Survey: Car shoppers want better fuel economy, here's why

Consumer Reports News: February 04, 2013 12:23 PM

Two thirds of car buyers expect their next model to provide much or somewhat better fuel economy, based on the latest survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. And it turns out fuel prices aren't the only key motivator.

Around one quarter (28 percent) of those interviewed said they don't expect fuel economy will change when moving from their current vehicle to their next one, while just 5 percent expect somewhat worse or much worse fuel economy. Considering most consumers are looking at a same-sized vehicle or larger, expectations are high for the next, new vehicle. Likely, some compromises in size, power, and price may be necessary to achieve such goals.

As we have seen in past surveys, elevated gasoline prices have consumers feeling pain at the pump. But beyond fuel costs, there are other real concerns that will shape future buying trends, as listed below.

Motivations for choosing a more fuel-efficient vehicle Percent
Lower fuel costs 79
Latest fuel-saving technology 53
Environmentally friendly or green 52
Concern about dependence on foreign oil 43
Chanage in lifestyle or family 28

Men and women agree on the importance of lowering fuel costs, but we do see some differences in other motivations to buy green. For instance, men have a 6-percentage point higher interest in the latest fuel-saving technology, as do consumers aged 45 years and older relative to younger consumers. On the other hand, women place a higher value on environmental friendliness (8-percentage point difference) and concerns about foreign oil dependence (9-percentage point difference).

Whatever the motivations for buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle, we're seeing significant improvements in the latest models tested by Consumer Reports compared against the older cars these shoppers are likely trading in. However, we are also measuring notable variation in fuel economy, sometimes exceeding and other times falling short of advertised performance. It is best to check our test findings before purchasing a car (available on the model pages), if fuel economy figures are a primary concern.

For this report, the Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random, nationwide telephone survey of 2,034 adults from Dec. 6-16, 2012, and collected survey data from 1,764 adults in households that had at least one car.

Read our complete story on the 2013 Car Brand Perception Survey to see how the brands measured up in the seven categories, how they compare against last year's results, and which brands are the lowest ranked.

Guide to fuel economy
2013 Car-Brand Perception Survey: Consumers name their top 20 brands

Jeff Bartlett

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