By on April 19, 2012

More than half of new car shoppers have recently changed their minds about  the car they want to buy, says a new study by Kelley Blue Book. Researches find customers  thinking about cars they normally would not have considered. What is changing their minds en masse: Rising gas prices. 

Says Jack R. Nerad, executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book:

“The rollercoaster of gas prices has taken its toll on new-car shoppers.The reality of today’s economy means that many shoppers are factoring in fuel efficiency and gas prices toward the top of things they consider when choosing their next new car.”

Not only have 66 percent of new-car shoppers changed their minds on what they might buy. A full 76 percent of new-car shoppers said they expect gas prices to get higher in the next 30 days.

Oddly enough, what tops shoppers’ lists as the most important feature is a good warranty. The second most important feature for new-car shoppers is fuel efficiency, followed by power windows/door locks.

Marketers follow these developments closely. When external reasons prompt people to reconsider their choice of car, old brand loyalties often also fall by the wayside and can cause sudden shifts in market share.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

41 Comments on “High Gas Prices Can Destroy Relationships...”


  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I drive a Nissan cube and did before the last price crunch. I stopped trusting Wall Street or my government long ago when it comes to this stuff. Most people would be happy with a smaller car if it were not a projection of their personality and/or lifestyle.

    A fact of life unless you are rolling in coin.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      –Most people would be happy with a smaller car if it were not a projection of their personality and/or lifestyle.–

      Projection? You fit a family of seven in a small car. In this neighborhood, we are building families that don’t fit into small cars. That is what people do and have always done. Your projection is weak.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        For every minivan family of seven, I see at least a dozen single-passenger lifted BroTrucks. I’m just saying.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        One thing about generalities VD is that they never apply to everyone. I live in Tx and I guarantee that you are correct about 7 member families in minivans. However, I see a whole lot more Bubbas in raised 4wd trucks with tonneau covers. No load. No off road. The need is psychological.

        I am generally impressed with your comments and still expect to be. However, the minivan is as much an extension of your personality and priorities as it is your needs. You are buying what fits your needs. Bubba is also filling his needs. His are determined by his ego and how he wants to be seen.

        Your lifestyle is family dude. Bubbas is something else. Mine is something else entirely. I would expect each vehicle selection to represent what those values are. I do not find my projection to be weak. It has been reinforced every year for 68 years. Strangely enough I don’t find yours to be weak either.
        I’m tickled pink with my selection and happy for you.

        My handle should be retired starving teacher and I have hit the point where I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of what I drive. The liberation is tremendous.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      I know what you’re saying wstarvingteacher. People will hock their lives away just to protect/project their ego with some “look at me” mobile. At 46, I’m finally learning not to care what other people think. We own a Corolla and a Tucson in my family. Sure is nice being debt free.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    And yet when I stop at the minimart or grocery store there’s always somebody sitting there, with the engine running, waiting for somebody inside the store. Doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot or a perfect temp, for some reason there’s always a couple idling cars. I think people just like to bitch about gas prices and other than that it has little effect on their behavior.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Spounds like the fat person who eats low sugar diet food, but ends eating more just because it’s lowfat.

      Shocking to see power locls and doors. I guess it’s the old, “needs AC”.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      Some people believe that starting the engine requires a huge “surge” of fuel. Total BS of course but it may explain idling behavior.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      I see the same thing when I take my daughter to school. Some soccer mom in her Yukon leaving the engine running while she walks her kids inside. Why?

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        Because the incremental cost is negligible, and she is willing to spend that little bit of money to have her car at a comfortable temperature upon her return?

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    People are finally starting to understand that the age of cheap oil is over.

    It doesn’t matter how much domestic drilling we do when there are 2 billion people between India and China trying to climb out of poverty and into the automobile-owning middle class.

    That said, Europe learned to adapt to high gas prices caused by high taxes. America is feeling the pinch of higher commodity costs. The taxes we pay on fuel are paltry, and a major reason why our roads are in such a sad state of disrepair.

    My girlfriend is looking at cars. Her top pick? The Chevy Sonic with the 1.4 turbo. 40 mpg, cute coupish looks, and a fair entry price. But if the $10k tax credit goes through, she’d rather have the CNG Honda Civic, and I can’t blame her. It’d cost less than a new Sonic, and she could fill up at home.

    Me personally though…I want an old pickup I can convert to propane. Hank Hill approved.

    • 0 avatar
      Synchromesh

      We can’t all drive a Chevy Sonic you know. First of all, it’s American and you wouldn’t catch me dead owning an American car. Second, styling is subjective. As cute as your gf may consider it will always like a cheap piece of trash it really is. And third of all, as much as I love small cars I like mine with POWER. And that is what a Sonic will never have.

