7 Most Popular Cars for Millennial Buyers


January 15, 2017

A car is a major purchase and there’s a lot to consider. Do you go for the stylish ride of your dreams, or a more practical choice that will deliver reliable performance for years to come? The good news is that auto manufacturers are beginning to show that the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

In this article, we look at some of the most popular cars on the market today and provide some tips that will help you make the right choice when it’s time to buy.

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Most Popular Cars for Millennials

As more millennials establish themselves in the job market, major car manufacturers are increasingly catering to their needs. While millennials are a diverse group, there’s no question that overall their tastes and priorities are wildly different than their parents’ generation. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular car brands and models among millennials to help you make an informed choice when buying a car. We’ve also included a “Best years” and “Kelley Blue Book®” section for each to help you choose which model years to consider if you’re looking to buy used.

The majority of cars on the below list is based on data from Strategic Vision’s 2016 most loved vehicles among millennials report as well as industry data from JD Power and Associates.

  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: A true throwback, the Wrangler has been in production for more than 30 years. While the platform has evolved over time, it retains much of the characteristic styling and rugged durability that have made it a popular choice among off-road enthusiasts.
    • MSRP new: Starting at $28,890 (2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys Wheeler 4×4 with base trim)
    • MPG: 16 city/21 highway
    • Best years: A few reliable, popular used Jeep Wrangler models include the CJ5, CJ7, YJ, TJ, and LJ.
    • Kelley Blue Book® value: $20,804 (2011 4D Unlimited Sport model, average miles and good condition, private sale)
  • Nissan Juke: Nissan’s sporty crossover ranks high on the Strategic Vision Consumer Love Index, particularly among millennials. Available in FWD and AWD configurations, the Juke boasts a peppy 188-horsepower engine, sophisticated controls that connect with your smartphone and one of the widest ranges of color options on the market.
    • MSRP new: Starting at $21,190 (2017 FWD base model)
    • MPG: 26 city/31 highway
    • Best years: The 2011 model was an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick
    • Kelley Blue Book® value: $8,767 (2011 Nissan JUKE S Sport Utility 4D, average miles and good condition, private sale)
  • Subaru Crosstrek: Another compact crossover, the Subaru Crosstrek is based on the longstanding Impreza platform, retaining its superior handling and fuel economy while adding additional cargo space and higher ground clearance for go-anywhere performance. Like all Subarus, it features full-time all-wheel drive, making it a good first car for anyone who loves outdoor adventures.
    • MSRP new: $22,570 (2017 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i manual with base trim)
    • MPG: 26 city/34 highway
    • Best years: 2013, 2014 and 2015 models all won Vincentric “Best Value” awards
    • Kelley Blue Book® value: $20,082 (2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Sport Utility 4D, average miles and good condition, private sale)
  • Ford Fiesta: Though more popular overseas than in this country, the sporty and compact Fiesta has gained a cult following among millennials who value its combination of style, fuel efficiency and overall value. The high-performance ST model in particular has gained critical praise, including being named “one of the best hot hatches on the market, regardless of price.”
    • MSRP new: $15,305 (2017 Ford Fiesta S Hatch with base trim)
    • MPG: 27 city/29 highway
    • Best years: The 2014 ST model won Top Gear’s “Car of the Year” Award
    • Kelley Blue Book® value: $13,058 (2014 Ford Fiesta ST Hatchback 4D, average miles and good condition, private sale)
  • Acura ILX: Forbes.com reports that the Acura ILX is “the most popular luxury sub-compact among millennials.” The ILX’s appeal among millennials has been a key component of Acura’s marketing for this compact sport sedan. Despite its rather conventional looks, it offers a number of attractive features such as a 201-horsepower turbo engine, an 8-speed transmission and active sound control for a quieter cabin.
    • MSRP new: $28,930 (2017 Acura ILX sedan)
    • MPG: 25 city/36 highway
    • Best years: The 2013 model was the ILX’s bestselling
    • Kelley Blue Book® value: $12,476 (2013 Acura ILX 2.0L sedan 4D, average miles and good condition, private sale)
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI: The Golf GTI is one of the original “hot hatches.” Known for its combination of speed and storage space, the GTI is an excellent choice for millennials who want thrills and convenience in a single package. GTI models feature a turbocharged gas engine that wasn’t affected by the recent “dieselgate” scandals.
    • MSRP new: $26,415 (2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0T 4-Door S, manual with base trim)
    • MPG: 25 highway/34 city
    • Best years: The 2015 model was the most recent to rank on Car and Driver’s annual 10Best list
    • Kelley Blue Book® value: $17,995 (2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S Hatchback Coupe 2D, average miles and good condition, private sale)
  • BMW 3-Series Sedan: Moving into the luxury market, the BMW 3-Series Sedan offers cross-generational appeal thanks to its performance heritage and well-appointed features. Available in a range of different configurations, this BMW lineup offers something for anyone who can afford its $33,500 and up price point.
    • MSRP new: $34,445 (2017 BMW 320i sedan with base trim)
    • MPG: 23 city/34 highway
    • Best years: Road and Track ranked the fifth generation (2005-2013) 335i one of the best 3-series BMWs of all time
    • Kelley Blue Book® value: $22,988 (2013 BMW 3 Series 335i 4D sedan, average miles and good condition, private sale)

What to Look For When Buying Your First Car

The above is just a small snapshot of a complicated and crowded industry, where endless amounts of money are spent on marketing and advertising. Making a smart choice when buying a car requires looking beyond the advertising to assess your wants, your needs and, above all, your budget.

Your first step should be to determine what you can afford. Anyone who tells you your budget shouldn’t be your primary concern doesn’t have your best financial interest at heart. Use the PSECU vehicle calculator to run the numbers and get a realistic perspective on what a new ride will end up costing you. You’ll also need to know whether you want a new or used model and whether you want to buy or lease. From there, you can begin to explore a world of choices that will satisfy your need for style and speed, without breaking the bank.

Find more money management tips and resources on our WalletWorks page.

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The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal or other professional if you have questions.