Journal: Fewer Teens Are Driving–What Does This Mean for Vintage Cars?

Fewer Teens Are Driving–What Does This Mean for Vintage Cars?

By Aaron McKenzie
March 26, 2014
19 comments

Photography by Afshin Behnia for Petrolicious

Back in January 2013, Petrolicious featured an interview with Mr. Kevin Boesky, a then-16-year-old owner of a 1941 Studebaker Champion (check it out here). Kevin and his car, as our headline pointed out, make for an unlikely pair in an age in which young people seem to be losing interest not only in pre-World War II automobiles but in driving anything at all. Granted, demographic data on the ownership of pre-War cars is hard to come by, so you’ll just have to trust our impressions, but the numbers on teen driving support our hypothesis and we wonder what they portend for the world of vintage cars.

According to a 2013 American Automobile Association report, only 44 percent of American teenagers get their driver’s license within a year of turning sixteen, and just over half are street-legal by the time they reach legal adulthood, compared with more than two-thirds of eighteen year-olds twenty years ago. Perhaps driving is too expensive nowadays; maybe it’s no longer the symbol of maturity that it once was; perhaps teenagers have moved past cars to other interests. Regardless, teens just don’t drive as much as they used to.

Teens, as it turns out, tend to become adults and adults buy most of the world’s vintage cars. But will today’s children have the same passion for vintage cars and, especially, the sorts of pre-War vehicles that can’t hope to match the performance of newer sports cars? These same adults will also be among the first generation to commute to work in driverless cars, which will be subject to ever-tighter emissions regulations.

What attitudes toward vintage cars have you seen among today’s teens? What do these attitudes, especially when coupled with the other trends mentioned above, tell you about the future of the vintage car universe?

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Eric H.LoquendoMatthew HaberXavier CorralAntony Ingram Recent comment authors
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Eric H.
Eric H.

Hello Petrolicious,
I am only 16 but am very interested in classic cars. I have a very low budget but would like to purchase at some point (1-2 years). I know I wouldent be able to drive it as a daily, but are their any insurance company’s that would offer some low amount of driving hours insurance?

Lucio Oquendo
Lucio Oquendo

I think it depends on where you are and where you grew up. There are many classics in Chicago, where I am from but you never see them; chances are you’re neighbor doesn’t have a classic car or your family. Often times, the vintage cars were bought by people who couldn’t afford them so there was some moral dilemma that my family would push on the child. I now live in Overland Park, KS; where there are beautiful old cars everywhere. I would bet that if a kid didn’t get into a car yet, they will later in life they… Read more »

Xavier Corral
Xavier Corral

smug attitudes from older vintage owners. Lack of interest or time from people (adults) who should be showing kids how to use their hands. Old farts overpricing their crap and pricing out all the good iron. I’d say a lot of it comes from the generation before me.

Antony Ingram
Antony Ingram

I’m on a few different car-related forums and I’d suggest there are still plenty of younger people around who love older and classic cars – and let’s not forget, for someone born in the 1990s who recently started driving, a car from the 1980s is probably already a classic – and currently affordable, too.

Allow me to put a different positive spin on it though: If we’re to see the number of drivers interested in classics declining, it might soften the price of those classics for those of us who still want them…

Cristov9000
Cristov9000

I agree with what others have said about younger people simply not being able to afford a car at all anymore let alone a vintage car. Most young are strapped with so much college debt that even the thought of buying a house or garage to work on the car in is unobtainable. Also another thought on the matter. The article mentions pre-war cars specifically but I have had this conversation about muscle cars as well. The cars that I tend to gravitate towards are 80s-90s European cars and most of my friends of similar age would probably prefer an… Read more »

Jake Williams
Jake Williams

I’m turning 17 next Saturday, so that will make it an official decade that I’ve been a car enthusiast. Over the years, I’ve taken just about every opportunity I can to work on, research, and just be around cars. When I was 14, my dad surprised me with a 1979 Triumph Spitfire 1500. I attempted to rebuild it, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it was just a money hole. When I turned 16, I figured, “Ok, I’ve worked up a couple grand. I got 2 summer jobs and a driver’s license, why don’t I get myself a project… Read more »

Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson

Being 19 I hope young people don’t have the same amount of car craze as older generations. Because then prices of classic cars will go down and I will be able to afford a bigger collection!