      As for pickup trucks… nothing personal but I hate those with a passion. Even here on East Coast where rednecks are a relatively rare sight large pickup trucks tend to be driven by people who have no regard for smaller vehicles. And what’s funny is that vast majority of these people have absolutely no need for one. It’s just a popular vehicle to own.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Agreed, in addition to cheap oil don’t forget grain stocks, water, and the rest of our precious commodities. I’m pretty concerned the Earth cannot sustain this level of population in the long term, hate to be a cynic but somehow the fat must be trimmed if the species is to move forward. There do just happen to be three declared nuclear powers within a few hundred miles of each other in middle Asia, and those are the up in coming guests to the party.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    If I work ’til I’m 65 in four more years, and have to replace my Impala, I have no idea of what to buy. I average over 30 mpg on my 100-mile R/T commute, and to spend a lot of cash on a new car, how much mpgs would I have to average to make it worthwhile? A Prius? Another Impala because it’s cheap? A Spark? A Cruze? What?

    Perhaps if the planets line up properly, I can early retire in 11 months and buy a Corvette? Yeah, right…

  • avatar
    gslippy

    And yet the best-selling vehicle in 2012 will still be the Ford F150, and the 500-HP Mustangs and Camaros will have no trouble selling.

    Consumers want it all – bloated 3200-lb ‘economy cars’ with 10 airbags that get 40 mpg. No wonder they cost $15-25k.

    In the US, $4 gas is the new normal. A switch to smaller cars is only temporary.

    As for the warranty thing, Hyundai/Kia figured that out long ago and have risen to #6 and #8, respectively, because of it (in part).

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “As for the warranty thing, Hyundai/Kia figured that out long ago and have risen to #6 and #8, respectively, because of it (in part).”

      I can’t substantiate it, but I hear rumblings about Hyundai/Kia “selectively” honoring warranty claims that leave lots of owners unhappy, as they feel they were sold a bill of goods. Any truth/evidence of that?

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        My experience with 3 Hyundai dealers in 3 different states (WA, OR & FL) is that they honor claims no questions asked. I’ve had two repairs under warranty that really shouldn’t have been honored as they were completely my fault (one was the wiper stalk that a passenger kicked and snapped off a couple months after buying the car – don’t ask). They’ve always had a loaner car ready and make a point to say all parts are shipped back to Hyundai to analyze the failure.

        I have yet to experience a mechanical failure but am only at 53k miles. If my experience changes I’ll be sure to let the internets know. It’s great having only just reached the halfway point in my drivetrain coverage.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        Zackman, you can go right over to Hyundai’s website and read about their warranty. Notice that they say absolutely nothing definitive, using words like “most”, “selected”, “normal”, etc. There is no link to the actual text of the warranty.

        I guess what you have to do is to, well, buy a Hyundai and then you can find out if it’s a good warranty or not.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Hyundai and Kia fare way better than the Japanese brands in the JD Power CSI rankings (the Japanese brands are below average, aside from Honda which manages to squeak in right above the industry average mark).

        Also, I doubt they would have such high ownership loyalty rates if they left “a lot of owners unhappy.”

      • 0 avatar
        dastanley

        The Hyundai dealer her in town has generally bent over backwards to make sure that I leave their establishment happy. We bought our ’08 Tucson used in ’09 from CarMax, so this dealership really shouldn’t have cared about me. Nevertheless, they’ve earned my business with oil changes and the 30k service. The one time that the CEL came on, they diagnosed it as the fuel cap not being on tight (my wife and daughter took it to Colorado Springs to visit family) which was an operator fault, but the dealer cleared the code for free with no argument or fuss. And they were actually nice about it too. Yes the ’08 Tucson is cheapo tupperware, but it works, has never broken yet, and the dealership experience generally has left me impressed. I’ll seriously consider Hyundai when it’s time to replace one of our vehicles just from the dealership experience alone.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Well, after reading all those experiences, that’s at least comforting.

        It appears Hyundai/Kia are really trying to ensure loyalty, and that’s good. My buddy’s Borrego still has electrical issues that his dealer hasn’t been able to fully resolve yet – fault of the car, not the dealer, I suppose. He still likes it, though.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This shouldn’t be a surprise. With people feeling economically insecure (even those who have jobs), obviously the most important factor in car-buying decision is low operating cost. “Operating cost” is repairs, maintenance and fuel in most people’s eyes. So, they’re looking to optimize that. While I personally don’t believe that $4.00/gallon gasoline will be a permanent fact (having lived through at least 2 other “gasoline panics” in my adult life), just like a good, long warranty, high fuel economy is a hedge against future unplanned and uncontrollable vehicle operating cost increases. Right now, with their economic future cloudy, people are willing to pay for that, which makes sense.

