With gas prices approaching the $4 per gallon mark nationwide, car shoppers are increasingly looking for more efficient vehicles – and savvy sellers are taking note. According to AutoTrader's Trend Engine report, April saw a dramatic rise in consumer interest for fuel-efficient vehicles – and a similar increase in asking price.
The report, which provides a monthly analysis of consumer shopping behavior on AutoTrader.com, noted huge jumps in search activity for fuel-efficient new cars like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Sonata, which leapt into the top twenty most-searched new vehicles on the site. The Focus gained 21 positions, going from the 33rd most-searched vehicle in March to number 11 in April, while the Sonata jumped from number 23 to number 19.
On the used car front, fuel-efficient cars also made gains, with the Volkswagen Jetta gaining two spots going from number 15 to number 13, and the Toyota Camry jumping one place, ending up in 19th. More important was the predictable decline in consumer interest for SUVs and trucks, with the list's longtime number one vehicle, the Ford F-150 pickup, slipping out of the top slot for the first time in 2011. The BMW 3 Series moved into the number one position. The full-size Chevrolet Tahoe SUV and Silverado pickup also dropped more than two spots each from March to April.
But while buying a fuel-sipping economy car may save you money at the pump, don't expect it to do your wallet any favors at the dealer. Many sellers are upping prices on fuel-efficient used cars, with the Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry each seeing year-over-year asking price gains of more than five percent in April. While many other used cars saw at least minor bumps in asking price over last April, the price of trucks and SUVs went down sharply, with the Ford F-150, Dodge Ram and Chevrolet Silverado each dropping more than four percent.
Also examined in the Trend Engine report was the most highly searched automotive brand, a category Ford has led for several months – and continues to lead. Coming in second was Chevrolet, with Dodge, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Jeep, Volkswagen and GMC rounding out the top ten.