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Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Popular Amid High Gas Prices

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author photo by Nick Palermo March 2012
  • Used/CPO Car Insights Report shows rise in interest in efficient models
  • AutoTrader.com analysts cite higher gas prices as leading factor
  • Previous reports support their analysis

Analysts at AutoTrader.com reported a rise in interest in more fuel-efficient compact and midsize vehicles in the latest monthly Used/CPO Car Insights Report. The report from AutoTrader.com's Trend Engine reflects activity by shoppers searching for used and certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles. Analysts cite rising gas prices as a major factor in the trend toward more fuel efficient vehicles. The national average price for a gallon of fuel climbed to $3.40 in January, up $.30 per gallon versus January 2011.

Analysts at AutoTrader.com closely follow a list called Big Movers. It highlights vehicles that show a large month-to-month jump in shopper interest, often reflecting a rising trend. The latest report shows five fuel-efficient models in each of the CPO and Used (non-CPO) Big Movers categories. The Kia Optima and Chevrolet Cruze topped both lists. The Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Volkswagen Eos rounded out the CPO Big Movers while the Volkswagen Beetle, Toyota Prius and Dodge Caliber saw big jumps among used vehicles. Rick Wainschel, vice president of automotive insights at AutoTrader.com, says higher gas prices are largely responsible.

"Car shoppers are heavily influenced by economic factors, and the price of fuel has a strong correlation to the specific vehicles shoppers are considering," said Wainschel. "With the spike in gas prices in January combined with forecasts for even higher prices, interest in fuel-efficient vehicles will very likely increase in the coming months."

Other Insights Reports support this assessment. Lower gas prices last August coincided with a rise in searches for trucks and SUVs.

While gas prices are volatile, rising and falling with no apparent predictability, those who buy efficient vehicles while prices are up may be better prepared for any future swing. Even if gas prices drop, driving a more efficient automobile can still save drivers money. Aside from using less fuel, small cars are often less expensive to maintain, too. On the other hand, buying a gas-guzzling vehicle at a time when gas prices are low may later seem foolish when prices inevitably rise again.

What it means to you: High fuel prices remind car shoppers to consider the operating costs of a vehicle, resulting in more interest in fuel-efficient vehicles like the Chevy Cruze, Kia Optima, Ford Focus and Toyota Prius.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Popular Amid High Gas Prices - Autotrader