A person filling uo a car with gasoline

Fuel economy is a primary concern in choosing a replacement car, according to a new survey by Consumer Reports, despite gas prices averaging less than $2 a gallon nationwide. It's clear from the responses that consumers are focused on saving costs on their next vehicle, both up-front and long-term.

The nationally representative survey of 2,164 adults in the U.S. was done April 2 to April 13, 2020.

MORE ON FUEL ECONOMY

CR also asked which three attributes of their current vehicle had the most room for improvement. Fuel economy topped the list, selected by 44 percent of those who had a vehicle. This was followed by the purchase price (32 percent) and maintenance costs (29 percent).  

Other factors that relate to comfort and performance were farther down the list. This could be explained in part by the shopper’s ability to assess these things on a test drive. CR.org presents fuel-economy numbers based on exclusive tests as well as detailed reliability ratings. (Learn how brands compare for maintenance and repair costs.)

“Consumers want automakers to improve fuel economy because it saves them money, and fuel-saving technology provides a great return on investment” says Chris Harto, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “Oil prices are infamously erratic, and a vehicle that gets good fuel economy helps to protect consumers from these price swings.”

Consumer Reports has been advocating for continued, mandatory improvements to fuel economy, despite recent federal efforts to reverse progress. The survey shows that drivers favor progress.

We found that 37 percent support sticking with the established goal of 5 percent annual improvements. But 24 percent support the government's new plan requiring just a 1.5 percent annual increase in fuel economy for automakers across their portfolio. (Thirty-nine percent neither support nor oppose the plan.) A change from 5 to 1.5 percent would add thousands of dollars in fuel costs for car owners, considering that vehicles sold would be on the road for 15 to 20 years. Ultimately, a majority favor ratcheting up the fuel-economy targets for automakers.

When asked directly, 59 percent of survey respondents said fuel economy was "very" or "extremely" important to them when purchasing a vehicle.

Most (86 percent) agreed that automakers should continue to improve fuel economy for all vehicle types.

“Safety and fuel economy have been improving hand in hand for a decade now, and consumers have come to expect these kinds of improvements in their vehicles,” says Harto. “Automakers who don’t continue making serious improvements risk alienating buyers.” 

Attributes of Current Vehicles With Room for Improvement

Fuel Economy

44%

Purchase Price

32%

Maintenance Costs

29%

Safety

21%

Infotainment or Connectivity

20%

Reliability

20%

Vehicle Comfort

17%

Cargo Space

14%

Passenger Room

12%

Vehicle Size

12%

Horsepower

11%

Off-Road Capability

10%

Style

9%

Handling

8%
Based on a nationally representative survey of 2,164 adults in the U.S. conducted April 2 to April 13, 2020. © Consumer Reports 2020.

Below we list the most fuel-efficient cars and SUVs in several popular categories. (See the complete list of fuel-efficient vehicles.)

Compact Cars

Quick Take

2020 Toyota Corolla

Price Range: $19,600 - $25,550

View Pricing Information

Predicted Reliability
Predicted Owner Satisfaction
Unlock Car Ratings

Midsized Cars

Quick Take

2020 Honda Accord

Price Range: $24,020 - $36,250

View Pricing Information

Predicted Reliability
Predicted Owner Satisfaction
Unlock Car Ratings

Large Cars

Quick Take

2020 Toyota Avalon

Price Range: $35,875 - $43,300

View Pricing Information

Predicted Reliability
Predicted Owner Satisfaction
Unlock Car Ratings

Small SUVs

Quick Take

2020 Lexus UX

Price Range: $32,300 - $39,700

View Pricing Information

Predicted Reliability
Predicted Owner Satisfaction
Unlock Car Ratings

Midsized SUVs

Quick Take

2020 Lexus RX

Price Range: $44,150 - $56,510

View Pricing Information

Predicted Reliability
Predicted Owner Satisfaction
Unlock Car Ratings