Cars are getting more and more expensive to buy and to run, which also makes them more expensive to ensure. The average vehicle in the United States costs around $35’000. The used cars of 2019 are more technologically complex than used cars in 1999, which means there are more things that can malfunction and those things are more expensive to replace. In summary – the car is a financial burden that only depreciates in value over time. Combine this with the continuing trend of migration towards bigger cities that have some kind of public transit, or distances that are cyclable or walkable, and you begin to do the math that previous generations didn’t need to bother with as much. With the bank loan, the fuel costs and the various maintenance and parking costs associated with a vehicle, why not just spend that extra $1000 per month on renting an apartment that is more central?
And that kind of choice is one of the best case scenarios. The reality for many people that have recently entered the job market is that they can’t afford a car. The exponential increase in the cost of buying or renting a home, with added student loan debt that many young people now have, adding a car to the list of expenses is not an option for a lot of people.
Social attitudes are subject to fashion for one reason or another. Approval and respect isn’t earned the same way all of the time. Back in the day, you would gain invisible social points by strolling down the winter streets wearing a fur coat, or by impressing your peers with a shiny new Rolex. The young people of this generation don’t care for any of that. Material possessions are not regarded as highly as they used to, and having as little of unnecessary stuff as possible has become a virtue of the highest order. It is all about living sustainably now, being waste-free and eco-friendly. A car doesn’t fit that rhetoric particularly well.
Some would suggest that this minimalism is not born out of an epiphany about how true happiness is achieved or a desire to save the planet. Owning things is actually psychologically burdensome. When you own a home you worry about it’s condition much more than you do when you rent, as long as you get your security deposit back. Same applies to cars – you fear it getting stolen or scratched, or it depreciating so fasct that you’ll have to sell it for peanuts in a few years’ time. We just don’t want to have that anxiety in our lives and so opt to rent, or lease, or briefly borrow. Cars won’t disappear completely, but they certainly won’t mean the same thing as they did in the previous century. The good news is, there will be fewer cars on the road for those who enjoy driving and buy cars out of passion, and not as an appliance.