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Survey shows high fuel costs cause downsizing, less driving

Consumer Reports News: May 22, 2012 06:08 AM

The rising cost of gasoline is hitting home with drivers; in our latest survey, 35 percent of respondents report driving fewer miles than they did a year ago. Two-thirds of owners surveyed said they expect their next vehicle to get better fuel mileage than the one they're driving now, and fuel economy topped the list as the most important consideration when shopping for their next car, followed by quality and safety.

While gasoline costs were the number one reason cited for wanting a more fuel-efficient vehicle (at 90 percent), more than half of respondents also had other reasons, including a desire to be more environmentally friendly (62 percent) and concern about the nation's dependence on foreign oil (56 percent).

The survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, found that car owners were open to different ways of saving at the pump, from downsizing to looking at hybrids, electric cars, or models with diesel engines. In all, nearly three-quarters of participants 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.

Of those who said they plan to move to a different type, owners of large SUVs were the most open to downsizing, frequently planning to move to a smaller SUV. Small cars were the leading category targeted by survey respondents for their next vehicle, followed by larger sedans and midsized SUVs. Further illuminating a future market shift, sedans and and minivans are on fewer participants' radar relative to their current model.

When gas prices are high, it's always tempting to rush to trade-in for a more fuel-efficient vehicle to save at the pump. But our research has shown that you're often better off financially to stick it out with the vehicle you have if it's less than a couple of years old because a new vehicle will cost you more in depreciation than you would save on gas. And when it comes time to trade, look for a Recommended model that not only gets good fuel mileage, but is also safe, reliable, and fits the needs of you and your family. After all, you may want to hold on to it for many years to come.

For more details on the survey, see our full report.

Related:
Consumers are willing to compromise to achieve better fuel economy
Consumers still favor gasoline-fueled cars, but most are open to options
Consumers name their leading disadvantages of buying a fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel car
Car owners seek fuel economy solutions from the car industry, support from government

Jim Travers

   

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