New Cars: What Women Want

Last Updated Apr 12, 2011 3:44 PM EDT

This article is part of a package on gender differences in car buying. Read the other article: What Cars Do Men Want?
Market research shows that women influence 93% of car-buying decisions and buy 65% of new vehicles themselves. So what cars do women want when their name is on the title? They go for smart-looking, affordable cars with high gas mileage, according to auto information site TrueCar.com.
Analysts at TrueCar sifted through 8 million auto purchases in 2010 to see what brands and models attracted a high percentage of men and women. "The study shows that women car buyers are more cost-conscious and purchased fuel-efficient vehicles," says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights at the site.

But good looks clearly don't hurt. The brand with the highest percentage of female buyers (48%) is Mini, where every model makes you smile by just looking at it. And the top individual model for women (61% female buyers) is the appealing Volkswagen New Beetle. Worth noting: Women appear to be more likely to pick brands with broad appeal (unlike men, who fixate on sports cars and pickups) - so that even the top brands for women have plenty of male buyers as well.

Unlike men, women car buyers avoided high-performance cars with stratospheric prices. All but one of their top 10 models (see below) had a list price under $30,000. (The exception was the stylish hardtop convertible Volkswagen Eos, at right, which begins just over that mark.) And some - like the Toyota Yaris, starting at about $14,000 - sell for much less. All those top models are rated above 20 mpg in city driving and close to or above 30 mpg on the highway.

Unlike men, women were quite partial to imports. Other than Mercury, the Ford Motor Co. brand that was heavily promoted to women before being discontinued, the top brands for women were all imports. No. 1 Mini is owned by Germany's BMW; the other eight are Asian brands generally known for fuel economy.

Although female buyers chose cars that are economical in price and gas consumption, they did tend to pay slightly more than men for the same model. A study led by market researchers at the University of California's Haas School of Business showed that women who shopped at dealerships paid about 0.2% more than men for the same model. That difference disappeared when both genders shopped on the Internet instead of in person.

Women's top brands (with the percent of all buyers who were female):
  • MINI - 47.9%
  • Kia - 46.8%
  • Honda - 46.0%
  • Nissan - 45.5%
  • Subaru - 45.0%
  • Suzuki - 44.6%
  • Hyundai - 44.5%
  • Mercury - 44.4%
  • Mazda - 44.2%
  • Mitsubishi - 43.8%
Women's top models (again, with the percent of all buyers who were female)
  • Volkswagen New Beetle - 60.6%
  • Nissan Rogue - 56.3%
  • Volkswagen Eos - 55.3%
  • Volvo S40 - 54.5%
  • Jeep Compass - 54.3%
  • Honda CR-V - 53.8%
  • Nissan Sentra - 53.5%
  • Hyundai Tucson - 53.2%
  • Toyota RAV4 - 52.7%
  • Toyota Yaris - 52.7%
Meanwhile: Whatever your gender, take these steps if you are shopping for a new car.

Research carefully: Check reviews on sites like Edmunds.com, Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com and U.S. News Best Cars, which aggregates reviews from automotive magazines and web sites.

Set your price target: Look at TrueCar.com and Edmunds.com to see the average selling price for the model you want in your area. Determine not to pay above that average unless there are special circumstances like hard-to-find colors or options.

Get competing bids without visiting dealerships A service like CarWoo.com will, for a $19 fee, get competing bids from three dealers on exactly the model you want. You can ask questions of dealers through the service, but it does not give dealers your email or telephone number until you have picked the dealership to buy from - letting you skip the hard sell. Alternately, TrueCar.com will direct you to the dealers near you with the lowest price. The service is free, but you don't see competing bids.

Even if you are choosing an economical car, you'll feel even better if you get it for a good price.

Photos courtesy of the manufacturers
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