3 Reasons Why the 50-Plus Consumer Is Driving Auto Sales

By Mark Bradbury, VP Insights and Research, AARP Media Advertising Network 

For auto marketers, there’s a key audience that has long been making a difference to their bottom line: the 50-plus consumer.

Indeed, 50-plus drivers represent a turbocharged audience for today’s carmakers; they own more than half of all new cars on the road and are more financially established, allowing them to buy second cars and luxury vehicles. They’re also key contributors to the fast-growing hybrid/EV market.

Today’s 50-plus consumers have a deep and loyal history with the auto industry. They came of age in the auto’s golden era and their passion for the open road is even stronger today. They take great pride in vehicle ownership, have demonstrated an enduring interest in new models and features and have decades of experience buying cars, trucks, SUVs and other vehicles. These are the buyers who helped build Detroit’s reputation as the Motor City, ushered in waves of imports and gave the fuel efficiency movement its mojo – including driving sales of today’s new generation of EVs.

For automotive marketers looking to rev up sales right now and well into the future, 50-plus consumers are a must-win audience. Here’s why:

1. They represent more than half of all annual new vehicle consumers

50-plus consumers hold a major share of the market for automotive ownership and purchase, according to the latest data from MRI-Simmons (Fall 2022). They are the decision makers for all new vehicles bought or leased within the last 12 months (51%), far outpacing younger consumers in the 18-34 (24%) and 35-49 (25%) age demos. Nearly one in four (24%) of these new vehicle owners are age 65+.

2. They have the financial security to make car purchases with ease

Superior financial strength makes 50-plus consumers ideal customers for automotive marketers. They are far more comfortable financially compared to younger consumers, with an average net worth of $489k, which is 35% higher than the net worth of 35-49 year olds and 94% higher than 18-34 year olds.

And, they’re willing to spend more than younger demographics. In fact, consumers 50-plus account for a majority (59%) of all vehicle owners who spend $50k+ on a new vehicle purchase/lease, compared to adults 18-34 (23%) and adults 35-49 (18%).

3. They are more likely to splurge on EVs, second vehicles and luxury models

50-plus drivers dominate the hybrid/electric new vehicle buyer market. Nearly six in 10 (59%) owners of hybrid/electric-only vehicles are drivers age 50-plus and more than three in 10 (31%) are owned by drivers age 65-plus.

At the core of this market are AARP members, who represent a significant portion of the 50-plus demo. Virtually all are vehicle owners and nearly seven in 10 own multiple vehicles. This vital segment should appeal to any automotive marketer but is especially important for luxury and EV marketers. AARP members are 21% more likely than other 50-plus consumers to have spent more than $50k on their latest vehicle purchase.

Not only are they big spenders but they are also highly receptive to EVs. In fact, AARP members are 24% more likely to own EVs compared to other 50-plus consumers. For them, it’s a lifestyle decision and one they’re eager to make: Seven in 10 (71%) feel it’s very important to preserve the environment and two-thirds (66%) agree that their next car will be more eco-friendly.

Bottom line: Automotive marketers looking to boost sales and gain market share are well served by the passionate, affluent 50-plus consumer demographic. And by focusing on the most financially empowered, forward-thinking among them, marketers will be well equipped to drive next-generation vehicle sales.