What Do Car Shopping Behaviors Tell Us About Iowa and New Hampshire Voters?

For the next several days, there will be an inordinate amount of attention paid to the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. After all, political experts have long believed that the outcome of these contests will go a long way toward shaping the way the rest of America votes.

But are the people in these states a true representation of American voters? There are, of course, many ways to examine this question, but at Edmunds.com, we looked at how car shopping preferences in Iowa and New Hampshire stack up against the rest of the nation. Edmunds analyzed new car registration data in 2015 from Polk and discovered that while New Hampshire car shopping behaviors are somewhat consistent with the rest of America’s, Iowa car shoppers truly march to the beat of their own drum.

Domestic vs Foreign Brands

Your car’s brand may or may not be an accurate gauge of your patriotic ideals, but Detroit automakers are still synonymous with “Made in the USA” to many Americans. Edmunds found that these domestic brands (such as Chevrolet and Ford) made up an overwhelming majority (63%) of Iowa’s new car purchases in 2015. By comparison, only about 42 percent of new car purchases in the U.S. in 2015 were domestic brands. Meanwhile in New Hampshire, car shoppers skewed toward Japanese brands such as Toyota and Honda (46% of all new cars sold in 2015, compared to 41% nationally).

Market Share

Trucks vs. Cars

Given how much Iowa’s economy relies on farming, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that pickup trucks make up a larger share of all new vehicle purchases in the Hawkeye State (24%) than in the rest of the country (15%). Throw SUVs into the mix and the difference is even sharper: 63 percent of all new vehicles registered in Iowa last year were trucks or SUVs, compared to 52 percent of all new vehicles nationally. New Hampshire lies somewhere in the middle at 59 percent.

Share of Sales

Luxury vs. Non-Luxury
Many of the people in Iowa and New Hampshire pride themselves on hard-working, blue-collar values. From a car shopping perspective, this point might be best illustrated by the share of luxury vehicles - or the lack thereof - in each state. In Iowa, for example, luxury nameplates (such as BMW and Lexus) made up just 5.4 percent of all new vehicle purchases last year, and in New Hampshire the luxury share was just 8.2 percent. By comparison, luxury brands made up about 12.7 percent of all new car sales in the U.S. last year.

Luxury Take Rate

Alternative Fuels
According to the Iowa Corn Growers Association nearly half of all corn grown in the state is used in the production of ethanol. So you can’t blame Iowans for being at least a little biased toward flexible fuel cars that use gas with high ratios of ethanol. Flex-fuel vehicles accounted for 16 percent of new car purchases in Iowa last year, compared to an average of 11 percent of all new car sold in the U.S. (and in New Hampshire).

Share of Sales


Political leanings aside, new car financing data suggests that buyers in both Iowa and New Hampshire are generally more fiscally responsible than the rest of the country. Shoppers in both states secured lower interest rates and lower monthly payments than the national average. But New Hampshire residents are especially on the ball with car financing: they had a lower average monthly payment ($437) than any other state in the nation last year and the sixth-lowest average interest rate (3.48% APR).

If there’s one area of car financing where Iowa and New Hampshire come up short compared to the rest of the country, it’s down payments. Car buyers in both states averaged a 10.1 percent down payment on new cars last year, which falls below the national average of 10.5 percent

2015 Finance Date


Red State or Blue State? In the end, this is the only question that matters in a general election, and in a tight race it can sway the electoral college one way or another. Both Iowa and New Hampshire went to Obama in each of the last two elections, giving them both “Blue State” street cred. But do they follow suit when it comes to car color preferences? From this perspective, Iowa stands out as a “Red” state. Edmunds found that 14.1 percent of all new vehicles purchased in Iowa last year were red, compared to just 9.4 percent that were blue. In New Hampshire, blue slightly edged out red by a score of 12.1 percent to 11.9 percent.

Could these car color preferences foreshadow the way these states will lean in 2016? We’ll have to wait til November to find out!


Jessica Caldwell is the Director Industry Analysis for Edmunds.com. Follow @jessrcaldwell (//twitter.com/jessrcaldwell) on Twitter.