The economy is still weighing heavily on consumers who are considering a car purchase in 2011, according to a recent auto survey by Bankrate.com.
More than a quarter of all survey respondents plan to purchase a car within the next year, but almost a third are taking a more conservative approach and are planning to take more than a year to do it.
Bankrate's survey was conducted online from May 23 to June 1, 2011, with 1,289 subscribers of at least one of Bankrate's online newsletters participating. It is not a nationally representative sample. Rather, the survey was aimed at learning how Bankrate readers conduct research on cars and use that information to make a purchase.
Smart drivers will do their homework before they buy, says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst at Bankrate. "A car purchase is a big purchase and going into it blindly is to your own financial detriment," he says.
Here's a look at the survey's major findings, and key messages that car shoppers are taking to the dealer.
Cost of ownership counts
Not surprising, the pricing of an auto is a top concern for car shoppers, with 65 percent of respondents reporting that it is a "very important" factor in their decision-making. But it isn't the only consideration. In fact, almost half -- 48 percent -- of respondents gave the same weight to fuel economy as an important factor in making their next car purchase.
When shopping for an auto, how important is each of the factors in your decision?
Participants also say a car's safety rating, maintenance and upkeep and practicality are important factors.
This shows that car shoppers also consider how much a car will cost them after they drive it off the lot, McBride says. "The economic events of the past couple of years have made consumers more focused on total cost of ownership and not just the total price tag or monthly payments," he says.