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Capital One's Rules Of The Road Survey Highlights Generational Differences Between Baby Boomers and Today's First-Time Car Buyers

May 20, 2008 at 8:18 AM EDT

Parents' advice: "Do your research, compare prices, and shop around!"

MCLEAN, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 20, 2008--As summer approaches and school is almost out, many young adults are preparing to make the single largest purchase of their lives - their first car. In its 5th annual Rules of the Road survey, Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE:COF) asked first-time buyers what they expect to experience - and then surveyed their parents, who bought their first cars three and four decades ago.

While the survey revealed generational differences, it also revealed that parents and young adults value the same things in a car - freedom, having transportation, and the pride of ownership. And although many Baby Boomer parents admit that they did not do much research prior to their first car purchase, 29 percent say doing research, comparing prices and shopping around is the most important advice they would offer first-time buyers.

"Parents can play a key role in guiding young adults as they embark upon their first car purchase," said Steve Schooff of Capital One Auto Finance. "Talking with your young adults about doing their homework is important. Researching vehicles, learning about pricing, and arranging financing are all steps that every first-time buyer should understand."

However, with a fluctuating economy and the average price of gas reaching nearly $4, differences arise when it comes to aesthetics. For 10 percent of Boomers, the look and style of their first car was what they loved the most. Today, only four (4) percent of young adults are excited about the look and style of their first car; most are interested in purchasing cars known for their fuel efficiency and reliability. Not surprisingly, Baby Boomers paid much less for their first car than today's young adults. Seventy-three (73) percent report that their first car cost less than $5,000, while the majority of today's younger buyers (37 percent) expect to pay $10,000-$25,000 for their first vehicle.

With prices so dramatically different, it's easy to understand why most boomers (65 percent) paid cash for their first car. Financing options also were limited for boomers, with only 17 percent financing their first car through their bank. Today, almost half (41 percent) of young adults plan to finance their car through the bank and 29 percent will pay cash. This number is an increase from 2007 when only 29 percent planned to finance through their bank and 40 percent were paying with cash.

Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book and, says that first-time car buyers are dealing with a lot more than just a car's choice and price.

"Buying a car today is not the same experience as in the past, and it's not just because of rising fuel prices. Not only are today's cars much more expensive, but first-time car buyers must navigate a sea of financing options and take out a car loan for the first time," says Nerad. "The good news is there are more financing options than ever before, but it is important for young adults to take the time to understand exactly what a car loan is, how much they can afford and shop around to understand what they are paying for and whether they are getting the best possible deal."

What Should First-Time Car Buyers Do To Get The Best Deal?

Capital One and Kelley Blue Book compiled a set of tips to give first-time car buyers the knowledge and confidence they need to manage the car-buying process - from choosing the right car to finding the right financing.

  • Learn about vehicle pricing. Research new and used car prices including dealer invoice pricing and transaction costs (the Internet can be a great resource). Know what you can afford and use those target numbers as a reference point for your pricing information.

  • Research and compare different financing options. There is a range of auto financing options available, including dealer financing, loans from banks and credit unions, and pre-approved no-obligation online loans. Researching your options and finding the lowest rate that you qualify for can save you a substantial amount of money over the life of your loan. It's also critical that first-time buyers match the length of their loan to the planned length of ownership so that they do not become "upside down."

  • Treat the car-buying process as two separate negotiations. Determining the: 1) vehicle price, and 2) financing are two separate transactions, and you should negotiate each separately. This strategy will often help you save money. (If you happen to have a trade-in, consider it a third part of the negotiation.)

  • Check your credit rating. Don't assume your young adult does not have a credit history. Some parents have made their older kids authorized users of credit cards and cell phones, so it's important to obtain a credit report to make sure the information is accurate before buying.

  • Make sure you are comfortable with the contract. If it's not the price or deal you want, be ready to walk away.

"Education and exploring your options are the keys to ensuring you get the best possible deal on a car," added Schooff. "It's also important that today's young adults take the time to do their research and shop around, both for the car they will buy, and to understand their payment options."

Financial Education Help

Capital One offers car buyers a range of information and tools to educate themselves, including a free, easy-to-understand consumer auto buying guide available at The guide's topics range from budgeting, to learning about vehicle research and shopping, to understanding financing and payment terms.

Survey Methodology

The findings reported in this release are from an online survey conducted by the survey opinion research firm, Braun Research of Princeton NJ. Braun Research completed interviews with 403 parents who themselves are between 45 and 55 years of age, all of whom own a motor vehicle. In addition, Braun Research conducted 177 interviews with young adults age 18 and 23 who are planning to obtain their first motor vehicle in the next year. The interviews were conducted between April 25th through April 29th, 2008. The margin of error for this study is +/- 4.89 percentage points for the parents and +/- 7.3 percentage points (at the 95% confidence level) for the young adults.

Sampling for this study was conducted using a national random sample. All panelists were invited to participate in the panel by invitation only. Statistical weights were designed from United States Census Bureau statistics.

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation ( is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries collectively had $87.7 billion in deposits and $148.0 billion in managed loans outstanding as of March 31, 2008. Headquartered in McLean, Va., Capital One has 745 locations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas and Louisiana. It is a diversified bank whose principal subsidiaries, Capital One, N.A., Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., and Capital One Auto Finance, Inc., offer a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 100 index.

About Kelley Blue Book (

Since 1926, Kelley Blue Book, The Trusted Resource(R), has provided vehicle buyers and sellers with the new and used vehicle information they need to accomplish their goals with confidence. The company's top-rated Web site,, provides the most up-to-date pricing and values, including the New Car Blue Book(R) Value, which reveals what people actually are paying for new cars. The company also reports vehicle pricing and values via products and services, including software products and the famous Blue Book(R) Official Guide. is rated the No. 1 automotive information site by Nielsen//NetRatings and the most visited auto site by J.D. Power and Associates nine years in a row. No other medium reaches more in-market vehicle shoppers than; nearly one in every three American car buyers performs their research on

CONTACT: Capital One Financial Corporation
Steve Schooff, 972.378.8105

SOURCE: Capital One Financial Corporation