couple inspecting a car

Why we buy certain cars

What do you look for when choosing a new or used car? Is styling and equipment important? Do you focus on superb driving performance or the latest safety features? Does brand reputation influence your decision? Or are you just looking for good value practical transport?

As part of our latest car reliability survey, we asked respondents to tell us why they chose their car. They picked up to five reasons (from a list of 12) that were most important to their decision. There were some stark differences among the 27 brands and 89 models we analysed.

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About our survey

The 12 choices we offered were:

  1. Size and practicality
  2. Brand reputation
  3. Driving performance
  4. Price
  5. Comfort
  6. Fuel economy
  7. Safety features
  8. Interior styling and equipment
  9. Exterior styling
  10. Dealer reputation
  11. Future resale value
  12. Environmental impact

Let's explain

We’ve reported reasons that were more significant ( tick ) or less significant ( ) than the average. That doesn’t mean those reasons were those most commonly chosen for that brand. For example, while “environmental impact” was significant for Toyota – chosen by significantly more Toyota owners than owners of other brands – it doesn’t mean it is one of the most popular reasons for purchasing a Toyota.

While a reason may be less significant, it doesn’t necessarily mean owners think the brand lags in that regard. For example, significantly fewer Skoda owners than average chose “comfort” as a reason for buying. That doesn’t mean Skoda makes uncomfortable cars, just that comfort wasn’t seen as so important in the decision to buy a Skoda compared to other brands.

Reasons for buying

More buyers rated size and practicality as an important consideration than any other reason – 81% had it in their top five. Brand reputation was a distant second, though six out of 10 respondents took it into account.

At the bottom of the list, buyers didn’t care too much about the environmental impact, just 6% rated it as a top-five factor. However, about half of us saw fuel economy as an important factor.

When it comes to the cost of buying a car, instant gratification is the name of the game. While more than half of us cared about the purchase price of our car, most (91%) overlooked future resale value. Depreciation be damned!

We've looked at the trends found in our survey when it came to consumers’ buying decisions.

For even more in-depth information, see why people choose to buy cars in certain categories:

Take the high-road or low road?

Toyota and Lexus are different brands, but the same company. They even share some identical (rebadged) models. Despite this, buyers took very different views when choosing one or the other; only brand reputation was an important consideration for both brands.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
Toyota yes yes

yes

yes

yes yes
Lexus

yes yes

yes yes yes



A Japanese selection

Most Japanese brands have similar appeal. Subaru, however, stood out from the crowd. Its owners placed more value on driving performance and safety and – compared to other Japanese car owners – cared less about fuel economy.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
Mazda

yes yes

Honda yes

yes

yes
Nissan

yes yes

yes
Mitsubishi yes

yes yes

yes

yes
Suzuki yes

yes

yes

yes
Subaru yes yes yes

yes



VW Group brands

Three brands, one European company. Many reasons for choosing a car from the VW Group are similar, but owners differed in how they weighted brand reputation. It was important for Audi owners, but less so for VW or Skoda owners. That could be baggage from the VW emissions scandal and Skoda’s pre-VW days.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
VW

yes

yes yes

Audi

yes yes

yes

yes yes yes

Skoda

yes yes

yes yes



The Euro premium

Why choose European? Owners valued driving performance, comfort, safety and style more than most car buyers. They cared less about practicality and the cost of ownership – price, resale value and fuel economy were all relatively overlooked.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
BMW

yes yes yes

yes yes yes

Mercedes-Benz

yes yes yes yes

yes yes yes

Volvo

yes yes

yes yes yes
Peugeot

yes

yes
Alfa Romeo

yes

yes yes



Aussie heavyweights

What of Aussie heavyweights Ford and Holden? For two brands with strangely loyal support, brand reputation was less of a factor than in other car purchases. Otherwise, there’s not much splitting them: Holden owners valued price more, while Ford owners focused on driving performance, interior style and equipment.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
Ford

yes yes

yes yes yes

Holden

yes yes

yes yes



Three flavours of SUV

Let’s take three flavours of SUV, none with a highly valued brand reputation. In the cheap seats, price was important to SsangYong owners. At the top end, Land Rover buyers said driving performance was more important. Holding the middle ground, Jeep buyers valued comfort, style and equipment. Unsurprisingly, fuel economy wasn’t an important consideration for any of the brands.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
Land Rover

yes

yes

yes yes
Jeep

yes

yes yes
SsangYong

yes



Local or import?

There are polar opposite reasons for choosing a used import or a used local car. Import buyers said price was important, while safety features and resale were overlooked. Used local-car buyers eschewed price for safety and a better resale value. New car buyers were more likely to cite safety, style and equipment and fuel economy, and were less likely to see practicality or brand reputation as a reason to buy.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
New

yes yes yes yes yes
Used local

yes yes yes

Used import yes

yes



New, used or really used?

Buyers of older cars (pre-2010) looked for good value, practical models – but brand reputation was also important. That flips completely for newer-model buyers. Post-2010 car buyers cared more about fuel economy, safety features, style and equipment.

  Practicality[tick] Brand[tick] Driving[tick] Price[tick] Comfort[tick] Economy[tick] Safety[tick] Interior[tick] Exterior[tick] Dealer[tick] Resale[tick] Environment[tick]
1988-2003 yes yes yes

2004-2009 yes yes yes

2010-2014

yes yes yes
2015-2018

yes yes yes yes yes


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