Consumer Reports: Fuel economy most important to car buyers
Mileages beats out reliability and safety among factors that car shoppers consider, survey says.

NEW YORK ( -- Fuel economy is at the top of the list of factors shoppers consider when looking at a new vehicle, according to a new survey by Consumer Reports.

When asked what factors they considered most important in a new car, the largest number of respondents - 27 percent - said "fuel economy." That was slightly higher than the responses for "reliability," which was the top consideration for 25 percent.

"Purchase price" was most important to 14 percent of shoppers and "safety features" were most important for just 12 percent of shoppers.

Incentives were top-most for only five percent of car shoppers.

"Manufacturers have used car-buying incentives so frequently in recent years that shoppers are beginning to look beyond rebates at fuel economy, reliability and safety," said Rob Gentile, director of Consumer Reports Auto Price Service.

Most car shoppers have trouble understanding incentive offers, the survey found. For example 63 percent said that every customer is eligible for the same incentives and most also believe that multiple incentives can be combined.

In fact, many incentive deals contain words like "for qualified buyers" and they often include restrictions that prevent buyers from taking advantage of more than one incentive program for a given purchase.

When asked what kind of incentive they would be most likely to respond to, the largest number - 32 percent - were most attracted by low-rate financing deals.

Cash rebates were interesting to only 14 percent of respondents. But 20 percent said they would be lured by free gas for a year.

After low-rate financing, free extended warranties were most popular, with 23 percent saying they would be attracted by that incentive.

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