Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jan 18, 2021

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While the majority of car buyers intend on buying a vehicle that is the same size as the automobile they drive now, a significant portion – a full quarter of all buyers – intend on downsizing by purchasing a smaller car, according to a new survey conducted nationwide of adult car owners by Consumer Reports.

It appears that this downsizing trend is due to the increased cost of gasoline in the United States. The Energy Information Administration says that the current nationwide average price of a gallon of gas currently hovers at $3.844. That’s a five cent per gallon increase from week to week, and as of today, the cost of gasoline is just two cents shy of being a full dollar per gallon higher than this time last year.

The top five reported reasons for downsizing by survey participants were:

Improved fuel economy – 92 percent
Lower maintenance and repair costs – 71 percent
Environmental concerns – 67 percent
Improved reliability – 67 percent
Lower purchase price – 65 percent

While a quarter of the participants in the survey do plan on downsizing, nearly a fifth of all respondents – 19 percent – intend on purchasing a larger vehicle, with drivers in the 18-34 year old demographic most likely to buy a larger car.

The top five reported reasons for a desire to upsize included:

Need more passenger/cargo space – 80 percent
Improved comfort – 72 percent
Improved safety – 66 percent
More reliable – 60 percent
Improved fuel economy – 55 percent

While younger drivers skewed towards upsizing, we’re rather shocked that more than half of those who intend on upsizing expect an increase in fuel economy. And those fitting into the younger demographic were also the most optimistic about the amount of increase they expected from their larger vehicles, with that figure topping 6 miles per gallon of improvement from their new, larger cars.

The results also indicate that future buying trends are changing as well, and there will be significant impacts on the types of cars being sold in the United States. The top three automobile classes for both likely gains and losses in sales are:

Expected gains in sales:

Small cars: +3.6 percent
Small SUVs: +2.7 percent
Sporty cars: +1.4 percent

Expected Losses on sales:

Pickups:  -2.1 percent
Minivans:  -3.6 percent
Sedans:  -5.7 percent

Other significant findings of the survey showed the gender gap between vehicle types. More women (26 percent), drive small cars than men (18 percent), while more men (22 percent) than women (6 percent) drive pickup trucks.

While the survey indicates a definite trend towards downsizing into smaller cars due to the cost of gasoline and other economic factors, it is too soon and too small a trend to indicate a complete paradigm shift in buyer’s habits.

A full 56 percent of drivers intend on their next car being the same sizes as their last, but if pressures such as fuel cost continue to rise, we expect to see more drivers in smaller cars and SUVs.