California Seniors are Driving New Car Growth


Here’s why older drivers are good news for CMOs!

The Golden State is turning Silver. Seniors (55+) are growing at the fastest rate of any age group in California and across the U.S.. And turning 65-years old brings with it the prospect to retire, start a second career and play more golf. But in every case, the desire and reality of driving your own car remains a key element in maintaining your lifestyle and connections. Over 26 million registered drivers live in California and statistically more and more are 70+.

California has 12% of the total U.S. new-vehicle registrations and its car dealer network at $120 billion in sales a year should get a CMOs attention.  Seniors are a big segment of these buyers.

On a national basis, the older-driver segment is growing the fastest:

  • Drivers over 50-years old reached nearly 93.5 million in 2013 – an increase of 22 percent since 2003 – resulting in 44 % of total licensed drivers.
  • Drivers over 85 years old remain the fastest growing demographic group, nearly doubling from 1.76 million in 1998 to 3.48 million in 2013 – the second-highest amount ever recorded.
  • Drivers age 60 and older represented almost 26 percent of all licensed drivers in 2014, up from 20 percent in 2004. (

Given the age wave, CMOs should dig into the importance and psychological impact that driving holds for this older consumer segment. Nothing defines senior independence more than having a current driver’s license and their own car or access to one. Studies have shown an increase in mortality rates and depression among those who have had their license revoked or not renewed.

The California DMV has extended the renewal rate to every 5 years. This is in large part due to a reduction in driving accidents and mortality linked to seniors in California. Seniors are more likely to regulate their driving times, (i.e. more daytime driving than at night) and limit their annual miles driven.

Also, seniors have the financial ability to finance, lease, or simply keep their current car on the road. Given the wealth held by seniors – their outright cash used to purchase is highest of any buyer segment. When it comes to highway safety, Californian statistics further demonstrate that younger drivers are more likely to be in an accident than seniors.

Auto manufactures are making driver-assist safety features that bodes especially well for seniors thanks to these technology options:

  • FCW – forward collision warning alerts
  • AEB -automatic emergency braking
  • LDA -lane departure assist
  • BSW – blind spot warnings act as seat companions for seniors drivers

The opportunity for brands and services built around automobile usage by seniors is another marketing opportunity. As every car owners learns, the monthly payment is just the beginning. – tires, service, parts and fuel as well as insurance, body shops, and personalized accessories marketed with a ‘senior sensibility’ could yield added loyalty and sales.

Seniors are ‘service oriented’ – they appreciate the extra attention often needed when shopping or trying something new for the first time. Imagine a bold, daring idea by one of the big oil companies – pumping gas for senior drivers at the self-service rate. Talk about differentiation!

CMOs can find competitive advantages and build highly targeted and compelling connections with California senior drivers – whether they emphasize the newest driver assist features or reminders that encourage seniors to leverage their independence and go take a drive.

Photo by Russian Guzov

Author Profile

Brad Ball
Brian Morris and I have been good friends and industry competitors for years. We both have run major advertising agencies and both have held top level client-side positions. I am a former partner at ad agency Davis, Ball and Colombatto, and the former Chief Marketing Officer at McDonalds and President, Theatrical Marketing for Warner Brothers. Brian and I are now in our 60’s and came together in 2017 to form a company that understands the Senior market better than traditional ad agencies, Silver Advertising. We are now poised to be passionate advocates for these consumers as they enter their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond.

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