that's temporarily eroded their purchasing power?

Is there a car in your future? If so, do you see yourself using it the way your dad did?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...