NADA Used Car Guide’s 2014 Car Shopper Preference Survey on revealed Fuel Economy as the factor considered most important when deciding on a new vehicle purchase by both car and truck buyers.

Cost of Ownership and Power & Performance were ranked second and third most important by both car and truck buyers.

Technology, Brand and Environmental Impact were the least considered factors for both car and light-truck shoppers surveyed.



Survey respondents were asked to rank their top preferences as the most important factor considered when buying a new car or light truck.

Car Shopper Survey Results

In order to capture the relative importance of the various factors, participants were asked to rank them based on how much consideration each factor is given during a new car purchase. This was the first time the survey was formatted this way, with the expectation that a ranking system would most accurately capture the relative preferences of drivers.

Last year, when asked to select the rating that most closely reflects its importance to respondents when choosing a new car, car shoppers cited a significant preference for Quality & Dependability, Vehicle Design and Safety. However, using a new ranking format this year, the three most preferred factors from the last survey fell to the middle of the pack relative to all other considerations. None of the top three factors in the new ranking system were among the top three most important factors last year, but while consumer preferences may have changed over the past year, it is likely that the different format this year revealed a differentiation in the participants’ thinking when completing the survey.

As the ranking of factors forced respondents to disassociate qualities they want from the ones they need, different conclusions were drawn compared to when participants were asked to consider the importance of factors individually. Consequently, the ranking format revealed that while Fuel Economy in and of itself did not come to mind as the most important factor, it came out on top when weighed against all other factors.


Comparing results using last year’s format, we see that Build Quality & Reliability is once again the most important factor, however, although Cost of Ownership came in second place this year, all cost-related factors (Warranty Coverage, Depreciation, Maintenance Fees, Discounts/Incentives and Insurance Fees) were considered relatively little a year ago. Vehicle Design continues to be of importance to respondents as it tied for second place while factors related to Advanced Safety Systems and Technology remain low on the totem pole.

Light-Truck Shopper Survey Results

Just as the preferences of light-truck buyers were found to be similar to car shoppers last year, the findings of the two consumer groups were nearly identical this year utilizing the ranking system. As such, the top three ranked factors for truck shoppers differed from those that most closely reflected their importance to respondents when choosing a new truck a year ago, which were Quality & Dependability, Safety and Versatility & Utility.

In this year’s ranking format, Advanced Safety Systems and Build Quality & Reliability ranked only fifth and sixth out of ten factors, respectively, but Versatility & Utility remained fairly high in fourth place, which is not far off from last year. With Fuel Economy, Cost of Ownership and Power & Performance topping the rankings, the survey findings reveal that the needs and wants for truck buyers can differ significantly, as was the case with car shoppers.


However, comparing results with the previous survey using last year’s format, where the importance of factors were considered individually, we do see some similarities. Build Quality & Reliability and Versatility & Utility continue to sit among the top three, but Cost of Ownership appeared in third place this year despite no cost-related factor being higher than seventh in the previous survey. Seeing as how Cost of Ownership exhibited the same pattern with car shoppers, this suggests that when asked to look at all cost-related variables collectively, respondents place a drastically different amount of consideration on things such as Warranty Coverage, Depreciation, Discounts/Incentives, Maintenance Fees and Insurance Fees.

Survey Methodology

Over the past three years, NADA Used Car Guide has conducted its New Car Shopper Preference Survey on to assess the importance of features commonly considered by consumers when deciding which new car or truck to purchase. Survey results are used to enhance NADA’s used vehicle valuation efforts and are also intended to raise industry awareness of the qualities considered to be of greatest value to consumers.


Through a series of questions, consumers are asked to rate the importance of the following factors: Build Quality & Reliability, Cost of Ownership (warranty, depreciation, fuel, insurance, maintenance and repairs), Vehicle Design (exterior/interior), Fuel Economy, Power & Performance (horsepower, torque, handling and towing capacity), Versatility & Utility (legroom, passenger capacity, cargo & truck capacity), Brand (experience, perception), Advanced Safety Systems (lane departure warning, back-up camera, front collision warning, etc.), Technology (navigation system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, keyless start, etc.) and Environmental Impact.


The overall survey is broken into two parts:


In part one, respondents are asked to independently rate each factor’s importance in deciding which new car or truck to purchase. The five ratings provided were: Very Unimportant, Unimportant, Neither Important or Unimportant, Important and Very Important.


In part two, respondents are asked to rank each factor from most to least important, which allows us to gain insight into the trade-offs consumers will make for a vehicle with the combination of characteristics that suit their needs best.