How to Connect With Car Buyers of All Ages | Auto Finance News | Auto Finance News

How to Connect With Car Buyers of All Ages

From the January issue:  Aligning customer experience initiatives with the proper demographic is essential for lenders, and there are ways to communicate with borrowers and prospects more effectively.

Recent research provides rich insights into the benefits of aligning financial marketing messages with generational attributes to achieve higher conversion and engagement. University of Arizona’s 2018 Filene Research Report Generational Money Chatter details how each generation feels and communicates about financial matters. The report outlines the following themes and patterns discovered when it comes to perceptions and attitudes about financial services among different age brackets:


  • Context: Shaped by World War II and the Great Depression.
  • Mindset: Tend to be risk-averse, afraid of debt, distrustful of banks, and the most negative about finances. Minimal online presence and typically not active in discussions on financial topics.
  • Takeaway: Less information is available based on the above lack of engagement, but data indicates repayment horizon (relative to life stage) may influence their negativity.

BABY BOOMERS (1946–1964)

  • Context: Came of age during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.
  • Mindset: Despite high debt and being “sandwiched” between children and aging parents, they have the most positive perceptions about money and spending of all groups.
  • Takeaway: Willing to take on debt to have the things and experiences they want. Appealing to this market means avoiding negative or cautionary messaging, emphasizing present-day enjoyment, and repayment plans that least restrict future spending.

GENERATION X (1965–1979)

  • Context: Grew up in a poorer economy with increasing divorce rates; “latchkey kid” generation.
  • Mindset: The most neutral when talking about financial issues. They research purchases and want third-party facts before making financial decisions. Tend to see debt as a tool to help them achieve their goals.
  • Takeaway: Respond positively to reason, comparison, and logic rather than to emotional appeals. Especially attuned to perks like cash back or loyalty rewards.

MILLENNIALS (1980–1994)

  • Context: Experienced the technology revolution along with economic recession and the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks.
  • Mindset: Highly debt-averse and suspicious of relying on credit. This attitude is largely driven by the age group’s experience with student loan debt, repayment, and default. Express suspicion about the honesty of financial institutions and fear being taken advantage of.
  • Takeaway: Do not respond well to overly “salesy” approaches. Millennials do report positive feelings about purchases that make them feel responsible and like they are “adulting,” such as buying a car or home.


  • Context: Have never known a non-online world or life without social media.
  • Mindset: Little input to study because of their young age, so few meaningful patterns were revealed.
  • Takeaway: As Gen Z comes of age, it will be important to pay attention to how they differ from millennials in their attitudes and spending habits. Generalizations don’t capture what motivates everyone, but once a potential buyer is interested in purchasing or leasing, it’s wise to take these generational tendencies into account during the finance discussion. Each generation views cash, credit, loans, and payments differently based on experiences growing up in a certain time period — and where customers fall in that mix can have a big impact on how they perceive financing offers.

Lynn Hess is a content specialist at State National Companies in Bedford, Texas, and writes on a variety of financial topics relating to banking, credit unions, and insurance. State National, a division of Markel Corp., has been in business for more than 45 years and is a specialty provider of collateral protection insurance. In its lender services segment, the company specializes in providing portfolio protection solutions including automobile and mortgage insurance for loans made by credit unions, banks, and specialty finance companies. State National is the Customer Experience Partner of Auto Finance Excellence (, a sister service of Auto Finance News.

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