Despite low gas prices, car buyers still want higher-MPG vehicles

Consumer Federation Of America Finds Fuel Efficiency Is Still Key Buying Factor

When you buy a car, you're not a shortsighted idiot. At least, that's the discovery gleaned from numbers collected by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which released a study today that finds that car shoppers remain interested in fuel efficient vehicles, even with low gas prices.

In January – when the national average price of gas was $2.14 – CFA and its study partner called 1,007 random American adults via land lines and cell phones and found that they expect gas to climb back up to $3.20 in the next two years and then up to $3.90 in five years. In other words, they believe this current dip is not going to last. Speaking on a conference call with reporters today, CFA's Jack Gillis said that, "Despite the current low gas prices, the survey also reveals that consumers have incorporated this expectation into their next vehicle purchase. Consumers are smart and have long memories, so it's no surprise they still want more fuel efficiency even though today's gas prices may be low," he said.

Almost everyone – 86 percent of those surveyed – said that fuel economy will be an "important" factor when they buy their next car. Fifty-seven percent said MPG will be "very important." The people surveyed said they want their next vehicle to have, on average, 30 miles per gallon, up from the current average of 25 mpg. The good news is that these sorts of vehicles are easier to find than ever, and, "Consumers who want fuel efficiency don't have to buy inappropriate or undesired vehicles," Gillis said. If the survey's expectations come true, then buying a more efficient vehicle will save the buyer thousands of dollars over the life of the car.

So, why does it seem that low gas prices have hurt green car sales recently? Gillis pushed back against the idea that the correlation was also a causation. In reality, he said, a broader economic uptick is helping to increase luxury car purchases, and those cars typically have lower fuel economy ratings than non-luxury vehicles.

You can get the full report here (PDF) and we've got some graphs of the data in the gallery below.

  • Image Credit: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
  • Image Credit: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
  • Image Credit: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
  • Image Credit: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)

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