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What Cars Are Boomers Buying?

Forget oversized SUVs. The bestselling 2011 cars reflect an increasingly practical streak among middle-aged consumers.
What Cars Are Boomers Buying?

The Ford F Series trucks are the overall bestselling new vehicles for middle-aged consumers in 2011, though fuel-efficient imports showed the biggest growth in sales this year.

That assessment comes from the number-crunching automotive industry analysts at Edmunds.com who compiled data for SecondAct.com on the hottest-selling 2011 vehicles for people ages 45 and over.

The findings contradict analysts' assumptions a few years back that as baby boomers became empty nesters, they would spend their extra income on luxury vehicles and the sort of flashy sports cars that they coveted in their youth. Instead, faced with rising gasoline prices, an economic crisis that has shrunk their nest eggs and the need to keep working (and to help out adult children who can't find jobs), many boomers seem to be rethinking their priorities.

"We are seeing a trend of 45-plus purchasers moving toward affordable, more fuel-efficient import cars like the Toyota Yaris, the Nissan Versa and the Kia Forte," says Edmunds.com senior market intelligence analyst Art Kerdmanee. "This is a huge shift from their typical purchase patterns of large domestic sedans."

Top Sellers
While small, full-efficient imports are the big growth area, not all boomers are ready to give up on their old favorites. When Edmunds analysts looked at the overall top-selling cars for buyers 45 and older, they found that some familiar names were still at the top of the list, though they aren't selling as well as in the past.

Listing Type of Car / Truck # Sold from January - August 2011
1. Ford F Series line of trucks: This pick has been around since 1948, practically as long as the oldest boomers. 122,005
2. Chevrolet Silverado 103,476
3. Toyota Camry 99,895
4. Honda Accord 90,444
5. Honda CR-V 86,188
6. Hyundai Sonata 82,250
7. Honda Civic 81,026
8. Chevrolet Equinox 75,352
9. Ford Escape 73,919
10. Ford Fusion 69,325


Growth Trends
The changing market is reflected in Edmunds.com's list of the cars showing the most sales growth from purchasers 45 and older between 2010 and January to August 2011.

Listing Type of Car / Truck % Increase over 2010
1. Toyota Yaris 19.1
2. Toyota Corolla 12.0
3. Nissan Versa 11.0
4. VW Tiguan 10.9
5. Nissan Xterra 10.7
6. Kia Forte 10.7
7. Toyota RAV4 10.2
8. VW CC 9.7
9. Honda Fit 9.5
10. BMW 3 Series 9.5


Overall Market
And though boomers' tastes are shifting, they're such a vast segment of the population that they still make up the bulk of the market for big sedans and luxury-class sport utility vehicles. Here's the list of the 2011 vehicles with the highest percentages of total purchases made by 45-and-older consumers.

Listing Type of Car / Truck % total purchases made by ppl 45+
1. Buick Lucerne 88.7
2. Toyota Avalon 88.7
3. Lincoln MKZ 87.0
4. Buick Lacrosse 85.3
5. Chevrolet Impala 84.0
6. Lexus ES 83.9
7. Lincoln MKX 82.4
8. Ford Ranger 81.8
9. Cadillac CTS 80.5
10. Cadillac SRX 79.6


Walk On By
Edmunds also provided data on the vehicles with the lowest percentage of their total sales coming from adults 45 and over. At the bottom is the Honda Odyssey minivan, with its Toyota counterpart, the Sienna, close behind. Another vehicle middled-aged buyers avoided is the Nissan Pathfinder, an example of the bulky, more-truck-than-car SUV that appealed to car buyers in the early 2000s before the rise of gas prices. Similarly, the vehicle with the biggest year-to-year decline in percentage of sales to 45-and-overs is the Ford Explorer, a midsized sport utility that peaked in popularity in the 1990s.

Read more: 8 Tips for (Really) Frugal Living

SecondAct contributor Patrick J. Kiger has written for publications ranging from GQ

to the Los Angeles Times Magazine

and is the co-author of two books, Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions and Lore that Shaped Modern America

and Oops: 20 Life Lessons From the Fiascoes That Shaped America.

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