Todd Cox
Todd Cox

I have two sons. One wasn’t terribly interested in driving, and was in no rush to get a car. I’m not sure he’s mine… LOL (I’m kidding, there’s really no doubt he is). However he has developed a strong appreciation now and owns a 1994 Miata because he wanted something that was ‘classic’. My youngest son can’t wait to drive, and also insisted on a Miata; we bought him a 1990 (technically a 1989 built car; one of the first ones imported to CA as it turns out). My youngest son is only 14 though, and we’re working on restoring… Read more »

Alex Del Olmo Roque
Alex Del Olmo Roque

Well as an 18 year old student that life’s in the Netherlands I can say to you that overhere we are having the same problem. Its just to expensive….. And also, most of young generation don’t find it worthwhile to own a car while they are still in college. Luckily for me! I am the proud owner of a Fiat Barchetta from 96.

Andreas Lavesson
Andreas Lavesson

I think we’ve hit the nail on the head so many times throughout the comments, so I’ll just say that I agree with all of the above more or less.

Jared
Jared

I think there are several angles to this (skip to the end for the punchline): A) Jolocho has already mentioned how these days working with your hands is for chumps (it isn’t – consider 1) the rising standard (aka cost) of living in China and elsewhere and the jobs beginning to come back to the States, 2) the threat of zombiepocalypse (a fantasy) and natural/manmade disasters (a reality) and the need for basic skills and 3) the plethora of BS/BA degree kids looking for jobs while many blue-collar markets are on the rebound). B) A 16 year old, entry-level Romantic/Idealist… Read more »

Daniel Cooley
Daniel Cooley

I’m 19, and I love vintage cars. Several of my friends are also interested in older cars, but I would say most of the people I know that are my age have other priorities. Most of this disinterest probably stems from financial reasons. I had a Datsun until a few months ago, when I sold it in order to help pay for college. It’s usually just cheaper for young people to buy something like a used Corolla. But I also think that a lot of the lack of interest in old cars comes from ignorance or misinformation. For example, contemporary… Read more »

Mihir Juvvadi
Mihir Juvvadi

Well I’m a high school-er, and I read Petrolicious, so I like vintage cars. I get what this article is saying though, because save a couple of my friends, very few people at my school are interested in cars. Very few of them even have cars. When I was a freshman, I was really confused by this, because in my mind, you went and got your license and a car as soon as you were allowed to. I’ll be getting my license shortly, and I hope to be driving something vintage to school everyday!

jolocho
jolocho

As others have said, they’re not making enough money. Entry level pay from a low end job most teens start with hasn’t risen much while the cost of everything has multiplied. We now have a couple of generations that have grown up being taught that working with their hands is for chumps. They’re not mechanically inclined. Owning a car more than 20 years old usually means working on it yourself. If it’s taken to a shop, it’ll spend a week there waiting for parts or the techs learning/refreshing themselves on carburetors. Specialists for classics charge a premium, see problem #1.… Read more »

Matthew Haber
Matthew Haber

As a 16 year old like myself, I too have found myself often surfing the different sites from Hemmings to Ebay to even craigslist looking for a project car, I have a really diverse taste and like nearly anything old. I must say though, in October I went to look at a 54′ F100 with a 239 in it and I really, really wanted it but when I started calculating costs it was going to be too much, also because, unfortunately for me I live in Upstate New York, where we have fairly long and harsh winters so as easy… Read more »

Yoav Gilad
Yoav Gilad

Think early ’80s all-wheel drive!

Matthew Haber
Matthew Haber

Thanks for the suggestion, could you maybe suggest a few?

D L
D L

As a young student I know from experience that we’re just too broke. Cars are incredibly expensive and we can’t afford both them and college. College costs have been rising at four times the rate of inflation. Plus the economy is so bad we can’t find jobs to pay for it. Some studies are saying that it’s the poorest generation since the great depression. I would love to have a classic car, but I can barely afford to keep my 14 year old, 170,000 mile Ford running after my tuition payments are made. I think in the classic car world,… Read more »

JB21
JB21

Thanks for the link, that is quite interesting. But… Well, I have a sister who works for an auto manufacture as an executive human resources specialist, and she often attends the bigwig meetings. She tells me that very often the bigwig meetings turns into a discussion of why young people are so disinterested in cars and driving, and how the car companies can win them back. She says it’s all over the parts of the world where cars have been the major part of people’s lives (developed countries, that is). I do hope the price will drop – right now… Read more »