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Why Is GenZ Shifting to Physical Purchases When It Comes to Car Buying?

Buying a car in person allows these young individuals to test drive the vehicle and also presents opportunities for negotiation.
Cover Image Source: GenZ prefers online shopping | Pexels | Photo by Gustavo Fring
Cover Image Source: GenZ prefers online shopping | Pexels | Photo by Gustavo Fring

Growing up in the digital age, where the internet and technology are ubiquitous, online shopping has become second nature for Generation Z (Gen Z). Despite this, a recent report by revealed that 80% of Gen Z drivers still preferred to buy a car in person, compared to only 9% who preferred online transactions. Let's understand the factors driving in-store purchases for the tech-savvy Gen Z, particularly given that 76% of them acquire their first car before the age of 21.


"When we’re talking about them finishing a deal in person, it means they’ve already done extensive research online," said Rebecca Lindland, senior director of industry data and insights at "There’s a lot of benefit to going in person and finishing that deal."

This particular preference highlights a distinct pattern among Gen Z adults, defined as those between the ages of 18 and 28, suggesting a strong inclination towards traditional brick-and-mortar car buying experiences.

Pexels | Oleksandr P
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Oleksandr P

The survey was conducted on 4,000 participants spanning four generations, including Gen Z. Affordability emerged as an essential factor influencing these young adults' preference for in-person car buying experiences. Facing numerous challenges such as student loan debt, high housing costs, and lower wages as they enter early adulthood and the workforce, this generation is seen prioritizing cost-conscious decisions.

"Aside from your house or housing, a car is usually the next in line for the highest transaction that people will face. Any time you can get that number down is a good thing," said Paul Waatti, an industry analyst at market research firm AutoPacific.

Bijou Phillips in Park City, Utah | Getty Images | Photo by Thos Robinson
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Thos Robinson

Buying a car in person not only allows these young individuals to test drive the vehicle but also presents opportunities for negotiation, potentially leading to discounted prices at the point of sale. Moreover, industry analysts have predicted a stabilization in car prices this year, with cooling trends attributed to higher inventory levels and dealer incentives.

Despite the generally elevated cost of new cars, recent data from Kelley Blue Book indicates a 2.4% decline in average transaction prices from 2022. Similarly, used car prices are expected to stabilize, presenting Gen Z buyers with opportunities to navigate a transitioning market.

Image Source: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko | Pexels

While only 25% of Gen Z drivers opt for dealership financing, there exists a market shift that favors savvy consumers. By exploring direct lending options from banks or credit unions, buyers can secure better financing deals and exercise greater control over their car purchase decisions.

There are several factors that can affect your car purchase|Pexels|Photo by Negative Space
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Negative Space

Getting pre-approved financing before visiting a dealership empowers buyers with negotiation leverage and ensures informed decision-making in the transaction process.

"It’s usually a better deal trying to get your own financing rather than going into a dealership and just accepting what they have to offer. Make sure to get preapproved financing, even if you’re still open to accepting offers from a dealership. Having options is really key when going in to make a transaction," Watti added.