Study: Car Reviews More Important to Buyers Than Fuel Efficiency

Sixty percent of those surveyed said poor reviews were the primary deterrent when considering a new vehicle.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

A recent study suggests that the biggest influencer on consumers' decisions about which vehicle to buy is how well the car is received by reviewers.

According to a survey of 2,202 individuals run by Morning Consult, 60 percent of respondents said that poor reception by reviewers would dissuade them from buying a particular vehicle, more than any other reason surveyed. Despite extensive identification of its responding demographics, Morning Consult does not identify what percentage of respondents would or do consult reviews before making vehicle purchases, leaving uncertain the amount of influence on consumers that automobile reviews have.

The second most important variable was safety, with 58 percent of those surveyed saying they would pass over a vehicle due to inferior safety ratings. Again, the survey did not ask whether its respondents research safety ratings through groups such as the IIHS when shopping for vehicles, so despite consumers favoring this and the above category in the decision-making process, there is no guarantee that consumers are well-informed on these topics.

GETTY

Interior space ranked third most-important, and as something tangible to buyers investigating a vehicle in person, it can hypothetically be considered the most influential factor. Fourth comes fuel efficiency, and because window stickers must compare a vehicle's fuel economy to its competition, this can be treated as another tangible.

Thirty-two percent said a lack of features could influence their decision, and 31 percent said less attractive styling than the competition would turn their attention elsewhere. Age of a model relative to its competition affected just 19 percent of respondents and buying from an unfamiliar brand just 17 percent. Eight percent said they wouldn't buy a vehicle that was neither hybrid nor electric, while 15 percent said none of the above factors would affect their buying process.

Questionable levels of consumer education on review performance and safety mean that vehicle traits that are experienced in person could be more influential on how customers spend their money, despite numbers telling us otherwise. It could explain the explosive crossover sales growth over the last several years in spite of lukewarm reviews. After all, we Americans tend to buy vehicles for the lifestyle we imagine ourselves living, rather than the one we actually live.