Fuel efficiency car buyers’ top concern, poll finds

Car buyers say fuel efficiency is their main concern when buying a car, according to a recent survey.

Auto insurance providers use a variety of variables to determine premiums, including the make and model of vehicles, their safety record and whether they're used or new. But when it comes to what factors car buyers put a priority on before buying, nothing is more important than fuel efficiency, according to the results of a recent survey.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents said that how much gas a car uses has the biggest influence in what car they purchase, more than safety, body type or price, based on new polling data from the American Chemistry Council. Additionally, close to three-quarters said that fuel efficiency was a factor that they weigh more heavily today than they did five years ago.

While automakers and dealers make fuel efficiency information more readily available for the consumer – with this data often affixed to vehicles'  windshields at dealerships –  many people aren't entirely clear about what characteristics make a car burn gasoline more evenly. For example, only 55 percent of respondents to the ACC poll responded correctly that a lighter weight vehicle tends to go through fuel more slowly than automobiles that are heavier.

"What many car buyers don't realize is that lighter materials place less of a strain on a car's engine and improve gas mileage," said Steve Russell, vice president of ACC's plastics division. "For many of today's cars, plastics make up 50 percent by volume – but only 10 percent by weight, which is great news for Americans concerned about paying too much at the pump."

Gas prices under $3 in some states

Speaking of which, prices at the pump have fallen dramatically across the nation over the last month or so. Based on statistical analysis from fuel price tracking company GasBuddy.com, the average price for unleaded regular is currently $3.08 per gallon. That's down 10 cents from a week ago and nearly 30 cents during the same period in 2013. At $2.89 per gallon, Texas is among the top 10 states where average gas prices are the cheapest, the most affordable being in Missouri at $2.75.

Gas prices have the potential to go even lower if the U.S. ramps up its oil exporting activity, according to a recent government report.

During the past four years, there's been a ban on crude oil exports, but new analysis from the Government Accountability Office says that lifting this prohibition could cause gas prices to become more affordable, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"Allowing crude oil exports would increase world supplies of crude oil, which is expected to reduce international prices and, subsequently, lower consumer fuel prices," WSJ quoted from the GAO report.

Consumers are often willing to go to great lengths just so that they can pay lower prices at the pump. The ACC survey revealed that nearly 40 percent of respondents admitted to driving farther to a gas station because they get a better price than someplace closer.