The Dealership Guide for Selling to Millennials

The Dealership Guide for Selling to Millennials

Media outlets and experts have published countless articles on the spending habits of the millennial demographic in recent years — and it’s no wonder. This generational group, defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, make up a significant portion of the market, with a record $200 billion in buying power each year.

The sheer number of these young adult buyers creates a need for strategic business models catered to their unique needs and wants, and what’s worked for past generations won’t often work for this younger group. In fact, millennials tend to show a lack of interest in the conventional ways of making major purchases, such as a new or used vehicle.

As a dealership, it’s important to update your systems and approach if you want to get millennials onto your showroom floor. Read on to learn what you need to know as a dealership to ensure your millennial shoppers are getting exactly what they want in their car-buying experience.

How Millennials Buy Cars

Millennials stand out as a consumer demographic not only because of the more than 80 million buyers they represent, but also due to the lifestyle differences to which they have grown accustomed. Younger generations are known as digital natives, meaning they grew up with the Internet and typically prefer their experiences to include some degree of technology.

Most auto dealerships are already updating their marketing and customer service to be more tech-savvy, but it seems that may not be enough. Many millennials actually want much of the sales process to be online as well.

In a recent article in Dealer Marketing Magazine, a millennial buyer explained the desire to do her research online before stepping foot on a dealership lot. This preference is partially rooted in the reality that many younger buyers are not impulse shoppers, despite what the media may present.

Instead, they recognize that all the information they need to make an informed decision is available at their fingertips — or at least they expect it to be. Research on a potential car purchase is no different, so dealerships who want to benefit from the millennial shopping boom must adapt and cater to this preference.

A report from CDK Global sheds more light on this habit among millennial buyers, sharing that, on average, shoppers spend more than 17.6 hours browsing cars online before visiting a dealership. A combination of third-party rating and review sites, along with recommendations from friends and family, make up the research experience for most millennial buyers.

The dealership website plays a role as well, but it is only used by potential shoppers who find the site easy to navigate, chock full of details about the vehicle they want, and pictures of up-to-date inventory. Nearly 63% of millennial buyers confirm that the dealership’s website is a source of research for them, and when it isn’t helpful, they are likely to move on to the next viable option.

Where many dealerships go wrong in their attempts to appeal to millennial buyers is acting on the false belief that these customers want the entire process completed online, from selection to checkout and delivery of the vehicle.

In fact, millennials do show up at dealership lots — and they show up more ready to buy than any other generation, thanks to their prior research and vast knowledge of what’s available in their price range before making the trip.

What Millennials Expect from Car Dealerships

Once a millennial is ready to make a purchase after extensive research and price comparisons, a visit to the dealership lot is the next step. In order to ensure these ready-to-buy customers choose your dealership over a competitor, you’ll have to provide more than the right vehicle at the right price. Even more than available inventory, transparency throughout the car-buying process is a determining factor in which dealership a millennial will trust.

Millennials do not want to feel confused or swindled when visiting a dealership, nor do they want any other outcome than what they were promised or offered via their online research. As a dealership, you can ensure a high level of transparency by offering fair pricing that matches the range of similar vehicles from other dealerships.

Additionally, a transparent buying process for millennials means you’ll take the time to explain the costs associated with the purchase, the warranty information if applicable, and the financing options available. Millennials want to feel as though their car-buying experience is fair, and an open and honest environment at the dealership ensures they leave a satisfied customer.

Digital Tools for Car Dealerships Targeting Millennials

Selling to millennials truly requires a holistic approach, starting with your online presence as a dealership and extending to the moment the customer drives away in their new ride. It also means focusing on the unique needs of younger buyers, specifically the tools that make their research and purchase experience seamless.

Having a website that is easily accessible and can be navigated simply on a mobile device is a key component of keeping a millennial buyer’s interest. Offering calculators to assist shoppers in estimating financing and monthly payments on the website is also helpful and can increase conversions. Finally, having a strong presence on social media sites with plenty of helpful resources to serve your customers will help demonstrate that transparency millennials find so valuable.

By using these digital tools and understanding how millennials buy cars, dealerships can increase efficiency and profits while capturing one of the most valuable demographics on the market today.

About AutoAPR

AutoAPR exists to provide everything car shoppers need to know about auto finance in one convenient location, without demanding social security numbers or other sensitive information that could put their identity at risk. Our tools help dealers position themselves as a helpful guide, build trust with consumers, and close more high-quality leads than ever before.

For more information, please visit, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Ready for a Test Drive?

Schedule a live product tour with an AutoAPR expert. Simple. Fast. No obligation.