Gone are the days of bragging to neighbours about how fast and desirable your car is as you polish it in the driveway. Instead, we’re boasting to buddies about just how frugal our latest vehicle is…
According to CAP, the car valuation company, motorists are putting fuel economy ahead of all other factors when considering what car they’re going to buy next. And purchase price and running costs trump non-financial considerations such as practicality, looks and performance.
The survey asked 500 motorists to rank the 16 most important criteria of their car ownership experience in order of priority. The five that featured highest were all based around costs: purchase price, fuel economy, running costs, overall cost of ownership and service and maintenance costs.
Propping up the list in 15th place was ‘being seen in the right car’, clearly indicating that looks and brand awareness are far less important to car-buyers at the moment.
How Which? can help
However, those looking at economy as the most important factor of a car purchase should do so with caution.
Official fuel efficiency claims are always plastered across adverts, billboards and new-model brochures. But these figures are not always achievable in the real world, and it’s those that make the boldest claims that we’ve found are often furthest from the mark.
These miles per gallon (mpg) figures are based on official EC tests, however, we feel that our tests are more realistic and achievable for UK drivers. You can read why in our guide to how Which? tests mpg.
When we last investigated this, the models that were the worst offenders for missing their mpg claims were ultra-efficient small cars – the models that will appear most attractive to buyers who rank costs above driving performance.
Of all the cars we put through our fuel economy tests in 2012, the top 10 furthest from their claims all promised wallet-friendly fuel returns between 67 and 85mpg. The Peugeot 208 e-HDI diesel achieved 61.4mpg in our tests, which was 21.7mpg shy of the official figure. That’s why we think it’s a good idea to check our figures before relying on the numbers presented to you in the showroom.
Cars: something to enjoy or an A-to-B necessity?
While I do agree that, in these times of austerity, factors such as fuel efficiency and purchase price are more important than ever, I don’t think the broader aspect of car ownership should be overlooked.
The process of buying a car is one of great importance. For many, it’s the second biggest area of expenditure after buying a property. With this in mind, I think buying a car has to be a more rounded consideration of the package on offer rather than how much it will save you. You wouldn’t choose a well-insulated shed over a four-bedroom house, would you?
What a car is like to drive, how much room there is inside and in the boot, and how comfortable it is are equally as vital to me as how well a car pinches pennies. Though this does raise the question of whether car ownership is more about necessity than enjoyment. I would certainly consider myself in the latter group, but is that the case for you?
What's most important to you when you're buying a car? Pick three options:
Reliability (25%, 943 Votes)
Purchase price (18%, 669 Votes)
Fuel economy (17%, 647 Votes)
Practicality (8%, 289 Votes)
Comfort (7%, 278 Votes)
Servicing/maintenance costs (5%, 204 Votes)
Depreciation (4%, 152 Votes)
Handling (4%, 140 Votes)
Performance (3%, 102 Votes)
Insurance (2%, 94 Votes)
Car tax (VED) (2%, 85 Votes)
Styling (2%, 80 Votes)
Equipment/kit (2%, 80 Votes)
Being seen in the right car (0%, 17 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,360