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Many Millennials would be stuck on the side of the road in the event of a car problem, even if they had jumper cables. And that’s not the only thing leaving them stranded. After surveying 1,000 Americans we uncover how many would be stuck on the road due to a lack of knowledge of basic car maintenance – What does this mean for roadside safety? We separate our findings by generation and age, and expose who is to blame for younger generations’ ignorance – to bring awareness to all drivers on the road.

millenials cant jumpstart cars

America’s 71 million Millennials make up over a quarter of the country’s driving population. They are licensed to drive, yet most can’t jumpstart a car, and ironically, 1 out of 10 Millennials who can’t jumpstart a car are equipped with cables.

Millennials aren’t interested in learning how to jumpstart a car anytime soon. A quarter of Millennials would opt out of asking a stranger or watching a video on how to jumpstart a car, and rather wait for roadside assistance instead. With technology and roadside assistance available younger generations aren’t interested in doing it themselves or asking their parents to teach them.

gen z cant jumpstart cars

Shockingly, 56.5% of Gen Z can’t jumpstart a car. That’s over a 10% jump from Millennials, and roadside assistance is only receiving more calls.

So, How do Millennials Compare to the Rest of Americans?

Jumpstarting a car is not the only issue to cause Millennials and younger generations to stay broken down on the road. We looked at other basic car maintenance tasks such as checking your oil, changing a windshield wiper, filling the washer fluid, and replacing a headlight/taillight bulb to uncover. This shows us that Millennials may be driving completely in the dark or with a rainy windshield until they receive help.

millenials vs the rest of americans car maintenance

We acknowledge that newer cars and models may be trickier to change a headlight or taillight on one’s own. However, when we asked Millennials which of the five basic car maintenance tasks they know how to complete, 45% said they are not able to complete any. This is 12.5% higher than for all other Americans.

millenials cant perform basic car maintenance

  • 3 out of 4 Millennials can’t replace a headlight or taillight.
  • Nearly 7 out of 10 Millennials can’t change a windshield wiper.

How Does Getting Under the Hood Compare by Gender?

Basic car maintenance knowledge dwindles by generation, but as we see in our research, females and males are now at the same level of ignorance.

generation z jumpstarting a car

Although both genders of Gen Z are on the same level of understanding jumpstarting a car, according to our survey, younger females are more willing to solve the issue on their own rather than call roadside assistance:

  • 50% of Gen Z males would need to call roadside assistance to jumpstart a car.
  • Only 20% of Gen Z females would need to call roadside assistance to jumpstart a car and prefer to use other resources to get them back on the road.

Changing a Headlight or Taillight Bulb is the Most Difficult Car Maintenance Task for Both Females and Males

While changing a headlight or taillight bulb is the most difficult car maintenance task for both males and females, the other car maintenance tasks seem to vary:

car maintenance tasls americans cant execute by gender

Younger Generations Are the Least Likely to Learn Car Maintenance From Their Parents

Millennials and younger generations might be frowned upon for their lack of basic car maintenance skills, yet only half of them learned from their parents. You can see the pattern of this through the generational years:

  • 50% of people ages 55-65 learned from their parents.
  • 40% of people younger than 45 learned basic car maintenance from their parents.
  • Only 33.5% of Gen Z males learned basic car maintenance from their parents.

americans are more likely to learn car maintenance from a father figure

Although parents are becoming less likely to teach their children, through all generations we see that mother figures do not take on this responsibility. Our survey asked respondents if either their grandfather/father or grandmother/mother taught them to jumpstart a car and here is what we found:

  • Americans are 13x more likely to have been taught basic car maintenance by a father figure than a mother figure.

Gen Z Males and Females Are at the Same Basic Car Maintenance Understanding

Interestingly enough, we found that younger generation females are learning more about basic car maintenance from their parents than younger generation males by 10%. This has not always been the same, in fact, we find this to be a drastic switch from older generations:

  • For people ages 25-45, 42.0% of males learned basic car maintenance by a parent, while 38.0% of females of the same age did.
  • For people ages 45-65, 51.8% of males learned basic car maintenance by a parent, while 41.2% of females of the same age did.
  • For people ages 65+, 52% of males learned basic car maintenance from their parents, while only 24.5% of females did.

As we stated with our data earlier, the gender gap in understanding basic car maintenance is decreasing. One reason for this could be the fact that the younger generation of females is receiving more education from their parents than males.

What American Car Care Habits Can Teach Us

Even though the younger generations are preparing themselves less and less to properly take care of a car, we can learn from our mistakes. By sharing our research, we hope this alerts Americans the issue at hand. If you have a driver’s license, understanding the basic car maintenance tasks should be treated as a mandatory obligation to car ownership, so you can quickly get back on the road.

car maintenance best practices

Resources to Learn Basic Car Maintenance Skills

If you have a driver’s license, understanding the basic car maintenance tasks should be treated as a mandatory obligation to car ownership. We rounded up credible sources to inform you of each car maintenance we covered:



This car maintenance study was conducted for CarRentals using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of 1,000 respondents, with an average RMSE score of 2.8 – 4.0%. This survey was conducted in September 2019.


Additional Sources:

Pew Research Center | PYMTS | | dummies | driving tests | Popular Mechanics |