    Of course, for someone for whom fuel is a small part of operating costs (because, e.g., they don’t commute 100 miles a day), this is an opportunity to get a deal on a nice, but thirsty vehicle. I drive less than 6,000 miles a year. For me, the difference between 20 mpg and 30 mpg is trivial in terms of $$$. Now, if I could just get my wife to trade cars with me. She drives more miles and drives an EPA highway rated 20 mpg Honda Pilot. At least the Pilot will get 22 mpg in real-world highway driving at 65-70 mph, moderately but not fully loaded.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I’m not an accountant, heck – I flunked it in college, but I can put together a decent spreadsheet. Recently I was thinking about getting a new car, narrowed it down, then looked at a hybrid for better mpg. THEN – lightbulb! I started doing the math and it’s much cheaper to keep the car I’ve paid on for 4 years than to try to sell/trade and start all over again. I bitch about how tight my mother in law is, but you know what? She and her 13 year old Buick Park Ave have $$$$ in the bank, pay next to nothing for property tax and insurance and no more than she drives, will be happy for a few more years to come. I was the dumbass back a few years ago trading cars every year and racking up debt. I like to look at new cars, but for now, looking is all I will be doing.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      +2000% for this. Most folks who look at getting rid of their existing car to buy a new one that gets better mileage don’t stop to think of TOTAL cost of ownership. 9 times out of 10, simply keeping the car you own currently is a better cost proposition than running out to buy XYZ 40 MPG wunder-car, even more so if the old car is paid for. I’m staring at some regular maintenance items for my 2004 Ralliart Sportback, but given that the car is pretty much paid for, spending the $1500 or so to maintain this one is still cheaper than me going out and spending $15-$20k on a new car, even if my Lancer only pulls mid 20s for mileage compared to nearly 40 MPG for some cars I’d consider. No…when I go to buy another car, it won’t be because I’m looking for a ton of savings in fuel when compared to my old one. Of course, most of the cars I would be considering in a year or so aren’t exactly gas hogs, but that’s just because I prefer smaller cars to begin with.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        That’s why I keep my 2004 Impala well-maintained. Even though I average over 30 mpg on my commute, which translates to about three gallons of gas a day, and I rarely drive it around town as wifey carts my aging butt in our CR-V on weekends, plus we have our MX5, I can’t see getting rid of my beloved Imp, as any monthly payment that would be $300-400/month – well, that money still buys a lot of gas.

        As long as the Impala keeps running and doesn’t catastrophically break, I’m trying to keep it ’til I retire – if I ever do.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I totally agree and am happy to see others in my line of thinking. However society at large making the wrong financial choices in respect to cars is what keeps the used market stocked and somewhat affordable. If this trend continues beyond just the few of us into society it ultimately means fewer new cars purchased and thus a tighter used market in decades hence.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I’m certainly going to keep the 2008 Impala for a while. I’ve had it over 3 years and it continues to treat me well and does everything I need it to do plus pulls 30 plus MPG on the open road routinely. When it comes time to replace it there are few choices left that I even care for. The Charger is nice but RWD, expensive used and AWD is almost mandatory in the snow belt I live in and mileage is lower with that option. The Taurus is okay but the front seat is cramped, visibility is poor, the trunk opening is small and boy are they pricey. The Sonata is another option but I’m worried about the direct injection and also have known people that have brought there cars in for highway drifting and Hyundai hasn’t been able to cure the problem along with several other issues. Maybe the new Impala will be good.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      “… AWD is almost mandatory in the snow belt I live in…”

      Then how is it you have survived so long with an Impala?

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        You probably live in an urban or suburban area where the streets are plowed quickly and effectively.

        My wife is from rural western Pennsylvania. Many family and friends still live there.

        In the winter, there is (usually) a lot of snow, and there are lots of back roads that don’t get plowed quickly after major snowstorms. Virtually everyone has a truck or an SUV, and, yes, they need them if they plan on going anywhere in the winter.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        I grew up in rural upstate New York. FWD, with a good set of winter tires, was entirely sufficient. (I agree that RWD was a non-starter; my dad’s Volvo would literally have trouble leaving the driveway during the winter.)

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Yo, geeber, many thanks for the quick, condescending and useless response!

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        You’re welcome. It’s the appropriate response to a useless, condescending question.

        I don’t waste my time worrying what vehicles other people buy, as it’s none of my business. If they want to pay for it, and can afford the gas to run it, that is their business. If they want to wail about high gas prices while driving an SUV, I tell them to find someone who cares.

        When you’ve lived in rural western Pennsylvania, let me know. Then I’ll give your opinion as to what vehicles are necessary for local residents some weight.

