Fuel economy now top priority for nearly a quarter of car buyers

  • Fuel economy now deciding factor for 24 per cent of car buyers, according to new research.
  • Petrol prices are 26 per cent higher than a year ago, while the average cost of diesel is 33 per cent higher, according to AA data.
  • Drivers concerned about the cost of fuel may also be considering an EV, although EV charging prices are set to rise. 

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of drivers consider fuel economy to be the most important factor when buying a car, according to new research.

AA Cars' survey of more than 15,000 drivers also found that nearly nine in 10 (87 per cent) would put fuel economy in their top three criteria if they were to buy a car this year. 

Almost a third (31 per cent) of those drivers said they would not have ranked it as highly this time last year, suggesting that the surging cost of fuel in 2022 has had a major impact on people’s car-buying preferences.

Average petrol prices are 26 per cent higher than a year ago, at 170.60p a litre, while the average cost of diesel is 182.58p, 33 per cent more than the same month in 2021, according to AA data. The rising cost of living is also likely to be pushing people to favour cars which will cost them less to run.  

Diesel Pump Being Lifted

Only nine per cent of drivers said they would not rank fuel efficiency as a priority, while four per cent said it was 'irrelevant' because they only want to buy an electric vehicle (EV).

James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars, said: “The high cost of petrol and diesel has made many drivers reconsider what they want most in a car, and fuel economy has shot up to the top of many people’s wishlists.

“This means that some of the most attractive models right now are those with the best fuel economy. Anyone looking for a car to buy should compare the miles per gallon offered by different models, to get a sense of how efficient each is compared to its rivals. 

“People concerned about the price of fuel may also be considering an EV as an alternative. While EVs typically cost more to buy than an equivalent petrol or diesel model, they come with the benefit of lower running costs. The savings are even bigger when fuel prices are as high as they are right now."

 EV Charging At Motorway Services

The high cost of fuel is also contributing to stronger sales of EVs. Battery EVs made up 13.9 per cent of all new car sales in the first seven months of 2022, while sales of used EVs more than doubled in the first quarter of the year, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However, concerns have been raised that the 80 per cent increase in the energy price cap from October 2022 means EVs will reach near fuel price parity with petrol and diesel vehicles.