Consumer Reports: Most car buyers not looking to downsize

Back in 2008, gas prices soared past $4 per gallon and car buyers clamored for more efficient forms of transportation. But once fuel became affordable again, we're guessing there were quite a few Honda Civic and Chevy Cobalt owners who longed for their old SUVs. The price of gas is skyrocketing yet again, but it appears that customers aren't inclined to make that mistake again.

Consumer Reports recently polled 911 new car-buying adults to gauge the size of their next vehicle, and 56 percent responded that their next car or truck will be the same size as the one it replaces. The poll shows that a quarter of the respondents did plan to downsize, but another 19 percent were inclined to buy bigger the next time around. And if you're 18-34, you're more likely to up-size your next vehicle, in part because younger buyers will in many cases own a smaller vehicle because they are typically cheaper to purchase. This demographic also falls into the heart of family starting years, so children could be driving the growth.

Among those who wanted to downsize, 92 percent were looking for improved fuel efficiency, while 71 percent wanted less expensive repair costs and 67 percent were concerned about the environment. Improved reliability and a lower purchase price are also factors. Unsurprisingly, 80 percent of those who wanted a larger vehicle were looking for more space, while comfort came in second at 72 percent. Safety, reliability and lower maintenance and repair costs were also factors.

Hit the jump to read over the Consumer Reports press release, and let us know in the poll below whether you plan to up-size, downsize or retain the status quo when you buy your next vehicle.

[Source: Consumer Reports]
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YONKERS, N.Y., April 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Most car buyers (56 percent) expect their next new vehicle to be the same size as the model they currently drive, but those who are looking to downsize are motivated by improved fuel economy, lower maintenance and repair costs, environmental concerns, and improved reliability, according to a new survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

These findings are from a recent random, nationally representative telephone survey of 911 adult car owners in the United States. Starting Friday morning, Consumer Reports will launch a series of reports on the dollars and cents of downsizing your vehicle. The reports will be available at

Among the drivers interviewed, a quarter of respondents plan to downsize, and 19 percent actually expect to buy a larger vehicle. Older buyers and Northeast residents (where gas prices are higher than in much of the country) are more likely to buy the same size. Those drivers aged 18-34 years are more likely to upsize.

"Despite the common drive to reduce car-operating costs, not everyone wants to downsize. Many young drivers have older vehicles, and as their careers grow, there is a natural ambition to have a new or newer car that is more comfortable and reliable-often that means stepping up from a small car to a midsized sedan or other vehicle This younger demographic may also be in their family-starting years, and likely in need for more passenger space," said Jeff Bartlett, deputy online editor, Consumer Reports Cars.

Reasons for downsizing include: Improved fuel economy (92 percent); Lower maintenance and repair costs (71 percent); Environmental concerns (67 percent); Improved reliability (67 percent); Lower purchase price (65 percent); Don't need the passenger / cargo space (61 percent); and Improved safety (59 percent); Don't need as much power (54 percent).

Reasons for upsizing include: Need more passenger / cargo space (80 percent); Improved comfort (72 percent); Improved safety (66 percent); More reliable (60 percent); Improved fuel economy (55 percent); and Lower maintenance and repair costs (50 percent).

Future buying trends:

Consumer Reports asked respondents what cars they drive most often and what car type they plan to buy next. CR found that more women (26 percent) than men (18 percent) drive a small car, while more men (22 percent) than women (6 percent) drive pickup trucks.

On average, drivers said they get 23.0 miles per gallon in their current vehicle, with most (77 percent) falling in the 15-34 mpg range. When asked about their expectations for their next ride, the median fuel efficiency was 29 mpg – a 6 mpg improvement. Those under age 35 were more optimistic.

"Clearly, the economy and fuel prices are influencing buying trends. Should either change dramatically, more significant changes are likely. For now, our random panel shows a slight shift toward small cars and small SUVs," Bartlett said.

Recent Consumer Reports analysis shows that for most drivers, downsizing from a relatively late-model vehicle often will not pay off for years. Trading the cost of poor fuel economy for new car payments may not provide the immediate relief that many consumers seek. It is important to look at the long-term ownership costs when choosing a vehicle, especially when buying sooner than you typically would. In the days ahead, Consumer Reports will publish in the Cars blog its detailed findings to help car shoppers make smart decisions while reducing their ownership costs.

For more on downsizing or finding the right-sized car to meet you needs visit

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site and owns and operates a 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut. The organization's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645 or visit

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