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Study: Rental cars expose millennials to new vehicles, technology

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(Enterprise Rent-A-Car photo)

By Arlena Sawyers, Crain News Service

DETROIT (Feb. 6, 2014) — Young adults want to own vehicles, a survey by the industry's largest rental car company found, and they use car rentals as extended test drives.

Contrary to other studies that have indicated millennials favor electronic gadgets over a set of wheels, a survey by Enterprise Holdings released Feb. 4 found that 79 percent of the 25- to 34-year-olds surveyed believe that owning one's own vehicle is "extremely important."

It also found that 68 percent say their first experience with new automotive technology is via rental vehicles.

That's further proof that rental cars outfitted with the latest technology are among the best ways for auto companies to expose their products to younger vehicle buyers, said Kurt Kohler, senior vice president for acquisition and marketing at Enterprise.

'Get exposure'

"This past year, we bought a little over six percent of all the cars [and light trucks] that were sold new in the United States," he said. "The OEMs understand that and know this is a great place for them to get exposure."

Mr. Kohler said the survey also reveals that millennials are interested in the vehicles they rent and use rentals as extended test drives that put them in the mood to shop for new car.

Of the 25- to 34-year-olds polled, 68 percent said they were first exposed to new auto technology though a rental car, and 53 percent said they choose a rental vehicle based on a desire to try something new.

A positive rental experience caused 88 percent of millennials who participated in the survey to change their minds about the specific make and model vehicle they rented and motivated 28 percent to start shopping for a new car.

Those figures were higher than the ones for survey respondents across all age groups, where 71 percent said that a positive experience renting a car had changed their perception of that specific make or model, and roughly 20 percent said the rental experience triggered them to start shopping for a new car.

'In the mood'

"It got them in the mood" to buy a car, Mr. Kohler said. "They're seeing all these innovations, interiors are getting better and the quality of the car is improving."

The Web-based survey was conducted in the third and fourth quarters of 2013. The 1,363 participants were selected randomly from Enterprise's customer rental database. Participants had to currently own a vehicle, have rented a vehicle within the last six months and be at least 25 years old.

In other survey findings, across all age groups of rental customers:

• Nearly half of the women—49 percent—cited good gasoline mileage as a top rental car feature;

• 46 percent of men said their choice of rental car make and model says a lot about their style, values and personality;

• 65 percent of Hispanics reported that when they purchase a car, they considered a make or model they previously rented.

Enterprise Holdings owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car and operates a fleet of 1.4 million vehicles worldwide.

This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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