      • 0 avatar
        dastanley

        @geeber, +1. I lived in central PA in the 90s and commuted from State College through Bellefonte and into Milesburg. I drove a Mazda Navajo (Explorer). If it wasn’t for the 4WD in winter, I don’t know how I would have gotten to and from work.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        geeber,

        I have lived in rural Maine. I think I know what snow is.

        Ponchoman,

        geeber’s “assist” aside, I’d still like to know why you think AWD is almost mandatory? Has FWD let you down?

  • avatar
    gasser

    I agree that most people don’t understand the true cost of ownership. Since depreciation, not operating costs, is the main cost of ownership, as fuel prices climb, poor gas mileage begins to lower a vehicle’s resale value and thus increases its cost of operation. That said, I’m really surprised that here in L.A. the price of used SUVs seems to be holding up. The last gas price run up (which co-incided with financial melt down) led to fire sale prices on large SUVs. People buy used vehicles to save money, but on these big SUVs the major hit to resale is yet to come. I don’t believe that the current gas prices are temporary. The realities of slumping production in old fields, political instability, sky rocketing demand for motor vehicles in China and India are not temporary. Some USA factors, like closing refineries for “maintenance” can fluctuate up and down a bit and perhaps take a bit off gas prices. Sadly, the $80 fill up is the new norm and when one computes how much of one’s monthly auto budget goes for fuel, little is left for purchase/finance/insurance/registration. The price of the “gas guzzler” has to fall.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      People who factor in depreciation are overthinking cost of ownership. Instead, do this: When you buy it, you’re out the full cost (i.e., 100% depreciation the moment you buy it). After all, it won’t depreciate more than you paid for it.

      It’s like the value of your house. So what if its value doubled during the boom years? You can’t access any of that ‘value’ except through selling it or borrowing. If you sell, you now need to buy another house, and since the market is reasonably efficient, you will have to pay about the same amount (+fees) for something equally desireable, i.e., a net wash at best. If you borrow, well, you’re just borrowing, and that doesn’t make you wealthier.

      Similarly, depreciation only matters when you sell the car, and then for most people, like a house, they have to buy a replacement. We all know this cycle of buy-sell-buy-etc is a great way to always get behind. Keeping a car for its full usable life (sell when it is ready for scrap) & maintaining it to maximize that useable life makes depreciation irrelevant. It also happens to be the best way to minimize cost of ownership.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The bass-ackwards way we measure fuel consumption makes it hard to compare vehicles. It is non-linear. You have to invert the ratings before subtracting. Europeans measure consumption the right way — volume/distance. All you have to do for a comparison is subtract.

    Since the Europeans use the metric system, they measure consumption in liters per hundred kilometers. We could use gallons per thousand miles. 20 mpg is 50 gallons per thousand miles. 30 mpg is 33 gal/k-mile. 40 mpg is 25 gal/k-mile. 50 mpg is 20 gal/k-mile.

    Once you express fuel consumption in terms of volume/distance, it becomes easy to recognize than going from a good, if not exceptional, mpg (e.g. Accord or Camry) to a very high mpg (e.g. Prius) doesn’t save very much.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      No, it makes absolutely no difference. If you can’t divide by mpg, you aren’t qualified to do the math anyway. And since window stickers publish estimated fuel cost anyway, you can just use that.

      It’s kind of pointless to change how a whole system is set up just so some math-deficient consumer can subtract a couple numbers once every few years.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Maybe more people instead of bitching about gas prices should spend as much time attempting to better themselves and their family. Prices will always go up no matter what it is. It’s the fool that does nothing but sit around and watch prices rise without taking action. Personally, I can more easily pay to fill a gas tank now then when I was 20. It’s amazing what taking responsibility does for a person.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I read in a news article yesterday that in May gas prices will be the same as they were in May of last year. Prices have already been creeping down in this area over the past week or so. Yesterday gas was $3.64 at a couple of places.

  • avatar
    redav

    People change their minds about what cars they want?! And they’re concerned about gas prices?! Wow! That’s, like, the best scoop, EVER!

    No, seriously–where does it say that it’s gas prices that are causing them to change their minds? It’s not in quote. I recently changed my mind about buying a Ford Focus because of problems with its features (mostly the MFT). With the rapid pace of tech deployment, ever-increasing information available, and sneaky advertising, wouldn’t anyone expect more people to become infatuated with a car only to change their mind later (completely independent of gas prices)?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dal20402: I have an easier time seeing a DS in the front than the rear. If I try not to see a J30 when I look at the...
  • dusterdude: Overalll I don’t mind the exterior design – very bold for sure
  • tonycd: Anybody who sees a J30 in this simply isn’t old enough to remember its true progenitor, the Citroen...
  • DenverMike: No they’re just getting better at having them die as they cross the warranty “finish line”. Most will...
  • thegamper: I absolutely love this car. It’s true some of the lustful design elements of the concept are gone,...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber