Fuel economy trumps quality and safety as the most important factor in buying a new car, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey.
High gas prices are steering consumers toward smaller, more fuel efficient cars, the survey found. Americans are also considering driving less. More than one-third (35 percent) said they are driving less than they did a year ago, while two thirds of car owners said they expect their next vehicle to improve on the fuel economy their present car is getting.
More than one-third (37 percent) said that fuel economy will drive their next car purchase. Quality is a priority for 17 percent, while safety is the most important car buying factor for 16 percent. Fourteen percent cited value. Only six percent cited performance.
A near-majority (90 percent) of respondents said that gas prices were the primary reason for wanting a more fuel-efficient vehicle, but more than half cited other reasons as well, including a desire to be more eco-friendly (62 percent) and concern about U.S. dependence on foreign oil (56 percent).
These issues were of most concern to women, 65 percent of whom said their new car purchase would be most motivated by the environmental benefit of better fuel economy (65 percent vs. 58 percent of men). Sixty-three percent (vs. 49 percent of men) said they were most concerned about America’s dependence on foreign oil, while 38 percent (vs. 31 percent) said they were “impacted by changes on the home front,” according to the survey.
Car owners are receptive to a variety of ways to save at the pump, including downsizing their cars and considering hybrids, electric cards, or diesel engine models. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would consider some type of alternatively fueled vehicle, with flex-fuel and hybrid models leading the way. Younger buyers were more likely to consider an alternatively fueled or purely electric vehicle than drivers over the age of 55.
“These results make it clear that high fuel prices are continuing to impact driver behavior and influencing future purchase considerations,” said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy auto editor in a statement. “While quality, safety and value are still important, this may be foreshadowing a market shift by folks seeking relief at the pump.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.