Consumers Still Want Higher-Mileage Vehicles Despite Low Gas Prices, Study Says | Edmunds

Consumers Still Want Higher-Mileage Vehicles Despite Low Gas Prices, Study Says

WASHINGTON — Smart car shoppers still want higher-mileage vehicles despite low gas prices, according to a new national survey by the Consumer Federation of America.

The survey found that consumers expect the national gasoline price to rise by almost 50 percent in the next two years. And they have incorporated this expectation into their next vehicle purchase.

"More than 86 percent say gas mileage will be 'important' in their next purchase, while 57 percent say it will be 'very important' in determining what vehicle to purchase," the survey said.

In short, savvy shoppers know that gas prices always go back up.

"Buying an inefficient vehicle during periods of low gas prices condemns the consumer to wider swings in monthly costs, much higher monthly peaks and a whopping overall increase in lifetime gas costs," said Dr. Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America, in a statement.

As an example, the CFA said a consumer who purchased a 15 mpg vehicle in January 2009 would have spent over $6,400 more on gas during the first five years of ownership than if he or she had purchased a 25 mpg vehicle.

The new survey asked consumers to identify the gas mileage they want in their next vehicle purchase compared to the gas mileage of their current vehicle.

On average, respondents reported that they expected the gas mileage of their next vehicle to be 30 mpg compared to the 25 mpg rating of their current vehicle.

"Consumers are smart and have long memories, so it's no surprise that they still want more fuel efficiency, even though today's gas prices may be low," said Jack Gillis, CFA director of public affairs.

The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report on Friday pegged the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline at $2.27 versus $3.38 a year ago.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects U.S. regular gasoline retail prices to average $2.33 a gallon in 2015.

"The average household is now expected to spend about $750 less for gasoline in 2015 compared with last year because of lower prices," EIA said in its short-term outlook. The projected regular gasoline retail price increases to an average of $2.73 a gallon in 2016.

In the meantime, car shoppers have a growing list of fuel-efficient cars and trucks to consider, according to the EPA.

The list of the most fuel-efficient 2015 models includes the Honda CR-Z, Scion iQ, Ford Fiesta SFE and Toyota Prius, along with several electric vehicles. They include the Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e and Kia Soul EV.

Edmunds says: A little something for smart car shoppers to think about as they head out to dealerships.

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