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Consumer Reports: Car buyers care most about fuel economy

May 22, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Consumer Reports says fuel economy is the top featured considered by new car buyers.
Consumer Reports says fuel economy is the top featured considered by new… (Associated Press )

Fuel economy is the top feature buyers consider when shopping for a new car, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports.

The magazine, an influential force on car buying choices, said that 37% of the respondents in an April telephone survey listed fuel economy as their top consideration when shopping for a new car. Quality was a distant second at 17% followed by safety at 16%, value at 14% and performance at just 6%.

 “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.  “While quality, safety and value are still important, this may be foreshadowing a market shift by folks seeking relief at the pump.”

Two-thirds of the drivers surveyed said they expected their next vehicle to get better fuel economy than the one they’re driving now. Fuel expense was the top reason drivers wanted more fuel-efficient vehicles, but the respondents also said they were concerned about the environment and dependence on foreign oil.

The survey of 1,702 adults in households that had at least one car revealed other interesting attitudes about car shopping.

Men ranked fuel economy first and quality second among their considerations for selecting a new vehicle. Women also put fuel economy first but ranked safety second.

While just 17% of those surveyed said they drove a small car, 22% said their next vehicle would be a small car. The respondents indicated that, collectively, they would reduce purchases of large sedans, minivans and large SUVs when they next go car shopping.

Small cars, followed by pickup trucks, were the most popular choices in the western United States, while small cars, followed by sedans, were the most popular choices in the Northeast and Midwest. Buyers in the South lean toward small cars, sedans and mid-size SUVs in almost equal numbers.

Nationally, minivans and large SUVs were the least likely to have repeat buyers.

Most people – 81% -- will look for a conventional gasoline engine vehicle when they next go auto shopping.  But 40% reported they would also consider a hybrid vehicle. Just 19% said they are interested in electric vehicles that don’t have a gasoline engine backup.

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