Buying a car is a significant financial decision for most people.

You need to consider several factors beyond price that will likely impact your long-term enjoyment of the vehicle.

But are people focusing on the correct aspects when making this big decision? experts surveyed 2,000 people in the UK to find their most important car buying factors.

The factors

When asked to rank seven common car buying factors by order of importance, there was a clear winner.

The price of a car was considered the most important. Over half (54.5%) of the respondents felt this was their most important factor, while just 1.1% thought it was the least important.

Fuel efficiency is the second most important, closely followed by the vehicle brand .

The least important factor is the model’s popularity, though this was followed by environmental impact. Considering the current focus on transforming the transport sector to be more environmentally friendly, this is a bit of a shock

It suggests that consumers are more pragmatic when buying a new car, as opposed to being influenced by trends or values.


Rank Factor Mean score (lower = more important)
1 Price 1.9
2 Fuel Efficiency 3.2
3 Brand 3.3
4 Safety features 3.5
5 Colour 4.7
6 Environmental impact 5.5
7 Model’s popularity 5.9


Battle of the sexes

Generally, men and women hold similar views on the most important factors. Both deemed price the most important, with model popularity and environmental impact the least important.

But there were some subtle gender differences. For example, women value safety features and colour slightly more, while men place a slightly higher emphasis on brand and fuel efficiency.

Factor Female Male
Price 1.9 2.0
Fuel Efficiency 3.3 3.0
Brand 3.4 3.2
Safety features 3.4 3.6
Colour 4.6 4.8
Environmental impact 5.6 5.4
Model’s popularity 5.8 5.9


Age related

Price is also the most important factor across all age groups. Fuel efficiency is considered important across all age groups, but more so for older people (55+), who are more likely to rank it second.

Brand is generally the next most important factor, especially for people between 18 and 24. On the other hand, the importance of safety features increases with age, especially among the 55-64 and 65+ groups, where it ranks relatively high.

The two groups that rank environmental impact the highest are the youngest and oldest age groups.


Rank Factor 18 – 24 25 – 34 35 – 44 45 – 54 55 – 64 65+
1 Price 2.2 2.1 1.9 1.9 1.8 2.0
2 Fuel Efficiency 3.3 3.6 3.4 3.0 2.9 2.8
3 Brand 3.0 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5
4 Safety features 3.9 3.5 3.6 3.6 3.4 3.2
5 Colour 4.8 4.5 4.6 4.6 4.8 5.1
6 Environmental impact 5.3 5.7 5.8 5.5 5.5 5.1
7 Model’s popularity 5.6 5.4 5.5 6.1 6.2 6.3


Do you homework

Digital platforms have become the most trusted source of information when buying a new car. Almost two-thirds (65%) of people used online reviews to research their next purchase.

However, over half (53.4%) still visit dealerships, showing that many people still value having that physical touchpoint. The opinions of friends and family also still matter in the digital age, with 42.1% saying they’d turn to them for advice.

While car magazines (17.2%) and car exhibitions (8.5%) are less popular, they may still appeal to those looking for luxury or specialised car models.

Rank How would you usually research a car if considering buying one? Select all that apply.
1 Online reviews 65.0%
2 Visiting dealerships 53.4%
3 Asking friends/family 42.1%
4 Reading car magazines 17.2%
5 Car exhibitions 8.5%
6 Other (please specify) 1.1%


Women (43.9%) are more likely to rely on asking friends and family compared to men (39.9%). This suggests that the recommendations of others have a slightly more significant influence on women than on men when making a car purchase decision. On the other hand, men (56.7%) are more likely than women (50.8%) to visit dealerships.

A significantly higher proportion of men (12.3%) prefer to visit car exhibitions compared to women (5.5%). Men (23.3%) also prefer reading car magazines, while only 12.4% of females do the same. This could indicate that men are more interested in specialised or luxury cars often showcased in specialised magazines and at such events.

While popular across all age groups, reliance on online reviews increases with age up to the 55-64 range, peaking at 70.6% for those aged 45-54 before slightly dropping for those 65 and older (63.8%).

Asking friends and family is most popular among the youngest age group, 18-24, at 57.8%, and generally decreases in popularity as age increases, hitting the lowest at 32.6% for those 65+.

The oldest age group reports the highest preference for visiting dealerships, with 70.3% for those 65+. The numbers generally rise with age, except for a slight dip in the 25-44 age range. Those aged 18-24 are also an outlier here, with 52% saying they visit dealerships.

