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What do women want in a car?

By Claes Bell ·
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Posted: 1 pm ET

Apparently women are the more practical sex when it comes to buying cars. This month new car pricing site released the results of a survey of car registrations broken down by whether the owner was male or female. The brands that had the lowest percentage of female registrants were high-priced, high-performance brands:

There were six brands at 10 percent or less for female registration, including Bugatti (0 percent), Ferrari (5.6 percent), Lamborghini (6.5 percent), Tesla (9.8 percent), Aston Martin (9.9 percent) and Lotus (10 percent).  Representing the low end of female registered brands were several makes best known for trucks, including GMC, Dodge and Hummer.

This is really no surprise. In my experience, males are much more likely to have their sense of identity tied up in the car they drive, and are willing to pay large sums to make sure that car expresses to the world what they want it to know about them.

On the other hand, the top brands for female buyers were generally builders of reasonably priced, practical, fuel-efficient cars. You'll notice that all these percentages are below 50 percent; the Truecar survey also found that 64 percent of vehicles overall are registered to males, so that explains the skewed numbers.

Make % of Female Registration % Discount off MSRP
Kia 45.8% 8.3%
Suzuki 44.2% 9.5%
Mini 43.9% 3.1%
Subaru 43.2% 4.0%
Nissan 43.1% 9.6%
Hyundai 43.0% 8.3%
Honda 42.8% 7.8%
Volvo 42.4% 8.2%
Lexus 42.3% 7.2%
Mitsubishi 41.5% 10.1%

This is interesting because women are often given a lot of flack for being taken by dealers. But they're not the ones at the dealerships spending ridiculous sums on, shall we say, less practical transportation. I'm all for spending big bucks on a hot car if you can afford it and it makes you happy, but let's not pretend it's women who are more susceptible to blowing their car budgets than men. Look at the car models with majority-female registrations:

Make Model % of Female Registrations Average price paid
Volkswagen New Beetle 56.1% $19,925
Nissan Rogue 53.5% $20,048
Hyundai Tucson 53.0% $20,281
Volkswagen EOS 53.0% $32,497
Volvo S40 51.9% $23,988
Honda CR-V 51.3% $21,342
Kia Sportage 50.5% $21,731
Toyota RAV4 50.4% $23,153
Nissan Sentra 50.1% $16,992

As you can see, some of the stereotypes about "chick cars" do have some basis in fact; the two-door Volkswagen New Beetle, with optional dash-mounted "bud vase" for flowers, sits squarely in the top spot. But the rest are practical crossovers and sedans mostly optioned out with four-bangers.

What I get from this survey is that if women did more of the car shopping for American families, the U.S. auto fleet would probably be better in objective terms: much more fuel efficient and less expensive both initially and over the long term. My family would almost certainly have a higher-mpg, less expensive car if it weren't for a certain knuckle-headed male who wanted turbo power in the family car.

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Claes Bell
June 29, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Ha! Fair point. The study may be deeply flawed, but it's certainly grist for conversation, and for re-examining a long-held trope that women are easier marks for automakers and dealers looking to sell people more car than they need.

Debra James
June 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Um, from reading the cover letter from, it seems that the study definately can be culturally biased. It says, "In looking at the gender of the name on the registration alone, and not driver or decision maker,...", they were determined if someone is a woman or man. So, I can only imagine if they came across a non-traditional (e.g., not frequently found in the U.S.) or sexually ambiguous name, that person was either excluded or the researcher made a guess.

Claes, what do you think would have happened when they came across your name?