Do Women Really Make Better Car Choices Than Men?

Mini cooper
Mini cooper

Do women really make better car choices? Mounting evidence suggests that they do.

Consider a recent study of used-car buying habits that suggested that women tend to do more research, ask tougher questions, and were more likely to have a mechanic inspect a used car before buying.

Now, a study on new-car buying preferences has found that women make more practical choices, while men are more likely to buy based on more visceral factors -- though that could depend on your perspective.

'Brawny' and 'Flashy' vs. Cute Little Imports

The new study, conducted by analysts at, looked at more than 8 million new-car purchases made in 2011.

In the "we didn't really need a study to come to this conclusion" category, TrueCar found that there's a clear gender gap in automotive choices: Men tend to prefer "brawny" or "flashy" vehicles, the analysts say, while women prefer smaller vehicles and lean toward imported brands.

Other findings include:

  • The brand more women favor? It's Mini, which has the highest percentage of retail sales to females at 46%, followed by Nissan (NSANY) and Kia. Fourteen brands in total have captured more than 40% of the female car-buying vote, including Fiat, whose sole U.S. offering is the Mini-like Fiat 500.

  • Men, on the other hand, clearly want something different. The brand with the highest percentage of male buyers was Ferrari, the famous (and famously expensive) maker of super-fast sports cars. And 13 of the 20 brands favored by the largest percentages of men were luxury brands like BMW or "exotic" brands like Maserati.

  • "Brawny" brands were also heavily favored by men, with truck-heavy makers GMC and Land Rover ranking high on the men's list. Classic American brands also tilted in a masculine direction, with Ford (F), Chevrolet, and Dodge all among the top 10.

  • Women, meanwhile, favored imports: Honda (HMC), Nissan, and Subaru were all among the top 10 brands with the highest percentage of female buyers – and all are brands with a reputation for reliability and practicality.

While the study found that the genders play (mostly) to type, there is evidence that the gender divide in terms of car preferences is not as stark as one might believe.

Model Behavior

More trends came to light when TrueCar's analysts looked at the gender breakdowns on specific models. There, we see that men aren't the only ones who like fun automotive choices: More than 50% of buyers of the Volkswagen Eos, a stylish convertible, were female, and the Volkswagen Beetle was close behind.

But practicality dominated women's auto purchases: The Volvo S40, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 all ranked high, as did small, fuel-efficient cars like the Nissan Sentra and Toyota (TM) Corolla.

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Meanwhile, men's preferences are dominated by pickups, sports cars, and luxury sedans: 87% of buyers of Ford's F-Series pickup -- America's best-selling vehicle -- were male, with General Motors (GM) pickups posting similar percentages.

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"Female car buyers really gravitated toward smaller, more fuel-efficient cars," said TrueCar analyst Kristen Andersson in a statement. "It was the complete opposite for male buyers, who preferred either a fast, sporty vehicle or more heavy-duty vehicle, like a large truck or SUV."

It's no surprise to find men and women playing to type. But it's worth emphasizing that few of these divides were stark: More than half of Mini buyers are still male, for example, and plenty of women buy Land Rovers and Cadillacs. "While gender preferences amongst the buyers of various automotive brands still exist, the gap is narrowing," TrueCar vice president Jesse Toprak said in a statement.

But few will be surprised to hear that more than 88% of those who bought a new Porsche 911 last year were men.

At the time of publication, Motley Fool contributor John Rosevear owned shares of General Motors and Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford and General Motors; and creating a synthetic long position in Ford.

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