Do we need experts?

‘Influencers’ are prevalent in all sorts of sectors, including motoring. But how much do the experts affect us?

A significant majority (over 60%) of people responded by saying that they would either “Definitely” (14.8%) or “Probably” (46.4%) be influenced by expert advice when it comes to cars. This suggests that, on the whole, we have a high level of trust in motoring experts and their opinions on the best cars.

However, a sizeable proportion of the respondents, 28.4%, remain neutral on the subject. This suggests many might be swayed either way depending on factors such as the expert’s reputation, the type of car, or personal preferences.

Just 10.3% are less likely to be influenced by expert advice. Among these, 7.4% said they would “Probably not” be influenced, while only a tiny minority, 2.9%, stated that they’d “Definitely not” be influenced.

Both males and females tend to be influenced by motoring experts. For females, 62.3% (14.1% “Definitely yes” and 48.2% “Probably yes”) are likely to be influenced. For males, this figure stands at 59.9% (15.8% “Definitely yes” and 44.1% “Probably yes”).

However, more men are slightly sceptical (8.6% “Probably no” and 3.6% “Definitely no” = 12.2%) compared to women (6.5% “Probably no” and  2.4% “Definitely no” = 8.9%).

Younger age groups (18-24 and 25-34) are more inclined to be heavily influenced by motoring experts, with 18.6% and 22.9% respectively saying “Definitely yes.”

As age increases, especially from 55 onwards, there’s a noticeable increase in scepticism. The “Probably no” grows with age and peaks at 13.7% for those 65 and over.

Frequent buyers

Just under a third of people in the UK (32.4%) will get a new car every 4 to 5 years, making this the most popular period. This allows for a good balance between the depreciation costs of owning a vehicle and the advantages of having a newer, more reliable, or more technologically advanced model.

A substantial portion of respondents, 30.5%, get a new car every 2-3 years. These consumers may be more likely to lease vehicles, thereby having the flexibility to change cars without the long-term commitment of ownership.

Those changing every 6 to 10 years make up nearly a quarter of the survey. They may hold onto their vehicles for as long as they’re reliable, seeking to maximise the value they get from their purchase.

Only 9.2% say they keep their cars for more than a decade.

Finally, just 4.1% of people change their car every year.

The best way forward

Louise Thomas, motor insurance expert at car insurance, adits the process is a serious exercise for most, requiring “careful consideration”.

Thomas highlights “cost of ownership, purpose of the car, fuel efficiency, safety features, and even your location”.

“Don’t let the list price or aesthetic appeal drive your decision – consider the long-term impact on your budget, comfort, and day-to-day life,” she adds.

the following are her top buying tips:

“Understand your needs: Are you looking for a family car, a weekend off-roader, a city commuter, or a work vehicle? Your specific needs largely dictate the car that’s right for you.

“Budget wisely: Consider the purchase price and the cost of insurance, fuel, maintenance, and potential financing rates if you take out a loan. 

“Research: Use online platforms to compare models, features, and prices. Reviews from experts and existing owners can provide invaluable insights.

“Fuel efficiency: As fuel prices continue to fluctuate, a fuel-efficient car could save you money in the long run. Alternatively, consider hybrid or electric models, especially if you can access charging infrastructure easily.

“Safety features: Look for vehicles with excellent safety ratings and features like airbags, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), electronic stability programme (ESP), and a solid build.

 “Check reliability: Some cars are known for longevity and minimal maintenance needs. Reliability can translate to lower costs over time.

 “Test drive: Get a feel for the car on the road. During the test drive, pay attention to visibility, seat comfort, noise levels, and overall driving experience.

 “Consider resale value: Some cars hold their value better than others. You may pay more upfront for a vehicle with a good resale value, but you’ll thank yourself when it’s time to sell or trade in.

 “New vs. used: A new car offers the latest features but depreciates faster. Used cars are more affordable but might have out-of-warranty issues. Approved used vehicles can provide a middle ground.

 “Negotiate: Whether buying from a dealership or a private seller, there’s usually room for negotiation. Do your homework and be prepared to haggle a bit.

 “Financing and leasing options: Understand the pros and cons of buying outright, taking out a loan, or leasing. Your decision could impact your finances for years to come.

“By taking the time to assess your needs: conduct thorough research, and weigh different options, you’re more likely to end up with a vehicle that serves you well for years to come.”