More young women than men drive luxury leases

Lynnette Khalfani-CoxWhen a 30-something friend I know in New York City confessed to me that she was driving an $815 a month BMW, I cautioned her about tooling around town in such an expensive set of wheels.

But it turns out, she's hardly alone – at least among the younger crowd.

According to LeaseTrader.com, a popular car leasing marketplace, when it comes to driving luxury vehicles, it's young women who are most often gripping that steering wheel – not men.

About 51.2% of women under 30 on LeaseTrader.com drive a luxury vehicle compared with 42.6% back in 2005.

Two factors are driving the trend: women are better educated and better paid than ever.

The Council of Graduate Schools recently reported that, for the first time in American history, women earn the bulk of doctoral degrees in the U.S. In the 2008-9 academic year, 50.4% of doctoral degrees were granted to women.

At the same time, Census Bureau data indicate that women between the ages of 22 and 30 earn 8% more than men in metropolitan areas.

So apparently, young single women are flocking to luxury cars as a way to flex their financial muscles.

Indeed, figures from LeaseTrader.com show that most women luxury drivers under 30 are in popular metro areas such as Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

They're driving off car dealerships with autos ranging form the Audi TT and the Lexis SC to the BMW Z4 and the Jaguar XK.

"The shift in driving power has been progressing over the last few years on the LeaseTrader.com marketplace as more women take a greater interest in what they drive," says Sergio Stiberman, CEO and founder of LeaseTrader.com. "Especially as it relates to education, young women commanding higher salaries are becoming a larger customer base in shopping and trading for luxury leases."

While some people can run into financial trouble with leases – especially if they can't afford to pay the monthly note or if they drive the car too many miles – there is some indication that the young women getting into these cars are trying to be financially savvy.

For instance, they aren't just signing lease contracts for brand-new cars fresh off the lot. They're also using the LeaseTrader.com marketplace to take over other people's leases, which means their financial obligation for the vehicle will last for a shorter period of time. That could be a plus for anyone who runs into financial difficulty down the road.

For now, though, it seems that driving a nice car is increasingly part of a woman's world.

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